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Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

If an atheist uses religion to straighten out his life, would his atheist friends disown him?

Asked by Hypocrisy_Central (21548 points ) July 31st, 2011

For instance, you have ”Mel”, a ne’er-do-well that always got into trouble. He was also an atheist. After getting into serious trouble where he lay in a coma 12 days at death’s door, we wakes to find out his family and their friends had prayed for him to revive and be whole. He woke, but he had limited function of his legs and right arm. He said all he wanted was to have those functions back so his mother and family prayed for that. Against all the predictions his doctors had, he regained 96% of all his motor functions. After which he tried God, and started praying and good things start happening in his life. He then gave himself to God. Because he abandoned atheism and found religion would his former atheist friends disown him and want no more to do with him, or would they accept that he found direction in his life through religion?

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37 Answers

lillycoyote's avatar

It would depend on the atheist I would think. There are plenty of live and let live, whatever floats your boat atheists and I imagine those kind of atheists would be quite o.k. with what any of their friends do.

SABOTEUR's avatar

Don’t know any atheists, but judging from atheist comments I’ve read, I don’t think they would abandon the former atheist, though they probably would not give much merit to his new perspective.

I mean, it’s not like atheists have exclusively atheist friends.

But then, I’m speculating.

Symbeline's avatar

Ŝhit man, friends and family aren’t disposable, if you love them. Whatever your beliefs and whatever else are, if one may decide to switch from one to another based on shit that went on, friends are friends. You don’t just disown them because they switch from one frame to another, yeah? I wouldn’t, anyways. If God helped you, that rocks, live and more power to you. I fuckin hate how religion seems to dictate how people should feel about shit. :(

Bellatrix's avatar

If believing in god helps a person to have peace in their life and has meaning for them, who am I to judge them? As long as they don’t start preaching to me and trying to convert me, I really wouldn’t care. Whatever an individual’s beliefs, if you dump a friend because they change their views that’s pretty small minded of you.

Symbeline's avatar

Sorry bout my nonsensical answer yall, I’m as drunk as a tank but I meant whatever I said lol. :D

Bellatrix's avatar

It made sense to me @Symbeline!

SABOTEUR's avatar

@Symbeline lol…I was thinking after I read your response that I might have phrased what you said a bit differently, but it was a perfectly valid response.

No apologies necessary.

lillycoyote's avatar

@Symbeline Shit, spot on! Friends and family are not disposable! You don’t eject, reject, neglect them for no good reason. Think long, hard and fast before you dispose of them! There are very few good reasons to send them packing; I’ve learned that in my life.

martianspringtime's avatar

If they’re real friends – and assuming that the person doesn’t suddenly drop the atheist friends or treat them negatively – I would think they’d stick by the person, especially since the person seemed to feel that they were helped out of a horrific situation by their newly discovered religion.

Prosb's avatar

It’s the same as asking if a guy’s christian friends would abandon him when he openly admits to being an atheist. It depends on the person, not on the faith or lack thereof that they associate with.
If they used that as an excuse to ditch a friend, they either were terrible friends to begin with, or were using it as a cover to alienate them for some other reason.

FutureMemory's avatar

@Symbeline I’m as drunk as a tank but I meant whatever I said

Classic.

@Hypocrisy_Central

I don’t choose friends based on religious beliefs. As long as an atheist friend that found god didn’t try to convert me, things would remain all good between us.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

I wouldn’t.
Though, that depends on whether or not this friend insists on sharing their new-found religion with me.

Hibernate's avatar

I have friends with different beliefs. We sometimes argue but we are still friends and we can rely on each other. If one would decide to change his/her views it wouldn’t matter since we are already different.

Mariah's avatar

Personally, I rarely give a rat’s ass what my friends believe. That is to say, I’m interested in their beliefs as they are sort of a fundamental part of who a person is, but I never reject a friend based on their beliefs (unless, say, they believe things that I consider fundamentally unethical, like that certain races are inferior, but if someone wants to believe in a god, so be it, there’s nothing wrong with that). I think many other atheists and agnostics feel the same way.

The only reasons I can think of dropping a friend who converts is if they start constantly trying to convert me, if they pick up other beliefs with their conversion that I take strong issue with (such as the aforementioned racism; please note that I don’t mean to imply that converting religions would necessarily or even likely involve picking up any unethical beliefs), if they no longer wanted to have atheist friends, or if their religion became their whole life so that I couldn’t even have a conversation without hearing about it. All of these things would only seem to occur in very extreme cases, though.

laureth's avatar

HC, many of your questions are “just-so” hypotheticals, which seem designed to guide us to a certain conclusion. In this case, it’s that the family prayed, followed by miraculous healing, leading the atheist to turn to God. What choice do we have except to follow your line of thought and agree with you?

That said, with my experience as an atheist, I don’t think that line of thought is necessarily what would actually happen. It’s more like what a religious person thinks an atheist might feel. If this miraculous cure happened to me, for example, it’s not quite as clear that it was prayer doing the healing, as it seems like you think it must be. I would look for evidence in other areas – what medicines or practices were used, and what the effect of my family’s loving attention had on my mental state, for starters.

See, a person’s mental state matters an unbelievable lot when it comes to healing. A strong will to live can make people recover, seemingly miraculously. If they want to chalk that up to “God,” using the religious metaphor to explain and symbolize an actual physiological experience, that’s useful and time-honored shorthand. I can’t fault him for that.

However, atheists are just as different from each other (maybe moreso) than are people of religion. If I phrased your same question in an opposite manner, and asked, “Would the Christian friends of a man turning to Atheism, disown him?” what would you answer? Some Christians would do one thing, some would do another. People are different. And I suspect that atheists, being people, are different, too. ;) Some may well disown him. Some may well not. It depends on their relationship with him, with their own life experience, with their philosophy and expectations, and a million other things – not just their atheism.

Personally, if this happened to a friend, I might think that a positive, hopeful outlook on life changed his health. There doesn’t have to be an actual God for a strong belief in God to change one’s physiology. If he wants to call it God, so be it, and that’s why I have Christian friends. ;)

JLeslie's avatar

I am an atheist, and I have always said if religion and God gives a person peace, order in their life, purpose, then I am all for it. I have also said many times that it seems some people actually do straighten out their lives when they find God. It disturbs me that some people state they make a choice every day whether to be good, and God keeps them on the straight and narrow, but of course this is not the only reason becoming a theist might help someone. They don’t have to have been doing bad things previously to still feel a positive improvement in their lives with God now in it.

I know a couple of people who say their lives became better when they became more focused in their religion and prayed more, but they were already theists. I also know two people who were basically athiests who found God. My explanation would be they became more focused, took time during the day (prayer) to gain psychological strength to pursue their dreams, and took time during the day to plan their next step. I think religion also helps people be greatful for what they have and gives people a social network, which has been shown to increase happiness.

So, what I am saying is, I think people can have all these things without calling it God, but religion packages it up in a neat box. If that helps a friend of mine I am fine with it, as long as they don’t preach it to me to convert me.

JLeslie's avatar

@Prosb I think it is different maybe? Your example seems to be finding out a freind is an atheist when you thought he was a theist or vice versa. The question is about a friend who is an atheist becoming a theist. Maybe it is the same in the end, like others have said a friends a friend. But, if part of your bond with a friend has to do with religious views, then when the person changes their view, it might have an effect I think? Most of my friends where I live now don’t know I am an atheist, so if they found out, I am still exactly the same person I always was, even though they probably assume I am a theist. But, we don’t talk much about religion.

Cruiser's avatar

That depends entirely on the ignorance of his Atheist friends. I think most people who have made a conscious decision to NOT believe in a God are acutely aware of the role that religion play on ones lives and would be sensitive to respecting ones beliefs or lack thereof. But again ignorance plays a huge role within the religious arena and ya just never know how ones true colors will fly until push comes to shove.

Judi's avatar

A lot of people might abandon you just because of the lifestyle change. When my husband quit drinking, and started going to 12 step meetings, his drinking friends didnt want to be around him. His sobriety intimidated them or they just didn’t find him as “fun” as he was when he was buying drinks for everyone.
I don’t think their religious beliefs would have anything to do with it.

JLeslie's avatar

@judi Interesting analogy. Ironically it is probably best for the alcoholic not to be around those friends. But, I guess losing the alcohol (a friend in itself) and a social netweork all at once is very difficult for the recovering alcoholic. I’ve always been annoyed that people who drink too much always insist everyone be drinking with them. I think when someone refuses alcohol it is like a spotlight on them, they know deep down they have no control over their drinking. But, people who drink now and then, can take it or leave it, but enjoy it; the can be around people not drinking while they drink with no problem. Maybe aqtheism and theism is like that? Those who are very extreme in their beliefs and need everyone to be like them can’t easily be around those who don’t. Or, at least are uneasy when the topic of God and religion comes up.

PhiNotPi's avatar

I’m an atheist, and I can say this: Nobody I know becomes friends with someone because of their religious beliefs, and if atheism is the main bond that ties them together, they are not really friends in the same sense of the word. I have a bunch of theist friends, and I honestly don’t care about their religious beliefs.

It would be interesting to find out what happens in the opposite case, when a theist changes over to atheism. The vast majority probably won’t care, but the extremely religious might.

@Judi That is probably not the best analogy, because there is an obvious right answer that most people would agree on (sobriety), but there is no obvious right answer to what religion is best. The world seems divided between a whole bunch of religions, and there probably isn’t a right answer. I agree that a big lifestyle change could alienate friends (this appeared to be your main point).

Mariah's avatar

@Judi You make a good point, if the conversion entailed a large change in lifestyle it is possible some atheist friends would not know how to relate to him anymore, or what to do when they’re together. Out of curiosity, what lifestyle changes do you think would occur upon making this conversion?

CaptainHarley's avatar

If they did, then they weren’t real friends at all.

Judi's avatar

@Mariah ; Although it was 35 years ago, When I made that “conversion” (I wouldn’t quite call it a conversion, I was always a theist, but I never really embraced it until then) I quit doing drugs, I quit drinking and I quit caual sex. (it was before AIDS.) High School was a very lonely time fore me. I no longer fit in with the stoners, and the Churchy people just seemed so shallow and didn;t have a clue where I had been, the things I had don and had been done to me. I don’t know if it would have been as hard as an adult or not. It took me probably 10–15 years to really feel “normal” and able to relate to people on either end of the spectrum.

Response moderated
mazingerz88's avatar

Whatever works for my friend is fine with me.

Mariah's avatar

@Judi Thanks for sharing that. If you don’t mind me asking, what part did your religion play in deciding to quit those things?

Judi's avatar

I had brought my life to a point where I knew that if I didn’t change directions I was going to die early, and end up being a skanky drug addict whore if I didn’t change. Socially, it seemed impossible in high school. I never fit in with the jocks and like I said, the churchy types just couldn’t relate.
I was desperate and yelled out, “I can’t do this God. If you want me to change you’re going to have to do it because I just can’t.”
The next time I smoked pot, I was overcome with a terrible paranoia, and I lost all sense of time. I tried several times again, even one time about 4 years later and the same thing happened. Any drug I tried produced the same result.
I gave God the credit for answering my prayer.

ddude1116's avatar

If they’re truly his friends, they shouldn’t care. And if they do, they should accept him as he is, unless he becomes annoying about it, then he should accept them as they are.

Mariah's avatar

That’s very interesting, @Judi, thanks for all your replies.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Naturally. I’d also burn him at the stake.

cazzie's avatar

I think it would really depend on the people involved, regardless of any labels they used to identify with.

I’m an atheist. If I had a friend who went though a transformation, I wouldn’t begrudge them their new outlook. BUT, if said friend did nothing else but talk about the ‘Lord’ and go on and on about how wrong he had been to be atheist…. I don’t think I would want to hang around them any more.

Too much generalisation here.

Ron_C's avatar

I wouldn’t. I have no objection to people “finding religion” to solve their problem as long as they don’t try to drag me along with them.

YARNLADY's avatar

I was raised in a very religious family, and I have no objection to people who think it’s real.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@Symbeline $hit man, friends and family aren’t disposable, if you love them. I suppose if they truly loved them, then they wouldn’t. Over my travels to the grave I have seen many incidents where people thought they loved someone or cared deeply but some major event or revelation happens and that person doesn’t seem so indestructible and more disposable afterwards.

@ lillycoyote Friends and family are not disposable! You don’t eject, reject, neglect them for no good reason. Think long, hard and fast before you dispose of them! There are very few good reasons to send them packing; I’ve learned that in my life. Sometimes those reasons for flushing what was a long-time friend down the drain are fairly cashectic.

@laureth HC, many of your questions are “just-so” hypotheticals, which seem designed to guide us to a certain conclusion. In this case, it’s that the family prayed, followed by miraculous healing, leading the atheist to turn to God. What choice do we have except to follow your line of thought and agree with you? That is why I was careful to limit it to a specific person on specific events. Things that seem like miracles happen all the time, someone lives through an even there most thought they should not have survived or was cured of something there was thought of no cure being for, etc. Some people say coincidence, others say something more; Devine power even.

I know I have seen in churches where a member fell back into their wicked ways, or refused to leave them, that others in the church distanced themselves that person. They would help that person if they needed help, they just chose not to be unevenly yoked socially, etc. with unrepentant sinners. Sometimes I guess it had to do with changing interest.

Symbeline's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central Not saying it doesn’t happen. I’m saying it shouldn’t happen over finding religion, and that if I found myself in that scenario, I wouldn’t disown a friend who decided to become religious. I got friends that are and some that aren’t, we all seem to accept one another, whatever our beliefs or schools of thought.

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