Talking to Fundies: A Day at the Beach
I went to a lunch on the beach yesterday. It was beautiful. My daughter was splashing in the water and my wife looked as gorgeous as ever. Yet, for some reason, I wasn’t having the enjoyable time I usually do when out with my family. Maybe it was the setting: my wife had convinced me to attend a church hanging-out-at-the-beach function – all of her old friends were there. I wasn’t keen on the idea, but I thought it would be worth the brownie points with the Misses.
I have nothing against hanging out with Christians – it’s not like they are trying to convert me: since I am there with one of their former longtime attendees, they assume that I am one of “them.” I usually play along. Stirring up debate with a 100 or so Pentecostals at a beach party isn’t my idea of fun, nor is it very tactful. I figured I would mind my own business, be a pleasant human being, and enjoy my day at the beach – but what happens when I get asked what book I am reading to keep myself amused when the answer is Richard Dawkins’ “The God Delusion”?
The predicament isn’t much different when I get together with family, but they know better to ask me anything or else I might give them an answer that might make them think I am going to “H-e-double hockey sticks.” But honestly, what does one say when a fundie, who thinks you are a fundie, surrounded by fundies, asks you why you are reading such an god-forsaken (or forsaken-god?) book (although I found it amusing that I actually had to explain who Richard Dawkins is)? Do you engage in the debate you were hoping to avoid? Do you lie and make up some b.s. answer and change the subject? Do you give a vague, but truthful, response leading your inquisitor thinking whatever he/she wants to think about you. I, of course, not wanting to ruin my day or embarrass my wife, chose the third way out.
The conversation didn’t last much longer past my initial response since it is fairly easy to get out of difficult situations when you have a 7-month-old. When we were leaving the park, I said goodbye to the man that had asked me about the book and as we parted ways he said, “have a good one – don’t read too much.” I wasn’t surprised at this odd comment. I brushed it off, smiled, and left.
I am connected up the whazoo with evangelical churches and para-church organizations, and perpetually find myself in similar situations. I am almost always assumed to be “one of the gang” until I usually say one little thing that gives me away as “different” or I politely refuse to lead the group in prayer (which, I must say, is very awkward). For those of us who are not completely “out-of-the-closet” with our atheism/agnosticism, these situations force us into a compromising circumstances, which, in a passive way, takes us back to Mary’s “Preaching Atheism” topic.
When one thinks of the term “preaching ‘x’,” it usually manifests in one’s mind as that kind of cold, impersonal monologue of spiritual enlightenment (or any sort of enlightenment I suppose). It’s the sort of attitude we bloggers are familiar with – we have something to say so we write it. Sometimes we let others comment on it, but we are the big cheese. We are the preacher. For our blog anyway. But what about dialogue with those that really matter? Family. Friends. Those that we left behind in our de-conversion experiences. These people are not to be “won over” or debated using argument through reason – especially if one is not completely out of the atheist/agnostic closet? Is the friction and heartache worth it?
Oh yeah, Happy Canada Day!