Last night I received this letter from the atheist club I was a member of. The names have been changed to protect the innocent.
I have been asked by several (actually more than several) Atheists members to ask you to please not attend any further group meetup events. The reason for this is not anything personal against you, but because this is a meetup group for atheists and freethinkers to meet and chat and feel comfortable. This is the only place in Central Oregon for atheists and freethinkers to meet and socialize, whereas there are tens, probably hundreds of churches for religious people to meet each other and socialize. They feel uncomfortable by your presence, and by the fact they are aware you write about your experiences with the group. They know that your primary purpose for attending is to obtain material for your blog, and to witness to us. You have even said you do not care about what we say or think. They have asked me this over quite a long period of time, and I do not want to ignore their wishes any longer. The responsibility of the leadership of this meetup is to the members; the atheists, freethinkers, agnostics., and their needs and wishes. I would not want to see any member stop attending our meetups. Again, please do not take this personally, as it is not intended as such.
I completely understand that some people may feel uncomfortable with my presence at the meetings. In my time with our group I have learned the abuses and the hurt, that several people have been through at the hands of "christians." And although I will absolutely honor the groups wishes I would like to make some parting comments to some of the statements you made.
Yes it is true that I wrote articles for my blogs about my experiences with your group. A couple of members read my blogs and enjoyed their message. All of my blogs were messages to the christian community about being more open minded towards atheists. From my experiences with the group I stood in front of my entire church congregation and told them why we don't need "In God we trust" on our money and the 10 commandments on our public buildings. I explained my experiences and told them how many things we had been wrong about. I encouraged everyone at my church to be willing to "get to know" atheists before judging them, as I had done in the past. For all intent purposes, I was on "your" side. I was trying to change the minds of my christian friends and encouraged them to be more open minded. The members of the group that read my blogs saw this intention, and they appreciated it. Some of them commented on my facebook pages, and some commented directly on the blog their appreciation and encouraged me to continue.
In regards to the comment that I have said that I don't care what you say or think, that is simply not true. That was a night when Ben was describing the abuse he endured as a child at the hands of religion. He was describing how religion was forced down his throat and his childhood was ruined because of it. Then he turned to me and asked if I wanted to hear the details of his deconversion from christinaity. I told him no. He was clearly "taken back" by what I said and said "What? What do you mean you don't want to hear it? I can't believe you would say that?" I thought I had explained that the reason christians want to hear his story is because they have hopes of finding "something" in the story that they can use to try to convince him to come back to the faith. I told him I had no interest in "converting" him back to the faith and therefore, I didn't need to hear the details of his story. He was already clearly upset by the parts of his story that he already told, and I felt that he would only get more upset as he went into the details. I never said "I don't care what anyone says or thinks." If I didn't care how the group felt, then I wouldn't waste my time coming to the meetings in the first place.
I never spoke about God, Jesus, or the Bible, unless I was asked specific questions. And I was careful to never speak in a tone or even a suggestion of why anyone needs to accept Jesus, or God's redeeming love. I was always respectful of everyone. Even when I was ridiculed and made fun of by one of the members, I never retaliated or struck back. I tried to only attend meetings once a month to once every other month. The group description says that occasional visits from religious people are ok. You may want to consider re-wording that or taking it out altogether.
I am not angry or upset but I feel that the group wants to isolate itself, and alienate people who don't think like they do. That is something the group has accused the christian community of doing and should be considered. I am not saying that is wrong to do, but perhaps the group description should reflect that. And "freethinkers" usually come from the premise of being open minded and tolerant of others beliefs, or lack of beliefs.
I sincerely apologize for making people in the group feel uncomfortable as it was not my intention.