Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Kicked out of my atheist group :(

Last night I received this letter from the atheist club I was a member of. The names have been changed to protect the innocent.


Hello Victor,

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.  

Thank you, 

Betty

COA co-organizer



My response:

Dear Betty,

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. 

Victor 

180 comments:

  1. I'm not a Christian or an atheist, just a believer in the unity of mankind, but I think what you are doing is wonderful. Thank you for your work at building the bridges of understanding in our world community. I think your work on this site is really great. Please don't let this minor set back discourage you.

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    1. So your an agnostic correct?

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    2. The term is "Humanist"

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    3. Everyone is an agnostic, or they're insane.

      There are no gnostic atheists, and there are no gnostic theists. I cannot disprove god, and they cannot prove god, therefore to claim any belief with 100% certainty is folly.

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    4. He could be jewish, or hindu, or any of the other hundreds if religions. It's not just Christians and atheists out there.

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    5. No, it didnt discourage me. Like I said, I understand. So I just created my own group.

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    6. Please keep in mind that agnosticism and atheism are not mutually exclusive. Agnostic means you believe it is not possible to prove that god exists. An agnostic atheist believes there is no god, but there will never be full proof either way. You can also be a gnostic atheist and believe that it is possible to prove that god does not exist. Most atheists are agnostic. You can also be a humanist agnostic atheist.

      If you lack the belief in a deity you are an atheist, whether you define yourself as one or not.

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    7. "There are no gnostic atheists, and there are no gnostic theists"

      Yes, there are. Penn Jillette is a gnostic atheist. There are many gnostic Christians (and followers of other religions) who believe they can prove that their god exists. It is not about having the ability to prove you are right, it is the belief that it is POSSIBLE to prove that god does or does not exist.

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    8. Tristan Caley, I can't believe someone didn't say what you just did earlier.

      I mean, we can't really KNOW if Santa Claus exists, he could just easily hide himself using polar bear fur, not to mention the fancy tech elves can cook up. Don't even get me started on the Easter bunny, unicorns, leprechauns, and all of the totally-acceptable and completely-unreasonable-to-deny mythological creatures.

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    9. Well said Tristan. Its funny how as an Agnostic Atheist, I get pressure from both the religious and secular side, because "I'm too pussy to make up my mind." What nonsense.

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    10. Victor,
      You seem to be an enlightened guy. Don't let those who dwell in plato's proverbial cave discourage you. I'm of the view that respectful dialog is key to understanding others. That you made an honest effort speaks volumes about you.

      Tristan,
      Not to pick at bones, but to in one sentence, claim "with %100 certainty" that "Everyone is an agnostic, or they're insane.", while, just two sentences later claiming, "...to claim any belief with 100% certainty is folly." is a bit of a contradiction. Making that claim completely ignores the role of subjective experience, which many would claim is intrinsically inseparable from one's personal experience of reality.

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    11. No, Tristan has it right. No such thing as a gnostic atheist. Such a subjective and dynamic claim as the "existence of God" cannot ever truly be proven or disproven. Following up on the comment above that states:

      "There are many gnostic Christians (and followers of other religions) who believe they can prove that their god exists."

      There is no denying that such people exist. However, speaking to Christ, miracles, and slices of bread bearing vague images of the Virgin Mary are not proof of anything. In light of Tristan's words, such people are justifiably delusional and "insane".

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    12. "I would not want to see any member stop attending our meetups."

      Well.... unless that member is you.

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    13. @Tristan

      One can never completely prove anything or fully understand anything. That's why everything we do or believe is built on certain amount of faith, be it in god or our senses. Since there is no final way to prove that our senses are not fundamentally flawed, we choose to believe they are correct and live our lives as it were a fact. My point is that somewhere we all have to draw a line and put something as our basic belief and build on it. Because we could just dismiss everything with uncertainty of it being fundamentally flawed, but we wouldn't really progress much in our lives like that.

      A little experiment, if you will. Let's think about existence of god. It is logical to assume that everything that is created must have a creator in some form and shape. If one believe there is no higher force at all than since this universe was created as such it should be possible to create something from nothing, something that contradicts the basic laws of physics. So we have a creator, a higher force. From here we have two options to go: either we have 1 infinitely powerful creator, or we have infinite number of creators of previous creators going higher and higher in hierarchy. Both ways are impossible for us to understand as they implement a term of infinity, something human mind is incapable of completely understanding other than in form of a term. So in the end we can only choose to accept one of these options (or choose nothing and just sit our entire life) and live our life accordingly.

      Conclusion of rant: thinking is fine (and encouraged!), but don't expect it to give answer on everything. You need to take some belief as a foundation. And by belief I don't mean religious belief exclusively.

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  2. It seems so odd that they would show the same characteristics that they normally project as a solely (or at least, most commonly) Christian thing. How unfortunate. I saw this on Reddit's r/atheism subreddit. Christians don't need to be disrespectful, and neither do Atheists.

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    1. I wouldn't describe these as the "same characteristics" attributed to Christian organizations. They were extremely polite about it and one of the major issues is that he's visiting on a pretty regular basis and knows who all of them are. Many people aren't open about being atheist, it can get you into trouble in many situations. It sounds to me like people don't mind theist-atheist get-togethers, but at what are meant to be atheist-only meetings it should probably be just atheists, that way they have the choice of outing themselves to the Christian community in their area/the internet.

      All in all the whole things sounds like it was handled very diplomatically, even if Victor doesn't like the outcome. I do agree that it sounds as though he's trying to do some good, but that doesn't mean that everyone in what is effectively a support group is ready for what could be labeled as an intruder.

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    2. Did you say that you saw this blog on reddit, K Koone?

      And yest they were polite about it, and I can empathize with why they didnt want me there. So I just create dmy own group for atheists, and we will see if they want to come. I know some will, and some will choose not to.

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    3. Whats disrespectful about asking a non-atheist getting material for this blog to leave the only atheist group in Central Oregan.

      Like Victor said, he has started his own group, rather than exploiting someone elses for his own gain, and that is how it should be done.

      Delete
    4. Victor,
      Yes your blog has gotten to the front page of reddit.

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    5. http://www.reddit.com/r/atheism/comments/tohd7/christian_in_my_town_asked_to_stop_attending_the/

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  3. I'd like to propose that our Atheist meetup have a periodic Christian-Atheist get together where those interested in some friendly debate could attend. That way you would have a time and place to invite some of your Christian friends.

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    1. Here is the link I was telling you about, Lance. For my new group.

      http://www.meetup.com/Bend-Oregon-Atheists/

      Delete
  4. This is Twilight Zone-esque.

    Reminds me of that after school special, "The Wave". A sociology teacher creates an "experiment" where the students create a group called "The Wave". Eventually it gets way out of hand... yatta, yatta, yatta... he reveals them all to be Nazis in the big finale.

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    1. You clearly had no idea what you were watching when you saw The Wave.

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    2. I never saw that but it sounds interesting. Thanks for posting.

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    3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Third_Wave

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    4. I believe Patrick just called atheists fascists.

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    5. It's what theist's secretly think, forgetting that Hitler got himself elected by playing the Catholic Card...

      Please, save the "no true scotsman" arguments for someone who gives a rat's ass

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    6. Every sect thinks that they "follow the bible properly" and that every other sect doesn't. After reading it myself and seeing all the contradicting stuff one could take away from it, I think it comes down to picking and chosing what you want and ignoring the other stuff. I don't see a way that people could take away a consistant dogma from that book.

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    7. "In fact the experiment - known as the Wave - actually took place, in April 1967 at Cubberley High School, Northern California. Ron Jones, the teacher, had arrived there straight from training college. He soon became famed for his unorthodox methods: making students at the almost all-white school use different toilets to demonstrate apartheid, for instance."
      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/3559727/The-Wave-the-experiment-that-turned-a-school-into-a-police-state.html

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  5. I need more info and to hear the other side of the story, but perhaps you could try and find another group. I think it would be unfortunate if they kicked you out without a good reason, since I believe we atheists should be trying to move towards more dialogue and understanding. Ultimately there will always be a few bad apples on both sides.

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    1. I completely understand their reasoning. Some of the members of the group had dealt with some sever abuse at the hands of christians when they were children. I have no doubt that when I was there, I was reminder to them of what they had been through. And that group was a place for them to just "get away" from everything that reminded them of their past.

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    2. I'm glad you can understand that.

      I would say it's not just the ones that dealt with sever abuse, but Christianity is constantly in our face. It's in the news, TV shows, movies, holidays we have off work, people 'praying' for us, etc.

      If I'm going to a group to discuss being without religion, I wouldn't want someone writing down everything I say and posting it online, and reporting back to the people I'm tiered of telling me how to live my life.

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  6. "For all intents, and purposes" FTFY...

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  7. Hey for what its worth , Atheist here, I appreciate your efforts and wish you the best of luck in the future. Its kind of sad to hear how it ended for you in the end. When I read these kind of stories I always hope for a happy ending. Anyhow your story is being discussed by the atheists on reddit.com check it out :"http://www.reddit.com/r/atheism/comments/tohd7/christian_in_my_town_asked_to_stop_attending_the/"

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    1. Wow. I made it to reddit? Thanks for sharing.

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    2. I was reading the comments that is crazy. Someone said I was a Pastor. That is funny. I am nowhere near a Pastor. I own a gym. :)

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    3. Another Redditor/Atheist here. I just wanted to say I appreciate the patience you displayed in your response (very well worded by the way), and the fact that you would take time to understand an opposing view at all, much less to the depth that you've apparently gone. If more of us did this, I think we could end all of humanity's problems, but that's a different discussion. Thanks again for a good read and for being a quality individual.

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  8. I think it's very odd that you've been treated in that way. It's the opposite of what atheist groups are meant to be. Atheist groups should ''preach'' equality and open-mindedness, not the same bigotry as some Christian churches do.
    On the other hand, I do understand them. Atheists haven't reached the same level of equality as Christians. A recent poll shows that Atheists are mor distrusted than rapists. Even though it wasn't founded one, the USA is sadly a Christian nation.
    I hope you understand that as well.
    Still, I do support what you're doing if you're actually doing what you wrote.
    BTW I'm Dutch and English is not my native language so I'm sorry for the grammar mistakes.

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  9. [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."]

    No. NO NO NO. They were / are Christians. Period. Not quote unquote Christians. Noun - A person who has received Christian baptism or is a believer in Jesus Christ and his teachings.

    To put it in quotes it seems like you are giving a pass to some Christians who have abused others as not acting Christ-like and thus they are not true Christians. This is a basic fallacy (No True Scotsman) and I must call you out on it.

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    1. Oh, I fully disagree with you. They may be Christians by name, but people who justify any sort of abuse like so have severely misinterpreted the point of being a Christian to the point they can hardly be described as one.

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    2. No true scotsman fallacy. Look it up.

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    3. "No true scotsman" only applies when your assertions are not part of the true criteria for the situation. eg. "No true vegetarian would wear leather."

      But when your assertions ARE part of the true criteria, then it is NOT a "No true scotsman" fallacy. eg. "No true vegetarian would eat steak."

      "Christian" has come to refer to anyone who CLAIMS to follow Christ ... however, the original meaning of the word is "Christlike" and to be Christlike has certain criteria attached to it. Therefore, anyone that genuinely does not meet this criteria, can accurately be described as not being a "true christian". If, in some cases, that means entire "Christian" religions are not truly "Christian" then so be it ... accuracy of language is not about numbers!

      The world's largest "Christian" religion, Catholicism, is not truly "Christian" as it directly contravenes a number of his most basic teachings ("Do not be calling any man your Father!" "Do not be forbidding to marry.")

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    4. Actually, your own definition even reads: Noun - A person who has received Christian baptism or is a believer in Jesus Christ AND HIS TEACHINGS.

      So someone who "believes in Jesus Christ" is not enough to call themselves a Christian, they also have to believe in "his teachings" ... if, by their actions, they demonstrate that they don't, then they also demonstrate that they are not "true christians".

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    5. notice how the defintion you put says has received a christian baptims OR etc etc

      so by your own definition you only need to have been baptised to be a christian.

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    6. It looks to me as though the author simply wishes to create a question as to the behaviour of these Christians by using the quotes. In its context, he's not saying they're not real Christians at all, but rather he's defining a schism that has occurred. Ie, there are Christians, and then there are "Christians", just like there are lawyers, and then there are "lawyers." It doesn't look like he's giving anyone a free pass, and I think it's a bit semantic to pick at this to be honest.

      The way I see it, there are Christians that are open minded and understanding of a world that they cannot force to believe in the same things they do. And then there are "Christians", who fail even the most modest of Christ's teachings, to love thy neighbour. There are any number of ways to interpret the author's use of quotation marks here, but in context, this is the one that makes the most sense, and picking at it serves no purpose.

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    7. Yeah, I don't think the "no true sctosman" fallacy applies here. LIke alot of you pointed out, I was just drawing attention to the word christian. I really think some people put way too much thought into stuff, looking for meaning, when there was no intended meaning. But I guess that is human nature.

      That being said, however, I will refrain from using quotes in the future. :-)

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  10. I am an agnostic athiest / Secular Humanist and have only read this one post. From your response, you seem like an intelligent and compassionate individual attempting to facilitate a peaceful co-existence. Thank you for trying to help your fellow Christians understand the atheist perspective better. Often times it is understanding that breaks down the barriers of bigotry and leads to true compassion. I too am a visitor from reddit's r/atheism page, so I think I am not the only one supporting your goal.

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  11. You seem to all forget that we are talking about a group of people who are routinely discriminated against, who are seen by a majority of people as evil and immoral, and who are the constant target of attempts to proselytize by strangers, friends and even family. More than one atheist has been disowned by their families just for the fact that they do not believe as they do.

    Comparing this understandable demand for a safe space for people who simply do not feel like they can trust a group which has been the cause of their pain to Nazis and the like is ridiculous, and shows that your intent was never to understand but rather to expose.

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  12. That is a shame. Portraying traits they claim to be fighting against in the groups that have offend them.

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    1. Did you not read his post? Especially his anecdote about how his actions in one instance could be construed as rude (the guy who asked if Victor wanted to hear his story and Victor replied "no"- I mean, come on!) After reading this post and several others, I have to say that I think this is more a case of someone being really annoying...annoying enough that the atheist group was willing to write this guy a letter asking him to leave KNOWING THAT HE WOULD POST IT ONLINE, and they were more willing to give him more ammunition for his crusade than have to put up with him one more time at their meetings.

      I think Victor should apologize to those people and leave it at that. since nobody else is going to do it:

      Victor, apologize to those people right now! And stop being so preachy to your Christian friends! You are not a morally superior person, so stop with your posturing!

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    2. Victor appears to be trying to do something to unite people. Personally, knowing the Christians that I do, there is no reason why Christians and atheists can't get along. I get along with stacks of Christians, and even join them in church sometimes. You can have some great discussions with Christians during Bible studies.

      I see Victor attempting to do the same, to "live and let live," and learn another perspective. I don't see him trying to be morally superior at all; in fact, it seems that he is aware that he is, in fact, not morally superior at all. Yet, I see you here trying to divide. I see you telling him what to do like some kind of moral authority yourself, as if your judgement of his annoyance is enough to make that point. I see you doing what "Christians" do, actually.

      There's nothing wrong with being "preachy", Laura. Especially when you're right. But I'm afraid your accusation of posturing is wrong.

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  13. My comment is off-topic, but the word in "the barriers that seperate" in your blurb at the top should be spelled "separate".

    - The Atheist Language Police

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  14. I agree wholeheartedly with the Atheist group.

    The group is there to be with LIKE-MINDED people - not someone writing for a blog, even if that blog is aimed at christians understanding atheist problems.

    You say it is alienating people who dont think like they do - but a group like this is probably the only chance they have to speak and be with a group of people who DO think like they do.

    It is not that you have done anything wrong, I presume, but that the fact that even in their atheist group they cant get away from religion. If I had been through such traumas as the people in this group had, the last person I would want to be telling it to is someone who is religious and writes a blog about it, regardless of the intentions.

    We have to live with your religion most of the time, and if an atheist group want some peace away from people like you then let them be. Im sure if they want a discussion with you again then they will invite you.

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    1. They said it was okay for any religious person to visit every once in a while, as long as it wasn't excessive visits, it was fine.

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    2. Sure - but when the guy turns up every month or so, to get material for this blog and to share with his church it over steps the mark.

      Victor has set up his own group now, which is great, so he can achieve his goal without exploiting someone elses group.

      Regular visits from a christian with an agenda is not the same as a religious person visiting every once in a while.

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  15. There's a difference between a support group, and a group focused on a particular subject. It seems the group in question was small enough to be both of these things, which is completely understandable. The only reason they would have to specialize is if some people who came to discuss the topic made those who were there for support uncomfortable. This is exactly what happened.

    For you, the solution is to understand this. The solution for them is to clarify that the group can only welcome those who do not interfere with its ability to function as a support group, or alternatively, have two groups, or two meetings. One for discussion, and one only for support. That way everyone is happy. Opposing views can mingle without making certain people feel uncomfortable, and those people interested primarily in support can get what they are looking for too. It's really not that hard.

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    1. I agree. I don't think this group means to exclude those who are curious, but it might be a good idea to have an open house for people who just want to learn more about atheists but don't wish to 'convert'.

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  16. When I found this post in /r/atheism, honestly, I was expecting a bigoted response, but you proved me wrong in my preconceived notion. I was indoctrinated into Christianity when I was a child, but I have been an atheist since I was 16. So, I've known many well meaning christians and a few bigoted ones, but far less in comparison. It's good to see a level headed christian serving as a go between to communicate ideas and to calm differences.

    I'll admit that I haven't read the other pages of your blog to find anything that would upset your atheist friends, but from what I read here, you are a respectable human being, and I agree with an idea mentioned earlier. Perhaps you could ask them to incorporate a christian - atheist debate into their meetings.

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  17. This was a very interesting letter. From your reply, you appear to be a very kind, non-threatening person; indeed, a true "Christian." It's unfortunate that you were asked to leave, but I feel like I can understand both sides. Atheists feel very strongly that reason is the only true answer in the universe, whereas those who are religious feel that their god is the ultimate answer. Conversion to either mindset can be very difficult, and as a result, both sides can easily feel threatened. After reading many stories on Reddit of atheists who are literally kicked out of their family because of their lack of belief, I can understand why many may indeed need a place that is completely free of bias. Your intentions seem honorable, but I hope you'll understand why you were eventually asked to leave. At the same time, I do hope that they will eventually invite you back. No matter what, I do hope you will continue to live as we ALL wish: loving others, doing no harm, and living in peace.

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  18. I suppose this would be like me going to church and openly telling everyone I'm an Atheist and being very polite, and then writing about everyone in my own blog.

    Those people in the church would start to feel as if they are being watched, because they are. I doubt they'd appreciate this.

    Can't really think of anyone outside of a for-profit organization who would. From the free exposure and all that.

    I'd compare it to a Republican going to a Democratic convention wearing a red suit. Then coming back every month.

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    1. I think it might depend on the circumstances. The group prclaimed that it was ok for me to come, knowing I was a christian. I never kept my writings a secret. I even shared them with them and asked them for feedback. Several of them read my stuff and commented. They corrected me on a couple of things but ultimately said they appreciated my efforts. I even posted my blog on the groups messgae board.

      I wasn't aware that anyone had aproblem unitl I received the letter.

      But like I said, I still understand their feelings which is why I created my own group.

      thanks for posting

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  19. When conducting a sociological experiment/observation ethical considerations dictate that the subjects must give their consent and that consent can be withdrawn at any time without notice.

    I see your activities as little (if at all) different to a sociological study and as such the group has a right to withraw their consent. They even did it in a polite way, I see no problem here.

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    1. I agree and like I stated in another comment, I posted this in my blog for my christian friends. I wanted to see their response to a christian being made unwelcomed by atheists. I wanted to see if they would relate it to how often christians make atheists unwelcomed in their world.

      thanks for posting.

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  20. As an attempting Athiest-friendly Christian brother, I want to say that I really appreciate your open-mind and appreciation of all humans, regardless of their choice of beliefs. You are courageous and a strong believer, I am currently not attending any churches because I am tired of so how many of their minds are closed. I am also not very fond of Evangelical Christianity as there is too much fear evoked. Stay strong and hopefully they will re-allow you in.
    p.s. I am a Libertarian also.

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    1. Matt, I hear your story way too often from atheists. Alot of atheists I know and talk to, don't have a problem with the idea of a "God." THey have a problem with His followers.

      Of course this isn't every atheist I know, but several of them fall into that category. I am sorry you had that experience and I hope my writings cause other christians to realize some of the mistakes we have made.

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  21. I sincerely appreciate and applaud your efforts here... as an atheist, I have not once been approached by a religious person who truly wants to understand my beliefs; rather, I am approached by theists who want to diminish, challenge or dismiss my beliefs. I for one would welcome the interaction that you seem to seek and the context in which you seek it.

    In response to some of the other responders here, who say "Atheist groups should ''preach'' equality and open-mindedness" or "Atheists feel very strongly that reason is the only true answer in the universe," I would like to point out that these statements are incorrect. In and of itself, atheism means that you do not believe in god. That's it. Atheists do not share any particular dogma, beliefs or principles, and no one should expect any commonality among them other than that they do not believe in god. Secular humanists may share beliefs, as may other "categories" of atheists, but you should not expect a common set of beliefs and principles among all atheists any more than you should expect a common set of beliefs and principles among all people who do not believe in santa claus.

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    1. THanks for your comment and encouragement. I consider myself to be open minded and just want to share some ideas.

      Delete
    2. Hi David. I'm the one who made the atheists/reason comment. Yes, I was incorrect, in that I was not giving a true definition of atheism (looking back, my aim wasn't to define, but to presume to know what all atheists feel), and thus also incorrect in assuming that reason is what ALL atheists consider to be the true answer to all the questions of the universe. Since I perceive atheists as people who believe that "holy books" are collections of fables (as I do), I jumped to the conclusion that reason/scientific facts stand as the only alternative explanation of how we (and the Universe) came to be.
      Your comment then brings up a good point - if atheists do not share a common dogma, then what is the alternative to following science as the source of truth? Please forgive me for sounding naive, but I only see two options: believe in a sky god as the source of everything (religious people), or believe that it happened some other way, to be learned only via hypotheses and verification (non-religious people).

      Delete
  22. I think the reason they've asked you to leave is because they were uncomfortable, not because they dislike Christians. These people want sanctuary--and most of all, privacy. Respecting their wishes means you're taking the high road.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree with this post.

      Although it's good to be an ally, I'm sure at one point all of these people received some sort of psychological or physical abuse at the hands of somebody acting in the name of "insert god here". To have somebody who is affiliated with that abuser (however obscure that connection may seem to you), it can still create an "un-safe space" for them to express their emotions of torment in an open forum.

      Sort like how a lot of women's shelters won't let men volunteer because they want to create a safe space free from men who remind them of the abusers they are trying to seek refuge from (Obviously this analogy is a hyperbole)

      Delete
    2. exactly, they know you are writing a blog and not everyone wants to be broadcast onto the internet. I agree you should start your own group of atheist meetings with this specific intention rather than tag on to a pre-existing group.

      Delete
  23. As an atheist myself, I have to say, they were most definitely in the wrong. To be honest, I don't understand these types of groups - what purpose does an atheist "self-help" group serve? All they're doing is separating themselves from other people. Being atheist is fine, but acting persecuted when someone doesn't share your beliefs is hypocritical. The amount of hypocrisy in the atheist bandwagon that seems to be gaining momentum is getting disturbing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No one said it was a self-help group - one person sharing their abuse story does not make it so.

      Sometimes separating yourself from others every now and again can be a good thing. These people in the group clearly did not want to be watched and used as content for a blog - and rightly so.

      Who said anything about persecution?

      Delete
    2. I actually understand their perspective and just created a new group. THanks for posting.

      Delete
  24. As an atheist, I appreciate that there are people of other religious backgrounds willing to try and learn about Atheism. I feel that understanding why people believe what they do is paramount in closing the barriers that separate us.

    However, I do not feel the atheist group was in the wrong in asking for you to leave. As people have stated, there are many occasions and settings in which Christians can gather and share their beliefs, and very few similar occasions for Atheists. I can't hold it against them that some participants do not see this as the time for learning, but rather, for support from people who share their views. It's a privilege that Atheists do not often have and is very easy to overlook from the socially dominant status of having a religion, much less, the largest and most powerful one.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree with you Logan. Thanks for posting.

      Delete
    2. Yep, this is a very sensible reply but I would still like to add my sentiment of -> +1.
      I'm glad Victor agrees with it.

      Delete
  25. Redditor reader here. Why not have one meeting every month (or every other month, etc.) allocated for open dialogue. It seems that some of the members enjoyed this interaction, not everyone seemed uncomfortable with your presence at the meetings. This way, if a member is uncomfortable with the presence of other religions at their group meeting, they can opt out.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I just made a new group. The members of the original group who enjoyed me being there have already said they are looking forward to our first meeting.

      Delete
  26. Discussion between those on both sides of the argument is paramount if we're ever to make any progress. The minute we stop listening to each other is the minute things kind of grind to a halt, and both sides fall back on name-calling and demonising.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The day it is appropriate to have these discussions on a sunday in church during a service is the day it is appropriate to do it at an atheist group.

      No discussion ever took place really, according to the letter, just one guy looking for material for his blog.

      Delete
    2. I never actually used anything in my meetings in my blogs. My blogs were more of a reflection of my attitude listened to their stories.

      Delete
  27. It sounds like you weren't asked to leave because they don't like that your Christian, but instead because you were making them feel threatened and uncomfortable. Your desire to open a dialogue between groups is admirable, but an atheist group isn't the place to do it. You have to understand that in this country atheists are often seen as immoral or evil and they're constantly on guard. An atheist specific group is supposed to be a safe haven for people who face discrimination on a daily basis, and having someone show up, observe them, and then publish information about their personal lives on the internet without their permission is kind of frightening. You're opening up these people to more criticism and threats and jeopardizing their privacy just so you can run a blog; that's really not cool. Maybe you could propose a new group for dialogue between both atheist and Christians instead? People would then know exactly what they were getting into then and wouldn't feel like their space and lives were being invaded.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I did just that. I created a new group for atheists, where they know up front what my intentions are.

      Thanks for posting.

      Delete
    2. First, thanks for your post, Victor. It's thought-provoking.

      I'm responding to this comment because it's much along the lines of what I wanted to say: which is, in-group exclusivity is a tough, tricky issue, and one which my own feelings toward have changed significantly as my experience in the world grows.

      No one wants to live in a world which is segregated, or intolerant, or divided along insignificant lines and labels. And yet, that said, it can be very difficult to feel like an isolated person and want nothing more than a group in which you feel like you belong.

      Here's an example: Let's say I'm a white girl, born and raised in America (which I am), and I currently live in India (which I don't, but I have). Now, I love India. I love the cooking and the culture and the people. But sometimes I feel really homesick. And sometimes I want nothing more than a hamburger. Sometimes a hamburger just sounds like the best food in the world, better than any fancy Indian dish I could buy anywhere in the country, and I know my friends feel the same. So we set up a time to hang out, and just reminisce about what American culture is like, and maybe talk about hamburgers. Hey, maybe *eat* hamburgers. But--surprise!--one of our Hindu friends shows up to the meeting, because he's interested in observing more about what our culture is like, and promoting understanding amongst his Hindu friends. Are we going to start talking uninhibitedly about how much we love eating cows? Maybe start cooking one? No. Our friend would be offended, perhaps horrified, and would probably pass that information along to his friends. Instead we feel like we're on display. We have to say, "We love American food, but Indian food is great, too," and leave hamburgers out of it. We still like our friend. We want him to hang out with us when we go to the movies, or play frisbee, or whatever. But sometimes in-group time is needed--precisely so that we DON'T offend people that we would prefer not to offend. That we would rather get along with. And we can continue to eat cows when he's not looking.

      Good idea in setting up a space where everyone comes to the group looking for the same thing: discussion between atheists and Christians. I hope it is productive. And I hope you understand why the first group you were attending may not have been the ideal place to promote the collaboration that you would like.

      (Disclaimer: I'm actually a vegetarian.)

      Delete
    3. I do understand and it has turned out to be a good thing. THank you for your perspective.

      Delete
  28. I was all for Victor until I went and read his blog posts... Yea don't believe what he says in his letter about his blog posts. I no longer disagree with the group's actions. The guy in his posts is writing about things such as "how he would eliminate atheism forever" and "how atheists are those who did Christianity wrong."

    He was not being honest at all in this letter in regards to the blog posts. Go read his post on evolution that by itself is a disgrace.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What part of it was disgraceful? I just pointed out my observations. And I was clear that they were just my thoughts, not facts.

      Delete
  29. Just an explanation for this, especially for those who came here from the reddit link but are too lazy to read the comments on the actual post itself:

    http://www.reddit.com/r/atheism/comments/tohd7/christian_in_my_town_asked_to_stop_attending_the/c4od0us

    It goes a lot deeper than what it's being presented as. But thanks for working within a theistic perspective to make your religion more positive, although I still think you're failing to understand certain major things.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree with you that I am still failing to understand certain things. Thats why I am not quitting. But on the positive side when I spoke in front of my church, I had several people let me know that my words made them change the way they felt about their non brlirving family members. So I think what I am doing is a benefit even if I am still a little off track.

      THanks for posting.

      Delete
    2. Thanks for sticking up for the down-trodden. If more christians were like you we really would't have as many problems as we do. While I will disagree with you on a world perspective, it is nice to know there is someone who wants to have a rational discussion.

      Delete
  30. I am very sorry.

    As an atheist I find that inexcusable. Please accept my apologies.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. not necessary. but I appreciate the support and will continue to do my best to make peace.

      Delete
  31. None of us know enough details about the group and this individual to make a judgement. I trust that both parties are cool with one another, and learned from one another.

    - Brandon

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was a good experience for me and I started a new group. SOme of them members from the original group already let me know they are looking forward to future meetings in the new group so all is good.

      thanks for posting.

      Delete
  32. Imagine your town has a regular meeting for non-drinkers. It's not specifically for recovering alcoholics, although a number of those attend, it's just for people who are tired of the way every other social group in the town, whether deliberately or not, arranges every event around the presence of alcohol.

    Then somebody who drinks starts showing up at meetings. There wouldn't be a problem with that if he just hung out and drank tea and chatted about non-alcohol-related issues. The problem is that he says his goal is to "bridge the gap" between drinkers and non-drinkers. Worse, he's transparently disingenuous. When he says "bridge the gap", he really means "Explain why drinking is fine, there's just a few people who take it to extremes, and if you understood that you'd drink alcohol too!"

    Even worse, he has a blog on which he posts his own, unverified recollection of conversations he has at the meeting, flavoured by his own implicit bias. So nobody at the meeting knows if anything they say (or even worse, things they said unclearly that were misinterpreted) might not show up on the web.

    I'd not want him at the meeting either.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I understand that perspective. If you read my blogs, however, I think it is obvious that I dont write anything about the meetings.

      The blogs are simply a reflection of my changing attitude, as a result of going to the meetings.

      Delete
    2. Great post - I hope you read this Victor and understand what you are doing wrong.

      Delete
    3. “I think it is obvious that I dont write anything about the meetings.”

      Yes you do. You explicitly recount your recollection of conversations you've had at atheist meetings: http://atheistfriendlychristian.blogspot.com.au/2012/05/justify-your-god.html

      Delete
    4. I see what you are saying, fishbowl, but that's not what I meant. The way the meetings are, there are about 30 people all sitting around a table. Everyone is having little discussions in groups of 2-5 people on various topics.

      So although, I did recount a question that someone asked me, if you asked 95% of the group, they would have no idea about the discussion because it was between one person and myself.

      but I do see your point. I did mention conversations, but I felt it was vague enough that it could never be traced back to an individual.

      And like I stated before, I never kept it a secret that I wrote articles. I even posted my blog on the group message boards and had a couple of them respond.

      I was never made aware that people were uncomfortable until I received the letter.

      Delete
  33. It's good to see a Christian who is defending atheists and promoting understanding. I thank you for it. At the same time, I can understand the group's need for exclusivity, as there may be people who would like to open up but wouldn't feel comfortable doing so with a Christian present even if they are well-intentioned. I believe you handled the situation with respect, and that's rare these days.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. THanks for posting and encouraging me.

      Delete
  34. You probably weren't doing anything wrong.. But from their point of view, it's like a blogger for the KKK or something sitting in on a minority community meet-up. It's just too awkward and uncomfortable, even if all parties involved had (arguably) good intentions. It's a place for them to discuss stuff with each other, rather than with opposing views.

    In their defense, don't view atheists as people who need to be fixed. They aren't doing things wrongly. Most of them are good people, just like Christians.. They just view the world differently, and focus more on logical thought and reason, and scientific methods. And when talking about religions, all beliefs, even a lack of any, are on equal ground. No one is doing it wrong, no belief is any more correct or "above" the others. Although if someone leans towards science, then logic and evidence are required for proof of things.

    Don't criticize them for their preferences in booting you out. If you being there was a problem for so many of them, you obviously shouldn't keep going.
    No harm done, in any case. :P

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. and that makes perfect sense to me, Unknown. That is why i just decided to start a new group with the upfront clarification. THanks for posting.

      Delete
  35. I am now an atheist, but was raised Baptist and visited churches of other denominations, including Pentecostal, Catholic, and Kingdom Halls of Jehovah's Witnesses. What I can say of all of these churches and groups, is that NEVER have I heard any of them request that atheists not attend their services... And I'm confident they new they had more to lose if a non-believer spoke truth and swayed their congregations.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I dont know of any churches that discouraged non believers. I have heard of them, but never seen it myself.

      Thanks for posting.

      Delete
  36. I admire what you're trying (and to some extent, it sounds, succeeding!) to do here. I think it's important work, and if you'd like, I can put you in touch with atheists at the national level who would *love* to work on it with you.

    But I also understand where the group is coming from. Imagine, for a moment, that this group was instead a sexual violence prevention group for women. And you, as a thinking, feeling man, wanted to understand better what the experience of constant threat of harassment and violence was like for women, and write and speak to a male audience about how they could change things.

    It sounds like, from your anecdote about Ben, that your presence *changed* the way others used and saw the group. And that is the problem. We go through life tiptoeing around religious (mostly Christian) sensibilities. We have to look thankful when someone unthinkingly says "God bless you" after we sneeze. We worry that we'll slip up at work or our children's school and reveal our godlessness to people who will ostracize us, wonder about us, even call Child Protective Services on us. Some have fought divorce battles over child custody where our lack of religion was at issue.

    To have one place, just ONE, where there aren't any religious people to offend, where there's no questioning whether our language is "respectful" (when of course religious people never think about whether their language is "respectful" to us)... that is a real gift. It's finally being able to relax.

    Sure, you wouldn't have been offended. You think. They don't KNOW. They don't have any way to contextualize your motivations, except from their own experience of religious belief, if that's their background. And for those who were religious and aren't now, their experience, obviously, was not the same as yours... so they will only be able to contextualize your motivations through a lens that will distort them.

    And even if you, personally, would have been non-judgmental about things you heard, if you repeated them here or to your congregation... they might do more harm than good.

    So I urge you to understand this decision in that context, but not to give up on reaching out to atheists for true interworldview collaboration.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would love that Ironica. The reason I started the blog was to get perspective from atheists and make sure I was representing them, the best I could. I feel like the more I engage, the better perspective I get.

      I would love to be in touch with atheists on a national level.

      Thank you

      Delete
  37. Why would you go to an atheist group and then NOT want to hear the story of one of the participants? That person was clearly very offended, and why shouldn't they be?

    How would you feel if somebody told you they didn't want to hear your story because you were getting too emotional? Or that they could only listen to your story if they could judge you, and invoke their own beliefs on to you?

    Let's face it - you have written a long, passive-aggressive response countering all of the points made in the original letter, in a list format, without accepting the possibility that any of the original points actually carry merit. Your response has been very clearly written without taking into account anyone's perspective but your own.

    You should consider the fact that you have gone to these meetings where people are opening themselves up to you in confidence, and almost as if you were violating their privacy, you use their experiences as content to fill your own blog.

    Additionally, you seem to condescend to them, speaking out at your christian events as if atheists were people that shouldn't be hated because they can be "saved", based on your experiences with the group. I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest that the only reason you attended these meetings was for this reason - like an infiltration - you attended the meetings so that you could use their experiences to aid your own christian agenda.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ummmm... you are really reading into this, from a bad perspective. I clarified my intentions about why I didnt want to hear his story.

      And my blogs NEVER once discussed a personal story. My blogs were only a reflection of how my attitude changed about atheists, the more I got to know them.

      but thanks for posting anyway.

      Delete
  38. It really sounds like you understand where they're coming from. Religion isn't a big deal to me, but I'm gay, so I understand what it's like to live in an oppressive culture. It's great that you're trying to reach out to them, and, in the end, the goal is to create a society where everyone can live together without fear of or hate for others, but an oppressed group still needs a space where they can be alone with others like them. Because of past experiences, as open and understanding as you may be, simply your presence can be disturbing. What they need is a safe space where they can be by themselves so they can figure out who they are!

    But, you do seem to understand this. I hope that, even though you won't be going to future meetings, you still have some ties with this group? You say you're starting a new group. It's probably best to have a separate one that's geared towards Atheist-Christian co-operation. And make sure you have it on a different night, so people can go to both!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have made some friends in the group and they are very suppoertive. We all think it is of rthe best that I leave the original group and start something for those who wish to continue our discussions.

      THanks for posting

      Delete
  39. You've got an interesting blog here. God bless you.

    ReplyDelete
  40. Hope Betty re-thinks her decision. Seems like they may fall prey to the same unwarranted feelings of marginalization that drives the church today :/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think its for the best that I dont go back. I created my own group for those who did enjoy what I had to offer so I can continue.

      Thanks for posting.

      Delete
  41. An Atheist group is not an interfaith group. Perhaps you need to find an interfaith group.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I just made my own group that clarified its intentions upfront.

      Delete
    2. Which are what? From this post, it sounds like your intentions are to investigate Atheism while maintaining your own Christianity. Is that right?

      Delete
  42. I know you meant this all compassionately, but you attended a private discussion as a reporter, and publically released things you heard. I've been a reporter, so I mean this in a purely professional way: Attending as a journalist, for the purpose of public release (whether for a Christian blog or an atheistic one) is not the same thing as attending as a participant.

    It completely screws up the dynamic of a group - especially a small group.

    And the particular topic of the meeting or blog - whether it's religion or anything else - does not change that. Nor does your degree of compassion. It's just about privacy.

    It's really only a couple shades of difference between what you were doing and blogging from an AA meeting.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I understand but like I said, I never blogged about anything in the meeting. The blog was a reflection of my changed attitude, based on the meeting. I nver took notes or recorded anything. I just wrote articles, as my perspective changed.

      but I understand how they felt, so I just made a new group. THanks for posting.

      Delete
  43. I really hope some of you will join my group and contribute to the discussions. If you live in Central Oregon hopefully we will see you at some meetups.

    http://www.meetup.com/Bend-Oregon-Atheists/

    ReplyDelete
  44. Ok. You mean well, you really do. I can tell, you're a pretty nice, well-meaning guy. Did you ever consider that this wasn't a judgement about you being Christian, but about how you behaved while you were there?

    Hear me out.

    This is about the story you were telling earlier, about the guy, Ben, who asked you if you wanted to hear the rest of his story, and you said "No."? For him, it wasn't his "de-conversion from Christianity". It was his story. You said no to his story. And this is a support group, a *community* that supports one another, knowing that these stories and struggles are hard to get out. They're nasty, twisted barbs that wrap and tear at us, and pulling them off can be painful, but it's the only way to not feel wretched anymore. And you said no. He was trying to lance a festering boil, he wanted your help, and you said "No."

    And the worst part is that it wasn't even that you were so fervently Christian that you couldn't hear a bad word said. That we have experience with; that we know and know how to deal with. You were this nice, well-meaning 1800's British anthropologist that just didn't get it. What do we do with that?

    Think back. Was that the only time something like this happened in the group? I'm betting not.

    And if you can't remember any others, might it be because the incidents passed completely under your radar?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I completely agree with you. And my intentions were not received the way I had intended. Being a Marine in the past, I have had to come to terms with my lack of communication skills at times.

      Sometimes what I am thinking in my head, doesnt seem to come across as good as it sounded in my head.

      Delete
  45. As far as most Christians go, I can see you are leaps and bounds beyond many accepting, abrasive Christians that take extreme, vile offense at the beliefs of others that do not correspond to their own, to which I humbly thank you. However...

    Accepting is different from understanding. Many people will not understand homosexuality in this country, even if they vote against amendments that only recognize heterosexual marriages. Many people claim to not be racist, sexist, bigoted, prejudiced, but ultimately they can never wash from themselves from their own hateful views because they will never be able to understand them. Unless you grew up in Harlem, the slums of Detroit or Chicago, you will never understand what it's like to be poor. If you grew up straight, you will never understand what it is like to grow up gay. And, similarly, you will most likely never understand what it's like to be Muslim, or Jewish, or Christian, if you never grew up or lived among like minded people, sharing those same beliefs. This is a fundamental problem with human nature, and it's something people have to learn to accept along with the beliefs, values, and cultures of different people.

    You will never understand what it is like to be atheist. I know that. You have a blog post about how you would get rid of atheism. As much as you may accept the beliefs of other atheist people, you will never ultimately understand their viewpoint, and I think it's absolutely, positively clear you don't. Not until you shed any desire to believe in Jesus as your savior will you be able to. And that's okay.

    Just keep this in mind; people who are different than you may seem like a novelty, but how would you honestly feel in their position? As an outsider, observing them, critiquing them, with an elevated sense of self importance that might not even result from any desire to be amicable, but to ultimately "convert" people who have an inferior viewpoint. You're not alone, most atheists have the same aims. Obviously if they didn't feel the same way about Christianity, they might not be atheists. But they aren't, and they'll probably never understand the compassion you have towards God and Jesus Christ.

    Learn to deal with it. And move on. That's all that can be done. Clearly this atheist organization wasn't meant to be an inclusive forum where people debate about religion, it was meant to be a group for atheists. You have no right, as a person who attends church and expects the same courtesy, to say otherwise.

    Of course, you probably already know this, but it seems like a lot of commentators are essentially calling this atheist group "bigoted" by kicking you out, and I really just wanted those people to know that they were within their full right. So maybe everybody else commenting on this post can take the gigantic stick out of their self-important ass already, because I can guarantee they are guilty of kicking someone else out of a group in their life, whether it's a school group, group of friends, church group, work group, whatever. Everyone's guilty of doing it. Stop forcing the need to point fingers.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree they were in their right to do so. And I reall ylike where this is going. I got my blog on reddit.com which I never knew about (and really don't understand) but I have never gotten so many comments and feedback before.

      And I was encouraged by other atheists to start my own group and continue to do what I ahve been attempting.

      So I definately have no hard feelings.

      THanks for posting.

      Delete
  46. Betty writes...

    "They feel uncomfortable 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 you respond, in part...

    "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."

    Hey, maybe Ben doesn't want the Internet to know that he had a painful and upsetting experience with religion being shoved down his throat as a child? It's funny, because they say they're kicking you out the group for writing about them (most likely without their permission); your response is basically, "Yeah, right"; and then you go do that.

    Then, Ben asks you if you want to hear the rest of the story, and you say, "No." If you're not there to hear stories like that, you shouldn't go, because sharing stories like part of the reason these groups exist. No wonder he was "taken aback."

    Next, you tell everybody that Ben became even more upset when you wouldn't let him tell the story (understandable), and you portray yourself as only doing so to keep his feelings from being further injured, because you're such an awesome, open-minded guy who's not there to convert anyone.

    You don't seem like the type of person I would want at my atheist group, either, if I had one.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Look, that is not exactly how it happened. I used a little creative rights to modify the story to make sure it couldnt be traced back to anybody. If you ask anyone in the group, it's not likely they would know what I was talking about.

      My blog in the past, has been for my christian friends and facebook. I never expected it to get this type of attention. I didnt even know about reddit.com until yesterday. I had seen rage comics on facebook but didnt know about the whole site. If I knew this was going to get the type attention it did, I would have written it different.

      I wrote this particular article to see what my christian friends would think about an atheist group making a christian "not welcome." I wanted to see what their responses would be since we as christians often let atheists know that they are not welcome.

      If you read my other articles and look at the comments, you will see that my blog has never got this type of attention before.

      I like it, but I wasnt ready for it. I always wrote to a particular group of christians and people on facebook that I associate with.

      Delete
  47. Nonreligious people have been severely maligned in the U.S. by theistic propaganda for so long that people never look at you the same way. You're no longer someone's brother, a fun friend, a son. You're "the atheist". And it hurts to have people you never thought would mistreat you doing just that.

    It is unfair that religious people are perfectly fine with believing that a magic sky wizard sent his spirit child to become undead for our disobedience of arbitrary laws, and yet we are the ones judged harshly for asking "do you have evidence to back that up?"

    Please don't think that their request for a safe place is some kind of persecution against Christians. There are very few venues in the United States that we can go without being judged by even those closest to us, let alone strangers like yourself. If we wanted someone sitting in a corner silently and/or vocally judging our unbelief, we'd go to a family gathering.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. makes sense. Thats why I just created my own group.

      Delete
  48. Is it weird that I believe everything?... all these concepts can be linked with true reasoning and "understanding". Different sides of the same coin I say. Or should I say, different sides of the same 6,000,000 sided die piece...

    ReplyDelete
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    1. If you really delve into it and think about what you're saying, then (no offense) not only is it odd but impossible. Religious texts not only contradict themselves often but clearly and certainly each other, and seeing that all popular beliefs arrived from these texts they cannot be linked by anything credible or reasonable. Why don't you say you're an agnostic? You're an agnostic.

      Delete
  49. I'm sorry but the whole "subjected to the abuse at the hands of a Christian" is bullshit.
    If someone were raped by black man they wouldn't kick you out for being black.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A black rapist wouldn't try to use his skin colour as justification for his actions...

      Delete
  50. Hey, just wanted to let you know I appreciate your blog and what you're trying to do. I found you via the r/atheism part of reddit. I can kind of see this from both sides, since I was a Christian once (raised Baptist, "born again," for a while, quite the fundamentalist) and am now an atheist.

    Growing up as a Baptist, but with strong intellectual tendencies and a questioning mind I just couldn't "turn off," I was never going to stay a fundamentalist for long. For years I became an increasingly liberal and tolerant Christian and as I did, I looked around and saw how my peers treated people who were different and I began to get pretty upset about it.

    I also got very frustrated at the anti-intellectualism and willful ignorance I saw around me - refusal to accept science and to even attempt to understand things like evolution. I used to see it as a mission to "reform" Christians, to get them to be more tolerant and more thoughtful, more educated about how the world really works.

    I used to do things like write columns in the local paper about subcultures and people I understood and identified with that I knew most of my fellow Christians did not, people who they in fact treated like crap on a regular basis. I once wrote a column on evolution (that stirred up some shit, let me tell you).

    But after some life-changing events that taught me a little more about how the world works, I eventually became a deist for a while, then an on-the-fence agnostic theist, then finally the agnostic atheist I am today. I no longer had any right to ask Christians to reform because I'm not one of them any more.

    I knew and still know some great Christians and as I said, I was there. I was one of you. I was raised by a wonderful, loving family. I didn't get abused in church or get mistreated by Christians. I just basically figured out it wasn't true and decided to quit feeling guilty for thinking that.

    So... I can identify with both groups. I would almost have a live and let live attitude if it wasn't for what I've seen the Religious Right doing to our political system, education, and how they treat gay people. It feels like those things are getting worse and I can't really just stand by and watch. I have to say something.

    I appreciate that you're trying to get Christians to be more tolerant of atheists and don't get me wrong, that would be a big help. It would be an improvement definitely.

    But it's not the whole problem. The mindset is just wrong. You don't get truth via faith. I love truth above all else. As long as your way of thinking rules the world, truth is going to be undiscovered and worse yet, censored. We have a potential for a very dark age if America's anti-intellectual attitude can't be reversed.

    And I might as well say this as I say to most of the Christians who post in r/atheism on Reddit: The fact that you are drawn to have discussions with atheists could mean that you will eventually find yourself on the other side of the looking glass. You could be an atheist at some point in the future, whether you will admit it to yourself or not. I never thought it would happen to me, but it did.

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    1. You may be right about me being an atheist some day. But truth is important to my faith and if I am not willing to test my faith, then it's not true.

      At least not to me.

      thanks for posting

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  51. If this were an atheist "church," or maybe a library, of course you would have every right to be there, and them asking you to leave would be unconscionable. However as addressed in the original letter, there really are very little designated meeting areas for atheists. Maybe you still have the right to be there, but don't you personally feel like a bit of a dick for making a presence? Honestly, would you attend a meeting for abused housewives or alcoholics? Maybe it's hyperbole, but you have to admit it's awfully analogous. Sure you could sit in a couple of days out of sheer interest, but in the end the people there would like to be around others like themselves- not for the sake of exclusion, but to feel safe. Please reread that last sentence, it's really very crucial. Maybe you're not a "bad Christian," but you must understand that you inevitably represent that population, and ambassadors are simply not welcome there. I'll be frank when I say that while this is slightly complex, it should seem obvious to any socially-aware adult, and it's quite clear this article's title veers into yellow journalism after reading the concise letter sent to you by the atheists. The correct phrasing is, "sensibly asked to leave, because I simply don't belong at the moment."

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    1. I didnt feel bad because the group description said believers were welcome. And because I never hid from them that I was writing articles. I even posted my blog on their message boards and some commented. They gave me good feedback and said they appreciated my attitude.

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  52. Sounds like you got away from some very small minded, ignorant individuals. This group kicking you out because of your beliefs is no different than any other group that wants to be exclusive to race. Disgusting.

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    1. Imagine if you lived in a massively Islamic country and you didn't believe any of it. Your acquaintances and even some of your family members shunned you for it, and the ones that COULD be civil with you were always making snarky comments at you and your spouse for not believing their religion.

      Wouldn't it be nice to speak with other non-Muslims without an imam butting into your group and taking notes to put on his blog after your meeting with your other non-Muslim friends? Just an hour or two a week? Is that too much to ask to spend having a beer and a visit with your friends, no imams hearing your every word?

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    2. But I live in America, not an Islamic country. I've had people of all backgrounds and walks of life treat me poorly. Do I hate people? Do I hate people who believe or don't believe in certain things? Nope and nope. There will always be people who think I'm wrong or don't belong, but they will never stop me.

      "Wouldn't it be nice to speak with other non-Muslims without an imam butting into your group and taking notes to put on his blog after your meeting with your other non-Muslim friends?"

      If you took the time to read both the letter he received and his response, you would have a better understanding of what happened. Although this group he belonged to was for Atheists, they seemed to occasionally allow those of different beliefs to visit. This blogger is not wrong for sharing his experience. Free speech isn't about just what you want to hear.

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  53. Not too difficult to imagine that some didn't want their meeting being your blog-fodder, not to mention that the mere fact of you being there for your purpose alters their purpose for being there.

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    1. For what it is worth, I was upfront with them from the beginning. I never kept my blogging a secret and even posted it on the groups message boards. A couple of them commented on my blog and appreciated what I was doing.

      I was not ever aware that anyone had a problem unitl I go the letter.

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  54. When you visit their meeting, but write articles titled "How I Would Eliminate Atheism Forever" how can you be surprised.

    You seem to think the main reason atheists aren't believers is because theists sometimes present religion poorly.

    It doesn't ever occur to you that atheists just don't believe in god, and no amount of doing Christianity the right way will change that.

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    1. I dont think you actually read the article. The title is just a "catchy title" to get people's attention and read it. Before this article, that one was my most popular article so it worked.

      And I wrote that article for a particular group of my christian friends and facebook friends. If you look at the comments, prior to yesterday, my blog was just a local thing. I didnt know about reddit.com unitl yesterday and never exepected this kind of attention to my blog.

      It's nice, dont get me wrong, but I am truly not used to it. As you can see by the comments.

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  55. It seems clear that their mission (atheist safe haven) is not identical to your mission. It matters not at all that your intentions and actions are beneficial; it matters completely that there are enough participants that wish the separation. It is regrettable but, honestly, life is like that.

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  56. I think its really great about the idea of a different group. I think that there is a place for friendly discussion of these topics and there are places that really aren’t, like the atheist group. But I guess you’ve already gotten that, by reading like 90% of the comments and reading your responses as of 11pm the 15th.

    I don’t think groups like atheist groups or Christian prayer meetings are places for people with opposing viewpoints to go in and present their views. I think you understand that, and that is awesome. I do want to say something though; Often I hear about Christians getting mad for people calling their belief in something without evidence “foolish” (faith). Usually when I hear it presented via Christians they said that the person called them foolish. (in a straw man kind of way rather than the argument from ignorance as presented). It is of course an ad hominem attack and should be dismissed, as I’ve seen presented often even though generally this is not the case. (I mean the straw man here) Sometimes, I see the argument presented in its original form. What bothers me is that I see Christian’s getting inflamed about this statement, but then I hear Christians point to Psalm stuff about non believers, which unfortunately, too many Christians seem to take to heart. These kinds of verses are a little unnerving to a lot of us nonbelievers.

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    1. I promise I didnt go there to present my views. The people in the group knew about my blog as I posted it on the group discussion boards. I attended meetings for about 8 months or so and I made it a point to only talk about God if they asked me a specific question. I understand how they felt uncomfortable.

      In posting the letter on my blog, I never thought it would get this kind of attention. Until yesterday, I never knew what reddit.com was. My blog has always been directed to my friends and facebook friends. Thats the only place I ever posted it before.

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  57. I'm an Atheist friendly Christian myself, But the simple fact remains that someone in that group was unconformable, and to protect the interest of the group, the worshiper had to go. Sounds fair and not anti-freethinking. Dude you can pray for more material for your blog. God Bless

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    1. LIke I said, I understood. I never knew what reddit was, and never expected this type of attention. My blog has typically been for my small circle of christian friends and facebook friends.

      thanks for posting

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  58. I run the Michigan Skeptics Association and I would like to invite you to visit our group at any time. Obviously, I am on the other side of the country and you can't fly out for our Get Togethers but I would like to let you know that you are welcome.

    Technically though, we are not an atheist organization. while most of our members are atheist, we are a skeptic organization. The main difference is that the focus on skepticism is a process towards rational thought and critical thinking, while atheism is mainly not believing in a god(s).

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    1. I would love to attend a meeting and I might actually be in Michigan in the nfuture. If I am, I will look you up.

      THank you for the invite.

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  59. @Tristan Caley: You're wrong. Atheists do not claim that God 100% doesn't exist. Atheists choose to believe that God doesn't exist due to the evidence against that theory. Richard Dawkins, arguably the most world-renown atheist, said himself how he knows there is a possibility that a God can exist, but according to the lack of evidence supporting a God as the vast amounts of evidence that support other theories he chooses to not believe in a God. Any atheist that claims God 100% cannot exist doesn't know te definition of atheism.

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  60. An interesting group/discussion. The conversation is so cordial I am wondering of a significant number of posts have been deleted. I feel compelled to say @Victor you do seem sincere and those that are telling you what you "are" (agnostic) don't really understand agnosticism or the journey many make from the magical to the real. Some of your comments lead me to believe that we would agree on the groups decision and the benefit it eventually had for you.

    I do want to briefly mention that those who are dismissive of the abuse suffered at the hands of religion are narrow minded or at least not educated on these matters. To think of the harm religion does only in terms of sexual abuse is like thinking that water damage only occurs in Katrina sized hurricanes. The damage caused by religion is so massive, and such a part of the fabric of our human society (not just including Christians) that it is difficult to see. Much like the white privilege, it takes constant effort, examination and reflection on yourself and the world to even see it. Yesterday I overheard a conversation where a young person said, "I like the idea of Buddhists, they seem so peaceful." I smiled at the thought, because our view of them if the US is very much that way. I pointed out that some of the worst religious fighting in the world has gone on between Hindi and Buddhists. That kind of information just does;t really make into our mainstream history, social science, and media.

    Even the most loving parents, most loving pastor's imams or rabbis cause damage to so many. Christianity and Islam in particular seem to have taken a strong turn into fundamentalism and desperate gender norming that does so much damage. I could write 1000's of words on just the different ways that religion damages us and wounds are children.

    I don't think religion could ever vow to "Do no harm" as the physician does.

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    1. I promise you I have only disallowed 2 comments. One was just a string of swear words, and one was trying to start trouble. Other than that I have allowed all other posts.

      I don't think religion does harm. I think people do harm. Religion of in itself, is harmless. It is what people choose to do with religion that causes harm. Just like a rope. A rope can be used to pull a person out of a pit or hang them. We don't put any blame on the rope, but rather the person who decided to use the rope for evil.

      And I am not agnostic. I am a believer. You might not be used to christians who admit they don't have all the answers. Just because I don't have all the answeres doesn't make me agnostic. I think it just makes me honest.

      thanks for posting.

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    2. I realize a religious person is unlikely to agree that religion itself causes harm - I once made your same argument, that it's people misusing religion.

      But now I think about instances where loving, caring Christian parents kick their children out in the street or disown them or just bully them within inches of their lives because they have come out as atheists (or gay for that matter).

      Would they treat their own children that way if it weren't for religion? I would argue they would not. It actually makes them less moral than if they had never heard of any religion and acted according to instinct.

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    3. Victor, thank you for your reply. Much like musicmissionary, I felt that religion did more good than harm. I too was willing to see only the harm of the "bad" people who were causing problems. I studied theology in school, actually with John C Dwyer, whose books I recommend to anyone. He is the only person I ever knew who could read a greek NT to class in Aramaic. He had something like 15 languages.You can find his books here:http://www.amazon.com/John-C.-Dwyer/e/B001K8PVVY/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_4?qid=1337236609&sr=1-4 But my main point is that I stayed with the church because I could;t see another way to raise my children. I now see the massive harm down in everyday life by religions, not just christianity, for a number of reasons. I am not even considering people that kick out there kids. I have somehow managed to raise to kids, but I judge no one in that area. If you didn't commit a crime then you probably were a better parent than me. I see the damage caused by the extreme demands of norming, particularly gender norming, the stifling of intellect, reason, and morality. I am still evolving in this area, having been dragged here by a strong and brilliant daughter. My biggest concern is the problem of duality, which when I want to be a jerk I call the real world versus the magical world. As people who believe in a duality there is a defacto separation from life, and this introduces much of the harm. I was catholic, and I knew the church and its history well (if I had not transferred to a state college I would have earned a minor in theology) and would bust a gut when catholics would talk about "those crazy : fundamentalists, mormons, take your pick. I remember once my dad telling me that the crazy mormons (not technically christians, but they claim it) were baptizing the long dead. Having been married at the Carmel Mission, and knowing a bit of history, I pointed out that Fr. Junipero Serra, who murdered thousands of Americans, and buried over 2000 people in the walls of the mission at carmel, ca was just canonized a saint, because hundreds of years after torturing and killing non-christians he healed a nun's cancer. My fun way of teaching history, and pointing out that christians have their own brand of crazy, and almost everyone thinks there beliefs are mainstream. I taught sunday school for ten years, so I understand the compartmentalization, but even that is a form of harm

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    4. I can see it physically wearing on my mom that I am not an unbeliever. I have never had the courage to tell her, but I think she knows. The amount of pain my mom has gone through thinking about how she "failed" her four boys and our eternal souls breaks my heart.

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  61. It seems that you keep making excuses for your behavior rather than what you should be doing; apologizing to them for disrespecting them at their personal meetings. You were using this group as research for blog content, not to be their "tolerant Christian friend." That's not a friendly atmosphere for dialogue, as who in the world would be comfortable knowing someone was posting publicly about a group that was very intimate to them? Your posts even discuss how to "eliminate atheism forever!" That's akin to a misogynist attending feminist meetings and making posts on how to eliminate feminism forever, then being surprised at why the group wants him out.

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    1. I did apologize and the title about eliminating atheism was a "catchy title" to get people to read the blog. It worked. The blog itself describes how atheists would be less outspoken if christians were more Christ like. Yes atheists would still bhe around, but they wouldn't feel the need to "push back" if christians weren't "pushing" in the first place.

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    2. I get that. You were simply asking Christians to follow the Golden Rule. It would definitely make atheists' lives more bearable if they would do that.

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  62. Victor, I commend you for wanting to understand atheist. Never have I heard of a more accepting Christian than you. I was directly involved with church, and church leadership for 2 years and was extremely disappointed in the close-mindedness of the community. I think what you did Victor was great. Especially going in front of your congregation and challenging their beliefs.

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    1. THanks Blake. I think Jesus was more accepting than I am, but the term christian wasnt used back then. I can assure you, I am just as flawed as the next guy. But I appreciate your encouragement and hope you will continue to contribute your thoughts.

      thanks for posting,

      V

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  63. Vic,

    You are exactly what Christians need. I'm a Christian and I come from a pastors home and know all to well the hypocrisy that is in the church. As a child, I was told that if you were not a certain religion, you WILL go to hell. I'm older and a little bit wiser and now know that this is not true. I appreciate your POV and I believe the generalization of both Atheists and Christians are out of control and we all need to come together to solve issues that will make a better place for our children. I'm excited to read what will come next and you're truly an inspiration to me personally. Thank you for your words and know that you have a brother praying for you.

    God Bless

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    1. Thank you. And I am sorry for what you have had to endure. What you are describing is one of the catalysts I see, that leads people away form the faith. Obvioulsy not every atheist has a story of being mistreated by christians but it is more common than I would like.

      I appreciate the prayers, I need them. And I will return the prayers your way.

      God Bless you brother,

      V

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    2. Too be honest, I appreciate what I went through. It made appreciate what I know now and it will make me a better father to my children.

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  65. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  66. I'm sorry a problem arose but I can understand the group's perspective. I'm sure you've read about the study that shows atheists are the least trusted group in America. Atheists also face a good deal of discrimination and even abuse from others. In some cases, being "out" as an atheist can come with a high price--ostracism from family and friends, bullying, threats and even violence.

    Considering this, atheists can sometimes be very wary of others. Atheist groups often are a "safe haven" which are (or at least feel like) the only place non-believers can feel safe and talk freely. You didn't have any ill intentions but others often do. They go into atheist groups either online or in person to "witness". Atheists get enough of that elsewhere so the last place they need that is in an atheist meeting. Some believers might go to the meeting to read/hear what atheists are talking about so they can report it to others. Some may even go into a group so they can "out" the atheists and leave them open to harassment.

    So it would probably be best to let this group be and see if there's another group in the area that might be more open to your presence.

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  67. I'm sorry you got kicked out but this title made me LOL.

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  68. So you walked into atheists and free thinker's safe space, that THEY created so they could feel free, normal, accepted, and empowered when they lack that in every day life - and you think that's okay? You're concerned about your feelings getting hurt when you violated the ONLY safe space these people had to be amongst themselves, and we're supposed to feel sorry for you? You violated their space so you could make articles for your own self-gratification and you see nothing wrong with this? NO. FUCK THAT.

    Here's a radical idea - let people have their own space. Let them have a place of their own and don't try to infiltrate it. You have privilege EVERY WHERE ELSE IN THE COUNTRY - let them have that one meeting and quit making yourself out to be a victim because they want that space. You want to be atheist friendly, do it in public space. Do it where they've been bullied, threatened, beaten, assaulted, dehumanized, etc. Do it in the common ground - DON'T shove your "I can go where ever I want" shit into a demonized group's safe space. THAT is not being an "atheist friendly Christian", that's being a Christian who doesn't get their own privilege and doesn't respect those atheists.

    You should give them a genuine apology. Not "I understand but" shit, but a GENUINE "I'm sorry I exerted my privilege and invaded your space, that was wrong and insensitive of me AND I'M SORRY FOR USING YOU AS BLOGGING MATERIAL".

    GAH. Really! FUCKING THINK!!!!

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    1. I seriously don't think you read the entire article. And if you did, you had already made up your mind before you finished it. And you definately, did not read any of the comments that followed. But anyway, let me answer your comment (again).

      1. The group said christians were allowed to meetings as long as they "supported any claims with data and facts." I actually never brought up God, the Bible, or Christianity at the meetings. I would answer their questions when they asked me, but I never sat down and began preaching or even mentioning anything about my faith. Which is why I suggested that they change their group description, if they truly didnt want christians to attend.

      2. I was upfront with them about my writings from the beginning and even posted my blog to the groups site. Several of them commented on my writings and told me how much they appreciated what I was doing. It was a very small amount of people who had a problem with me.

      3. I never mentioned the groups name or any people in the group by name. Again, this something I agreed to, in the beginning.

      4. In one year, I only attended 6 meetings. They have meetings about 4-5 times a month, so it's not like I was "crashing" their party. And again, they claimed in their group descritpion that christians were welcome. And again, I was upfront with them about my writings. And I attended meetings for about a year.

      5. My writings were never about the group. They were about how my attitude was changed to a more accepting attitude after actually taking the time to get to know people, who had different beliefs than me. If you are an atheist, I would think that you would appreciate someone trying to get to know you, rather than just judge you from the other side of the room.

      But perhaps I am wrong, and you would prefer to just have atheists and christians at each others throats, like they have been, since the beginning. Who knows, maybe we can get another war going.

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    2. (I'll be assuming that Mr. Victor is not outright lying in the facts he's procured about this incident)

      Leinnxx,
      I think that it's very clear that you are passionate about this topic, but I would recommend lay-ing off the vulgarities and cap-locked sentences/ portions of sentences. I personally have found that easing into an opposing view can often be much more effective in writing. It won't allow or illicit as much immediate resentment for your comments if people are reading the words and not the tone. I think that (rage-blogging aside) you seem to be an intelligent woman, but your delivery comes off as harsh.
      As to your point, I have a few questions to pose (for you to perhaps ask yourself) that might illuminate Mr. Victor's views more clearly, if you let them: Is it fair for a group to claim itself as “Free Thinkers” if the group does, in fact, have an eclectic set of believers/non-believers that they would like to attend their meetings? I think it’s very clear that you’re an emotionally driven lady, so I’d like you to pose this question to your initial feelings at the idea: If various religious groups held monthly meetings that were ‘open to all’ would you not be disheartened/confused if they asked you to stay clear of these meetings because your presence made them uncomfortable? I think that if an atheist was refused admittance to a church, they wouldn’t handle it half as calmly as Mr. Victor did in this situation.
      I think that Mr. Victor’s initial statements of intent with the group, pertaining to his blog, alleviate him from the ridicule, “You violated their space so you could make articles for your own self- gratification,” (assuming that knowing of his intentions he was still welcomed to the meetings initially, as was disclosed.) I would next ask for empirical proof that atheists are ostracized by Christians. I’m not asking you to google ‘religious man slaughters non-believer’ I’m asking you to find evidence within the officially claimed doctrines of Christian churches. People are racist and people are bigots. Individuals often act out against those who don’t share their beliefs, but that is not an exclusive quality to those of Christian Faith, and is not ordained from the leaders of those faiths, either. In this day and age, if the majority of bigots are found to be Christians, it is simply a matter of how many Christians there are, versus how many people there are in the world. The ratio is, I’m sure, fluent across all affiliations of belief. While people are flooded with imperfections and carnal wrongs, Christian churches do not advocate the alienation of Atheists. It contradicts the Churches’ official goals of conversion and growth.
      I don’t need to write any of this, as Mr. Victor’s response to your allegations is more than adequate, and I’m positive that my defense isn’t needed for him to gain a better night’s sleep. I simply thought that I needed to address these things before I spoke on what actually mattered to me from your post: the tone. Please keep in mind that I don’t have intentions of attacking you, but maybe enlightening you to the way your writing comes off. By being so aggressive with your approach, you alienate yourself. You allow only for those with equally angry responses to agree with you, and perhaps many people who could have been convinced by your points don’t even bother really reading. They’ll look at the words, but they’ll read them with a biased lens, because they’ve made up their mind about you and where you stand. This seems to be a friendly blog, and I’m a firm believer in the ability to disagree with people respectfully. Angry leaders of rebel mobs can grow and rouse others to join their cause and hate the government they disagree with, but composed speakers can influence their governments’ minds, which is a much better way of enacting change.

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  69. This is horrible. I guess they don't want a difference in perspective and just want everyone to cheer leader ra ra whatever the hell they say. Lame.

    Start your own "atheist group"...Not only would it be funny, but if your group outnumbered theirs at some point you could say you won with a disadvantage. XD

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