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Can Evangelicals and Atheists ever truly be friends?

I don't mean simply "friendly", but really share in the way that people do when they are in true friendships.

I ask because I was just thinking about our former neighbors - the ones who had children who told my kids that we were destined to hell if we didn't believe in their god.  I really like the mom, as well as her kids.  We'd talk over the fence and share stories about the kids or other aspects of life, but there was always a veil that seemed to cross between us, and I think it's because of their deep religious beliefs, and especially the instruction they have through their church to "spread the Word".  Although I don't make an effort to "convert" (as if it were possible) anyone to Atheism, I did let my neighbor know that I didn't want her kids to preach to mine.  To be honest, I am not comfortable letting my children play with hers (without my supervision) because they cannot seem to play without preaching.  If that is part of their role as Christians, and a role they take very seriously, to convert non-Christians, then how is it possible for a real friendship to develop with someone outside their faith?

Is it possible for Atheists and Evangelicals to be friends, then?  Can Evangelicals get past the need to evangelize to those who have no interest in converting, and just be people with common interests outside of religion?  Is there anything in that belief that would prevent them from befriending people who make it clear that religion is off limits?

What do you think?  And to  be clear, this is not a personal question, even though I added some personal notes to it just to help further explain what prompted it.  I am not looking for advice, but wanted to share these thoughts as a topic for discussion and nothing more.

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jsbenkert

Asked by jsbenkert at 2:01 PM on Jun. 25, 2011 in Religious Debate

Level 37 (89,331 Credits)
Answers (32)
  • I would say it depends on the degree of Evalgelicism and Atheism between the two. People that are "hard" or militant in their beliefs will likely not make very good friends. Those that are more accepting are likely to be able to overcome their religious differences and may actually learn something from one another while still remaining firm in their beliefs.

    KristiS11384

    Answer by KristiS11384 at 2:06 PM on Jun. 25, 2011

  • and i am living testament to that fact, kristi. i've had a very dear friend since high school (1985), who is atheist...and gasp!..gay.
    dullscissors

    Answer by dullscissors at 2:09 PM on Jun. 25, 2011

  • I'm an Atheist, my best friend who I've known since highschool is Orthodox....so I too am a living testament. Which is why I say it depends on how militant they are about those beliefs.
    KristiS11384

    Answer by KristiS11384 at 2:14 PM on Jun. 25, 2011

  • I'm not talking about Christians in general, because I am good friends with many people who are Christian. We can discuss our points of view without drawing blood or feel like we are trying to convince each other to change one another's beliefs. I'm talking about the Evangelicals specifically--the ones who feel it is their mission to convert non-Christians. I'm not a militant Atheist (believe it or not, although I do like to debate and discuss in this forum), and I've never discussed by beliefs with my neighbor except to explain that we do not follow her religion, and since my younger daughter has autism, I'd really rather not create any confusion by having her friends talk to her about God, heaven and hell. In spite of that, the kids can't help themselves, and the topic comes up every time I take my daughter over to play with them (they moved, but are only five minutes away from us).

    jsbenkert

    Comment by jsbenkert (original poster) at 2:18 PM on Jun. 25, 2011

  • I was thinking about them today, and how much I enjoy the mom's company, but can tell there's a strain whenever her daughter or son pipes up with one of their Christianity comments. That's what prompted this train of thought for me today.


    If religion is such a major part of one's life to the extent that he or she feels the need - or is commanded by his or her church - to try to convert others, is it possible for people at such opposite ends of the spectrum to be friends?

    jsbenkert

    Comment by jsbenkert (original poster) at 2:20 PM on Jun. 25, 2011

  • In your case it sounds like the neighbor is more militant about their beliefs, which would make forming a friendship difficult.
    KristiS11384

    Answer by KristiS11384 at 2:23 PM on Jun. 25, 2011

  • Well I think one can be a staunch recruiter for god, but also be respectful of a friend who they know is an atheist. I have a few friends like this.
    Occasionally they will send me something from their church like a sermon or a story relationg to god, or tell me something about their sunday service. But it's never done disrespectfully, but I DO know their is an underlying hope that it will get into my heart and help me "turn to god". Thats ok, I don't take offense though. I love them for who they are....not b/c they love god.
    sahmamax2

    Answer by sahmamax2 at 2:24 PM on Jun. 25, 2011

  • That's where my train of thought is leading, Kristi. It's a shame. Outside of religious beliefs, I think we have a lot in common.


    I think there's a difference between "Orthodox" and "Evangelist", anyway, isn't there?  Orthodox meaning more traditional in beliefs or following original texts or meanings of those texts, perhaps even literally, right?  Where as Evangelist means a Christian who converts others.  It may be that some who are Orthodox do try to convert, but I don't think it's as much a mission as it is to Evangelists.  It does lead me to wonder if Evangelists can really be friends with those who are of different or no faiths, if their priority in life is to convert others to their faith.

    jsbenkert

    Comment by jsbenkert (original poster) at 2:30 PM on Jun. 25, 2011

  • There are differences between Evangelicism and Orthodox. Doctrine wise they are similar but Evangelical (depending on the definition you use) are more active in seeking converts.
    KristiS11384

    Answer by KristiS11384 at 2:34 PM on Jun. 25, 2011

  • I'm not an Atheist but Yes. I am Pagan, one of my good friends is Evangelical, her brother and best friend is an Atheistic Heathen... So yeah, I don't know why one small idea or belief has to completely come between people's relationships with one another...
    SabrinaMBowen

    Answer by SabrinaMBowen at 2:45 PM on Jun. 25, 2011

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