Discussion 2 After Religion Group: On Navigating Relationships –
Reverse Apologetics or the Copyright on Truth
In this discussion, we talked about how people leaving religion can cope with their relationships with their still-religious family, friends, etc. How they might best navigate their relationships and lifelong ties in the midst of moving out of their religion/worldview of origin.
Is it better to just put on a face with those people and not talk about anything meaningful or personal with them (and perhaps feel fake or inauthentic inside)? Or is it worth the risk to try to carefully and systematically share one’s story with them, and why you’re moving out and beyond?
When leaving a religious group, people have to face questions and attempts from others to convert them back to their former beliefs. This insistence from believers can be seen as disrespect towards one’s decision to leave, but also as a very deep incomprehension of their motives. And the more believers try to convince with their archaic apologetics, the more one may feel emotionally and intellectually bullied.
We discussed how to live through threats and moral, emotional and material blackmail (ties with the family might be broken, people might lose their jobs, house, etc.) that are used by believers in order to convince you to rejoin them. And we reflected on the strategies we can adopt to free ourselves from it.
“Copyright on Truth”
Even if they overtly tolerate and even respect your decision, we feel that believers often adopt a condescending attitude towards you and your behavior. They behave as if they knew better than you what you’re going through (“you’re going through a phase, but you’ll come back to the Truth”), and don’t take you seriously. They even might insist on praying for you and your conversion. Since they think that truth is on their side, they will think of you as a desperate Prodigal Son, or as an unstable revolutionary.
Religious people and authorities are simply unable to understand that you cannot believe anymore. For some of us, we went through a phase of really trying to believe and praying harder to receive answers within religion. They might make you feel uncomfortable or use ad hominem arguments against you, such as “it is because you distanced yourself from god that you are ill/smoke/broke with your boyfriend”.
How then reaffirm positively our disbelief, and how to express it clearly?
- Article: The Health Effects of Leaving Religion by John Fortenbury in The Atlantic, September 2014.