Today I was interviewed by a Christian. Not your average oh-I-just-found-out-you’re-non-religious-and-now-I’m-obligated-to-ask-you-everything-and-probably-drag-out-the-cosmological-argument, but a…well, researcher would be an accurate term. He’s looking to create some sort of instruction for churches as to how they’re doing it wrong when it comes to talking to (read: converting) atheists. In the process of contacting students in atheists groups, he ran across our old president’s email, who then passed it onto me. A week later, we were sitting on opposite ends of a skype connection.
The conversation wasn’t anything particularly shocking or unexpected. I recounted my upbringing and experience with Catholicism, my “non-religious time but spiritual” time, and then coming out as an atheist. We wandered into discussing the ‘Four Horsemen’, blogs, the need for on-campus secular groups, sort of the standard conversational topics for religious wanting to know about us heathens.
About an hour in, the researcher offerred what he described as “maybe sounding a touch backhanded, but sincere” compliment: I was one, if perhaps the only, nice atheist he had met in his interactions with university atheists.
He was right…it was backhanded.
I’m very very non-confrontational in conversation. I find interacting with strangers to be pleasant, but incredibly draining, and adding in arguments, which no matter the topic, leave me a bit tearful, is unappealing.
So no, I wasn’t telling him that I thought his religion, and the propagation thereof, is responsible for harm to children and the world at large, though I believe it. My reticence to shout and debate (I avoid religious debates at almost any cost) doesn’t make me somehow a better atheist. It makes a different kind of communicator, who would prefer to engage with the opposition in a way that doesn’t leave me shaky and stressed. So I’m not a firebrand? That doesn’t make me more worth a conversation.