Friends' Religious Beliefs

Archived Q&A and Reviews

How do I get beyond my bias towards my friends' faith?

Aug 2006

I have been wondering about this for awhile, and seems to be a sensitive subject (or else I haven't found anyone to discuss this with yet): Although I went to Sunday school for 6 years, I am not a religious person and do not attend church. I am agnostic, if I were to choose. What I don't understand are my friends who are Christian, some so to a great degree. As a Cal grad, I feel that I am very aware, scientific and think that those who are Christian are disregarding the science of evolution. Doesn't it mean that all Christians believe in creationism and not evolution? My biggest problem is respecting my friends who are religious since I think Christianity is a bit like a cult and full of blind faith. How do I get beyond my bias towards my friends' faith? It is effecting my friendships that I think their religion is scientifically implausible. What is your take? Anon

I have been through a similar process over the last few years. Growing up religious, I can't understand how an informed mind can continue to subscribe to organised religion and religious views. Most of my friends are educated and relatively secular thankfully, but I make it clear to friends/acquaintances/family that though I have no problem with their private faith, they MUST keep it to themselves, and not presume the rest of us want or need to hear about it. I make sure they know I am as offended by their open and presumptious talk of Jesus/prayer etc. as they might be of others private habits, views or practices. I think its important to teach religious people they are entitled to their views, but are not entitled to presume others want to hear them anon

I wonder if you could set aside your personal prejudices and have a more in-depth conversation with your friends about their faith. Most Christians are not the rabid anti-evolution types that you imagine. In my congregation, where we have many PhD holding scientists in attendance, there is no perception that faith and science are diametrically opposed. Evolution is considered to be the means by which God created the world. The physicists and biologists, and medical professionals, and chemists in this parish find that their faith gives them something vital to life. I don't think that they (or the librarians, mothers, teachers, civil workers, artists, and accountants to name a few) are unintelligent because faith is important to them. I don't think your friends are fools either.

Faith cannot be proven. If it could be, it wouldn't be faith. What we Christians hold is that because of faith we find light and hope in a world where otherwise there might not be any. I don't think that's a bad or foolish thing.

Feel free to come by our church, Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran in Berkeley if you would like to know more. I'm in the office Tuesday through Friday. Worship is at 10AM on Sunday Pastor Katie

I wrestle with this all the time.

As a former Christian, and now a Buddhist, I have many family members and friends who are Christian. It is easy to be judgemental about what they believe, especially when they try to convert you (I have been told by people close to me that I will burn in hell - how loving).

I tell them that I believe in what they do, only I do not personify it. I do not call it God. It is an entity to me. I tell them that I am uncomfortable within the Christian belief system, as a Hindu in India or a Muslim in Africa or Afganistan would be. I ask them to respect my beliefs as I respect theirs, then I don't think about their beliefs unless I am confronted with them. I view the attribution of everything positive in their lives to God as I view how my practice helps me. They are belief systems to me, and nothing else. This view helps me to not judge them, and I accept their constant judgement of me as part of life in general. Those who really had a problem with what I believe eventually dropped out of my life, and that is fine with me, but again, that is part of life. anon

I am an atheist. I believe in evolution. I think it is important to teach evolution in school and that creationism has no place. But I don't think it matters one iota when it comes to friendship and I think it is the least important thing to care about.

I too felt educated and superior to those people who ignored science when I was a teenager. Then there was a military coup in my country. People were jailed and tortured-even my teenage friends. They were shot at the edge of the river so their bodies would fall in. Of course the name of ''God'' was invoked to justify some of this, as was the godlessnes of the victims. But the truth was that most of the victims were Christian as were the nuns that risked their lives to go down to the river's edge and pull the survivors out, nurse them and hide them. Many priests risked and sacrificed their freedom and lives to help people regardless of their religion. It was a profound and humbling lesson for me. I realized that what mattered was that they believed in respecting people's human rights, that nothing justifies torture, that it was not OK to kill innocents in the name of a ''greater'' cause, These were their ''Christian'' beliefs. These were my ''political'' beliefs. Could they be my friends? I can only hope that I'd be worthy of their friendship. Does our belief in evolution matter? Hardly.

We are all full of blind faith. Like those of us who still, despite evidence to the contrary, believe that we live in the greatest nation on earth. Or that we are liberating Iraq and that Iraqui's lives are better thanks to us. And that all the people who lost children in our bombings should be grateful because now they are free? Or that we have an exemplary democracy and our votes are secure. Or that we have the best medical care in the world. And our press is free. If you believe any of this, you are disregarding facts.

The only thing that matters to me in my friendships, is people's values whether they come to them via religion, politics or culture, and how they choose to interpret and practice them. In other words, what they do. This includes how tolerant and respectful they are of my values and beliefs anon

Does this actually come up in conversation? I can't think of even one friend whose veiws on creation I'd know. Are you just assuming that because they're Christian you know what they think? If so, let me assure you that the 2 faiths I've practiced in my life- Catholicism and Mormonism (LDS) both DO allow belief in evolution! Both say we don't know how long those mythical ''6 days'' lasted, but that they needen't be 24-hour days. and both allow for evolution as long as God directed it- though neither preaches that's a fact, just an allowable interpretation. Hope that helps you feel better christine

Perhaps you have forgotten that not all people of a group believe the same thing. While it is true that some Christians (and Jews and Muslims) believe that the creation story in Genesis is ''true'', others consider it to be a metaphor. There are millions upon millions of Christians all around the world. Do you really think they all believe exactly the same thing? Remember, too, that there is a huge difference between a mythology and a scientific theory. They don't need to be the same thing. The human brain is capable of comprehending both mythos and logos. They can be complimentary modalities and need not be in opposition.

You might also consider that not all agnostics or even all scientists believe the same thing. I recently heard from a secular cosmologist that the Big Bang Theory can't be proved, but it's used because it seems to explain the story well enough to keep working. So is it science or something else? Do people who believe it belong in a cult?

It's very dangerous to believe that you know what lies in someone's deepest being based on a label. I think that's called prejudice. Many, many people in this world are trying to understand how it all fits together. Just because some people don't beleive what you do doesn't mean they are brainwashed or stupid.

How can you get beyond your bias? Talk to your friends; listen to your friends. Find out what their beliefs are and remember that you can still be friends even with different faiths and beliefs. Indeed, the news every day shows that we need more people who can be friends despite differences. Become a bridge not a barbed wire fence anon

You're aware and scientific, but believe that those who are Christian are disregarding the science of evolution. If you do some research, you'll learn that many Christian religions, including one of the largest (Roman Catholicism), accept scientific teaching on the origins of the universe and evolution of our species. In just a few minutes on the internet, I ran across a number of very interesting and thoughtful discussions on the topic of the interplay between faith/religion and science/reason. Religious belief is a very powerful force, and one that is worth devoting some time and energy to researching, studying and thinking about, particularly by those who are scientific and aware. As for your friends, maybe your real complaint is not that they are too religious but they are insufficiently intellectual. If it is important to you to have friends who are intellectually curious, my advice is to work on further developing that quality in yourself. Fran

My husband and I are athiests (and scientists; I'm an evolutionary biologist actually) and we sometimes find ourselves in your situation. Most of our best friends are athiests also, but several good friends (esp. my old friends from college) are religious. First, not all Christians are creationists. Many many Christians outside of the U.S. believe in evolution. (Creationism is mostly a U.S. phenomenon.) Second, I also think that religious people have been duped and that all religions are cults, but I also believe that religion is adaptive in that it helps people survive in our unpredictable and sometimes cruel world. Religion helped our ancestors to survive and cope. I think that religion is easy and comforting for people, and that it is so enticing because of how our brains are constructed, so I try to give my religious friends a break. Our country also doesn't educate people about science very well too. (It's also sad that many people want clear answers and can't deal with ambiguity and complexity and find it difficult to think critically and so turn to religion rather than science.) I mostly don't talk about religion with my religious friends, but it can be tough. If you really value your friendships with your religious friends, I say try to not talk with them about it and let it go. If it really bothers you and gets in the way of socializing with your friends, try to expand your social circle to others who believe like you do. Try to socialize with scientists. Perhaps volunteer for the National Center for Science Education ( in Oakland? Join the American Humanists association ( and try to socialize with other local members? We are in the minority. The best we can do is socialize with our own sometimes for comfort and understanding, and to be tolerant of others, and to avoid religious conversations when they make us uncomfortable. Good luck! Anon

Your email is quite interesting....I have a dear friend who grew up catholic, attended catholic schools and is now an atheist. He asked my husband (who grew up with him and is still a catholic)to be his best man in his wedding. Can you imagine the conflict? They had many long discussions. My husband did reluctantly stand up as his ''best man'' and they still 3 years later, respectfully disagree with their respective religious beliefs. And that is how it should be....Tolerance is a good thing.

I find it more telling that you mention you are a ''Cal Grad'' does that relate to your dilema? I know they have a tremendous Theology School? Most importantly is your harsh judgment of your friends because they believe something that you do not...sounds a lot like politics to me? Practice being tolerant (as my husband and his best friend were able to do). They weren't willing to give up a friendship over differing religious beliefs. Would you sacrifice a friendship because one of you is a democrat and the other a republican?

We need only view what is happening in the Middle East right now to see that religious intolerance has been, continues to be, and will always be, the great divider of man. Your opininion, is just that-your opinion. For you, religion seems to be a science. For others, it's a beautiful, spiritual, emotional expression of belief in A God....whomever that God maybe. Faith and a belief in something, anything, is what gets most people through much of life's difficulties and challenges. Christianity is not a cult

You are really ill-informed if you think that all Christians believe in creationism and not evolution. Maybe just knowing that will ease your mind. Another thing is, many people have friendships where they never mention religion, politics, or some other topic that is sensitive to them. If your friends have other redeeming characteristics, maybe you can just enjoy those and leave the topic of religion alone. If they are really good friends feel free to ask them exactly what they do believe and you may find out that they are not following as blindly as you thought. anon

Religious beliefs can be an intensely private (or at least intimate) sphere for a lot of people, and I think that there is enormous variation even among members of a particular denomination. I have been on a spiritual journey for many years that has led me from mainstream Protestantism, Judaism, Catholicism, and onward. And all the while I work as an ''intellectual,'' a skeptic in what I hope is the best sense of that word. I was uncertain from your post whether it was just ''Christianity'' that troubled you or any religious or spiritual belief.

Many Christians do not find evolution incompatible with their belief system. For instance, the last Pope explicitly stated that Catholics could accept evolution. Many Christians (and Jews and others) belong to a particular religious denomination not because of an overwhelming sense of its ''truth'' as opposed to that of other religions, but because belonging to that community of belief is part of their personal heritage. They find sustenance in confronting birth, death, love, forgiveness, justice, etc. in a community. There are not many places in our society in which that kind of sustenance can be found. It doesn't mean that everyone sitting in the congregation believes precisely the same as everyone else, or that they accept all the tenets of their given faith, etc. It may mean that they love the expression of community in music, ritual, learning, and togetherness.

In the media a great deal has been made of Christians who reject evolutionary science, but that is not a central issue in Christianity. There are Christians who are scientists and many Christians who accept evolution, embrace homosexual love as one of the many expressions of human love, don't see sexuality as sinful, don't force their views on others, etc. etc. It is the conservative/fundamentalist branch of Christianity (and Islam and Judaism and Hinduism) that has appropriated the name of religion, but fundamentalism does not equal spirituality. I would urge you to be as open-minded in your approach to your fellow humans as you would be in the pursuit of a scientific question. There are many possibilities out there, as many as there are people. still searching

My friends and I have a variety of faiths, including no faith. So we don't all share the same spiritual beliefs. I feel it would be rude to question why they believe what they due about spiritual stuff. A lot of times, there isn't a practical reason when it comes to faith, anyhow. And one's beliefs can seem contradictory. For example, I am Catholic AND I believe in evolution. So as long as there is mutual respect and tolerance, and as long as we treat our friends with care and thoughtfullness, it shouldn't matter that we believe different things about the cosmos. I go to my friends' Buddhist and Jewish ceremonies and invite them to our Catholic ones. It certainly doesnt' mean they have to share my belief, it is just an opportunity to support each other's choices and life stages. Anon.

By all means, talk to your friends one on one! Ask them why they believe what they believe. Tell them what you believe and why. Tell them how you think it is affecting the friendship. It would be sad to see a friendship lost without at least this much effort made.

Are you sure about their stance on creationism vs. evolution? I believe you can be a committed Christian and believe in evolution at the same time. Maybe the two of you could trade books to read and learn from each other's perspectives? I would certainly want to know if a friend of mine was feeling this way about my beliefs and would welcome an open dialogue about it Kim

I think your choices are fairly obvious. You can choose to have friends who experience faith (or have a different faith than you), or you can leave them and find new friends who think just like you. Having a Cal education should not mean approaching life with a closed mind. There are many, many highly educated and vastly intelligent Christians in history and the present day. It is certainly not the case that all Christians disbelieve in evolution, but it may be the case that all Christians believe in something that you will consider unscientific and therefore beneath your respect.

How do you feel about Muslims? Buddhists? Pagans? Religious Jews? Hindus? There's a long, long list of people you can disrespect. Good luck -- A Believer in Almost Everything

Boy do I know what you mean! Religion really turns me off, but somehow I seem to be surrounded by religious folks. What it comes down to is finding the space within yourself to honor all choices, even and especially the ones that don't apply or fit for you. It has been a long journey for me, trying to come to acceptance with something that I feel is so off, and so wrong, but really it's worth it.

I instead shifted my focus to be HAPPY for my friends that they have a religion that works for them. After all, I don't want to be judged for my lack of religion, so I just note that this is a difference in us, and love them all the same. And I focus on the things we can share, and do my best to be supportive of THEIR choice for their life when they tell me how they are ''giving all their burdens to god'' and how much god helped with XYZ issue.

For if I judge them, I'm no better than zealous proselytizers who judge me. I prefer to bridge the gap, rather than push many good people away Good luck.

As someone who went back to church after years of militant atheism, but who is not a tow the line kind of relgious person, I'd say you could start by not assuming that just because people say they are Christian they don't believe in science or evolution or whatever. Not all Catholics, for instance, go with whatever the Vatican tells them. I also think that the right wing in this country has hijacked Christianity and has made it come to symbolize the exact opposite of what it should be. If you want to have friends of all creeds and such, the best way to approach it is on a case-by-case basis. You can take the Miss Manners route and keep religion and politics off the discussion list or only choose friends who you agree with. Just don't assume, tho, that everyone who purports to take a faith journey to be ''unenlightened'' and then act disappointed when you can't be friends with them. Closemindedness can work both ways and it's time we all start being humane to one another. and, no matter who started the golden rule, I'd say use it: DO UNTO OTHERS AS YOU WOULD HAVE THEM DO UNTO YOU. A Progressive Pilgrim

I'm more of the scientific mind-set myself and as such am very aware that western science has its own limitations, try to remember that when you are enumerating the limitations of other belief systems. There are many, many things that science can't begin to explain, things that some religions try to deal with in their own ways.

Be careful, it's kind of a generalization to say that ALL christians believe in creationism - why don't you ask your friend what they believe and then listen without offering your opinion? You may learn something. If you really can't handle dealing with people who don't agree with you, you might try just hanging out with other scientists, otherwise lighten up on the judgements and try to enjoy your friends for who they are. variety is the spice of life

Hello, who are Christian are disregarding the science of evolution. I think you mean the ''theory'' of evolution. And no, many Christians don't ''disregard'' evolution. Do a web search on ''evolution Sunday'' (here's a good link: on.htm ) and I think you'll start to get an idea of what I mean.. The evolution vs. creation thing is a wedge issue, Certain ''Fundamentalist'' Christians believe in Creationism, and are pushing their agenda. It disturbs me that they have had some success (think Kansas schools). What disturbs me even more however, is that they have apparently succeeded in convincing people such as yourself that being a ''real Christian'' means rejecting Science, and everything else that came with the Enlightenment. To get to my point: I think you need to consider the assumptions you are making about what Christians believe. ''Creation Science'' and ''Intelligent Design'' people are do not necessarily speak for Christians - no matter how much they insist they do.

I also wonder why it is that you have problems being friends with Christians, and not Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, etc. Christianity is the only faith where some believers reject Science and evolutionary theory? I don't think so.

As for Christianity being a cult... there are way too many varietys of Christian belief and tradition to make such generalizations...

I think you need to explore this issue by making the effort to meet Christians and people of other religious traditions who value the Scientific method and aren't so rabidly anti- Enlightenment. There are any number of ways to start. You're a Cal Grad and you're smart and aware, right? You can figure it out. Not a fundamentalist

While this can be a sensitive subject, it seems like something you should be able to discuss with your friends. Lay off the how can you believe that crap? and try, So, what do you get out of religion? How do you separate your scientific knowledge from your faith? If the disrespect is flowing 2 ways just try to walk humbly and maybe your Christian friends will learn to do the same.

Doesn't it mean that all Christians believe in creationism and not evolution? Absolutely not. Fundamentalists as a group are loud and litigious and politically active, so it frequently feels like they represent Christianity. But, the majority of American Christians do not believe in Creationism. There's a real spectrum of Christianity out there that stretches from Fundamentalism to the-Bible-is-mostly- metaphorical-but-it-speaks-to-me-and-I-think-Jesus-is-worth- emulating camp. And there's a lot of room in between. I think most people keep their science and faith pretty separate (if only our government could do the same!).

I went through a spell of fierce, hyper-rational atheism (this seems to be necessary purge for Catholic teens). For me the change back to a less religion-hostile attitude came with being able to respect an individual religious person. Then I could extend a modicum of respect to the whole thing. So go get yourself a massive and unrequited crush on a smart, thoughtful Mormon and watch how open-minded you can become! Katie

I can't tell you how to get over your bias. I can only say that if you value your friends you will need to find a way to stop judging them and learn respect despite your differences. I don't agree with everything my friends say or do, but they wouldn't be my friends for long if I was judging them or looking down on them because of that disagreement. You might be interested to know that there are many different kinds of Christians, and not all believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible. It is also quite possible to be a person of faith (literal or not) and also be scientific, intelligent and rational... there are many scientists, scholars and intellectuals of the past and present who were/are quite devout followers of many faiths. don't assume you are right

you may be very scientific, but you don't understand the distinctions between all the various shades of Christians. But I applaud you for asking!

First of all, the Catholic Church accepts evolution as an explanation for many things and accepts most scientific research (as long as it is moral) because there is a great love of man's ability to reason--in fact, it is an explicit part of Catholic education (Catholic culture) that religion, faith, will NEVER contradict reason--''faith perfects reason as God's grace perfects nature,'' this from the great Saint Thomas Aquinas. The Catholic Church has never really had a problem with evolution--it is only the assumption that it replaces the knowledge of philosophy or theology that the church rejects (it is more the conclusions drawn, not the science).

The only faiths that reject evolution as a tenant of faith is Fundamentalist Churches--those that say the you must interpret the bible literally, even if it seems to contradict what one can know through reason. As a Catholic, I think this is crazy.

Why would God create us with this beautiful mind if it lead us astray or was 'evil?'

Now Catholics make it very clean that although humanity can scientifically know something or do something, it is not always moral. Freedom for freedom's sake is not acceptable. Simply because we can do something does not mean it is moral to do something--just as we accept it is not right to experiment with people. People should never be treated as means but only as ends. read John Paul II--he loved science

Well, at least you've correctly identified the problem as your ''bias towards [your] friends' faith.'' I'm speaking here as a Jewish/agnostic/atheist who spent a fair amount of time living in the south, so I certainly understand how religious beliefs can affect friendships.

That being said, I have a couple of comments/questions. First, it seems that you expect their religion to follow scientific principles. By definition, religions don't do that. Second, not all Christians believe in creationism rather than evolution. Third, you might be surprised to find that there are Cal grads out there who are ''aware and scientific'' and who also are practitioners of one religion or another.

I'm not sure I even understand what your issue is. Are your friends flauting their beliefs or trying to convert you? Or is it that you can't bear to be with someone who you think is ''wrong'' on such an important issue? If it's the former, a polite ''Thanks, but I'm happy with my spiritual life'' will usually suffice. If it's the latter, you need to either accept your friends as they are (and as you hope they would do with you) or find some friends who are more like-minded Intolerance goes both ways

Hi, I am also agnostic. But I think your assumptions about religious people is unfair. All religions have sects that interpret their faith differently. Many Christians believe in Evolution. When it comes to religious arguments, I find it more accurate to fight individual arguments and not make presumptions about masses of people. anon

As I'm sure you know, there are many different branches of Christianity, and not all Christians are fundamentalists, in other words, not all Christians take everything in the Bible literally. I am a Christian, and I believe in evolution. So no, not all Christians believe in creationism. But yes, part of being a Christian is having faith, in the sense that Christians believe that Jesus was the son of God. They don't believe it because they can prove it - they just believe it. Or they think about it a lot. The opening prayer in my church welcomes ''believers and questioning believers'' because there are in fact few Christians who have 'perfect faith'.

For me being a Christian isn't just attending church, but I enjoy the community of people whom I worship with as well as the opportunities to do social ministry (e.g., working at the Youth Emergency Assistance Hostel for homeless youth in Berkeley) with other like-minded people.

What is important is for both sides - believers and non-believers - to respect the fact that other people can have different beliefs, whether the belief is that there is no God; or that there is a God, but that Jesus was not the son of God; or that Jesus was the son of God; etc. I'm sorry that you can't talk to your friends about your skepticism about their faith. I too have known Christians that have the ''all or nothing'' approach, but not all Christians are the same. I have friends who have different religious faiths (not all Christians) and friends who are agnostic. I don't hide my faith or going to church from my agnostic friends, but I don't constantly bring up Christian themes. I hope you can identify a friend with whom you can talk over these things Anonymous

Hi! I actually hold a BA in Biology and an Master's in Theology. I am a queer, feminist theologian who thinks. Believe it or not there are plenty of Christians out there who support evolution. I have run across people who are atheist or buddhist or agnostic who have tried to tell me what ''I am supposed to believe.'' If you are asking a question that is fine. If you are trying to stereotype a group of people that is not O.K. So, to answer one question- there are indeed some Christians who support evolution. First off, the Bible is not a science book nor is it a history book. It is a book that tells the stories of the relationship between people and God. If you look at any religion in the world you will find a creation story. People for thousands of years have asked the question: How was the world created? Every great civilization and groups of people have a story that helps explain the world and how we got here. The creation stories (there are two of them) in the Bible (see Genesis 1:1-2:4a and Genesis 2:4b-25) are no exception and they are stories. They are not meant to be taken literally. They are stories of the Judeo-Christian religion that have told a story that God created the world. Evolution is a scientific theory that look at facts as any good science does. Evolution tells us HOW we came into being. Science measures only what can be quantified and since God can not be quantified, God is not in the picture. I personally believe that God created the world and humankind and that the big bang and evolution tells us how. I also believe that Christianity has lost some of its Judaic roots. In Judaism it is important to ask questions. Christianity has become a religion that has put dogmatics in the lead and skepticism in the trunk. As far as your friends go, you may have to just agree to disagree. Topics on religion and politics can be very emotional. People can have a difficult time talking on these two subjects because it can bring in a lot of emotions. Even if you have the most rational thought and ideas, others might not be in that space. Does your friendship weigh solely on this or does your friendship mean something different? Rachel

As a scientist and someone who considers myself Christian (catholic) I can tell you that there are many Christians who don't take the bible to the letter (but as symbolic to convey a moral message) and who completely accept the theory of evolution. To me, science and God are on two completely different levels: there is no science that disproves God's presence, and although science may describe a lot of our physical world/presence, it will never be able to explain the 'why' of it all. I go to church to express my gratitude for living this life - not because someone dictates me how to behave or to disregard scientific knowledge. That said, it's important to have some shared values in friendships and you may want to ask your friends what they really believe and what being Christian means to them - before you dismiss them because you don't think they believe in evolution. anon

There are lots of Christians who know that evolution is a fact, even though some extremists who don't believe in it are in the media a lot. It sounds like you even know some of the extremists. My advice is, if you can't openly discuss these kinds of issues, your friendship isn't very deep and you shouldn't be wasting your time. Express yourself, and if they don't accept you, move on. Don't spend your life walking on egg-shells! Anon

One of the ''skills'' of LOVE is ''respect.'' Respect indicates that we accept other people exactly as they are, without wanting to change ''a hair on their head.'' It is the most difficult skill for us humans. As you develop respect for your friends, you will not be concerned about whether they are following their religion blindly or being unscientific. See if you can ''beat them at their own game'' and outlove them! If you can't find your way to respecting that they are different from you, making choices you would never make, and allow them the right to be exactly who they are, then consider getting other friends who believe more like you! We did an Internet radio program on Full Power Living (worldtalkradio) on the 7 Skills of Love if you want to learn more. It's on the archives. My best, ilene

I am a Christian, and I believe in evolution, just as many Christians do. As a Christian, I hope that my belief in God helps me to be a better person; it does not serve as a tool for me to judge people or turn me into a blithering idiot! Christianity and evolution can go hand in hand. For many people, religion is cultural, something that is passed down as a tradition in families, and is a form of community and friendship for people. My parents go to church every Sunday, but I think in many ways, ''church'' for them is as much community building as it is religious. Try not to lump all Christians into one belief system. Unless your friends are trying to convert you or preach at you, try not to let what you assume their beliefs to be interfer in your friendship. A Christian, not a robot

Not all Christians endorse creationism!! I don't go to church much but would certainly identify as Christian. I'm also scientifically aware and passionately anti-creastionism. If pressed, I would assume that evolution was God's tool of choice. In essence, though, I think science and religion address fundamentally different issues. Could you imagine that religion fills needs of purpose, personal meaning, and values for your friends on a level that is independent of - and therefore does not clash with - scientific enquiry and knowledge? anon

No, all Christians do not believe in creationism. Many believe that the bible is filled with alegorical (not literal) stories. Faith is highly personal, and there is no way to know a person's true beliefs just by whether they attend services or not. There are even some people who are agnostic, but go to church because they choose to attempt to live by religious teachings (like don't lie, don't steal, don't cheat, be nice, etc) even if they are not sure that God exists. Some attend to maintain family unity. Some are searching for answers. Some do it out of habit. Some are comforted by the ritual. You can't assume that all Christians are blind followers of doctrine. Some may be, but not all. A Practicing Catholic who believes in evolution

I think the questions you raise in your post are interesting ones and can even apply to friends of differing faiths. I am a practicing Christian raised in a lapsed Catholic household. I did not start attending church until after the birth of my first child. The assumption that Christians do not belief in evolution is incorrect. My entire Bible study group believes in evolution and is composed of scientists, religious leaders, and stay-at-home moms. For me, Christianity explains and informs the wonder of life. I know that Islam and Judaism do the same thing for others. Accept that faith speaks to your friends, intelligent, questioning people, for unique reasons. I think you can ask friends why they are religious - as long as they don't view you as a possible convert and you don't roll your eyes at their explanations. Great viewing on this topic is Bill Moyer's ''Faith and Reason'' program on PBS. Berkeley Believer

Albert Einstein believed in god. Many scientists are Christian. Many, many Christians believe in evolution and think creationism is embarrassing bunk. Don't believe everything you read and hear in the media, please. Faith and science are quite compatible. a Methodist fan of science

I think you are making some assumptions about your friends' beliefs that are not necessarily justified. I, for example, have been a practicing Christian all of my life, and my religion is extremely important to me. However, I believe that evolution is not only possible but extremely likely, and fully support its teaching in the schools. Creation, in my view, simply means that God is ultimately responsible for the existence of the universe, not that he did it in 6 literal days, about 6,000 years ago (the latter view is highly implausible to me). I can imagine, for example, that some unimaginably long time ago, God simply touched his finger to some formless spot -- somewhere -- and that the Big Bang occurred, and later all of evolution, as science is discovering. I can read the first few chapters of Genesis as some poor pre-industrial person's attempt to explain incredible visions of this happening, that he received from God. Or, simply a poetic attempt to explain a belief in God's ultimate responsibility for the world. I actually get rather upset with people who assume that because I attend Christian worship services, and hold Christian beliefs, I therefore must be non-, or even anti-scientific. ASK your friends what they believe regarding scientific theories, don't just assume you know. Karen

I took a class in the religious studies department when I was at Berkeley taught by Robert Bellah. On the first day of class, he told the story of his religious wanderings (he pretty much tried everything including agnosticism...I think that he ended up a mainstream protestant in the end). The only thing that I remember from that class is a comment made to sum up his wanderings. It was something to the affect that 'in the end, everyone needs something to believe in.'

I go to church. I am Christian, I guess. I do not believe in creation. I really don't know anyone who does believe in creation, though I don't really go into that topic with a lot of people. I believe more in a Christain God than anything else because of the tradition in which I was raised (God's waiting room/the Republican Party at Prayer - the Episcopal Church). Church provides me with an hour or so every week where I can sit and think without getting distracted by outside pressures (kids, bills, cleaning, etc).

I do really want there to be a God. I do really want to be less petty person than I find myself when gossiping with a girlfriend or nagging my husband. It would be really nice to live a good caring life and then be reunited some day with my friends and family who have died. That said, I really have a hard time believing. The Episcopal Church is a bit easier, because it challenges you to think about things rather than telling you what to think. But, belief is hard. I don't have blind faith, but I do have faith.

I guess that religion is like any other belief -- politcal leanings, philosphies for raising kids, etc. I try not to look down on my friends as intellectual inferiors becuase they believe in the 'family bed' or 'oppose abortion.' They have their reasons. I have mine for my beliefs. I guess that I am saying that every opinion is worthy of respect if it can be discussed intellectually (trust me, religion can be discussed intellectually by many people) or if a person is willing to admit, ''I know it seems irrational, but it is just what I believe.'' -anon

I am in the same school of thought as you are, though I didn't go to Sunday School--I am a convert to Judaism. Lately my husband and I refer to God as '' a figments of his/her imagination'', especially when watching reports on the news about the various horrendous wars being fought around the world right now, all because of religion.

However, I do know that many people rely on their religious beliefs to varying degrees, in situations where I rely on myself, or thoughts of what my parents would have done. I was raised by practical, smart people (atheists/agnostics) who taught me to believe in myself, trust my judgement, do the right thing, etc.

If someone didn't have parents like that, I can see why they'd need something ''bigger'' than themselves to look to, to ''guide'' them, when they need support, or to be reminded of the ''rules'' about how to live life. I also know that as people age, they tend to turn to religion more than they did in their younger days...because of hope, fear, guilt, whatever.

I think you should not focus on your friends' religious beliefs...just as you (hopefully) wouldn't focus on whether they're gay or straight, black, white, or brown...they're just different from you, they have had a different upbringing with perhaps different reasons to believe that there is a God, and you need to respect that as a part of who they are, and not hold it against them A Peaceful Berkeley Agnostic

I'm very glad you are asking this question, as I think there is a great deal of misunderstanding about ''Christianity'' in our contemporary culture. There's a lot more to say about that subject than I have time for, so I will just cut to the essence of your question. ''Being a Christian'' means something different to everyone who would identify her/himself that way. Many, many Christians-- including many clergy-- do not take the Bible literally. I would suggest that you ask your friends about their beliefs. You may find yourself pleasantly surprised-- and you may discover that learning about their faith and their spiritual practices will deepen your friendships, whether or not you share in those things. If you find out (or if you already know for sure) that your friends' version of Christianity is one which does not accept evolution, then yes, you will have to figure out what that means in your friendship. What I hope you will take away from this process, though, is that when you hear that a person is ''Christian,'' it does not necessarily mean that the person is anti-intellectual and anti-science. one who loves the mystery of faith

You ask a very interesting question. I hope that in the interim between posting and seeing the post appear, you have been able to catch some of the KQED series that just ended, Bill Moyers on Faith and Reason. His interviews were thought-provoking on all sides of the discussion. My husband would probably describe himself much the way you do, and we both were interested in the series.

I am a person of deepening faith, so I will try to answer your question from where I currently find myself. I do consider myself reasonably intelligent, but I can't say I am terribly invested in that identity, which probably eases my faith/intellect conflict. I realize that not everyone would describe themselves that way, and for them (you?) my comments may not suffice. I am certainly not trying to create a ''defensible argument'' for faith, but an explanation of what happens for me in believing.

I would say that I believe in God because I do. Because it's easier for me to believe than to not believe. This may be the mirror-image of your explanation of unbelief. For me, if God isn't there, I just don't see the point of any of this and then I am not sure how I would keep getting out of bed in the morning. Believing that God exists, that he cares about each of us personally, that he has a purpose for everything that happens (some that will never be clear to me) gives me perspective and a sense of the transcendent.

The other stake for my faith, and particularly for my faith in Jesus, is that I have found no other place to go with all the shame, the experience of failure and inadequacy, the struggle and self-loathing that I experience (not constantly, but as part of the experience of being human). I am reasonably self-aware and can process these things and reassure myself that I am normal and not perfect and neither is anyone else, etc., but there is no other person who can absolve me of them (I believe)

When the feelings come back, I can remind myself that Jesus' death on the cross took all this from me. His sacrifice reconciled me to God and all the shame of being self-absorbed and falling short of expectations (mine and everyone else's) has been removed from me, ''as far as the East is from the West'', as the Psalmist says. I am reminded that these things may all be true of me, but that they are not important, that there are more important things that are true of me and that all the lousy part serves a purpose as well. I suppose that people probably can and probably do get to this place via other, non-religious means, but for me, Jesus is central.

I think there are other things that faith motivates me to care about - justice and goodness and truth-telling, but the two paragraphs above are the most tied to why I can't not believe in Jesus. (See, I told you I'm self-absorbed.)

As to the evolution/creation thing, I am not really sure what to say. I am, frankly, not all that interested in the debate. I believe that God was the genesis of all that exists - how He did it, I don't know and I am comfortable being unclear on that point. I'm hoping there is a video-library in Heaven. I think there are stimulating conversations to be had on the issue if the people involved don't have an ax to grind, and that doesn't often seem to be the case.

I don't know your friends, so I can't assess how they would react to a conversation in this vein. Probably don't start with ''I can't respect you because you are a Christian'' grin, but you might ask them why they believe - not to defend the existence of their belief, but just to explain it.

Finally, this is a little off-point, but I have been checking in on an interesting website,, which is something of a blog on the Christian faith in the postmodern era. I have found that it has helped me crystalize how and why my faith looks different from my parents (who would be classified as ''religious right'' with, yes, all its implications). It's an interesting site if you want to think more about faith and reason. I'm no C.S. Lewis, but there it is.

I think the bottom line is to be secure and happy with your own belief system. I am very happy to be non-religious and not seeking anything ''spiritual''. I get satisfaction from community and family and friendships and don't need or want anything else. Religiosity is all around and you can't avoid it but be happy with your own choices. Anon

I like to think of evolution as ''how'' God created the world A Berkeley engineer and Christian

An excellent discussion about this very topic was held on NPR's Talk of the Nation (Science Friday) with the scientist authors of two new books: ''God's Universe,'' by Owen Gingerich. Belknap, 2006. ''The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief,'' by Francis Collins. Free Press, 2006. You can get a podcast at this link:

I am both a Christian and a believer in evolution -- one of my degrees is in Geology, where the evidence regarding the theory Evolution pokes up in many Paleontology courses, etc. I remember discussing this with my fundamentalist grandparents when I was in school and being so confused as to how there could be such objection to the theory, since *to me* the Biblical description of creation is so clearly artistic interpretation, perhaps meant to inspire.

I have to admit I was initially shocked at your post's assumption (that one has to believe in only one or the other) but I don't know you or your friends and I want to be fair. So perhaps I can pick up on a more subtle thing that you said: that it's a sensitive topic and you haven't discussed it with anyone (yet). I can relate! Outside of Sunday, I can barely even talk about the Bible and it's ideas with church-going friends of mine without feeling awkward in this highly opinionated Berkeley micro-culture of well-educated, self-confident intellecutals. We are getting so that our friendships are so comparmentalized that we hardly know the ''whole person'' anymore. But I urge you to be bold in asking your Christian friends about their beliefs. Perhaps (like me) they see no inherent conflict between Christianity and the theory of Evolution. And if they are conflicted, or do not believe Evolution is a real process, there is room here for mature adults to disagree on something fundamental, and still appreciate each other. I believe it can happen. Good luck anon

Religion is not a rational concept. Science cannot prove or disprove God. I'm a rationalist in life, but a ''religionist'' in my soul. I don't believe in creationism, fossils are fossils. But a supreme being could create a world that is this one, with evolution.

The question is ''belief.'' It can be hard to have friends with different beliefs. But the first thing to do is to understand them and to learn what they think. Then perhaps to learn from an expert in their religion -- a minister or priest. There are lots of brilliant Christian thinkers in the bay area.

Finally, if you can't accept their perspective, hopefully you can rejoice in a friend that has good values, feeds the hungry, cloths the naked, defends the widow, etc.

I am happy to say that I count among my friends folks from different religions and no religion. What we have in common is greater than our differences a practicing Jew

What a complex thing to discuss in a few words. Let me try and simplify without being simplistic. Perhaps thinking about it a little differently would help. If you take a macro-view of ''religion'' you'll see that they are all similar in what they proport to elevate other words, to be a good person.

Differing people use differing languages to explain the same thing.....I might say ''pane'' you might say ''bread'' someone else might say ''dabbo''.....but we are all pointing to the same thing. Likewise, differing religions are like different languages trying to say the same thing......the major tenents of religions are similar, just expressed in different cultural ways. Your friends are using the language (i.e. religion) that makes the most sense to them, just as you are using yours.

Humanity encounters problems when we begin arguing about whose language is more ''correct''...and framed in this way, you can see how it is a nonsensical question/issue.......and ironically, divisiveness transformed to ''hate'' is anti- religious anyway. I think it is more telling to pay attention to a person's essence rather than their religious affiliation, anyway.

By-the-way, NPR has showcased many fascinating scientist types who have explained the potential convergence of science and religion......I wish I could remember their names at this moment. Also keep in mind that religion is an avenue for a way of BEING and science is an avenue for a way of EXPLAINING......

I think another poster had it spot-on......I would guess that perhaps all you need is to have the kinds of conversations that are more intellectually inclined. lucia

I am the original poster of the question, and I wanted to express my appreciation for all the BPN community that responded. It was very educational and enlightening! When I banged out my question (and I guess I could have been a little more tactful in my verbiage), I should explained that my issue began with a very devout Christian friend who believes that evolution and carbon-dating is completely fake! We were good friends and she never tried to convert me, but my opinion of her changed. I have another friend who gives my children religious videos and books for gifts, and maybe I should just be frank and say hey, no thanks, we're not into that but don't want to hurt her feelings.

I am continuing my personal exploration of Christian faith vs. scientific fact/theory and working on being more tolerant and respectful of my friend's (and other's) beliefs that don't necessarily follow mine. I learned that there are different levels of religion and that some Christians believe in evolution with the idea that God's creation in 7 days wasn't a 24-hour day. I guess it all comes down to ''faith'' and while I do appreciate the role of organized religion (as community, comfort, guidance, etc.), I just can't make that leap and am trying to understand people who have. Or at least tolerate or ignore Christians who take the Bible literally.

A recent article from the Finding My Religion series on SF Gate, is /article.cgi?file=/gate/archive/2006/08/07/findrelig.DTL I'm hoping to find the time to read other articles in this series.

Choosing religion (or atheism) is a personal and sometimes private choice, so thanks for your thoughts.