|Friendly atheists just dying to support their Christian friends in crisis...|
It's happened too many times to be a coincidence. Someone in my circle of friends is having a difficult time - death, divorce, illness - and I lend a sympathetic ear. Obviously I'm not the only one doing this, but sometimes I find that if the person has had some involvement with the (Catholic) Church, past or present, this will come up in our conversations: largely because they will ask me "is it true that the church says X or Y?" or because they'll make a statement along the lines of "well my problem would be even worse if I was still practising the faith because of X or Y or Z" where X and Y and Z are fallacies usually picked up from the culture at large. I'm happy to correct misconceptions or point to resources that might be helpful, but that's the end of it. None of the people I'm thinking of could be described as religious but clearly they have some issues to do with religion that I'm happy to help with if it's within my ken.
Well. We can't be having that now, can we? Today I was told on no uncertain terms that "mutual friend A" who is in the middle of a nasty marital separation "has made it clear that she does NOT want to be dragged back into Church". I contacted "friend A" -- who had contacted me with questions about the Church and marriage dissolution and / or divorce -- who confirmed that she had not said anything of the sort to anybody. I pointed out -- as if I needed to -- that I had no plans to drag her or anybody else for that matter "back into Church" but that I would be at the end of the phone line / email should she need me.
This isn't the first time that I've been rather bossily told -- and not always by the same person -- that I must not not try to "convert" lapsed Catholic friends when they're in the middle of the crisis. The tacit assumption is that they're screwed up enough thanks to that church of yours, thank you very much, so just back off. The irony is that whilst I've prayed privately for these friends, I've never told them, nor have I in any way tried to coerce them "back to church" -- whatever that means.
...BUT ... and it's a big BUT... every time a lukewarm or lapsing Catholic friend has had a crisis, the proselytising atheists have appeared, like sharks circling their prey with smug toothy grins. "Oh how awful that you feel guilty because of that stupid faith that was rammed down your throat as a child..." they crow "yes of course you're better off without it -- the last thing that you need right now is to worry about being judged by some church people" and so forth. The benign atheists are there with their smiles and their sympathy and their tea with a missionary zeal that would put Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses to shame.
Please join me in asking St Rita, the patron saint of women with difficult husbands, to pray for my friend who is going through a huge trauma -- not helped by the "help" of friends who see this as an opportunity to undermine her fragile faith.