Religious differences as a deal-breaker for a friendship

January 12, 2008 | By | 22 Replies More

Can those who believe in God be good friends with those who don’t believe in God?

A fellow named Martin raised this intriguing point about a week ago here.  He suggested that a person who doesn’t believe in God cannot possibly have a real friendship, a deep friendship, with someone who claims to believe in God.  As I understood Martin’s point it’s absurd to claim a belief in God; it’s so incredibly absurd that a nonbeliever cannot ever fully trust a believer. In Martin’s view, in order to be true friends, believers need to quit saying those absurd claims about miracles and invisible Beings.  And those believers need to stop claiming that they know things that they don’t know.   According to Martin, it’s simply not worth it to try to maintain a friendship with people who claim to believe in gods and angels.  The craziness exhibited by believers (regardless of all of their other redeeming social values) is a huge roadblock even the possibility of friendship.

I think I understand Martin’s concern.  I’m a people who has a smaller number of deeper friendships compared to many other people.  I’ve been told that I’m discriminating in my friendships and that’s likely true.  I readily admit that I make myself less available to people with whom I have less in common.  I admit further that I have often written off the possibility of friendship with some people based upon various beliefs they hold, despite the fact that such people are, in many ways, honorable and decent human beings. 

Sometimes, strong beliefs of people are just just too much for me–they overwhelm the relationship.  I’ve felt this way about most fundamentalists and most Neocons, for example.  I’ve called off a few friendships when the friend started adopting Neocon beliefs uncritically.

Are mild religious beliefs totally inert–self-contained in the psyche?  No. I assume that troublesome belief-systems (troublesome to me), though they might lie hidden, latent and relatively unexamined, are likely to permeate that person’s thinking in many subtle (and not-so-subtle) ways.  Thus, I too have had thoughts like those Martin expressed in his comments.  In some cases I have concluded that any friendship I might have with some people with troublesome beliefs (troublesome to me) might be a pretend friendship, not a real one. I have such thoughts accompanied by the thought that there’s many fish in the sea.  Why in the world would I want to work so hard to maintain a friendship with Neocons when I could have a much easier and more satisfying friendship with someone without all that Neocon baggage?

I part ways with Martin in an important respect.  In response to Martin’s comments here, I tried to draw the distinction between fundamentalists and religious moderates.  Although I have very few deep friendships with fundamentalists, I have numerous good friendships with religious moderates.  For most religious moderates, their belief in God is often compartmentalized–it seems to take them over for about one hour per week (on Sunday morning) and then it’s all over, except for occasional ritualistic prayers over meals. They don’t believe that the Bible is mostly literal truth. Most of them don’t regularly read the Bible.   They (as Daniel Dennett argued) believe in belief, rather in the things they utter–they think they’re supposed to believe in the things they say at church.  But they don’t actually consider those things carefully, certainly not as closely as they consider how to invest their money in the stock market or as closely as they ponder the pro’s and con’s of their favorite sports team.  Many of them (and many clergy who lead them) are closet agnostics.  Away from their churches, one-on-one, I constantly hear them admitting that they don’t actually know those things they proclaim in church.  In fact, most of them readily admit (again, away from their respective churches) that they disbelieve many of the things they proclaim in church.

Back to Martin’s concern.  Is it possible for a non-believer to have a deep friendship with people who claim to believe in an invisible sentient being? Not only is it possible in my experience, but many of my closest friends are religious moderates.  

Although I have now admitted deep friendships with some people who believe in God, I will also admit that these friendships sometimes seem bit awkward at those moments when the topic of God comes up.  When that topic arises, it reminds me that there is this irresolvable “thing” about the relationship, and that my friend and I don’t see eye-to-eye in every major way.  If I value the friendship with a religious moderate, however (as I often do) I might find myself being careful to not offend those friends.  I know that my religious moderate friends reciprocate, taking care to not be presumptuous about “God” around me.  Fortunately, there is usually a gentle way of anything that one can also say bluntly or harshly.  Therefore, I don’t find that having a friendship with a religious moderate requires me to compromise the truth.  

I really do think that my religious moderate friends and I treat each other as though the other is a bit insane in a relatively compartmentalized though harmless way.  And the friendship often flourishes despite this dramatic-seeming religious difference.  How is that possible?  Here’s how.  There must be at least 100 major issues on which people can agree or disagree.  If I agree with a religious moderate friend on 97 of them, that’s having a hell of a lot in common.   That’s probably having more in common that I would have with most of my friends who are agnostics or atheists.

Martin’s comments caused me to consider some other belief systems that could affect friendships.  About 15 years ago, I had a friend who was a rather strident feminist.  I ended up spending less time with her because I took her many “pro-woman” expressions to be thinly veiled attacks on men, all men, including me.  I felt that her alleged feminism was, in actuality, a form of bigotry.  We had much in common, though I was concerned that this bigotry reared its head much too often and much too intensely. 

Beliefs fall along a continuum.  Feminism need not be strident and need not be bigoted.  Often, feminism is well-informed, kind-hearted and open-minded.  In those cases, I don’t feel that feminism is any sort of barrier to a healthy friendship. 

Many of my friends are dramatically different than me.  I’ve had friends who were Second Amendment fanatics (I’m not) and others who are free-market zealots (I’m not).  Some people think Democrats can do no wrong (I don’t agree).  Some people just won’t admit that global warming is a reality and they deny any possibility that it is caused by human activity.  But I’ve had friendships with all such people.  Here’s another example:  I know many people whose views on raising and educating children are dramatically different from my own.  I wouldn’t trust them to raise my children.  But I have much respect for them. 

In my opinion, if you’re looking only for perfect friends, you’ll never have any friends.

For me, the deal-breaker regarding friendship is a tendency toward any sort of fundamentalism (religious, political or otherwise).   I’ve often deferred to Jimmy Carter’s definition:

A fundamentalist believes, say, in religious circles, that I am close to God. Everything that I believe is absolutely right. Anyone who disagrees with me, in any case, is inherently wrong and therefore, inferior. And it violates my basic principles if I negotiate with anyone else or listen to their point of view or modify my own positions at all. So that is what has permeated this administration.

Some people are so overtaken by their beliefs that they absolutely shut down their minds to the possibility that they are wrong.  To the extent they do this, I am usually not willing to spend the time to develop a friendship.  I’m not willing to work on friendships where the potential friend has ruled out the possibility that he or she is wrong.  Of the possibility that he or she knows everything important. 

Martin would say that people simply cannot compartmentalize things like belief in God.  I don’t agree with him.  We are incredibly good at compartmentalizing our beliefs and avoiding those beliefs, whenever convenient or whenever those beliefs are toxic.  For instance we are all in the process of getting old and dying.  We all face enormous risks of getting hurt through disease or accident.  We live on a spinning planet that came from a huge explosion billions of years ago, an explosion that just doesn’t seem to have to have any ultimate cause that makes sense to anybody who is intelligent and honest.  We seem to go on with our lives, day by day, despite the fact that we know so little about so much in that we are so incredibly physically vulnerable.  We can cordon off inconvenient beliefs quite well, thank you. 

In the case of religious moderates, then, a bit of tact, a bit of restraint and some compartmentalization keep us from stepping on each other’s toes.  That’s the way it is with all good long-term friendships.  There is no such thing as a deep long-term friendship where people haven’t had major disagreements about something.

I know this post is somewhat rambling but perhaps that’s because I’m finding myself sympathizing with the real-world application of Martin’s position I do write off some people as untrustworthy, generally, because of a particular set of beliefs that comprise even a small portion of their total beliefs.

Yes, Martin, there are some beliefs that are deal-breakers.  For me, though, the beliefs of religious moderates don’t rise to the level of fundamentalism.   My religious moderate friends don’t try consciously try to convert me and I don’t consciously try to convert them.   We readily concede points to each other on the topic of religion.  We have value systems that match up almost perfectly.  Almost.  There is that religion thing . . . and those differences will always be there for many of my friendships.  But I don’t believe that most religious moderates say absurd (sometimes oxymoronic) things because they believe them—I’m putting my chips on the theory that religious belief is, in many cases, an evolutionary adaptation and that those religious believes can be important to some people even though they are not literally true.  It is my experience that good friendships can make religious differences (with religious moderates) trivial.  I can have complete trust in these friends regarding such things as keeping their word and to exhibiting respect for almost all of the important moral values that I respect.

I figure that none of us non-fundamentalists claim to have all of the answers.  There are many gaps in our knowledge–my religious moderate friends agree.  They posit a god of the gaps whereas I simply call those unknowns things I don’t know. 

Is it frustrating that they assert beliefs in things that (to me) have no evidentiary basis? Sure, when I think about those things.  But I often don’t think about such things.  After all, there are at least 100 other major things to think about, right?

I’m not willing to make religious differences a deal-breaker for religious moderates who are otherwise kind-hearted souls.  Life is too short for that and life would be too socially impoverished with that.

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Category: Friendships/relationships, Religion

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (22)

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  1. Kevin Morgan says:

    I have lost only one friend so far, and he was more of a work acquaintance than a friend. I saw this person every night in the course of my duties, we had good conversations and occasionally played a game of chess. When his beliefs became radically fundamentalist (Christian flavor) and preaching, attempts to convert/coerce me into his belief system, talk of attending exorcisms, speaking in tongues, (and the classes he was looking to attend so he could "learn to speak in tongues") and outright crazy talk became the norm I began to withdraw. Initially I would try reasoning points of contention, but eventually had to admit defeat.

    Now except for the base pleasantries I won't even include him on my email distribution list for jokes.

  2. Dan Klarmann says:

    One of my closest friends is religiously my polar opposite. We became friends before I found out about his personal relationship with Jesus and unshakable Young Earth understanding of the cosmos. In the 18 years since then, we have had some loud "discussions" in public places. But we still get together regularly; usually weekly. Several years ago, he even wrote and recorded a song entreating me to see the light.

    I have a client who is a Moon Landing Hoax believer. Other than that (and a few other odd disagreements), he is one of the brightest people that I choose to spend time with outside of working hours.

    People who only associate with people just like themselves must have a very narrow view of the world.

  3. Superlatives are usually wrong. My oldest friend is a profoundly convinced christian who has often bemoaned my fate, yet we are still friends. Two of our closest friends are devout Catholic and right wing Republican to boot and the basis of our friendship is music and we get along fine.

    Shallow, hypersensitive people who fail to comprehend how vast individuals are tend to lose friendships based on one or two traits. I'll admit, religion can be a biggy, but I'll tell you one thing have a harder time with—country music fans. I have found that a better indicator of personality disconnects than religion.

  4. Ben says:

    But where do you draw the line… what about people who like listening to Cheryl Crow?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sheryl_Crow

    I think religion is a powerful drug, as common as caffeine or nicotine or (gasp) THC. It seems to be able to help many people to live happily, but like any drug, it also may have drawbacks. Then there is also the question of whether your religion is accepting of Other wackiness like Islam or Christianity.

  5. Erich Vieth says:

    Mark: Now you've pissed off all of the country music fans who were regular readers of this site. He just emailed me and said he's never going to return.

  6. Martin says:

    When we say "I believe…" what we mean is that this is part of our view of the world. "I believe I am a bachelor" is not just a statement which I suspect is true, or which might be true in some circumstances, it is a statement about the world in which I live. I cannot say "I believe I am an Orange" or "I believe the moon is made of cottage cheese" because there is no connection with reality. So if the word "believe" has any meaning at all it has to be used of propositions that faithfully represent some state of the world (or universe).

     

    We do need to be careful, though. When I say "I believe the Rams will win on Saturday", which is clearly not an objectively true statement, what I really mean is, "I hope the Rams will win on Saturday." or possibly, "My assessment is that the Rams are a better team, plus they are playing at home and therefore the odds are that they will win on Saturday, (with my fingers crossed)." But this is hope, not belief.

     

    The point so far has been that our beliefs have to be statements about propositions that faithfully represent some state of the world. And this fact yields to us some immediate insights into the standards by which our beliefs should function.

     

    Our beliefs must be consistent with each other; they must be both logically and semantically related. Each of our beliefs both constrains and is in turn constrained by other of our beliefs. A belief like, "The 747 is the best airplane in the world" logically requires us to believe both that airplanes exist and that the 747 is better than the 757. The belief that "some men are husbands" requires us to also endorse the belief that "some women are wives", because the very terms "husband" and "wife" mutually define one another.

     

    The logical and semantic constraints are effectively two sides of the same coin. If my words are to mean the same thing from one moment to the next then I cannot believe both that, "my mother was born in Rome" and that "my mother was born in Nevada". There might be a town called Rome in Nevada, of course, or it might even be that I meant natural mother in one case and adoptive mother in the second, but those exceptions just prove the rule. To know what a given belief is about I must know what my words mean; to know what my words mean my beliefs must be consistent. You just can't get away from the fact that there is a close relationship between the words we use, the type of thoughts we can think and what we can believe to be true about the world.

     

    Behavioural constraints also apply. If I am driving I cannot believe both that my destination lies to the North, and to the South, and then act on my belief. Logic determines that I cannot drive in two directions at once.

     

    Personal identity also needs to be considered. Imagine if you can a person who believes that he spent the day on the beach and that he stayed at home and painted the bedroom ceiling, that his name is Jim and that it is George, that he is a father of three children and that he is a bachelor. Any sense that this could be a single person has entirely disappeared. There is a degree of internal inconsistency in our beliefs that is incompatible with our idea of who we are.

     

    It is by believing various propositions about the world that we predict events and consider the likely consequences of our actions. Beliefs are, therefore, principles of action, by which our understanding (and mis-understanding) of the world is represented and made available to guide our behaviour. "I believe a car is coming" helps us decide not to cross the road.

     

    So we each have a collection of beliefs that are logically and semantically consistent in the sense that they form a coherent and faithful view of some state of the world. They guide both our behaviour and our emotions (what would happen to you emotionally if you suddenly believed your daughter had been hit by a train?). In short, you are what you believe.

     

    The big point here is that your beliefs have to be internally consistent. People who talk of "compartmentalising" their belief in god are really saying that they can be two people at once. Whatever else it might be, "On Sunday mornings I believe god made the universe and everything in it, and the rest of the week I do not" is not an internally consistent, logically and semantically coherent view of the world.

     

    The conclusion I draw from people who say things like this – who I shall call compartmentalists – is that in at least one instance they are not being honest with me about what they believe. Either they themselves do not actually believe, but for some reason which I will come to they pretend for an hour a week that they do. Or, they really do believe but are embarrassed to admit it so keep as quiet about it as they can the rest of the week.

     

    Let's first deal with the embarrassment issue. If they are right that there is a god, then the rest of us are idiots and there is nothing to be embarrassed about. Why should anyone be embarrassed about something as important as the origin of the universe? By all means be embarrassed by trivial things, by being a closet cross-dresser or having a liking for a bit of domestic discipline once in a while, but the creation of the universe is arguably the most important question facing mankind. If you are truly right about that then you have nothing to be embarrassed about. So I take their embarrassment as evidence that they do not really believe.

     

    Now let's deal with the pretence issue. I will start by admitting that "pretend" might not be exactly the right word. There are social pressures on people to conform to certain behaviours and some people are just not able or willing to resist those pressures. So they go to church on Sunday because all their family and friends do and because no one ever told them any different. I suspect that many of them are not even aware that they are allowed to make a choice on this issue. I feel genuinely sorry for such people and I accept that it is unreasonable of me to label them as "pretending" to believe in god. I will instead call these people social conformists.

     

    So, excluding the social conformists, the other compartmentalists can be divided among two further types, those who hope there is a god, and those who get something out of it (they might just like singing the hymns).

     

    The hopers are folks who have looked at the evidence, evaluated it to the limit of their ability and found that the answer given by science is either wrong, not-credible, not what they were hoping for, insufficiently uplifting or whatever. So because the alternative is not satisfying to them, they hope that there is a god. They don't actually believe there is a god, they just find that the most plausible of the two options.

     

    Now for those who get something out of it. It might, as I said, just be the music, or the opportunity to socialise in a nice dress with folks who don't cuss and belch. Or it might be something a bit more emotive, an opportunity to commune with a lost loved one for example. None of these reasons, or others like them, is any reason to believe in a supernatural deity.

     

    The general theme here has been that the compartmentalists are in some important respect, not believing in god in the way that we now understand the word belief – from the earlier part of this post. Their belief is not consistent within their system of beliefs; it does not offer them a logically and semantically coherent view of the world. In short, in spite of what they might say, they do not actually believe in god.

     

    The important point for me is in the very last sentence. Whether these folks realise it or not, what they are saying is not true. I don't think they are being deliberately deceptive to you and me so I wouldn't go as far as calling them liars. But what they say about the extremely important issue of the creation of the universe is not true. They are capable of deceiving themselves to a degree that most of us would find unacceptable in our normal discourse. The difference between me and most of you is that I actually do find it unacceptable to the extent that I exclude such people from my life.

     

    I would much rather have an honest fundamentalist than a dishonest moderate, any day of the week, especially on Sunday.

  7. Martin, you have found the key; honesty about words. Most of the disagreement I find is about the words we use and our assumption that we know what the words another is using mean to them.

    We are not really listening to each other, perhaps because we don't have the resources {time/patience}. I don't get along with most fundamentalists even though we use a lot of the same words. It is difficult to have the needed respect for language enough to insist on good definitions before becoming a person's friend.

  8. CADDY says:

    I'm an atheist, and i'm pretty anti religion.

    I'm friends with a catholic priest.

    Despite having totally different ideals, we have a lot in common, and have similar personalities.

    Tha only real difference, is i'm getting laid, while he aint. haha.

  9. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    I am an agnostic and my wife of many years is Christian. I respect her right to believe and she respects my right to disbelieve.

  10. Martin says:

    Whilst thinking about this I came to realise that both Mark and Dan choose their friends because of a shared interest in some topic or idea. For example, Mark talks about having a friendship based on music and Dan talks about a friend of his being his polar opposite (in religious belief) but being one of the brightest people he knows. I am going to assume that Dan means intellectually bright, as in knows either a great deal about one particular topic – say chemistry – or is generally widely read and well informed about a variety of topics.

    This seems to be the way most people choose their friends. It does after all stand to reason that a chess player will tend to have friends who are chess players, and a musician will tend to have friends who are musicians. They will obviously also have friends who are not those things, but with whom they will have some other interest or topic in common. And it is the diversity of these topics or interests that I think Mark was referring to when he spoke about how "vast" people are.

    What I think got left out of my first post is that I do not choose my friends based on these types of topics or interests. I am a painter, but have only one friend who is also a painter. I play the flute, but do not know a single other person who does that. I design, build and fly my own kites, but do not know anyone else who does that either. My friends are not selected based on them sharing my interests; they are selected based on them sharing my values.

    Personally, I think that having values like honesty and integrity in common should make for a much more rewarding and enriching experience than simply mixing with folks who share your interests. But I've never done it any other way, so I wouldn't know.

  11. That's an interesting claim. Are Mark and Dan really choosing their friends based merely on common interests? I don't believe they do. Would they want to befriend someone with whom they share a lot of interests, but who is an unreliable liar? Maybe they would find him interesting enough to keep him as an aquaintance, but it's unlikely that deep friendship is a serious option. I think when people state common interests as the reason for a friendship they do it with the assumption that certain criteria have already been met, like the existence of honesty and integrity.

    I read with incredulity Martin's claim that honesty and integrity are enough to make for a rich friendship. Have you ever spent time with someone who is honest and behaves with integrity, but otherwise is not on your intellectual level or has nothing in common with you? I used to have the belief that everybody who approaches you with friendship should be appreciated, but honestly, some people were boring the shit out of me. I can not say that they all shared my values, but somehow I don't believe that it would have changed that much. It's difficult to find people who you respect for their values and who have something in common with you, but everything else strikes me as quite unsatisfying and a waste of time. By the way, the fact that you spend time on this blog, is that due to you sharing values with people here or because you enjoy the intellectual stimulation that people like Vicki give you with her contrary position?

  12. Martin says:

    projektleiterin,

    Mark specifically says that his friendship with "Two of our closest friends" is based on music. How are we to understand that if not that his friends were selected for their interest in music?

    Incidentally, you used the word "merely", not me. I did not say they were choosing "merely" on topics and ideas. Other factors will come into it, some of which we may never have even thought about before now. For example, I find the smell of cigarette smoke lingering on someone's clothes makes me gag and I cannot imagine having a close friend who smokes. I even find it pretty difficult to stand close enough to one to have a conversation, so a friendship is just a non-starter, no matter how honest they are. And I will gladly accede that even honest folks can be boring; honesty alone is not enough.

    Intellect is no bar to friendship, not for me anyway. I have a close friend who is an art professor at our local university, and another who is a road sweeper whose response to the death of princess Diana was to bemoan the fact that he had not yet had sex with her. But he does know a lot of really good jokes.

    When I said that choosing friends based on values first should make for a more rewarding and enriching experience, what I meant was that unlike the chess player who goes to his chess club and meets other chess players, I do not socialise in "interest groups". This is not a conscious decision, it is just something that this thread has helped me think about and realise. If I socialised in interest groups I would know other kite flyers, other painters, etc. but I don't. This means that I am not restricting my choice to people who are interested in things I am interested in. I would have thought that this makes me more likely to know people whose interests are not common to mine than someone who socialises in interest groups. It is this broadening of the experience that I perceive as being rewarding and enriching. Am I wrong to think that?

    As for what I get out of the blog: I don't enjoy people who are contrary just for the sake of being so. It's okay to play devil's advocate and pretend to speak for a position you do not personally hold, as long as you are genuinely doing that and making real points that would be made by someone who did hold that view. But just arguing for the sake of an argument is trivial and uninteresting.

    I am not a psychoanalyst – not even an amateur – but I suspect that Vicki has so far been sincere in her disagreements.

    I suppose what I am after is having my ideas tested. I don't want to convert anyone and am not trying to persuade, I am instead inviting a critique of my ideas, what for the want of a better expression I might call my philosophy. If someone can point out that it is internally inconsistent, or must necessarily lead to some undesireable state then that will be a real bonus. To that end I find the brevity of most comments prevents the author from properly explaining the rationale for their opinions, and that I find deeply unsatisfying. Just saying, for example, that "Superlatives are usually wrong." and then using a superlative in the very next sentence gives us no opportunity to understand what the writer is trying to say. Was the first sentence preparing us for the redundancy in the next, or are they two entirely disconnected statements? (A moment's thought will show that the first of them is obviously wrong, anyway).

    p.s. I had to google "Britney Spears" to find out what you were talking about!

  13. Martin says:

    projektleiterin,

    Mark specifically says that his friendship with "Two of our closest friends" is based on music. How are we to understand that if not that his friends were selected for their interest in music?

    Incidentally, you used the word "merely", not me. I did not say they were choosing "merely" on topics and ideas. I also did not say that honesty and integrity are sufficient. Once again that is your own spin on what I said. I believe that both sets of criteria are used by us all. My post was meant to highlight that Mark et al prioritise topics and ideas while I prioritise values.

    Other factors will also come into it, some of which we may never have even thought about before now. For example, I find the smell of cigarette smoke lingering on someone's clothes makes me gag and I cannot imagine having a close friend who smokes. I even find it pretty difficult to stand close enough to one to have a conversation, so a friendship is just a non-starter, no matter how honest they are.

    Intellect is no bar to friendship, not for me anyway. I have a close friend who is an art professor at our local university, and another who is a road sweeper whose response to the death of princess Diana was to bemoan the fact that he had not yet had sex with her. But he does know a lot of really good jokes.

    When I said that choosing friends based on values first should make for a more rewarding and enriching experience, what I meant was that unlike the chess player who goes to his chess club and meets other chess players, I do not socialise in "interest groups". This is not a conscious decision, it is just something that this thread has helped me think about and realise. If I socialised in interest groups I would know other kite flyers, other painters, etc. but I don't. This means that I am not restricting my choice to people who are interested in things I am interested in. I would have thought that this makes me more likely to know people whose interests are not common to mine than someone who socialises in interest groups. It is this broadening of the experience that I perceive as being rewarding and enriching. Am I wrong to think that?

    As for what I get out of the blog: I don't enjoy people who are contrary just for the sake of being so. It's okay to play devil's advocate and pretend to speak for a position you do not personally hold, as long as you are genuinely doing that and making real points that would be made by someone who did hold that view. But just arguing for the sake of an argument is trivial and uninteresting.

    I suppose what I am after is having my ideas tested. I don't want to convert anyone and am not trying to persuade, I am instead inviting a critique of my ideas, what for the want of a better expression I might call my philosophy. If someone can point out that it is internally inconsistent, or must necessarily lead to some undesireable state then that will be a real bonus. To that end I find the brevity of most comments prevents the author from properly explaining the rationale for their opinions, and that I find deeply unsatisfying. Just saying, for example, that "Superlatives are usually wrong." and then using a superlative in the very next sentence gives us no opportunity to understand what the writer is trying to say. Was the first sentence preparing us for the redundancy in the next, or are they two entirely disconnected statements? (A moment's thought will show that the first of them is obviously wrong, anyway).

  14. Friendship is far too complex and irreducible to be subject to Choice. I have never "chosen" a friend. Friendship Happens. Common interests bring people together. Some become friends, others remains mere acquaintances. What causes friendship to develop I do not believe has a conscious component. It's not like going through resumes and seeing one that you go, "Oh, look at this! I'll bet we're really compatible. I think I'll call this one and see if we can be friends." Doesn't work like that, no more than it does when you choose your mate (who ought to be, ultimately, your best friend).

    I admit to be a bit tongue-in-cheek about the country music as a deal breaker, but there are many people I know that I hang out with because of certain common interests who have over time become friends. The basis for the relationship may have started out as common interest, but evolved into a condition wherein, when it matters most, we can depend on each other for care and help and related things that are simply not reducible to categories. For want of a better word, it's Chemistry. Trying to sort your friends according to definable positions is one way to jeopardize your chances of ever having a real friend.

  15. It's not one big choice, becoming friends with someone is rather a continuous process of choosing. Do I feel like seeing this person again? Should I give him/her a call to meet? Do I reply to their emails quickly or do I let time pass, because they bore me? Do I make an effort and show the best me so that they will like me, too? And as people change so will their friends and the nature of their friendship. Some you keep and some you get rid off.

  16. Martin says:

    projektleiterin,

     

    Mark specifically says that his friendship with "Two of our closest friends" is based on music. How are we to understand that if not that his friends were selected for their interest in music?

     

    Incidentally, you used the word "merely", not me. I did not say they were choosing "merely" on topics and ideas. I also did not say that honesty and integrity are sufficient. Once again that is your own spin on what I said. I believe that both sets of criteria are used by us all. My post was meant to highlight that Mark et al prioritise topics and ideas while I prioritise values.

     

    Other factors will also come into it, some of which we may never have even thought about before now. For example, I find the smell of cigarette smoke lingering on someone's clothes makes me gag and I cannot imagine having a close friend who smokes. I even find it pretty difficult to stand close enough to one to have a conversation, so a friendship is just a non-starter, no matter how honest they are.

     

    Intellect is no bar to friendship, not for me anyway. I have a close friend who is an art professor at our local university, and another who is a road sweeper whose response to the death of princess Diana was to bemoan the fact that he had not yet had sex with her. But he does know a lot of really good jokes.

     

    When I said that choosing friends based on values first should make for a more rewarding and enriching experience, what I meant was that unlike the chess player who goes to his chess club and meets other chess players, I do not socialise in "interest groups". This is not a conscious decision, it is just something that this thread has helped me think about and realise. If I socialised in interest groups I would know other kite flyers, other painters, etc. but I don't. This means that I am not restricting my choice to people who are interested in things I am interested in. I would have thought that this makes me more likely to know people whose interests are not common to mine than someone who socialises in interest groups. It is this broadening of the experience that I perceive as being rewarding and enriching. Am I wrong to think that?

     

    As for what I get out of the blog: I don't enjoy people who are contrary just for the sake of being so. It's okay to play devil's advocate and pretend to speak for a position you do not personally hold, as long as you are genuinely doing that and making real points that would be made by someone who did hold that view. But just arguing for the sake of an argument is trivial and uninteresting.

     

    I suppose what I am after is having my ideas tested. I don't want to convert anyone and am not trying to persuade, I am instead inviting a critique of my ideas, what for the want of a better expression I might call my philosophy. If someone can point out that it is internally inconsistent, or must necessarily lead to some undesireable state then that will be a real bonus. To that end I find the brevity of most comments prevents the author from properly explaining the rationale for their opinions, and that I find deeply unsatisfying. Just saying, for example, that "Superlatives are usually wrong." and then using a superlative in the very next sentence gives us no opportunity to understand what the writer is trying to say. Was the first sentence preparing us for the redundancy in the next, or are they two entirely disconnected statements? (A moment's thought will show that the first of them is obviously wrong, anyway).

  17. Vicki Baker says:

    The soul selects her own society,

    Then shuts the door;

    On her divine majority

    Obtrude no more.

    Unmoved, she notes the chariot's pausing

    At her low gate;

    Unmoved, an emperor is kneeling

    Upon her mat.

    I've known her from an ample nation

    Choose one;

    Then close the valves of her attention

    Like stone.

    -Emily Dickinson

    (you literalists out there, for "soul" please read "inner subjective experience")

  18. Who are you referring to, Vicki?

  19. Vicki Baker says:

    Who was I referring to with the remark about literalists? Oh, no one in particular 🙂

    The conversation reminded of the Dickinson poem, which I think is about how we form attachments of love or friendship. I'm agreeing with you and Mark that it's an organic process in which serendipity plays a big role.

    I'm not trying to be contrary, you know. It just comes naturally! 🙂

  20. Martin said: "Mark specifically says that his friendship with “Two of our closest friends” is based on music. How are we to understand that if not that his friends were selected for their interest in music?"

    You're compartmentalizing too much. They weren't "selected" for any particular cause or trait. The music has made it stronger, made it possible to be friends in spite of differences which did not immediately rise to evidence.

    You didn't read my disquisition about the nature of friendship. The affection that binds people is not reducible to a form one can fill out. That's not friendship. That's joining a club. Not the same thing.

  21. Ok, I thought it was some kind of criticism of the discriminating process that allows certain friendships to develop and stifles others right from the beginning.

    Honestly, Martin also provokes me a bit. 😀 I bet he thinks we are silly girls. 😀 (Just kidding, Martin. 🙂 )

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