One of the most painful and unhelpful experiences I had as a believer was when an online discussion with some friends about Christianity and evolution turned ugly and I ended up feeling ganged up on and very definitely unloved.
For background, this on-line groups of friends is a small cluster of people who, more than a decade ago, got together to talk about cars and meet up on the occasional track day. Most of them I have met on several occasions and all of them are decent people, even if I don’t know them well on a personal level. There are none who I consider unworthy of friendship, though my friendship status with them varies, as it must given that the vast majority of our dealings are on a private on-line forum where much discussion is reduced to humour and sarcasm.
For me, this on-line discussion served a good purpose in that it enabled me to share a common interest, that of cars and track days, and to engage in general random and irreverent chatter outside of my work colleague and church friends. So for these reasons I did not advertise my Christianity, not because of embarrassment; but because I did not consider it relevant to that context. I intended to behave as much as I could as a Christian and let me actions speak.
Of course it eventually came out that I was a Christian, but I still avoided talking about it as much as possible because this was supposed to be my safe place away from that world.
One day, for reasons I no longer remember, a thread was started that ended up talking about creationism and I let my colours fly. I stated my young earth creationist credentials and my objections to evolution. Understandably the flood gates opened and those who were passionate about the science of evolution waded in with facts and evidences. It all started well enough, but it wasn’t long before insults of poor intelligence flew in my direction.
In the end I gave up and made it clear I would not discuss the subject again.
The reality was, I was hurting inside. I was angry that my points were either not understood or misrepresented and that my bigger wish, to have understanding and respect between opposing viewpoints was utterly dashed. No way was I going to open myself up to that torrent of ridicule again.
Hindered Rather than Helped.
The bigger side effect of this discourse was that it hampered my acceptance of evolution.
At that time I was likely open to sensible discussion about evolution, but it didn’t happen. In fact I probably wanted (or needed) one. Sadly the conversation was very uneven, with just me on my side and several on the other. It only took a couple of those people to throw insults to create the offense that happened.
It would be some time before I would be prepared to listen to arguments for evolution again. When it happened it would be on podcasts.
I’ve not come clean to these friends on my acceptance of evolution (or my new found atheism) because I don’t think its fair to be open about it until my personal issue on coming out to with my wife is resolved (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2010/11/15/when-and-how-to-come-clean-on-atheism/).