I actually feel this about broaching some issues with Christians. Not that they are swine, of course, but that there isn’t any point to talking about some issues because no one is really interested in changing their mind or considering other ideas, especially about theological issues. Of course, that is probably true about me as well!
However, as far as our atheist “friends,” I wonder about the ethics of being “friends” with someone only with the hopes to convert them. I think a lot of us are so busy and our circles are so large that we look to ways to thin them out. I don’t think that is bad, we all have only 24 hours a day and many of us have family connections as well.
True friendship which can last over a lifetime, does not feel like it has to wrestle someone to the ground within a time frame. I worry that we have developed a consumer attitude towards people: is this guy “worth” my valuable time? Can I “afford” to be friends with someone that I can’t win an argument with? I am not trying to be too hard here, and I do think that sometimes there are times that we need to bail on a relationship or curb our areas of discussion: that’s true with some of our christian connections as well.
I recently read CS Lewis autobiography. It took over a decade of interacting with a variety of people who were all over the place theologically and also just thinking before he even became A THIEST.
I will say, in response to Marvin’s story about Facebook wars, that I pretty much despise the nastiness that Facebook creates, the pseudo-science links that people post and the things christians sometimes say- “Aha! atheists can’t answer this one!” to be most unhelpful and a very poor witness. I can’t imagine anyone being convinced by anything on Facebook, even to like cute kittens! It’s just the wrong medium.
But the lost art of being there, sharing common interests, living a decent life and giving a rip about their life, being able to discuss other things, as seen in 1 Peter 2:12, reduces the american christian’s tendency to value relationships as commodities, and to have friends who are human beings. As well, it allows us to “be merciful to those who doubt.”