I have a friend who has been my best and dearest friend since infancy. I will refer to her here as S. She is and always has been a devout christian, and for most of our lives, I was, too. I have only been really, comfortably an atheist for about a year; skeptical for about three.
S and I could not be closer if we were sisters. That sounds cliche, but it is the honest truth. She and I have been through the worst of pain together, and the most wonderful joys together. If I had to name the most important people in my life, S would be very, very close to the top. Right there with my mother and my daughter. S and I share everything with each other; she knows everything about me, good and bad.
Except for the fact that I am now an atheist.
I have not told her about my atheism. She knows that I am very scientific and skeptical; she laughs when people tell stories about ghosts and superstitions around me, and proudly tells them that I'm very science-thinking and I don't believe in things like that. So it should be a breeze to tell her that I've taken the final rational step and stopped believing in the ultimate superstition, right?
I was once an enthusiastic christian like S. I could not imagine not believing in God. It seemed impossible and ridiculous. It wasn't superstition; it was TRUTH. This is how she feels. This is how she assumes that I feel.
S and I take our daughters on an overnight camping trip every year. It is awesome. We slather ourselves in SPF 5000+ with a topcoat of bug repellant, light a fire, and roast things that are full of sugar and fat. Then we put up our tent, hike, sit and talk, watch my daughter read to her (much younger) daughter, and just enjoy being together. I look forward to it every year.
This morning, S called me and enthusiastically asked me if my daughter and I would want to do our camp out at Godstock this year.
Yes. Godstock is EXACTLY what it sounds like. Praise & worship christianity's version of Woodstock, but with no sex or drugs.
I told her that I might have something going on that weekend, and I'd have to check my calendar (I may actually really have something; I wasn't lying about that). I was glad I had an out; but what happens next time? When she wants us to come to her charismatic church? When she wants me to come to a women's retreat with her? When she wants me to take the 'Encountering Jesus' session with her? What am I to do then?
I have to tell her the truth. And that is going to hurt.
There is a fantastic blog post at The Friendly Atheist today dealing with issues just like this. I read it, and it has given me a little hope that this can work out, and things will be okay in the end; but I really dread the initial struggle.
I guess all I can do is hope for the best, and prepare for the worst. But if there is anyone in the world who will still love me, despite huge worldview differences, it is S.
UPDATED 11/11/09: Well, S and I had the conversation tonight. She was so totally cool about it; I am ashamed of ever being concerned in the first place.
I know that she is concerned. I know that we will have many conversations about this. But she is awesome. We love each other. That is never going to change, no matter what.
I love you, S.
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