Recently I received this statement in a text message. The text came from, what I thought was, one of my closest friends. We have known each other for years, she was at the hospital the day I gave birth to Arabella and just a few months ago I watched her marry her long time partner.
I have often used her as an example of why you should not be afraid to tell your friends that you are an Atheist. Just as if it were yesterday I can see us walking down the street in Pittsburgh’s south-side when I first mentioned my Atheism… she turned to me a little stunned and said “you’re an Atheist?”, I said yes, then she replied “wow, well I guess I like Atheists”. She was my proof that believer and non can mutually respect without judgement… unfortunately that is no longer the case.
What started out as typical conversation turned into a lecture on how I could never understand her beliefs. That I will never be able to relate to her because I “haven’t seen his work or don’t recognize his work”. She spewed out your typical “God is good”, “Faith is strong” and admitted believing in the virgin birth, the trinity, Jesus’ ability to heal the sick and that God is still here with us.
I thought we could bring in the reigns, I asked her if she worships all Gods or if she was just revisiting her Catholic roots… reminding her that if she doubts any deity she is agnostic/atheist to them and therefore could see my point of view, even if she chooses to disagree with it… she wouldn’t answer the question and simply said “I don’t understand Atheist stuff… cause I believe in God”.
I tried explaining that it is ridiculous to say she can’t understand Atheism, at least from an academic stance but only received responses like “I can’t understand it because it doesn’t make sense to me, I believe in God”. Honestly, at this point I felt like I was feeding a troll on a fundamentalist debate page… it was a sad moment. Then she said to me “I believe in God… you can’t take that away from me Allison… No one can”… this is the only thing we’d agreed on all day.
I explained that I would never want to take away her right to believe and wondered how she could have completely wiped from her memory how respectful I had always been towards her faith. I remember going to the Catholic mass when her mother died, holding her hand while she shared beautiful fantasies of her mother safe in heaven… I never used those moments as a chance to question her or ridicule her and even at this very moment I still stand by her right to believe… though I question the cost that might come with this newly developed faith.
The final gauntlet was thrown down with the firm statement ” I’m a believer, I’m a Christian and I’m right”. Everything after was dodged with the response that it is something an Atheist cannot understand… boy was she right about that. After a little more discussion I received five messages in a row all stating “I win”. I imagined a child with their hands over their ears trying to block out the reasoning words of a parent. It was just a sad moment- I asked what she felt she won? Fear? Oppression? Hate? but “I win because I have faith” was the only thing she would say. The conversation ceased for several hours until she messaged me stating we could no longer be friends… I told her it was unfortunate. She told me that I will never win (because I don’t have God). I’d say we both lost.
So this certainly isn’t the first time I have lost a friend over God, but it is the first time it mattered. What is funny is that while she is praying for me to be saved I am here just as worried for her, if not more so since I don’t have a God to put on the job.