I was thinking this morning about some of my old "friends" from previous churches this morning. I've cut ties with most of these people, but there are still a few that show up in my Facebook feed sometimes. People that I got to know a little more than casually, but still wouldn't look up if I was in town. You know how it is. But when I started to think about these people and why we were ever considered friends in the first place, I realized that the only commonality was a shared religion.
Typically when I make good friends, it is because we have shared interests. I have a good friend who I call my Book Buddy, because we are both very well read and can talk about books for hours. Many of my friends are geeks like me with some interest in at least one of the following: Sci-fi, Action/Adventure movies, Superheroes, Comic Books, D&D, Writing, Reading, Board Games, Video Games, History, Archaeology, or Science. My really good friends share several of these interests. With my church friends though, the commonality seemed to be only a belief in a god. We were expected to connect, not through any common extracurricular activities, but rather a theistic belief system. Looking back, this seems ridiculous because it meant that people with vastly different personalities and interests were being thrown together and expected to become fast friends.
Let's look at some examples:
Laurel - Laurel was a beautiful petite girl who was extremely talented in the areas of graphic design and photography. She used these talents to work for the church creating their weekly pamphlets, helping with video editing, and setting up the PowerPoint slides on Sunday. She loved getting her nails done, romance movies, and her much younger little sister. She was terrified of trying new things and refused to move anywhere that would take her away from her little sister even though she was a grown adult. We were often teamed up together when volunteering because we got along all right. I spent a lot of time with this girl and yet wouldn't call her my friend. She seemed emotionally distant and had little regard for other people's feelings. Her talents were appreciated, but in the end wasted.
Trevor - Trevor was also part of the core group at the same church as Laurel. Trevor played guitar for the worship team, had an acceptable Hipster beard, and was outgoing. As an extrovert, he seemed to make friends easily and fast. Yet, he was a complete flake. They would often have unscheduled worship team meetings and get-togethers, but would "forget" to invite certain people just because they didn't feel like hanging out with them that night. I saw this man several times a week for four years straight and yet when I bumped into him at the grocery store, he would act like he didn't recognize me. Beyond a shared religion, there was absolutely no connection there. Yet, we were expected to get along for no other reason than we both were a part of the worship team.
Clarion - Clarion was a handsome woman who was obsessed with the Red Sox, traveling, and finding a good Christian man. She was extremely friendly, but would suffer no negativity surrounding the pastor of the church nor his family. She worshiped the ground they walked on, babysat their children, and eventually quit her career to work as the church secretary. At one point she tried to sabotage a man's relationship because she had a crush on him and he ended up leaving the church over it. Clarion was my friend as long as I attended her church, agreed with the pastor, and was volunteering. Her friendship was contingent on these three things. The minute I started to question the pastor, Clarion became guarded. When I decided not to go to her church anymore after moving back from Boston, she was horribly offended and that was the end of that "friendship". Looking back though, we didn't have much of a friendship to begin with. We had nothing in common beyond GOD.
Danielle - Danielle and I were the main female singers at a small church and were in the same small group. We saw each other at least three times a week. Occasionally we would "get the girls together" (all from church) and go see some cheesy romantic comedy and grab dinner. We were constantly trying to find common interests, but other than a love of books (and never the same books) there was zilch. She couldn't even come to game night because her husband is such a competitive asshole that even a game of Apples to Apples was unenjoyable for them. To be clear, this guy was fairly nice about everything else, but his competitive side made any kind of game that involved winning and losing a nightmare. I knew this woman for four years and yet at the end of the day, didn't develop a lasting friendship because apparently, believe it or not, gawd wasn't enough to form a friendship.
The problem with all of this is that I have heard it preached from every pulpit that community is important. That connecting with other Christians is part of being a Christian. Whether this is right or wrong is beside the point. The point is, rather than connecting Christians with similar interests, they seem to believe that gender and age are the things that really build connection. I would have really loved a book club, one that didn't read bad Christian novels either, but a real book club where we read actually decent books and discussed them from a Christian perspective. How awesome would it have been to have a board game group that had a small Bible study followed by an hour or two of gaming? Or at the very least connecting people who like to volunteer for similar things like Habitat for Humanity, Ronald McDonald house, or Book Harvest. By the by, whenever there was something even remotely like these things, I formed a book better connection with the people in that group.
What I am not finding as an atheist is that the new friendships I am forming, based on common interests and meshing personalities, are so much better than the superficial ones created within a church. And looking at my good friends, the ones who have withstood the test of time, I have realized that all of those friendships were also built through commonalities rather than faith. Of course, I still have a few friends who are devoted Christians, but when I examine why we are friends, it is not because of God. Also, none of my good friends have ever attended the same church as me. Food for thought. Are these friendships that folks are making at church really that deep or are they just superficial and based purely on mutual deity worship? I'm sure some are genuine, but would love to know how many people suddenly found themselves without friends when they walked away from the church.
This is a personal, but secret, blog archiving my deconversion from a Christian to a non-believer.