I have a good friend, we will call her Beth for the purposes of this post. Beth and I have known each other since we were in our early teens. Our friendship has survived growing up, moves in and out of state, long distances, her not getting along with my husband (it's better now), and family feuds (I cannot stand her younger brother). I will be her maid of honor in her upcoming wedding. The thing that has always been a staple of our friendship has been our mutual faith in God. The thing that I always appreciated about Beth was how open she was to listening to other viewpoints. When I told her that I disagreed with her and her church's Calvinist teachings, she listened intently and went away to do her own research. When I told her that I no longer believed in a literal six day interpretation of creation, she asked a ton of questions and went off to do her own research. Both of those conversations by the way, led to her also rejecting those beliefs just as I did.
There are marked differences between us though. Over the years, as I have questioned and eventually began rejecting many tenants of my faith, she has grown even more resolute. She now hosts a Bible study in her home, is very active in her church, she and her fiancee pray together on the regular. She is unapologetically sold out for Christ and I absolutely respect this about her.
Last night Beth and I talked on the phone for two hours, as we do. Numerous times the Bible and God came up. Since I am still in the closet with my agnostic ways, I talked about them with her. It wasn't hard. I know all the lingo, all the scripture versus. I have been friends with her for so long that I also know what she believes and what we don't agree on and have learned what issues to skirt. We talked about things like homosexuality, which she believes to be a sin and at this point I believe there isn't any such thing as sin. I carefully mentioned to her that I was getting very fed up with the American church and was planning on leaving my church in December. She completely understood my frustrations. She listened to me vent, asked questions about the things that bothered me, and came to the conclusion that I probably should take a break. She also thinks I should start a Bible Study but we aren't going to go there.
Of all my friends, Beth is the one person that I really don't want to tell that I am agnostic/atheist now. Why? Because I have also seen the dark side of Beth. The Beth who quit talking to a good friend because she was gay and her church told her not to. The Beth who couldn't help but gossip about our mutual friend who became an atheist, completely not understanding how he could have chosen that and blaming his girlfriend for his deconversion. They no longer are friends. I know that as good of friends as we are, the minute I become a non-believer, I also become a mission. A mission to return me to the fold. An item on a prayer checklist. Thinking of me will bring sadness not joy.
I have another good friend who is also an atheist. Never, in the entire time that I have known her, has she ever told me this directly. She knew how important my faith is to me and so she kept her mouth shut, listening to my religious ramblings. When I told her last month that I thought I was an atheist she said, "Oh no, that's terrible. What happened?" This reaction meant so much to me. It was a validation that what I am going through has been hard and unexpected. And so I want to have the same attitude towards my friends. They don't need to know all of my beliefs. I will listen to them when they talk about God. And if a day comes when they share with me their deconversion, I will say, "Oh no, that's terrible. What happened?" Beth may guess one day, but at this point I don't think she needs to know.
This is a personal, but secret, blog archiving my deconversion from a Christian to a non-believer.