I was having dinner with a very good friend of mine, let's call her Tracy. Tracy asked me if she could ask me a question about my faith, or lack thereof. I thought, here it is, finally. I had been expecting this for a long time, looking forward to it, really.
I replied, of course! You can ask me anything. In fact, I enjoy our conversations. She then went on to propose the usual reasons of how I could not possibly be an atheist if I had once been a True Believer.
Her memorable question from that evening:
Maybe you were never a believer. Not really.
Incredulously, I look at her tipped head and sad eyes.
How insulting that could be to me, Tracy, I replied, if you think about it for a moment. Do you doubt my belief was genuine and important to me? I assure you, my belief was as strong and as certain as yours in now. I was a deep and true believer.
Then I uttered the true central fear in her heart: I was where you are and now I am here, an atheist. And I am happy.
Several weeks went by. She called me and said, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to insult you.
Yes, I said, I am fine, of course. I know that you find it difficult to accept the fact that a person could be where you are now and, in the same life, be where I am now.
Yes, that is true.
And Tracy truly tries I give her a great deal of credit. Our friendship is important to both of us and she struggles with the person that I am, the children I have, our family's general joy and goodness, and the fact that we are open and unabashed atheists. I know it's difficult for her because it doesn't fit into what she has been told, to what she has believed, about atheists.
I have thought about that conversation in particular again and again. Tracy and I are good friends, but our belief systems are so different. (Her son actually has and displays one of those timelines that begins at 4004 B.C.!) I am open about my atheism and I can see it discomfit her at times. It is clear that she thinks about this dilemma pretty frequently because she asks me about it when we have private moments.
Could the cognitive dissonance be getting to her?
It's not that I enjoy giving discomfort to people I care about. I guess I think about this so often because I know she is struggling and I care. I remember being where she is.
A believer who is so certain.
A believer who feared atheists.
One thing is very different though, I was never as brave as she is, having an openly atheist friend, having conversations about it, even spending time thinking about it. No. I was far more insulated and frightened than that.
So, KUDOS to you, My Friend!
I love you and I always enjoy our time together!
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