Monday, February 11, 2013

You Were Never a Real Believer

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.

I wasn't insulted at all, actually. I admit that I used to feel insulted with that one, though. I simply wanted to see if Tracy could see how it could have been insulting to suggest that if a person is different from you then it is inconceivable for them to be truly happy in their choice. It's even more difficult for a believer to accept that a person can deeply believe...until they don't. It's terrifying for some believers to consider. I get that.

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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  1. True, during my "Christian" days I would have thought I was nearly worshipping the devil by entertaining the conversation. So glad that's over now! :) Danica

    1. I remember nights of FEAR from conversations like this one...
      I'm SO glad it's over too, Dear Bloggy Friend!

  2. I had this same conversation with my brother several years ago, although he was much less tactful than your friend was. The cognitive dissonance was overwhelming for him and he shut me out of his life after that. I decided the faith we grew up with was no longer something I wanted in my life and he took it personally. It's rare, I think, when friends and family choose to keep friendships when they are faced with someone who no longer has the faith they have. Your friend truly is one.

    1. I agree that it is rare...I'm sorry for the loses you have incurred from your journey... I understand.

      In our hearts, though, we continue to love those people.

  3. I'm so afraid of this! It's what we were taught: No one can lose their salvation, so if you are no longer a believer it means you never were one. I never realized how hurtful this teaching could be until I was on the other side of it. Libby Anne has talked about this a lot too. She has helped me undo so much of my incorrect thinking.

    1. Oh yes, I have read Libby Anne's blog too. I seldom leave a comment though, I'm nowhere as intelligent as her other followers. *wink* But I always learn there...

      Lara, you and I were both true believers. We lived with our beliefs at the center of our lives. This sound bite that the church uses is another manipulative "shaming" device to cause us to doubt our doubt. It IS hurtful, though, isn't it...

      Peace and Love

  4. I know that I am late but...I just lost a friend over this. She was offended over a comment that I left on her hubby's blog (which he tagged me in and purposely shared with me). He had asked: Why comment on something that doesn't affect you personally? (Speaking about my and his brother's, my partner's, atheism. The question being, why comment about religion when it doesn't affect our lives.) She expressed her discomfort with my atheism and said that she felt like she couldn't be herself around me. She said that me responding to her husband was rude, anything I say about religion is rude (unless it's positive). I never once said anything disrespectful to her and I told her that she can always be herself around me. She proceeded to tear me down and got really nasty. I decided to end the friendship, because this wasn't the first time she had done this. I am an introvert and don't have a large group of friends. It sucks because I thought we were such good friends and I never cared that she is religious. I thought that we could look beyond that. But I refuse to have one more relationship where I have to always censor myself while that person speaks freely about whatever they desire.

    1. Vivian! How hurtful!!!!!!!
      I am so terribly sorry for how this went down.
      It breaks my heart when people who we love feel forced to end their relationships with us because of their religions. It is heartbreaking!
      I recently went through an event where I thought my mom was going to do this. Somehow she managed to work her way through it...

      My sincerest sympathy!!!!!!

      I hope you are able to find another person you can connect with...

      Peace, Karen


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