Since the age of 12, I’ve realized I was an atheist. It wasn’t very hard to figure out that what I had been told just didn’t make sense. We attended several different churches over the years, and all of them taught variations on the same story, all proclaiming, of course, that they were the one true way to “Heaven”. Over the years since I’ve been called various names for being an atheist. Some were voiced politely, some not. I long ago learned to ignore most of the comments, and only discuss the subject with people who are interested in a calm, rational, intelligent conversation.
What’s funny is the similarities and differences in reactions from people, when they find out I”m an atheist, I’m gay, or both. I had an experience just today that is kind of amusing, but sad at the same time.
Earlier this week, I located a cousin on Facebook, and sent a “friend” request. He approved it, and we each had a new addition to our list. I thought that was cool, we don’t really know each other, and have met only twice in our lives. He lives in the mid-west, and I am in Central California. I expected to see some posts from him from time to time, and thought it would be a good way to keep in touch, if only from a distance. I may have miscalculated!
Some background on “coming out”, and reactions I’ve had.
When I got the to the point of coming out as a gay man, I was concerned about the effect this news would have on two very close friends. One I had known since high school, the other since 6th grade. The high school buddy is a conservative Christian, and the other is now a Christian minister. I was a bit surprised by the reactions of each. The high school buddy, whom I ran around with a lot, and considered my “best friend”, was the most confusing. He had been fine having a best friend who was an atheist, but would not associate with a homosexual. I’ve seen him maybe two or three times in the years since he found out. I had thought he would get over it, come around, and we’d continue being friends. That hasn’t happened. The other friend, the minister, hardly blinked when he found out. I had thought he’d be the one with major issues, but it’s just not important to him. He knows I’m a gay atheist, and he’s cool about it. I guess it takes an unexpected test to find out who your friends really are! The point is, you never really know how people are going to react when they find out about things like homosexuality, or religious (or in this case, non-religious) beliefs. You just have to roll with the punches.
The cousin I was talking about seems to be a good guy, from what I can tell from my short visit during a recent vacation and comments made within the family. I enjoyed my visit, and thought I might stop back by some time in the future. Now, I ‘m not so sure! (about the visit. I’m sure he’s a good guy. Just wrong about the religion thing)
Today I reposted a cartoon that came through on Facebook from one of my atheist groups.
I think someone may have actually invented a time machine that lets us see the past… or maybe it’s just that someone has to be as dumb as a rock to believe ancient superstitions!
Within the hour, I saw a post from him, asking for help on how to delete a friend, as he had an atheist on his list, and he couldn’t figure out how to remove him. He also made a comment that he wondered what would happen if that friend became very sick. He said he bet the atheist would quickly start praying! He then asked all his “non-atheist” friends to pray for the atheist (he never mentioned me by name or relationship). When I saw his comments, I had four thoughts: 1. I should send him a message telling him how to remove someone from his list. 2. I should tell him that if I was very sick, I wouldn’t start praying, I’d seek out the best doctors and hospitals to treat me! 3. Having someone on your “friends” list doesn’t mean you agree with them on every little (or even big) thing! 4. If “God” has a plan, and “his will be done”, then praying is simply a waste of time. The creator of the universe doesn’t need our help with his plans, and it’s the height of hubris to think he’d change his mind just because you asked him to!
So, anyway, I am no longer on my cousin’s “Facebook Friends” list. His (adult) son had already approved my request, so we’ll see if that one now goes away or not. His wife has not yet approved my request, and now I’m curious to see if that approval ever comes through.
A final thought. Is your faith as strong as you think if you refuse to associate with non-believers? Is exposure to opposing ideas that dangerous to your religion? Isn’t part of your faith the spreading of the word to non-believers? I’m willing to have reasonable conversations with believers, and have them in my life as friends and associates, but apparently, for some of them, that is a one-way street. That’s a shame. Think of all the wonderful people they’ll never meet, because they’re locked into a faith system that denies the reality of the world.