I have brief moments every once in a while when I wish I could go back into Plato's Cave, get plugged back into the Matrix, so I can wake up one day and be able to step inside a church and actually believe in all of it again. Like I said, those moments are brief, and they are few and very far between. What I really want - or I should say what I really miss - is the feeling of acceptance. I miss the feeling of family that comes with the comfortable bubble of Christian culture.
[This entry is a follow-up to the entry, Last Night on Facebook, so make sure you've read that first before continuing on here.]
I shared the conversation I had with one of my Christian friends, whom I am now referring to as "Mutual Respect Guy" (MRG) on the blog because I'm keeping him anonymous and, well, I have to call him something. Apparently that conversation wasn't the end of the story; in fact, it wasn't even the beginning of the story. I learned later on that MRG got into this big discussion/debate with another friend who is an atheist, and that led to the Facebook post in which MRG questioned how there can be mutual respect among Christians and atheists, which of course led to my discussion with him.
A couple other people responded to that post, and I saw MRG wrote this in response on that thread:
It's not about close-mindedness, it's about being a Christian that gives more than lip service to what you believe in. If I say I love God, but I spend all my free time in situations that disrespect him, I'm a liar. A friend of mine put it really well. Christians need to evaluate their friendships and consider how they effect their relationship with God. If they have a negative effect on it, you may have to reevaluate the time you spend with those friends.
This pissed me off. I consider MRG a very close friend, and here he is suggesting that he might have to "reevaluate" certain friendships (i.e., his friendships with atheists) because we happen to poke fun and religion once in a while when we all hang out. I felt expendable. I felt like our friendship doesn't mean that much to him. So I replied:
Sounds like you're thinking about discarding a few of your good friends who love you because you can't handle religious differences. That goes beyond the realm of offensive, and into the realm of hurtful. I think you are a man of stronger character than to allow religion to force you to deny the bonds of friendship. I hope I'm not proved wrong.
A minute before I posted that reply, MRG posted another reply which I didn't see until after I sent my response. He wrote:
I'm sure there are people out there who will say that's just the Christian cult keeping you from opening up to other viewpoints, but that's not what I'm talking about. I'm not saying Christians shouldn't be friends with non-believers, and I'm definitely not saying we should avoid considering other viewpoints. What I am saying is that who you are, what you do, and who you spend time with when you kick back and let your guard down is the best indicator of who you really are. I'm either someone who accepts that God is real, and chooses to live a life that makes him happy, or I'm pretending to be a Christian as long as no one is watching.
Nice, so he's basically saying he has to make sure he doesn't spend too much time with his atheist friends, because he doesn't want to be like them. After all, "who you spend time with when you kick back and let your guard down is the best indicator of who you really are." So now I'm insulted, and I don't get insulted that easily. After reading that, my atheism sense started tingling, and so I made sure to save these comments because I suspected MRG was going to delete the thread.
I was left in limbo. I wasn't even sure whether we were still friends, so I sent him a private message on Facebook to ask him: "Are we still friends?" He said yes, but the more I've been thinking about it, the more unsettled I get with the situation. First of all, why the hell should I ever have to ask someone I feel close to whether we're still friends? I asked MRG out of curiosity, but later on it felt like I was grovelling. My friend insults me, threatens to either distance himself from me (and "my kind") or discard me entirely, then deletes the thread without any explanation. And I'm the one asking him whether we're still friends. Yeah, that makes sense.
Here's the deal: if he can't handle being my friend, then I don't need him. It'll hurt, sure, but life goes on, and I'd rather spend time with people who actually appreciate my presence and influence in their lives. MRG says he still considers me a friend, but things are different now - at least for me. Now, when I see him, all I'll think about is whether something I say is upsetting his precious sensitive Christian sensibilities. Hanging out with MRG will mean that either my guard will be up and I won't be relaxed, or he'll catch me in a more mercurial mood and I'll unload both barrels of my proverbial 12 gauge atheism shotgun right in his sensitive Christian face. Most likely it will be the latter, given how upset I am at all this, and how much I don't want to appear like I'm grovelling for his friendship.
Once again I see the negative effects of religion, and once again it's affecting me directly. Thank you, MRG, for reminding me why I'm an atheist.