I have a close friend that I’ve known since 1988. We met when I got a job at the same computer store he was working at. Over the course of 25+ years, we have worked together at 4 different employers. What are the odds of that?? We both work in IT and our temperaments and skills are a nice complement to each other. We still work together very closely and he’s a wonderful employee and a tremendous asset to the company we both work for today.
He’s a Christian and was raised in the Southern Baptist church. We had always shared a common belief and we used to love talking about theology or other heavy topics from the Bible. When I separated from my wife several years ago, he wanted to be supportive and helpful but he didn’t quite know what to do for me. His parents split up when he was a teenager and it was really messy and emotional for him and his younger brother. It was awful. So when he got married, he always viewed divorce as a “not an option” sort of thing, no matter what. You probably know someone like that.
Actually, I used to feel that way. But even before I lost my faith I stopped viewing things in that rigid sort of way. Life stopped being black & white for me many years ago.
As the flickering flame of my faith slowly vanished, I stopped talking about the Bible and faith. And after I reached that stage where I truly no longer believed at all, I was scared to tell my friend. I wanted to tell him but I didn’t out of fear. Would he spurn me and treat me like I was now the enemy?
I am partially out of the closet these days. My adult kids know I’m an atheist, and a few relatives know. But most of my fellow workmates don’t know and I haven’t told my mom. And I have dreaded what would happen when my close friend would find out. I’ve read a lot of disheartening stories about Christians who immediately spurn their friend or family member when they learn they no longer believe in God. So I’ve hid the truth from him.
But it finally came out during a long car ride last month. It started when he said, “Can I ask you a personal question? Do you still believe in God?”
I hesitated for a moment, but I realized this was as good of a time as any. So I told him, “I don’t believe in the God of the Bible anymore.” I went on to share about my oldest son’s loss of faith (which was a reminder to him since he already knew), and I told him how that event put me on a journey to try and win his faith back. But after studying the sciences and re-considering the many contradictions and enormous issues in the Bible, I stopped believing.
He was actually quite understanding and not at all hostile or judgmental. He admitted to his own doubts but he said he intentionally didn’t want to read or view any scientific materials that would increase his doubts. And he didn’t want to read or view atheist arguments because he felt that it would definitely kill his already-weak faith.
At first, I was flummoxed but then I remembered that I too had chosen to do the same thing many years ago. Now I was wondering, what was the best way to encourage my friend to consider the evidence? What was the best way to reconsider his stance? Or should I just leave it alone?
Readers, do you have family or friends who are “on the fence”?