I’m in the state where some of my friends from church long ago are gathering to drink beer and sit around the fire. I see an old youth group student I used to teach show up. He’s finishing up seminary at the ripe age of 30, and I’ve never cared for his theology. I’d often read his blog posts and Facebook updates and think, “does this guy even read the bible?” We’ve always stayed friends but I’ve avoided commenting on anything he writes because it was so clearly a very different faith than what I had taught him. I wouldn’t even venture to call it Christianity, but more a Jesus accented spirituality.
I’ve had enough beer where standing is easy but not perfect. He comes up and says,
“Hey man, how are you doing?”
Oddly he is the first person in the last 48 hours that actually has inquired about my life. Looking back he might have just seen me sway a bit and wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to be sick.
I choke out a response holding back tears
“Not…not good man. Something devastating has happened to me and I’m not sure what I’m going to do.”
A few brief words are exchanged and he suggests we keep talking. I suggest we go for a walk to get away from the crowd of people who know me as a pastor.
We start walking and I come out and say it:
“I’m…ah…I’m an, uh…So, I’m an atheist and I fucking hate it.”
I begin relaying to him all my fears surrounding becoming an atheist; job, money, wife, kids, mortgage, death, and the like.
Turns out my friend is a chaplain, and pretty damn good at his job. Obviously I was a geyser looking to blow, but his ability to listen and empathize was astounding. At one point in the conversation I break down and start sobbing, nearly losing all control. He puts his arms around me, and just lets me do it.
I quickly re-gather myself and my sadness turns to anger.
He asked me if there was something I was reading or someone I was listening to that brought me to this conclusion (that God doesn’t exist). I respond:
“Well no not really. It hasn’t been just one thing or one person, but it’s been many many different things.”
I decide to talk about the points of the Bible I already know he disagrees with; death sentence for homosexuals, hell, and the general lack of grace, love, and holiness exhibited by Christians for the last 2,000 years. I’m trying not to offend his beliefs since he is a ministry professional just about ready to graduate seminary. I find myself constantly apologizing, but I keep saying this is why there is no God.
Eventually I find out what I kinda already knew about him, he’s a borderline agnostic with Christian flairs.
I don’t remember many other details of our conversation, but I remember being listened to an accepted.
It was the first time I had told someone I was an atheist without using an alias or hiding on the internet. It was what I needed it to be.