I miss my Christian friends, so let’s just get over ourselves.
One of the best friends I’ve ever had was an agnostic while I was a Christian. I was on fire for God in those days, and we talked about our respective beliefs often and told each other all about our spiritual lives. We eventually moved far away from each other and grew apart because of that distance, but I’ve always held that as a standard for friendships, especially friendships that cross boundaries in religion or other differences. That friend supported and encouraged my spiritual development as a Christian even though he didn’t believe in God, because it was important to me. If it were not for that friendship, I wouldn’t know such friendships were possible.
Because of that friendship, I’ve always treasured relationships with people who have vitally different beliefs. I consider it a privilege and a joy to try to understand someone whose beliefs are difficult for me to understand. I love the idea of sharing my thoughts with someone who will value them and help me work through them not because they agree with me, but because those things are important to me.
So, to my Christian friends: just because I don’t believe in God, doesn’t mean you can’t talk about anything Christian with me (as long as it’s about you, and not about trying to convince me). I truly believe that people who have different beliefs can help each other in their spiritual development. I want my Christian friends to be part of my life as an atheist, if they can accept that I am an atheist (I realize that’s a big “if”). I want to be a part of their lives as Christians. Atheism is important to me, and Christianity is important to you. If we are important to each other, we should be able to accept that. We should be able to share those parts of our lives with each other without attacking each other, without telling each other we’re wrong.
I recognize the difference here: I don’t think Christianity harms anybody who chooses to follow it (except in its most extreme fundy versions, but let’s assume the best). Many Christians, however, do think that being an atheist “hurts” me in some way. If you believe that, my saying otherwise probably won’t convince you. But I’m an optimist, so let’s just give it a try: I am happy as an atheist. My moral standards haven’t changed. Atheism hasn’t made me a worse person, and I’m satisfied that it’s the right thing for me. If you can accept that, if we can just get over the fact that you believe in God and I don’t without arguing about it, I’d be happy to tell you about my spiritual life as an atheist. And I’d be happy to listen to what God is doing in your life.