Disclaimer: A lot of this is for venting purposes, so if I sound angry, that's why.
First, I want to give a little bit of background information. Back in college, I met Joseph (name changed, of course). Joseph was not the typical college student, especially for the English department. Joseph was a 50-year old bald man whose arms were covered in tattoos. He was bald, but had an excellent goatee going on. He also looked like he could easily take down an opponent in a bar fight, since he was quite burly. In short, he was the spitting image of the biker stereotype. Not surprising, really, since that's one of his favorite hobbies. Right after, of course, witnessing to others about Jesus Christ. In fact, he is actually the pastor of some kind of biker church now.
I always knew that about Joseph, and I always thought that, on some level, it was pretty cool. This guy really screwed up his life when he was my age, and was in and out of jail on both violence and drug charges. At some point during his suicide spiral, he found religion, and has been a totally different guy since then. When I met him, I was a religious person myself, so I was impressed with the way the guy managed to turn his life around with the help of God.
That was a few years ago. Since then, I have become an atheist (my reasons for which are too numerous to delineate here), but I have always still held a certain amount of respect for Joseph. After all, it's still impressive that the guy could turn his horrible life into a force for good, even if I didn't exactly agree with his reasons.
He and I only somewhat kept in touch, thanks to the power of Facebook. Because of our lack of real conversation, I don't think he really knew I was an atheist, since that never really comes up in my status updates. Besides, it has only been in the last week or two that Joseph really became active on the site.
He posted something a few days ago about how man is God's possession, and that we deserve to be shunned by him if we shun him first. I didn't see this at first, but my wife did (she also met Joseph through English classes), so she commented. Nearly instantly, she was swarmed by two of Joseph's fundamentalist friends, who spouted off the same tired arguments from design and experience that we all know and loathe.
What's a good husband to do? I jumped in there and helped her out. I began not as an attack on religious beliefs, but simply to point out that people can be good with God. Joseph's friends then started asking me about atheists' beliefs, since they have never actually had legitimate prolonged discussions with any atheists. I shared what I knew, and I believe I did so in an eloquent and respectful manner.
That''s when things went bad. The very people who asked the questions completely ignored the answers I put forth, and instead told me that I'm young and don't know any better. I can handle this from people whom I have never met, but then Joseph started doing the same thing. This is a man who was my friend, a man whose butt I saved multiple times in group projects in our classes, a man with whom I have otherwise had a good relationship, and suddenly he turned downright insulting. Every time I tried to call him out on this, he pulled the same dirty tactic of telling me that he has to know better than I do, since he's a father, grandfather, pastor, ex-thug, and so on.
Then, without warning, he does the same thing I've witnessed other religious people do on Facebook: he deleted both me and my wife as his friends. Now, this is just Facebook, of course, but I think that sends a pretty strong message: this guy has decided that, despite a relationship of mutual respect and admiration (he even recently told me how proud he was of me for accomplishing so much at my age), that we are no longer worth his time.
Naturally, I'm quite hurt. I like this guy, I really do. Granted, it's been a long time since I've really had a good conversation with him, but I am still shocked and stunned that our friendship has dissolved so quickly. I sent him a message wondering why he saw fit to delete me so suddenly, and all he told me was that he had had enough of my "sophomoric drivel."
To make matters worse, he's playing the victim in this whole thing. I can still see his Facebook wall, and he has people comforting him with biblical platitudes about how "God doesn't believe in atheists," as though what my wife and I were doing truly constituted harassment. If anything, he might be shaken up about the fact that I'm an atheist, but I also don't believe that's any call for him to outright dismiss everything I say, especially in light of the good relationship we used to have.
Thanks for reading this far. I'm just upset that I lost a friend today, even though I did what I could to salvage the relationship. Is it possible for two people who are so outspoken about their very different views to get along?