In a previous life, I was a Bible-thumper, and I lived in Nashville, the buckle of the Bible Belt. After three years of life amongst my believing buddies, I began to ask a few too many questions. Before I fully lost my faith, however, I moved away (another story) and most of the people I knew were none-the-wiser to my doubts.
I've kept in loose contact with a select few, and one of them is attempting an internship at a university in Washington DC, which is very near where I am. She's really looking forward to our reunion, and so am I. In reality, she was one of the most intellectual Christians I knew; she was what kept me sane when everyone else just floated through their faith without any critical thought. Most of my friends told me I thought too much.
Without going into any more detail, my real question is whether I should bother to tell her I'm now atheist. Should I wait and let it come out in conversation? I feel like if I write her a message, it should be at least somewhat explanatory rather than just, "I'm atheist. Just thought you should know before you get here."
I'm not really afraid she's going to turn on me, I guess I'd just like to know if it's appropriate. Would you be weirded-out in a similar situation?
-awaiting friendly advice-
I've had this experience with old college friends, and they're all still my friends. It's not really a case of declaring your atheism because that only informs your lack of belief. The conversation should be geared towards your worldview or philosophy, what you actually do believe that guides your actions.
And this even supposes that the subject comes up. If your friendship was based upon going to church activities together, it's gonna come up. I would not make a big deal of it because it's not a big deal.
Having said that, don't lead the conversation with, "I can't believe I ever believed any of that nonsense."
Truth or kindness? Wisdom or understanding? Integrity or compassion? Strive to use the former without compromising the latter. If you can't tell, remember the golden rule. If you still can't tell, remember that silence is golden.
I'd not send a message as it seems too blunt. Perhaps, after initial "Miss you"s You can tell her that you have done some serious thinking about your beliefs, and how you came about it. I see no reason for it to kill the friendship. My best friend is Christian, my wife is also, and neither of them are too pushy about it, even though I find it more and more difficult to view Christianity as an opinion neutral thing. I have seen too much damage of our society, especially our youth because of it.
I have a similar situation with one of my best friends. I used to go to church with her and her family, we would pray together, and I tried to get to the 'faith level' she was on, but my constant doubt and questioning landed me as a very happy and moral atheist (hurrah!).
When I had decided on my sure footed path I wanted to tell her, as well as my other close friends, that I was different from them and hopefully start an intellectual discussion about it. This was until I realised the threat and the damage that such a outright force of conversation may cause. My friend and her family are most likely the one's who would say "but you don't have enough faith" instead of "how did you come to that decision?" I feel that they may see it as an attack on them and their belief. So I have left it, to be discussed at a different time, if they choose to bring it up.