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'm definitely not ashamed, but it does feel weird to have to insert it into conversation where there's this unspoken understanding you both believe the same thing. So, she'll be talking along about all the things God has done in her life, and that seems like the wrong time to say, "Oh, I don't believe that stuff anymore." For one, it seems as though I'm asking she stop talking about it. Also, it's just unnatural. The only thing to do is smile and nod, but that seems dishonest, too. Well, I mean... the "smile and nod" probably happens more often than we realize; this just happens to be a topic we're more sensitive to. Oh well... I'll figure it out.
I don’t see why it would be important to “confess” your atheism. If it comes up, it comes up. If they are there to visit Cara, then it should be an unimportant detail. If they are there to visit a Christian, then maybe you should offer a forewarning.
You're right, I shouldn't be "confessing" it. I suppose I would be offering up a justification, which I shouldn't have to do. I'm not really sure if the friendship hinges on shared beliefs though; I think my lack of belief is hard to miss on FB. Do you think so? You're my friend there! lol
No, I don't think it is hard to miss, but it isn't blatant either. As it should be, atheism is just but a small part of who you are and your interests. Hopefully your friend sees it that way as well. I wouldn't fret too much unless your friend makes it a point of contention.
I agree that it's best to just let it come up in conversation. If you make a point to tell her you are an Atheist right off the bat, it could look like you are being pushy or such to her. However, if you enjoy your reunion and the topic comes up, I see no reason not to tell her where you stand. That way, your true feelings of friendship will be front and center, rather than your Atheism being the central focus. After all, this meeting really is all about catching up with an old friend, so let that be the focus. But bay all means, if the topic rears it's head in one of the many ways it can, be honest to yourself.
i think Robert already gave the best advice. let it come up.
I've seen some good advice here so far, just thought I'd throw this out too.
As the BNL song "Be My Yoko Ono" says: "If there's someone you can live without, then do so."
If you are concerned that she will turn on you, then she might not have been a good friend to begin with. I've had to cut quite a few off in these few years after my own deconversion.
... I feel fairly certain she won't turn on me. The worst I can think of is it just remaining what it is now: not much contact with the occasional "how are you?" We're not close anymore. I wouldn't be losing much if we didn't pick up where we left off. There is a hope I harbor that maybe we'll get into some lively debates and she'll denounce God's existence... but I definitely won't be attempting that.
Yep, Robert is right. Let it come up, if you mention it at all. I also find that it is better to avoid the "A" word as much as possible with believers because they have been so thoroughly conditioned to think of us as evil. In addition, they have their own ideas about what the word means and those ideas don't agree with ours. Just explain that you don't believe in that stuff any more and have become highly skeptical of all supernatural claims. If she asks "Are you an atheist?" reply by asking what exactly SHE means by that term before you say yes.
I think she's someone who wouldn't be turned off by the "A-word"... I kind of hope she'll just be intrigued like she once was years ago. But you're right. I think it is important to ask the person how they define atheism, because it definitely varies... and is usually incorrect.
Cara, I also think you have an opportunity here to model what "being an atheist" is like for this old friend of yours. I understand your goal isn't to convert her, but on the chance that she, too, is battling those doubts, spending your time together casually before the subject of your lost faith comes up, you will have demonstrated that you're still the same you -- not an angry, self-loathing, confused, lost, empty, etc. atheist. Show her how comfortable you are in your "new" skin, and you might just build the bridge she needs to cross into the light of rational thinking herself. Good luck!
This is true... I have a Christian friend who readily admits I actually display more confidence and seem to be better off without religion, but--strangely--she still tries to insist I "turn back to God". She doesn't believe I don't believe. But, I guess it's good she thinks I'm a better person now. HA!