December 10, 2008

Old Atheist Friend Becomes Christian

Why Can't We Be Friends? album coverImage via WikipediaI recently had the opportunity to reconnect with an old college friend online. I lost touch with him after my Junior year when he dropped out and moved away. That was roughly 15 years ago. I tried to track him down several times over the years but was always unsuccessful. But now, thanks to Classmates.com, I found him. Since neither of us were interested in paying Classmates.com to communicate, we moved to Facebook and have been getting reacquainted there. To say our lives diverged at the point we lost contact turned out to be a massive understatement. But I was more surprised to learn that someone I knew as an outspoken atheist in college had since become a Christian.

In college, this guy was what I can only describe as an obnoxious atheist. Not only did he take pride in his atheism, but he wanted everyone to know about it and initiated all sorts of arguments with our Christian classmates. He was quick on his feet but certainly no intellectual. What really gave him an advantage in these arguments was the passion and intensity he could summon.

Of all the friends I've had over the course of my life, I'd have to say that he was the one with whom I spent the most time discussing atheism and anti-theism. He was a bit too antagonistic for my taste, but it was great to have someone to talk to about this stuff.

Imagine my surprise upon learning that he had become a Christian. Interestingly, he was not raised in any particular religious tradition. His family did not attend a church or indoctrinate him in anything other than the generic sort of American civil religion with which many are familiar. With some education, he realized the shortcomings of religion and embraced atheism.

So what happened? Marriage (to a Christian woman), children, and some traumatic life experiences propelled him to delve into Christian writing. He had read some atheist material in college but had never really explored the other side. When he did so, he found that it made sense to him. The point is that he now says he accepts claims he used to regard as absurd superstitions.

From what I've been able to tell so far, he seems content. I get the impression that he does not think much about religion anymore and focuses on his work and family. If he's happy, then I'm happy for him. Still, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't just a little bit disappointed. This may seem selfish (and it may indeed be so), but I don't think I would feel this way if I was not convinced that religious belief is both irrational and detrimental.

In any case, I am confident that I will get through these feelings in no time and optimistic that we may again be friends. I see no reason why his religious beliefs should pose any sort of obstacle for me. As long as he doesn't feel the need to condemn me, I'm happy to have the opportunity to get reacquainted.

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