Monday, February 09, 2009

A New Friend

Now on to the subject of why I started writing about religion in my blog, and the continuation of my story as an atheist. Back around June last year, I met a girl online who lived in my local area. My first impression was that we shared may interests and had many of the same ideas and philosophies about life. This is pretty rare as I am a very different person than most others in my generation (I'm sure I'll post about that eventually, but not now). One thing that I did notice that was different between us is that she seemed to be a very religious Christian and didn't know that I was an atheist. So I told her I was an atheist and asked if that would be a problem for her. She said no, but that it meant we could only be friends. I didn't think much of that response and at the time I was only thinking about friendship, so I said that was fine with me.

Well over the course of the last several months I got to know her pretty well. I always had a great time whenever I hung out with her. Over time I ended up opening myself completely to her, because I felt totally comfortable around her and wasn't afraid to share everything. We constructed lists of things to do around the area, places to go eat together, and so on. It felt really good because I don't really have any close friends that I feel comfortable hanging out with and doing whatever. I have plenty of friends from work/training, but there's no one I can really call up at any given moment and say "hey, lets go hang out" and not have it be awkward. We became really close friends, and continued to grow closer all the time. Naturally, I started to have feelings beyond friendship for her. I mean she is a great girl. She's smart, fun, cute, and someone I can talk to about anything with. As my feelings for her grew stronger and I knew that they were not going to go away, I had to tell her. But her initial statement of "we can just be friends" still lingered in my mind. So first I wanted to ask her about that.

And I did ask her in an e-mail I sent over the winter holidays. I wanted to ask her in person, but we never got around to having any serious discussions at the time (whenever we were together we were too busy having fun). I certainly didn't want to let her know my feelings over e-mail though, so I attached that question (along with several others) in an e-mail about my views on religion. I also asked her if she thought that I was going to hell for being an atheist. (I also pointed out that I am a good person, I donate time and money to charities and I try to make the world a better place every day). This is what she said.
Yes, I do believe that if you do not believe in God, heaven, and accept Jesus as your Savior, you will go to hell. As hard as that is to say to you because you are a great friend and I would not want that for you, yes it is what I believe. No preacher has to tell me that either. I believe int he bible, and the bible states that is what happens.
I've been told before that I'm going to hell. Several times by several different people in fact. But it surprisingly hurt me when she said it. It hurt because she's such a close friend that I care about so much, and for her to think that I am deserving of the ultimate and eternal suffering, of never-ending torture and torment just breaks my heart. But hey, I suppose not believing in God is as bad as say, murdering millions of innocent people like Adolf Hitler or Joseph Stalin? (Note I'm being sarcastic). And when I asked her if her statement that she could only date other Christians was something that her church promotes, is her personal belief, or is just a preference she had this to say.

Yes, I have tried dating people who are not of similar religous views, and it does not work. I want a partner with the same beliefs so we can share, learn, and grow together. Plus, I believe God intended it that way. For a man and a woman to have that in common, to build a stronger partnership. My belief is such a huge part of my life, that I do not think I could (anymore, now that I am older and dont want to date just for fun) be in a relationship that could not share that with me. Plus, I want someone to go to church with and experience everything with.
Obviously I was disappointed by her response, but it was not unexpected. I understood and accepted her reasoning. (Although I had explained in my e-mail to her that if I married a religious woman, I would be willing to go to service with her on special occasions like Christmas or Passover). What I did not understand nor accept was "God intended it that way". Really? What a sad world it would be if people never dated nor associated with people outside of their religion. Does God really want this for people? Curious to know, I went to the best source for answers. The Bible. A book I have never read before (well, I read a little bit of Genesis when I was studying a theory about the merging of scientific evidence with creationism). And I found some Christian websites to help me find where in the bible it says that God intended it that way, along with an explanation of why it says that. The best site I found was, which has a pretty nice repository of information and responses (although I disagree with a lot of their logical explanations on there). And the best answer I got for my question on why God forbids Christians to date/marry non-Christians is right here. Specifically this bible verse told me all that I needed to know.

2 Corinithians 6:14-18
Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people." "Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you." "I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty."
Here's how I interpreted this verse: "Don't marry unbelievers. They are evil, wicked beings and you have nothing in common with them. Be separate from them, they are dirty". I was devastated. Did my friend really think of me in this way? Did she secretly hide these thoughts that I am an evil person? Until I read that I would have never imagined that that was the case. From that point I went nuts. I started reading as much material as I could find on Christian beliefs, and reading more bits and snippets from the bible trying to understand this line of thinking.

The next week we were both back in town and I had told her I had something very serious I wanted to talk about in person. So one night I went over to her apartment and I laid it all out. I told her my feelings for her, told her about my hidden intention in that e-mail I sent her about religion, read that verse from the bible that I found so upsetting, and asked her "Do you think I am evil?". She told me no, which relieved me. But I still didn't understand how she could not believe that I was evil (which is God's reason why she should not date someone like me) and yet still believe that God says she shouldn't date me. She pulled out a bible and explained that "oh well that was in the old days when non-Christians were evil" or something to that effect. She also gave a second answer which I can't recall (this was a pretty emotional discussion for both of us). I started asking her more questions. She seemed to be willing to do anything that God asked her to so I asked her a hypothetical question that I firmly believed she would say no to. I asked "If God appeared before you, proved to you that he was the one true God, and then gave you a subautomatic machine gun and told you to go walk into the nearest elementary school and kill as many children as you could, would you do it?".

Her initial response was "Well God would never do that". Wrong answer. If you believe the bible to be inerrant, then you can't deny that God has killed millions of people (and animals) in the past, including asking humans to kill other humans, even their close family members. I didn't point that out to her at the time (because I didn't know this yet), but I pressed my question again. Her answer was "Yes, I would". I was in complete shock. I unquestionably expected her to say no. She's a kind and sweet girl and I could never imagine her killing anyone at the behest of anyone else, not even God. My reaction was to ask her "Then how does that make you any different than a jihadist? After all they are believing that they are to kill because God has instructed them to do so". Her answer was "Well they're not really talking to God". Which I responded with "And how do you know that? What provides you with the means to think that you are talking with God and they are not?". She had no real response for that, and I think we got onto another topic.

So I felt better about knowing that she didn't think I was evil, but I was still deeply disturbed at her willingness to commit murder. Obviously. Who wouldn't be disturbed by that? She lent me a bible for "new believers" to read and study so that I could better understand her beliefs, and we agreed to have a second meeting and talk some more. So I did read. I read the 50 page introduction in the book that "summarized" the Christian way and Christian teachings. Then I proceeded to read through the book of Matthew and Mark, to be followed by John and Luke. For our second meeting I agreed to send her my questions in advance so that she had adequate time to prepare a response to each of them instead of being put on the spot. But this post is getting too long already, so I'll continue it next time. I'll also include a video that I'm in talks about this subject, so look forward to it!


Blogger Jastiv said...

Both my husband and I were raised Catholic, but we drew away from it after we got married.

8:24 AM  

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