Religious belief is not a matter of intellectual choice or emotional attachment. For most of us it’s a powerful legacy passed on to us and it’s not easy to leave. However, when we do, we leave behind a community which can include profound friendships, parents, siblings, grandparents, cousins, spouses, and even children.
I did not experience the angry exchanges as other newly outed atheists have. People were gracious to me. I wasn’t fired from my job. I voluntarily left my career. But many people I have known and loved the longest have faded away.
It’s understandable enough. Our paths take different directions that can separate us. I don’t work alongside them, anymore. I relocated so I don’t run into them at the supermarket. But there’s no denying that many have chosen not to engage with me anymore.
A few stayed with me. They know who they are and I appreciate them. I also think many people keep a quiet watch over me but they can’t appear too friendly without risking their other relationships. I get that, and I sympathize.
Of course, breaks in relationships are often messier than I just described. I look back and see real mistakes I made that contributed to some of my losses. However, it’s clear to me that I’ve lost people because I no longer share their religion.
I was hoping I could have my own thoughts, express my views, and even debate them strenuously, yet stay friends. Is that possible? I still love these people and would never reject them. In fact, I’m still here for them.