I Ran into a Friend Today

I ran into an old friend of mine, Michael, ear­li­er while at work. We grew up togeth­er in a neigh­bor­hood just a few blocks from where I cur­rent­ly live. We had large­ly the same friends and the same pas­times since the sixth grade, til high school end­ed and we went our sep­a­rate ways.

Since high school, near­ly fif­teen years ago, I could prob­a­bly count the con­ver­sa­tions we’ve had on two hands with fin­gers to spare. Fun­ny how that works.

But today we talked as if no time had passed. We talked about friends we grew up with but who seem to have dropped off the face of the plan­et entire­ly… about friends who live with­in five min­utes of walk­ing to us but who seem to be almost com­plete strangers now.

We talked old mem­o­ries, like the time we saw a cloud that bore a strik­ing resem­blance to a clas­sic Spi­der-Man pose.

It looked like this.
It looked like this.

Of course, Spi­der-Man was­n’t what we thought at the time, being a bunch of weird kids who bounced around dab­bling in witch­craft and want­i­ng to believe in vam­pires and psy­chics and ghosts and more. We saw a ter­ri­fy­ing fig­ure in the sky look­ing direct­ly at us, so we ran to the clos­est of our homes and hid out in the base­ment for a bit.

I met his girl­friend, an artist and recov­er­ing Jeho­vah’s Wit­ness, and we dis­cussed art — paint­ing and draw­ing, par­tic­u­lar­ly — and mak­ing a liv­ing by sell­ing it. (As if I’m any sort of expert on cre­at­ing, well, anything!)

At some point, we men­tioned anoth­er old friend of ours who had tak­en up the min­istry as a Chris­t­ian preach­er but who has since become an athe­ist, after which I remarked that athe­ism is “kin­da my thing,” with inten­tion­al understatement.

Michael inter­ject­ed here to ask why I was as gung ho as I was in pro­mot­ing athe­ism, ask­ing if I had some sort of vendet­ta against Christianity.

It was a good ques­tion, one which I’m not often asked.

I gave about a decade of my life to Chris­tian­i­ty, time I’ll nev­er get back. Dur­ing that time, my fun­da­men­tal­ism caused me to dri­ve a wedge between my sis­ter and me. My anti-intel­lec­tu­al­ism very like­ly caused my dad to lose at least some respect for me.

Beyond that, the pro-fun­da­men­tal­ism, anti-gay, anti-sci­ence, etc. FUD that I post­ed for years online could have had all man­ner of ill effects. Caus­ing anoth­er fun­da­men­tal­ist to be reaf­firmed in their big­otries. Harm­ing the self-esteem of a poten­tial­ly already-frag­ile alt-sex­u­al­i­ty teen who hap­pened upon my writ­ings. Encour­ag­ing some­one to vote for W. Bush in 2004. Or for McCain/Palin in 2008.

I cru­sade against reli­gious fun­da­men­tal­ism to atone for my past sins as a par­ty thereto.

I cru­sade against it because there are Chris­tians and Mus­lims who today believe that homo­sex­u­als deserve the death penalty.

Or that the laws of their inter­pre­ta­tion of their reli­gion ought to be made into laws which apply to everyone.

Or that major branch­es of sci­ence should be treat­ed like out­right lies in favor of ama­teur hour cre­ation­ists who don’t have to do sci­ence to know what’s real because “they have a book.”

I cru­sade against reli­gious fun­da­men­tal­ism (yes, most­ly Chris­t­ian fun­da­men­tal­ism as it’s what I know) because my daugh­ter should­n’t have to grow up in a world ruled by ancient super­sti­tions and bar­bar­ic hatreds and morals. And because my niece has two mom­mies and should­n’t have to grow up in a world filled with reli­gious­ly-moti­vat­ed hate.

Any­way, I digress as that’s far more than I answered on the spot to Michael, but I did fin­ish my response by say­ing that I do what I do in the hopes of sim­ply encour­ag­ing peo­ple to think. To ques­tion what they believe. To con­sid­er that real­i­ty may not be what they have assumed.

Michael and his girl­friend seemed to both respect that answer. It was a small part of an already small con­ver­sa­tion, but it gave me hope that I was doing some­thing pos­i­tive with this “vendet­ta.”

I ran into an old friend at work ear­li­er. For all the things that have changed, I’m glad he and I can still talk.

Fea­tured image: The Goonies, prop­er­ty of Warn­er Bros. Inline image: Spi­der-Man, prop­er­ty of Marvel.






11 responses to “I Ran into a Friend Today”

  1. Theresa Avatar

    For­give them father for they know not what they do.…..You with­out sin caste the first stone (on judg­ing others).….Let God be true & every man a liar. You can­not destroy Chris­tian­i­ty because the truth will always win out in the end. Do you think that it was all made up? I per­son­al­ly know there is a God & there is a devil.….beyond a shad­ow of a doubt.…..God loves you. You prob­a­bly have had some very bad things hap­pen to you where you have doubt­ed God & also thought he was unfair. I have also but i know now it is man who is unfair not God

    1. Rick Beckman Avatar

      Have I had bad things hap­pen to me? No. On the con­trary, when I gave up Chris­tian­i­ty, my life has basi­cal­ly been one easy road. Few con­flicts, few­er hardships.

      You say I cast the first stone by judg­ing oth­ers, but you imme­di­ate­ly then judged me and made assump­tions about my life. Awesome.

      Yes, I believe that you believe God and the dev­il are real. So did I. Belief isn’t evi­dence. Are you con­vinced Hin­duism is real by their absolute beliefs?

      And yes, I think Chris­tian­i­ty is entire­ly “made up.” At least that fits the evi­dence we have.

      1. Theresa Avatar

        I am sorry.…..i was’nt judg­ing you . When i spoke about “cast­ing the first stone you with­out sin” I was think­ing of the Mus­lims & Chris­tians you men­tioned who want­ed to “put to death homo­sex­u­als”. The Jesus you no longer believe in said that.No one has the right to judge you or any­one else.……only God has that right.…..the God you no longer believe in

        1. Rick Beckman Avatar

          Yes, Jesus is said to have said that, but the Bible, in one of the writ­ings of Paul (Romans, I think?), grants the abil­i­ty to use the death penal­ty to gov­ern­ments as the agency of God in exer­cis­ing vengeance to those who do wrong.

          So yes, that so many Chris­tians want homo­sex­u­als exe­cut­ed is a prob­lem. A big one.

          Also, it isn’t that I don’t want believe in God. It’s that there are sim­ply no com­pelling rea­sons to believe in him.

          1. Theresa Avatar

            Hel­lo Rick.…..i know in the old tes­ta­ment there was death sen­tences for just about every­thing. Jesus was show­ing what hyp­ocrites the accusers were & in so doing mak­ing them think about their own sins. God is just & loves us with mer­cy when we turn to him for for­give­ness. As far as enact­ing god’s laws through our gov­ern­ment we already do that.…..“thou shall not kill” thou shall not steal” thou shall not bare false wit­ness against your neigh­bor .“I mean where did these laws come from? Who set the stan­dard to begin with if not God?

            1. Rick Beckman Avatar

              Who set the stan­dard? Peo­ple did. Moral­i­ty is an evolved trait that ben­e­fits the sur­vival of self and society.

              Many of the best com­mands in the Bible (against mur­der, about doing unto oth­ers, etc.) pre­date the Bible by a very long time, such as in the code of Ham­mura­bi, dat­ing back to 1750 BCE. The Book of Job, by com­par­i­son, is con­sid­ered to be the old­est book of the Bible, though it dates to only some­time between the 7th and 4th cen­turies BCE. The Bible con­tains very lit­tle mate­r­i­al that was “new” or even rev­o­lu­tion­ary at the time it was written.

              1. Theresa Avatar

                so to you there is no God.…..you are an offi­cial atheist.…a non-believer

                1. Rick Beckman Avatar

                  Well, we don’t have “offi­cial” athe­ists. You either believe in a god(s) or you don’t.

                  Most Bud­dhists are athe­ists. Chris­tians, Mus­lims, many pagans, Jews, Hin­dus, etc. are theists.

                  I don’t believe in a god because I have no rea­son to. I used to. I know the argu­ments very well. I chose instead to be intel­lec­tu­al­ly hon­est and to stop using invalid argu­ments to defend my beliefs. Doing that meant becom­ing an atheist.

  2. Michael Avatar

    Well.…firstly.…I’m pret­ty sure it was the late great tupac Shakur that said.….“only god can judge me”

  3. Christy K Avatar

    Just hap­pened upon your site when read­ing RSS tips in the Ele­gant Themes forum and had to stay to read a few posts :). I find it inter­est­ing that your Chris­t­ian com­menter men­tioned throw­ing a stone. ‘Ston­ing to death’ is repeat­ed­ly encour­aged and done in the bible and, yet, Chris­tians reg­u­lar­ly accept this extreme act of bru­tal­i­ty and tor­ture from a ‘lov­ing’ god. 

    And I have to say thank you for this word­ing which I will be using when try­ing to sim­pli­fy my state­ment of why I am no longer Chris­t­ian.. “I chose instead to be intel­lec­tu­al­ly hon­est and to stop using invalid argu­ments to defend my beliefs. Doing that meant becom­ing an atheist.”

    1. Rick Beckman Avatar

      Thank you for the kind words, Christy!

      I’m curi­ous what led you here from Ele­gant Themes; I don’t remem­ber hav­ing been linked from there at all, so that’s a nice surprise.

      I saw a video today being passed around Face­book which showed Chris­tians being read vers­es from the Bible which fea­tured extreme vio­lence and/or ques­tion­able moral­i­ty, but they are told that they are quo­ta­tions from the Koran. The results were what you’d expect: they showed them­selves to be more moral than God.

      Most of us are. There are so many prob­lems, though, because peo­ple choose to put absolute trust in reli­gious lit­er­a­ture regard­less of how jacked up its moral­i­ty is. If God com­mands it/does it/allows it, then it must not be immoral because God is just so good, after all.

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Rick Beckman