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.
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.