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 thoughts on “I Ran into a Friend Today

  1. Theresa says:

    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

    • Rick Beckman says:
      Student of the sciences, the religions, the science fictions, and the fantasies… But mostly I’m just trying to find my groove in this big, crazy world.

      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.

      • Theresa says:

        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

        • Rick Beckman says:
          Student of the sciences, the religions, the science fictions, and the fantasies… But mostly I’m just trying to find my groove in this big, crazy world.

          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.

          • Theresa says:

            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?

            • Rick Beckman says:
              Student of the sciences, the religions, the science fictions, and the fantasies… But mostly I’m just trying to find my groove in this big, crazy world.

              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.

                • Rick Beckman says:
                  Student of the sciences, the religions, the science fictions, and the fantasies… But mostly I’m just trying to find my groove in this big, crazy world.

                  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. Christy K says:

    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.”

    • Rick Beckman says:
      Student of the sciences, the religions, the science fictions, and the fantasies… But mostly I’m just trying to find my groove in this big, crazy world.

      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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