Recently, my blogging co-pilot John wrote a great article on how some of his friends took the news of his newly found atheism. They were heartbroken, and John does an excellent job describing this in the context of Hell and how this threat of eternal separation affects those we care about. But it’s not just an eternity of separation in hell that saddened his friends when they heard the news. There’s another component as well. I want to share with you a little play to illustrate the point.
Albert and Cameron (ages 30 and 31), two friends since middle school, bump into each other. Both are waiting at a bus stop.
Al: Cameron, how are you! So good to see you! At the risk of over narrating, I’d say it’s been many months since we’ve seen each other!
Cameron: Indeed it has. How’ve you been doing?
Al: Well, honestly…I’ve been doing FANTASTIC. Life is good; I feel free. It’s like I’m thinking clearly for the first time in my life. All the stress and psychological torment that used to bother me has just melted away. Does that make sense?
Cameron: Uh, not really. What’s going on? What’s changed?
Al: Meth. I’m hear to tell you straight up, Cameron. I need you to know, because we are old friends. Meth is awesome. I’m getting more done at work. I’ve don’t have to sleep anymore. It’s seriously worth it. I know what you’re going to say, I’m giving up a lot to pursue this path, but I’m telling you. Life-changing.
Cameron: Wow, uh…I had no idea. Aren’t you worried about what your wife is going to think? Wow. I don’t know what to say….
Al: Oh, Samantha? She loves Meth too! It’s kind of drawn us closer actually.
Cameron: Well, I guess I’m happy for you? Oh….I think I hear my phone ringing. (Answers phone) Buy! Sell! Trade for some stocks that will be worth more in the future than they are now! (Whispers while covering phone) …Sorry this is my mom I have to take it….
It is not possible for a christian to be happy for an atheist in his or her decision. Their friend has made a life choice which is so fundamentally incompatible with their worldview that it is impossible to support in any way. Here is a quick and dirty list of the things that Christians have exclusive rights to that their friend has just been alienated from:
Eternal Salvation, True Peace, True Joy, True Love, True Wisdom.
Christians claim an exclusive link to the “true” forms of these characteristics. So, it’s no wonder that when their friends are cut off from those, then of course, that must sadden them. They know how this is going to end for their friend. The high you might be feeling now is going to come crashing down…
But it does more than that. If you tell your christian friend you’re an atheist, the best thing that can happen for the christian is that you bottom out like a drug addict. If meth didn’t cause psychosis and force you to look like an extra in the Walking Dead, it’d be sold at Wal-Mart, and we’d have it at Thanksgiving dinner with a side of cranberries. Atheism must have side effects, or else it’s might just be a fun thing to do. So christians will need to look for side effects and this does two things: Supports their worldview that everyone needs Jesus; that their exclusive hold on happiness and joy is true. Plus, it gets you humbled and back on the path to god.
What’s worse is that for many atheists, christians actually have the power to bottom them out. They aren’t simply content to sit by and watch. They take active roles. In America, christianity is the dominant worldview (in some parts more than others of course). They are friends, parents, co-workers, and bosses. They all have the power to inflict social, economic, and psychological pressure. It’s like an episode of Intervention. The ultimatum: either get on the metaphorical bus waiting outside to take you to god, or risk losing their respect, love, time, and support. So what’s it gonna be? The bus or breaking bad?