RE: My Amish Friend
(05-04-2012 02:10 AM)imlemuel Wrote: I have a very good friend who's Amish. (a long story in itself) It's a very unusual relationship, especially when you consider that he is one of only about a dozen people in the world who know I'm a closeted atheist.
I had know him for a couple of years when I finally came out to him. He kept asking about my faith, and I kept changing the subject until one day I finally gave up and told him. I explained that I hadn't done so earlier because virtually every time I've ever outed myself to a friend before, the response had been one of two things, they either decided they weren't my friend any more and shunned me, or they tried to "Save" me, and BOTH were really annoying.
I appreciated the fact that if he really LIKED me, it was only natural that he'd feel compelled to try to save me from the eternity of torment he believed was coming, but trying to "Save" me was going to be like trying to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time, and annoys the pig.
Conversely, while I was happy to explain WHY I think the way I do,
I knew it would be almost impossible to do so without sounding like I was trying to convince him
to think that way as well. In truth, it's not a debate that I really
wanted to win. "You're not going to change my mind, and I don't want it to even APPEAR that I'm trying to change yours, so why don't we just not talk about it?"
Naturally that didn't work. He kinda chuckled and told me that he thought he was pretty secure in his faith, and told me that he'd been taught that he should, "sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an
answer to every man that asks you a reason of the hope that is in you..." (Have you ever noticed how much religious people like to quote scripture?) Oh, well. Anyway....
One of the most truly WISE people I've ever known once told me, "In any
conversation, there are two kinds of people...those who listen, and
those who wait to talk. Which one do you suppose actually learns anything? Which one are you, and which one do you WANT to be?"
My Amish friend actually LISTENS. Over the years we've had a lot of REALLY interesting discussions. He truly WANTS to understand my point of view and he's FULL of questions. He's thoughtful, intelligent and surprisingly willing to actually THINK about the answers I give to the questions he asks.
The problem is, as I warned him a long time ago, and have warned him many times since...once you start to sincerely question your own beliefs, even if it's for the purpose of explaining them to someone else...once you start trying to EXPLAIN RELIGION IN RATIONAL TERMS...well...that's a path that only has one destination, and once you set foot on it, you're in real danger of winding up an atheist yourself.
"It may take a long time, and there may be some twists and turns and dead ends along the way, but if you insist on remaining on the path of CRITICAL THINKING...you can't help but wind up in the only place that path leads! If you sincerely want to keep your faith, you really shouldn't think about it too much!"
Now, years later, I think he's actually starting to question his faith. He hasn't LOST it yet, by any stretch of the imagination, but he's started to seriously question what he's believed WITHOUT QUESTION for his entire life...and I'm not sure what to do about it.
I am an atheist. I truly believe that the world would be a FAR better place with no religion in it. But that's talking about groups...that's talking about the whole. In the case of this one individual, I'm not so sure.
I've always wanted to believe that the truth would set you free. For the most part, I still do. But, the freedom that truth brings sometimes comes at a terrible price, and this is one case where I have to wonder if that freedom is worth the price. (I know, that's just about as close as an atheist can get to blasphemy, but there it is.)
When I first met my friend, he was one of the happiest people I'd ever met. He was literally blissful in his ignorance of the world around him. His lack of knowledge about atheists, about other religions, about science, about even the history of his own bible, was staggering. But he was HAPPY! Now, he's miserable. He knows what he WANTS to believe, but he's finding it harder and harder all the time and it's tearing him up inside. He keeps coming to me for answers and I keep telling him that I'm the WRONG GUY to be talking too, if he really wants to keep his faith.
I suppose I could tell myself that deep down, if he REALLY wanted to keep his faith he WOULDN'T be coming to me for answers...but somehow that doesn't make me feel any better.
I know how you feel; I have a friend who questioned me often after I declared atheism, and now he's borderline agnostic. And I only say borderline because he still claims to be Christian, but has said on multiple occasions that he "Believes there could be a creator, but is not very convinced that it's the one he believes in." That doesn't sound very faithful to me.
But about the happiness part, it can't really be helped. He's experiencing what is likely the hardest thing he ever has been through, and his whole world is being "turned upside down," if you will. I felt the same way for nearly three years. But the relief that came with deconverting, the joy, the knowledge that I no longer had to be afraid that every single thing I did was going to cause me to experience eternal pain, was simply amazing! I no longer had to force myself to believe something because everyone else wanted me to, I no longer had to pretend that something was there for security. I think that if your friend does end up losing his religious beliefs, he will eventually feel happy again. And once there are questions, it's impossible to dispose of them. He now knows, and for ever will know, that what he formerly believed blindly might be wrong. And there is no way to completely go back to the way things were. That is the unfortunate truth.