It is with sadness in my heart that I admit that my best friend is now my ex-best friend. And it came down to a matter of beliefs. She is a devout Christian, considers herself a fundamentalist and I, of course, am an atheist.
We met while working together at a contract lab/hellhole of a company. That was back in 2003. When I first told her about my lack of belief, she wondered why I didn't just kill myself. At the time I wasn't sure if the new friendship could continue after that, but I did my best just to explain to her that even though I didn't believe in her god, or any gods, for that matter, that I still felt this life was worth living - even more so since I didn't have an afterlife to look forward to. To me, that makes this life so much more valuable as it is the only one you get!
But still, we became close friends. We shared the same sense of humor and agreed to disagree on matters of religion, though we would discuss it on occasion.
I have never been one to hide who I am, but over the past 8 years I have become more vocal. I post my thoughts on facebook, and I now have this blog.
Perhaps it's important to remind believers here that, as an atheist, I do not believe in God or gods - I do not believe in hell or heaven. I am not saying that they do not exist, but that I have not seen any evidence backing up any religion. However, I do not believe in vampires, or fairies, ghosts or tiny tea pots flying around the moon. To me, these examples and gods are in the same group - fiction.
There is a difference though between them - people look at their religion as fact. It is passed down from generation to generation in the beliefs that the parents are doing the right thing - after all - who would want to send their child to hell? If I believed that hell existed, I know I would do everything in my power to protect myself and my children from that fate.
But is it true? The evidence in nature says no. Nature and science do not require faith - Science changes due to additional evidence - it is a strength that it changes and adapts to new information.
The problem that led to the end of this friendship came as a surprise to me. I have had an avatar in my gmail chat - a tool that my ex-best friend and I used often to chat through - that has been there for at least 2, but up to 4 years (time flies!) that says "Teaching children about a made up hell is child abuse."
I had it there, in open view, for YEARS, and she never brought it up until we had a fight about something completely unrelated last week. At that point she brought up that she was offended by it, and was offended by other things that I had posted, though I don't know what those were.
For me, as an atheist, I see teaching children about hell cruel. No evidence suggests it exists; thus telling children that it's real - causing the child to become terrified of being stuck there for an eternity, if they don't follow the rules correctly, is wrong if it isn't going to actually happen. For me, believing this is a natural, logical progression of my atheism.
I hope that the Christians who read this can step back from the dogma and just look at it from my (and others') point of view. I want them to challenge their beliefs and question whether there truly is enough evidence for them to say that hell exists. For me, the answer is clear once you leave one particular book out of the question... A book written by humans, translated by humans and interpreted by humans. I have discussed Christianity with many different people and everyone of those individuals has their own idea of what Christianity is and should be. That should be telling.