Usually, when people find out that I’m an atheist, they don’t let the difference get in the way of a good relationship. Meeting someone who believes differently than you is an amazing opportunity to learn about a culture outside of your own and find common ground in a place where you might not expect it. It’s uncommon for me to try to make a connection with someone with different beliefs only to be completely cut off, but it does happen. Let me give you the breakdown of a time when this happened to me.
One time I was scrolling through my WordPress reader, looking at the tag “christian-college”. I came across a post giving some pros and cons of attending a Christian college vs a secular one. The writer was a Christian high school girl who was in the middle of her college search. The post was fine; one of the pros of attending a Christian school had to deal with making amazing Christian Jesus-loving friends. In an attempt to break the ice and potentially start a conversation between a Christian-college-attendee and someone looking to become one, I left a lighthearted comment in response to that point, saying “You never know, you might even meet an atheist at a Christian college!”
The girl responded by telling me how she would share the good news of Jesus Christ with them. I gently warned her that if there’s an atheist at a Christian college, chances are they’ve probably already heard that…a lot (in my case I can confirm this). In the hopes of what seemed to be trying to convert me, she replied with something along the lines of “Well if you’re an atheist then how do you explain the calendar being divided up into BC (Before Christ) and AD?” I hadn’t really been expecting such open hostility and a focus on only our differences, not to mention a complete change of topic, but I went with it. Staying polite and humble, as I usually try to do, and after doing some research, I gave her what I remember to be a pretty solid explanation that BC, which of course is actually BCE and stands for Before the Common Era, doesn’t prove Christ’s existence…at all.
When I posted this comment, which had essentially proved her wrong, it stayed under “Your comment is awaiting moderation” for over a month. Being stubborn and not ready for this conversation to end, I used the contact form to ask the girl if something had gone wrong with my comment or if would be approved soon. Her response via email said, “I just didn’t think there was reason to continue a disagreement publicly since I had said you can talk to me through email if you wanted to continue the conversation. It was nothing personal :)”
Once our initial conversation had become more argumentative, which had not been my intent at all until she turned it that way, she had offered me to ask any other questions I had through email because she didn’t want any arguments on her blog. It seemed to me that arguments on her blog were just fine until she was losing them. Either way, I let the hypocrisy go and I didn’t respond again to the email or on the thread (which I knew wouldn’t show up anyway). Since then, our entire conversation on that post, including my friendly first comment, has been deleted.
Still eager to try to make a connection with this girl and trying to put that encounter behind me, I would sometimes visit her blog and leave comments on various posts. They were all polite and non-controversial little things such as a comment on a post about sexual purity on which I said something like “Wow, this is really different than how my fiance and I live. Even unbelievers can have good relationships!” and on a post about religion between her family members, I asked whether her whole family was the same denomination or not.
Rather than staying in a moderation queue, both comments were immediately deleted, either manually or automatically if she had made it so that comments from me never appeared on her blog again. On a blog all about Christian love, I sensed a flood of hypocrisy. Love doesn’t show in what you say. Even if it’s all you say, if it’s not what you do, it doesn’t count.
At this point I felt like the differences were weighing heavy and nothing I could do would get this girl to see me as just another reader of her blog who took an interest in her writing. All she could see was Jesus, and if I didn’t see that, then I didn’t deserve to be acknowledged or shown the love that Jesus supposedly told his people to share with everyone, not just those who deserved it.
I decided that I really wanted to set things straight, and my shallow comments apparently weren’t doing that. I wanted to be real and acknowledge the weird “relationship” that I’d had with this girl so far. I’d had a couple ideas that I was pondering, including contacting her through my personal Instagram which obviously isn’t connected with this blog.
I wanted to be honest though, so I used the contact form again and instead of being accusatory about where all my comments were going, I told her I knew that it might make her uncomfortable to have an atheist on her blog and she may not have met one before. I said it’s totally up to her if that’s what she wants, but as for me, I wasn’t ashamed of being an atheist, and at this point, I was pretty sure that she truly had never encountered an atheist before, or at least not a nice one. I introduced myself and told her all about things I like to do and things I’m interested in in the hopes of emphasizing our similarities and minimizing our differences. I sent it, thinking it would clear up some of the bad blood and at least make her consider responding and seeing me more as a fellow blogger and less of an evil atheist.
I never got a response. She continues to be active on WordPress, Instagram, and Pinterest, so I know that she hasn’t given up technology altogether. She just avoids me and probably anyone else who doesn’t share her exact views. That’s why I was so amazed that she would post a picture with the following caption on Instagram after this whole debacle:
“I love people. Especially the ones who understand me and laugh with me. The ones who encourage my walk with Christ.
Sometimes we just click with certain people, and we tend to invest all our time in those relationships. And that’s good! But loving the easy-coming friends isn’t all we’re supposed to do.
Over the past few months, God has tenderly revealed a huge weakness in me, and it’s this: I love the people that love me…but often I stink at loving those who don’t give me anything in return. To say that sounds incredibly selfish, and I wish it wasn’t true—but it is. And deep down, I’m sure we all struggle with that sometimes. It can be so hard to invest in those who make demands or require extra patience and attention. REAL LOVE IS HARD. But Jesus didn’t tell us to only love the people that make us happy. He told us to bear with EVERYONE in love.
I’ve been chewing on Romans 12:6-10, for the past few days, and it’s been such a humbling and refreshing passage to mull over. It displays God’s design for real love and sacrificial care among believers. These verses are commands to show the kind of selflessness Christ demonstrated toward us. And wow, it’s a tall order.
No matter how different someone is, I want to love them. I want to live with the humble mindset that I’m not always easy to love. I’m not perfect. We’re all growing, and we all need patience. Our job is to encourage each other while Christ refines us.”
She can say this all she wants, but she doesn’t practice what she preaches. I know that this post is a bit petty, but I hope I’ve conveyed that this is really, really frustrating. I should just let it go, but I keep being tempted to try to contact this girl again. But she’s already had a lot of chances to “love me no matter how different I am,” and no matter she seems to want to do this, she just doesn’t.