It was inevitable that I would eventually have to start talking to people in my life about the fact that my beliefs have changed drastically, and that I'm no longer religious. I'm not sure what category I fit yet--humanist feels right, and I remember even in my Christian days thinking I was humanist, not even knowing that it was a "thing." A few years ago, I started reading up on Humanism as a movement and philosophical stance, and everything I read about it makes me think, "Yep, that's what I am." It wasn't a decision to convert to anything, it was just something I already was. It was just buried under all of the dogma that I'd been raised with, then had taken as my own. Depending on the day, agnostic or atheist works, too.
I've talked to some friends and a few of my siblings about it, and it has been an interesting mix of so-not-a-big-deal to "la la la I can't hear you" and moving on to the next topic. Either way, no shit storms. The most direct conversation I've had about it came this week...on a day that I took off from work to relax...with a person I've seen twice in my life. I'm sort of irritated about this, and I wonder if you'll understand why.
A friend of mine from high school (and I graduated from high school twenty years ago this coming May) has for a long time been affiliated with a conservative Christian organization whose main purpose is proselytizing. It started in her college years, and it became her job. Believe me, I get this. My most uber-Christian days were my college years and into my early twenties (sad, I know). My faith in college led to some Jesus jobs for me, too, so we had this in common.
We haven't had a ton of contact over the years, but every once in awhile, we'll run into each other. I was one of her financial supporters for several years, and stopped three or four years ago for a few reasons. One, I had a herniated disc, and in order to avoid surgery was doing a therapy that is legit, but not covered by insurance, so I was paying out of pocket. The other reason, more selfishly, was that I was going to Ireland, and had a "fuck it" attitude toward some of the Christian groups I was sick of giving to at the expense of living my life. This was no big deal, and she was great about it.
Fast forward to today, when she is married to guy who also works for this organization. I still get their letters, which sometimes ask for extra donations or for you to become a monthly donor if you haven't already, or if you've dropped off of doing so like I had. Even as a non-believer, I enjoyed getting the letters and seeing what their growing family was up to, and for the most part the religious goings on weren't annoying. My biggest beef with this is that there is almost no humanitarian work done, as the goal is to convert people--get them "saved."
I'd gotten a few letters recently that were really heavy on the asking for moolah, and I began to wonder if it was time to come clean and tell them that I wouldn't donate anymore because I don't support their organization. I never felt compelled to make contact, though, because seriously I met this guy at their wedding and then I saw them together one other time since then. (Incidentally, the second meeting was promoted as an "open house" where they were going to be in town, so y'all come and we'll get to visit, but it turned out that they were just plugging their ministry. Awkward). Though I have great memories of her in high school, they are people I don't even see on a yearly basis. My waffling wasn't allowed to continue, though, because last week, I got a really long rambling message from this guy via voicemail, asking me to look at their recent letter and really consider giving an extra gift and please, please become a monthly donor again.
At this point, I knew I was going to have to 'fess up, but I was a little annoyed at how it was happening. This guy whom I'd met twice was going to be the catalyst for me talking to an old friend about my belief system. Potentially this would spread to other old friends, which is fine, but the time and method would not be of my choosing. I was trying to decide whether to call my friend or perhaps write her a letter (a proper one, in the mail). I hadn't decided, but I still thought it would be more appropriate for me to talk to her about it than him.
A few days passed, and on a day where I was trying to relax (work has been crazy, as I've been filling in for my boss's maternity leave that started two months earlier than expected) I got another voicemail from him. I knew I couldn't put it off anymore, so I just called him back when I got the message.
I asked him if it was a good time, and it was, so I dove in. It was something like this: "I got your messages, and I wanted to let you both know that I love and support you and your adorable family, but my beliefs have changed. Because of that, [blank] isn't an organization I wish to give to anymore. I want you to be successful and reach your goals, but I can't be a part of that other than being your friend." It kind of spilled out, and I felt good about it. I really didn't feel like I owed this veritable stranger any details. He was really great about it; however, I was again annoyed (I'm over-using that word) when he asked, "Well, do you have a minute? Could you share your journey with me?"
You know what? No. I really didn't feel like it was necessary or appropriate to talk to him about it. One of the things that kills me about religious people now that I'm out is that regardless of their level of association with you, they feel that everything is their fucking business. Is this a religious thing, or is it a symptom of social networking? I don't know, but I made an excuse that I couldn't talk anymore. Maybe that was a cowardly way out and I just should have said "No, I don't want to share my journey with you" but I just wanted to get off of the phone and enjoy the rest of my day...which of course was clouded with this whole thing no matter how I tried to distract myself.
He said that the next time they are in town, which will probably be Christmas, he wants for the three of us to visit. Ugh. I really like her, and I know I would like him if I knew him more, but I know any visit we have will be all about "hearing my journey" or trying to get me back in the fold. I'm undoubtedly on numerous prayer lists by now. I can't complain, because I used to be them, but I find it all so ridiculous now.
We'll see what transpires from here. Rant over.