This last week I decided that I needed to begin to take steps in reaching out and being honest with camp people, which is a challenge of mine to say the least. To go and ask my Atheist pub group for advice would be easy, as they agree with me and would support my coming out as a positive move in my life. However, I am lucky enough to have another option, who does not agree with me. I asked one of my previous camp directors out for coffee and to chat. The last time we got to talk was over two years ago, and at that point I had begun my active fight with religion so he was one person I could trust and anticipate some response from prior conversations. But after some catching up of what I had been doing, and how the camp I had worked for was doing, and life in general we arrived at my telling him that I had given up my faith completely (I had given him some heads up to expect this, so it wasn't a complete shock).
One of the first things we did was establish the basic boundaries. Me: I don't believe in God. He: God loves you anyway. This is a tricky boundary to set as often the view on God's existence (or lack thereof) is so self-evident that it would take an idiot to see/not to see it (at least it seems this way). However, we could set a respect there (which was good, as I don't generally ask people who I think are idiots for a critical conversation and insight, but rather I ask people that I have great respect for.) My main concern was to not loose my camp friends for stupid reasons, which I can see happening, especially as I become more vocal in my atheism and there are many camp friends I haven't spoken with in years. And while we could not come to any ideas regarding this, we did have a good conversation anyway about atheism, Christianity, and what it means to be honest with yourself. We talked some theology and some philosophy and had quite a bit of humor as well as serious moments.
This is one of the best conversations I have had in a great while, mostly because it wasn't about agreement, but rather about ideas we didn't agree on. We were not out to change the other's mind, but rather ask questions and try to learn more. I know that not all conversations between people who disagree can work out this way, but is it really too much to expect some common ground and respect rather than trying to be right all the time? I'd rather be able to ask questions, and talk about ideas, than defend who I am as a human.