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A friend that I hadn't seen in a while came through town the other day, and I went to dinner with him.  He's a Christian.  He believes in God.  He believes the Bible.  He's one of the Christian friends I have who hasn't defriended me on Facebook for being a vocal atheist (and even anti-theist on many occasions).  One thing he said to me was that it's good to be able to disagree with people.

His attitude toward me and my irreligiosity was unusual and even a bit disarming.  I'm very accustomed to one of two different responses from people: either a bitter fight or and end of communication altogether (in many cases, both responses happen, in the order listed).  But he (and, admittedly, many other of my Christian friends) did not react this way.  The conversation we had was very good for me.  Rather than viewing religious people as opponents, which on occasion I do, I can view them as providing a different perspective in life.

He said that he actually enjoys my posts, that Christianity deserves a lot of the criticism that it gets.  It's so comforting to hear a Christian admit that.  It's such a wave of hope and delight.  I was actually astonished when he made that remark.  But very glad that he did.  Vindicated is the word I'm looking for.  It helped me feel that not all of my ramblings are just blowing hot air and venting frustrations, but that there actually is substance to some of it.

It's good to often re-evaluate what I'm doing and why I'm doing it.  I find that when a Christian is offended and fights aggressively with me, my reaction is to become even more polarized.  As an example, suppose that I posted something which criticizes the church for being anti-gay.  When a Christian fights with me about it, I want to list other things that make me hate the church, and talk about how evil it is.  But when a Christian behaves the way this particular friend did, I am more likely to apologize for things that I've said out of turn, or for not being as polite as I could have been.

Just today I had a Christian friend ask me why I had made a certain anti-Christian post that I made recently on Facebook.  I've been thinking about it quite a bit.  The truth is I really don't know.  I mean, there isn't any one particular reason.  Most superficially, I post those kinds of things because I see them in my newsfeed and like them, so I share them on my own wall.  I share them because that expresses how I feel.  I share them because I want to hear what my friends think about it.  I share them because I want to get people to think critically about their beliefs.  I really can't say why.  Perhaps there are deeper reasons that I'm unaware of--subconscious reasons, or psychological reasons which are buried deep inside me.  I don't know.

But I do know that I want to be able to disagree with people.  I want be friends with people simply because we get along and have fun together.  I don't want to cut someone out of my life because they have different opinions about politics, religion, fashion sense, or sports.  I don't want to give people ulitmata of the nature "stop believing ______ or I'll never talk to you again".  That would be irrational, and heartless.  I want to be able to disagree with people.  And even to have arguments, without damaging our relationship.  I want to be kind and courteous even when I am of a different opinion.

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