That’s me and my friend, Chris, in the photo above. We met at what I now refer to as my bar. I started going there at night to work on my novel. (In the mornings before work, I’d go to Starbucks.) At first, I’d keep to myself. I’d sit in a corner amidst all the noise and carousing and work on my book. People mostly left me alone, assuming I was a schoolteacher grading papers. Then one night, Chris’ husband, Wayne, sat next to me and says, “What are you doing?”
Soon enough, I had a posse, which included Chris. I mean, it’s like Cheers, back in the day during prime time. I walk in and everyone says, “John!”
I digress. Back to the above photo. I post that because, you see, Chris is an atheist and, me, I’m a former theist, now deist. (I lost my religion while writing above-mentioned novel, which is about a Mormon missionary who goes insane on his mission.) Chris and I have the most mind-blowing discussions about belief and disbelief and the mysteries that lay between. I find our profundity tends to rise from Beer 1 to 3. When the last of Beer 3 goes down your gullet, you’ve reached the point of diminishing returns. (After Beer 3 it’s mainly talk about politics and pop culture and who the biggest badass rock guitarist of all time is. It’s Terry Kath, by the way.)
And you know what’s funny? We never get mad with one another. Never think of it. Actually, we mostly laugh.
Why do I bring this up? Well, I’m on a number of atheist/agnostic groups on Facebook and the tenor of the discussion there is often different than it is between Chris and myself. So much backbiting and self-righteousness online! So many pissed off atheists—and so many of them are my “friends.” Sometimes it seems like the most innocuous point made by a non-atheist will drive atheists to distraction. (The reaction is all but automatic, like poking bear with a stick, which has given rise to the sport of atheist bating.)
So… I started thinking: Why all the vitriol?
Obviously, a big part of it is the anonymity of the Internet. I think, though, the biggest factor is that most people go on Facebook to prove themselves right or someone else wrong.
It’s the exact opposite of how Chris and I are around one another. I have no fear of making a bold assertion around Chris—taking a risk. I don’t need to be right. In fact, if he can show me where I err, I’m grateful.
Not so on Facebook. Human nature, I guess, which is why I mainly lurk—and learn. If I’m going to go out on a limb, it’s going to be here, on my blog. And, always, before I post a post, I have Chris read it first. The hope is he’ll keep me from looking like a moron.
That’s what friends do.