I’ve known my best friend for more than ten years. We’ve worked together, gone on vacations together, and spend nearly every weekend we can together. We like the same movies and music, and television shows and books.
There is one big difference, though: My friend is an atheist.
While we don’t sit around and talk about religion, faith and beliefs all the time, it does come up. Thankfully, we both listen to each other respectfully—if we didn’t, we wouldn’t last long as best friends.
I do know, however, that sometimes I will get questions from her that I don’t have the answers to—questions such as how God could allow evil in the world, for instance.
Our differences in a very real way help me to examine my faith more deeply. When she asks me questions I don’t have the answers to it makes me think about why I believe what I do that much more.
I hope in some way my faith makes a positive impact on her as well. I pray for her like I do for all my friends, atheist, Jewish, Catholic and other religions. Is my friendship with her different than my friendship with, say, my spiritual Catholic friend? Absolutely, but different doesn’t mean bad or lesser.
Henri Nouwen wrote in “Out of Solitude,” “When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”
How do you feel about having friends with different beliefs? Do you find it difficult at times?