Guest Atheist Post: Ghost of Friend’s Past a Reflection on Past Christian Friendships

A guest post by an atheist, a former covenant member from The Village Church in Dallas that reflects on Christian friendship. It looks at how Christians act and asks some good questions. I also write about some of the issues I ran into in my faith crisis and how some of the Christian friends I knew responded.

“A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still allows you to gently grow.”

William Shakespeare

“Be slow to fall into friendship, but when you are in, continue firm and constant.”


“Friendship isn’t about whom you have known the longest… It’s about who came, and never left your side…”


A neat perspective on friendship


Today’s post is a re-run of some articulate thoughts by a former covenant member of Matt Chandler’s The Village Church. Today she is an atheist and as you read her words you can see some very legitimate questions that she is asking. The name of this post is called “Ghosts of friends past.” When I had my faith crisis and rejected Christianity for years I had run into similar issues. This post grabbed my attention and I asked her husband Charlie for permission to re-run it and she concurred. But before I get into her post let me explain a few situations that happened in my life.

In 2008 or so I was in a men’s Bible study at National Community Church here in Washington, D.C. In 2008 my faith crisis started to form. I recall being in  Bible study and asking questions that were very penetrating about the topic being taught.

“Dave you’re confused” or “Dave you just need to think of it like this…” When my penetrating questioning revealed that I didn’t believe the party line I recall people sitting across from me and staring at me, not knowing what to say. Their silence spoke volumes and revealed that they couldn’t deal with my questions.

Fast forward a couple of years into the early stages of my faith crisis and you have another situation that is very telling. I was driving home from work and I pulled into a Chic Fil A in Fairfax, Virginia to grab dinner. I was maybe a year and a half into my faith crisis. Remember my faith crisis lasted for at least 5 years.  So I was sitting in the Chic Fil A eating when someone from McLean Bible pops in. I froze…he was someone who led a small group and I interacted with him from time to time when I attended McLean Bible in the past. I didn’t know what would be said. I was afraid he would spot me and was nervous. Would he be prepared to hear about my unbelief? How I no longer considered myself Christian? Or allow me to ask him point blank what type of God allowed a child to be raped, a gunman to walk into an elementary school  and commit a massacre, or a 767 to fly into a skyscraper on a beautiful Tuesday morning in New York City?

Ben saw me and waved, got his food came over to where I was sitting and I saw the conversation that was coming.

“Dave I have not seen you in church in a long time. What happened? How are you?”

Eventually I told him that I no longer believed in God. How I considered myself an agnostic, and just couldn’t believe in the Christian faith anymore. Ben was taken back a little bit and one of the things he said is, “It must be freeing to not be confined by rules.” Intellectually it was freeing, it was very freeing. The conversation was just getting going when Ben stopped, looked at his watch, and said:

“Dave I have to go, I’m leading small group tonight and I need to run. I don’t want to be late.”

He said he would pray for me, ended the conversation and walked out. The terse way in which it ended really didn’t surprise me. I have watched and saw how other people dealt with my new system of unbelief. But what puzzled me as a skeptic who was once a Christian was sitting in a booth at a Chic Fil A and reflecting on the parable of the Good Samaritan and seeing that play out in person in a restaurant. So Ben sees someone he hadn’t seen in years, he learns they rejected the Christian faith and he pushes back from the conversation and gives the standard, “I’ll pray for you.” Then he walks out so he can led Bible study. Watching this as a skeptic spoke volumes about his faith, and Christian culture. The questions going through my mind were the following. Why didn’t he stay and engage?  Or why didn’t he call his group and say, ‘Something came up can you guys carry on without me?’ After all if I was a Christian I would have thought he would have canceled things, hung out for a while and then followed up and say, “let’s talk….and let’s chill.” It was one of the many examples I saw of Christian hypocrisy. So many Christians are loud about what they believe but when you talk to them, manner scatter.

Then there was another situation that was quite shocking and revealing. There was a co-worker who was trying to get me involved in Redeemer Arlington which was a former Sovereign Grace Ministries church plant in the Washington, D.C. area. In a severe medical crisis,  Andrew visited me in the hospital and claimed he loved and cared for me. We clashed and fought over Sovereign Grace and I hounded him on issues and problems with reformed theology. The situation changed abruptly when shortly after asking me to stay at his house, walked me through his wedding album, and asked me to change the password on his computer;  Andrew gave birth to an extremely serious false accusation that took aim at my name, job, reputation and more. Given the way he was acting beforehand, as a skeptic I was starting to respect Andrew for how he pursued an agnostic or militant atheist. That was in spite of what he said about Sovereign Grace which was deeply corrupt. He went far in pursuing me and I noticed that..however in the end he walked away. Why the false accusation? Here’s my theory in the end Andrew was deeply insecure in his faith and theology. My questions were a threat to him so he took aim at my name and reputation in desperation. You know what would stun me is if Andrew contacted me and showed initiative and wanted to own his mess. However I don’t see that happening because Andrew like many other Christians are shallow and skin deep. Their faith doesn’t permeate deep inside. I believe this is why much of the world laughs, dismisses and blows off Christians. There is little to take seriously about many. A while back I wrote what Andrew should have done in my faith crisis in this post here.

Now all this stood in firm contrast with how Danny Risch, James Crestwood, Scott VanSweringen, and Dee Parsons engaged me. Danny was unconditional in his love. So was Scott, actually Scott found ways to associate and engage me outside the faith issue and that was how a friendship between a skeptic and an Christian was forged. James refused to walk away from me even when I tried to drive him away. He stood firm and pursued me deeply, even going so far as to attend an atheist event with me. Dee Parsons asked if she could speak with me and we spent hours and hours on the phone discussing issues like the problem of evil.  I wrote an overview of this in more detail in this post here. In the way Danny, James, Scott, and Dee engaged I could see there was more to who they were in how they reacted.

Of course there is this other problem that I don’t hear people mentioning today and its this…the celebrity pastor situation exacerbates many problems in Christianity. Why? You have all these people running around quoting Matt Chandler, John Piper, Mark Dever and others who just regurgitate what others believe. However, they have never wrestled with the hard questions themselves. Its for this reason alone that I look at my faith crisis from 2009 until 2013, and my loss of faith for a few years to be an absolute gift. And for that crisis today I am thankful. One of the reasons why I oppose the celebrity pastor enterprise is because it cripples people in the long run. What to hurt someone long term? Have them  read Matt Chandler. What to cripple a person’s faith? Have them consume John Piper. The celebrity pastor model is destructive and damning for Christianity. Its why I hold no reserve in tearing it apart. In the end it stunts people and when a person is having a faith crisis they learn that the material they know doesn’t help.

But many Christians do not know how to deal with doubt. They do not know how to engage the doubter. They do not know what to say, what to think or feel. Most people are afraid and their reaction shows why many evangelicals are deeply insecure. Of all the posts I get to write here at The Wondering Eagle the ones that I enjoy the most are the atheist posts. This is one of my favorite posts where I re-wrote about grieving the loss of my faith as featured on Godless in Dixie.  That said, atheist posts are the least popular in my stats as many Christians don’t like to read them. But I enjoy them…and I enjoy thinking outside the norm. Its like atheists themselves…I find them to be often sincere, honest, beautiful, and amazing in who they are.  Here’s an old post on what this Christian appreciates from atheists. I like the fact that they are honest to say they don’t believe in God is refreshing. I will disagree but I love their honesty. Its an incredible trait to have in this modern world. I also like that they are open about their questioning and that they are think so intellectually. Its amazing…I enjoy engaging with many of the atheists here at this blog. Behind the scenes I get to engage a few. I was sitting in church a month or so ago and I was getting texts from one in the middle of the service. I laughed and engaged with joy. I spent nearly an hour speaking by phone with Karen’s husband Charlie and I enjoyed it. I have no problem listening, or hearing them out. I wish that the evangelical Christian church would engage and listen to them, as atheists and skeptics have a lot to say. Its with that said that I would like to turn this over to Karen and thank her for her words. She has a lot of good things to say. Let me know what you think as always I love you guys!

Ghosts of Friend’s Past

For those of you who used to be Christians, do you remember when you got converted (I hate using that word in this context)? Do you remember leaving relationships because of your new beliefs?

I mean, it makes sense, you stopped doing the things you used to do. In my case, I stopped being a party girl. I stopped drinking in considerably large amounts, stopped hanging out with the “bad influences,” and started staying in every weekend. You change your lifestyle when you change your beliefs.

But what about the people that you thought were committed to walk with you? When we left Christianity we pretty much lost everyone. There were so many women in my home group that told me so many times they wanted to “do life” with me. They said god was doing awesome things in my life and they didn’t want to miss that. They said they would help me through my doubts. Sadly, it didn’t take much for my Christian friends to stop talking to me. In fact, they don’t even know I’ve become an atheist. When we decided to leave that particular church to work and wrestle through some of the questions/doubts we were having, one of my closest friends (and mentor) sent me a goodbye text saying “I will see you in eternity.” I was just finding a different church not dying. And when I met up at a coffee shop with my best friend to tell her more in detail the doubts I was having, well you can imagine where this is going: I never heard from her again.

What’s worse is that according to their Bible they’re the ones that are supposed to reach out and help you through your doubts, help you through your struggles and be there for you, sharing the love of Christ. But do they do that? No. To me, that’s proof of how little they really believe in their religion. The hypocrisy.

At the end of the day I’m actually thankful they stopped talking to me. I don’t want to have a friendship with someone like that but if I’m being honest, it hurts. It hurts to see how easy it is to get rid of those who don’t agree with you. It hurts less now, but I know it’s still there. It feels as though I had just left an old job, the type of job in which while you were there everyone liked you and wanted to hang out with you, but once you left it’s like you never existed.

I guess I shouldn’t expect more from a belief system that is built on lies.

27 thoughts on “Guest Atheist Post: Ghost of Friend’s Past a Reflection on Past Christian Friendships

  1. I can identify both as a Christian and now as a Whatever I am…
    When we were either booted or left churches we served in, those who ‘loved us’ when we were there stopped making any efforts to stay connected, regardless of our efforts to stay in relationship with them.
    Now, we don’t hear from anyone we knew at any of those churches. Even if we did, I wouldn’t be able to open up about what we’ve learned, our journey, our leaving The Faith once delivered to the Saints.
    Silence. Deafening silence and fear of being found out.
    I get it. -kia

    Liked by 3 people

    • Love for many Christians is conditional. As long as you love the same celebrity pastor and a member of the same church they will “love you.” Otherwise they won’t give a rat’s behind about you. Its part of a major problem in Christians. Christianity in the United States is sick and diseased. The sad part is many people are insecure.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Christians are no different than any other humans. Another reason Christianity itself is false. There is no holy spirit superintending their behavior and character

        Liked by 1 person

      • Christians are sinful and in the end no different. They will make mistakes, have affairs, deal with alcoholism, etc… Christians make a mistake it saying they are different. Heck in my case KIA I had a member of a former Soverieng Grace Church who gave birth to a serious false accusation that threatened my name. He did all this while boasting of his sanctification and faith. Christians are very much no different than others, and in some cases they are worse. Look at this situation I blew the whistle on in the Evangelical Free Church in Pennsylvania. They orchestrated and excommunicated an alleged rape and domestic abuse victim that was almost killed. That is sick, sick, sick. But Christians are often no different. I agree with you in many ways.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Ben was taken back a little bit and one of the things he said is, “It must be freeing to not be confined by rules.”

    I can’t help thinking that in this context, the “rules” you weren’t confined by was Christianese for “Christian Sexual Morality” and that was the REAL reason you fell away.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Funny you should say that HUG, as I recall in Chic Fil A he talked Ben made a comment about past sexual sin. Like everyone who falls away does so in sin. Yeah right….I buy that. And Christians don’t sin. That’s garbage theology.


  3. Pingback: My Comment on Life After “Death” of Faith | The Recovering Know It All

  4. “I don’t want to have a friendship with someone like that but if I’m being honest, it hurts.”

    I can recall bristling at being addressed as “buddy” etc by people who wouldn’t give me the time of day unless they had some use for me. When I left a church of four decades I lost a lot of “friends”. Yes it also hurt but my rational mind tells me I’m better off knowing who my true friends are.

    Having been around for a while I can now see very few cultivate true friendships. Regardless of creed or lack of one it appears to be the rare person that holds onto friends through difficulties or differences. The part that bugs me about church goers is their pretense to love. Hypocrisy is often misapplied when it is merely human weakness. In this case given the origin of the word hypocrisy, Greek for an actor on a stage, it seems the term hypocrisy fits.

    Though I didn’t see your name, I hope that you will find or have found true friends and that you are one to someone else.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I totally get the becoming aware of the fake scripted friendships, as my family went through the same thing when we left our old church. I think when you leave or have questions, you out yourself as someone that isn’t going to help maintain the group think and confirmation bias. In this American experience, you are rewarded for getting on board and maintaining the status quo, woe to those who think for themselves.

    I would like to add one closing thought: Is it possible for an Evangelical to be friends with a non-believer without pity? My experience is no; as the Evangelical pities you since you’re going to hell in their mind.

    Thanks for tackling this one Dave, my only true evangelical friend.

    Liked by 2 people

    • “Is it possible for an Evangelical to be friends with a non-believer without pity?”

      Or vice versa, I live in a college town with a large percentage of non-believers and as a believer I get the same feeling from them. It is tough when you are not a member of the tribe and right now I don’t feel part of either one.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Its a challenge. However, I find some of the atheists I know more open to friendship then some of the Christians. While it can happen on both sides I see this happening often with the Christian side.


      • Interesting point you make Bill. I live in Kansas where the vast majority identify as Christian. I still kind of do for my family’s sake. I am in between walking away for good or digging deeper into Richard Rohr’s work and source material.

        I don’t want to be a part of any tribe on either extreme of the belief spectrum. It seems like the closer you get to the truth,the more alone you are.


  6. Thanks for sharing my experience David! It’s good to see I’m not the only one that’s gone through this but it also saddens me. I’ve come to realize that they don’t like confrontation and meeting up with me could potentially lead to a faith crisis. As for the celebrity pastor issue, I couldn’t agree with you more. It’s crippling, yes. I never hated myself more or felt like a disgusting human than when I was under Matt’s teaching (I’m still working through that). It’s so weird being on this end now and mentioning his name in a negative context, he’s actually a super nice guy, he’s just indoctrinated I guess. But I feel like there’s also a lot of damage being done in the small church with only a few hundred attendees. Before attending the village we were part of a small church where we were taught that a woman that’s being physically abused by her husband can’t get a divorce. But that’s a topic for another time. Anyway, thanks again for putting my story out there. I’ve enjoyed reading all that people have to say about this as well.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Loved the Shakespeare quote! From my experience over the two decades I lived under fundagelicalism (the Calvary Chapel brand), God has no interest in being your friend. You exist solely to aggrandize his glory.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. David, thanks again for the call. I enjoyed our chat and look forward to connecting again soon, maybe even in person if location provides.
    I totally agree with you about the celebrity pastor situation. I think the most shocking thing about being in “The Village Institute” was that it was a high level course through Christianity and delved into pretty much every single subject, but only did so from one slanted view point. And obviously so. Even CS Lewis was deliberately never mentioned because some of his views might threaten their agenda. The course didn’t give multiple agreed upon views by the church on a whole, only the biblical interpretation that Matt and his boys agreed to. Then, every sermon was an extra push on whatever JT had spoken on during that weeks Institute class. For Karen and I, the indoctrination was obvious. It became more obvious at my weekly table where all the men in my group seemed only to regurgitate what was being said. My questions always amazed the other men. Thankfully I saw one guy asking his own questions by the time we left, but I don’t think it was enough for him to leave the parameter of answers The Village gave him.
    In the end, the phrase “Matt said,” or “The Village says” was often used in answering my own or Karen’s theological questions until eventually everyone lost contact with us.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. This post is great. I am a believer in Jesus, and love Him dearly.
    This is where He hung out… with the broken and wounded.
    Christians love building walls so high that they alienate and offend.
    I am so sorry that you were wounded in the church. I understand.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I guess I shouldn’t expect more from a belief system that is built on lies.

    That to me is the central issue. Is the bible an accurate revelation of a God who is there, or not. This of course is the subject of debate and Christian apologetics between believers and those who do not believe.

    It is not decided on whether or not the local evangelicals or other flavour of church live up to the standards they ought to. Sometimes they do not – this is nothing new, the NT is full of examples where correction was required – and a hypocrite is someone who is pretending to be someone or something they are not.

    I have known believers who have made a good faith attempt to actually do what the NT says, wonderfully so in fact, but I have known others who don’t even seem to genuinely want to try. Neither affect whether Jesus actually lived, died for our sins, and rose again.

    I believe we can have a wrong expectation of just how believers ought to behave, but it would be less than honest to say it is galling at the very least when they behave in a way they ought to know better not to.

    The piece here is too short to tell, but I couldn’t decide whether the road to atheism was caused by doubting the NT is true, or disillusionment with the church and the very human failings of its members. The latter seems prominent. We also don’t know what would be said if the church were asked for their version of events.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I had the experience of growing up and going to a non denominational Christian School (we used Beka textbooks if you know what those are) kindergarten through senior year. Go Eagles! I grew up immersed in Christianity, we often attended church at least twice a week. I was really lucky to have a very nice and idealistic childhood in a lot of ways. I have a few super close friends from those days who are like brothers. Both of them are still Christians, very involved in their church and faith. Our differences are never an issue because they knew me when I believed and had faith in the same religion. It’s never an argument of “You were never a True Christian™” That’s refreshing and one of the things I cherish of those friendships.

    Of course I can’t expect that of others. Not everyone gets to know me (or would want to for that matter) that well. But with Abrahamic Religious people (Judaism excepted) I confess to always wondering when the hammer is going to drop and they’re going to make their sales pitch to me. And I cringe, not knowing how they’ll react when I reject it.

    Can friendships between Evangelicals and Atheists happen? Sure and the world is better for it I think. I’m lucky enough to have friendships across the religious spectrum. Hopefully you get to as well if it’s something you’re interested in.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. (I came here from TWW and found the eagle’s nest a very interesting place!)

    A believer can be good friends with a non-believer, including an atheist – I see no reason why not. The points made by this post and the ensuing comments are emphatic and a damning indictment of the shallowness of most of us who profess faith. I cannot say I have gone through a faith crisis like you have (i.e. Eagle – is it ok to call you that? No offence intended) or left the faith ,as Karen has, but I have wrestled with doubts and different perspectives in my own way. I agree 1000% that the current self-serving evangelical establishment and the clergy system – especially the celebrity one – is a rotten cancer that needs to be ripped out. It simply generates zombified adherents who parrot the propaganda and who live in fear that the propaganda might be wrong – so run far away from anyone who questions any of it. I sometimes question why God lets it continue. It is frustrating.

    My own dad and mum are culturally christian – due to the long history of christianity in our community – but no way are they evangelical believers or believers in the exclusivity of Christ. Does that bother me? Some. One would love to be on the same page as one’s parents on something like this! On the other hand they challenge me to think about what I believe and the wisdom that they offer through their life experience and the opposing viewpoints they present are refreshing and invaluable. They have been only gracious with me and my wife despite our differing beliefs. How can we as Christians be any less gracious? As most have pointed out, those who profess faith are usually less gracious, more condescending and more indoctrinated than those who do not. That, to me, says that most of us professors have never known the Jesus we claim to follow.

    That breaks my heart.

    PS. Sorry for the long comment. I tend to verbosity. Will try better next time.

    Liked by 1 person

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