I have always lived my life with a very open-book philosophy--wherever I was at, if you knew me and you asked, I'd tell you the truth. Over the years, I went from being raised Catholic to exploring Mormonism (don't ask, I was young and in love), Judaism, Buddhism, all kinds of New Age stuff, and checking out several conservative churches, as well as Episcopalian, whatever, you name it. I moved away from home when I was 17, across the country to Los Angeles, where I lived for another 17 years before relocating to Georgia (again, don't ask, another love story). Meanwhile, I kept all the same friends, one of which, who I would term my "best" friend, went from Catholic to born-again christian. Needless to say, we've had a few debates over the years, the seriousness of which increased as my beliefs fell farther away from religion altogether, to agnosticism, and finally, after delving deeply into scientific study, atheism. Even then, I only admitted or "came out" as an atheist a year ago, around the same time I got involved with Facebook, a little after that.
In all this time, my friend and I have maintained a very close relationship, talking on the phone almost every day and joking back and forth online, emails, and of course visiting one another. We've both had children and our kids call each other "aunt." Most of our relationship, I'd say 95% is or has been wonderful--we finish each other's sentences, laugh hilariously, cry to each other if life gets hard and share everything. Except religion. After a couple religious debates that escalated practically to name calling, we backed off from discussing science and/or religion. Except for Facebook. Being the outgoing, opinionated people we are, we each post articles, quotes, etc. related to all the things we care about. Long story short (too late) this led recently to an epic and semi-public online knock down drag out after I corrected her on an insanely right-wing propaganda article that claimed Obama "admitted" he was Muslim (like it matters which mythology he believes anyway, but the point was it was false) that stopped short of total name calling--I did, however, say she was entirely ignorant when it came to science, etc. and suggested she read a book. I can be very biting and sarcastic.
After that, we didn't talk for a week--I needed to calm down and reassess and felt sure she was on the same page. I wrote to her yesterday to suggest that we block each other from all "controversial" posts in order to protect our friendship (I'd already suggested this once before but she didn't want to). She wrote me back a very hurtful letter, won't get into everything but saying that while she still had to "pray more about it," she was pretty sure she didn't want to continue on with our friendship any longer b/c essentially she didn't want to have to hide the essence of who she was and that atheists were not very nice people anyway.
After over 30 years of friendship and all we'd been through together, I didn't think this would be a serious option, but it sounded as if it really wasn't that big of a deal to her. She even used the phrase "dust her feet off" and move on. I know our philosophies are diametrically opposed and it pains me but never would I have considered ending our friendship b/c, as I stated, if not for Facebook, we don't argue at all and talk for hours, agreeing and laughing, etc. It's all complicated by the fact that I already feel so insanely isolated here in the bible belt, but even if my life were surrounded by atheist friends, I would still miss her incredibly.
I'm just in shock and incredibly sad, like facing the death of someone close and I'm not really sure there's anything I can do to change it. I actually cried like a little baby when I got her letter/email back. I certainly can't pretend to believe something I don't. But I was more than willing not to talk about it anymore. That's the most I can offer. But it may not be enough. Has anyone else gone through anything like this? I admit I am very outspoken and probably can be annoying at the very least with my Facebook "activism."