Today I located the Facebook pages of a handful of old friends, some from my cowboy years, some from my Texas years. None of them know me on Facebook, because I’ve kept that account secret from most of them.
Part of it is because I don’t like people looking over my shoulder as I engage in an ongoing freestyle quest to figure out this thing I’m trying to figure out — you know, Life. Part of it is … I know if they see who I am now, the kinds of things I think and say, we can’t be friends anymore. And I still like to think of them out there, ready for a visit or a phone call, ready to smile as they see me coming up the road. There are people I want to see at least one more time before we all start dying.
One thing I notice, when I see the divide between us — the political divide, the philosophical divide — is that they’re ALL religious. They ALL believe in an afterlife, and God, and Eternity.
There are times when I have trouble imagining how different the world might be without religion. How it might be better, or possibly worse. There’s no way to tell how things might be, most of us would say, because we have nothing to compare it to. We have no history without religion, and so we can’t say whether it might have been better or worse.
But we DO have something to compare it to. We have each other — those of us with religion, and those without. We have the lives of staunch believers, the kinds of things they do in the world, how they react to things that happen to them. We know what sorts of things they believe, in parallel with their religion. We know the kinds of ideas they fiercely give themselves to, to defend and advance, and the kinds of things they fall for. And even the kinds of things they’re capable of understanding, or even listening to.
Sometimes when I talk to some of these old buddies, I actually feel guilty. Guilty that I wasn’t a better friend, that I let them get to where they are. Guilty that I wasn’t there for them, maybe helping them see a larger world outside religion and conservatism, or — whether they ended up agreeing with me or not — at least helping them learn to ask their own questions about gods and devils, holy books and traditional beliefs.