“But you’re such a nice person!”

That’s an actual quote from a good friend of mine when we were talking the other day about the time he found out I was an atheist. “But you’re such a nice person!” It was echoed by his wife who was equally shocked, saying she couldn’t believe it because I was, “so sweet to (my) wife.” I found it funny. He even added, “Not that I expected all of you to have horns or anything.” That really made me laugh out loud. But this is an example of what I mean when I say that we’ll get infinitely more progress from us atheists/agnostics/free-thinkers/etc just being good and decent people while not being shy about our lack of faith than all the lawsuits and add campaigns (although I do love the “Why believe in a god” bus adds) in the world.

I do know that before we became friends this friend did indeed have a pretty unsympathetic view of atheists. And the thing is, he and his wife are good and decent people. But never having known any atheists in real life, the only thing they had to form an opinion on was what they heard from preachers and the news clips of people suing to have “In God We Trust” removed from our money (not that I disagree with that).

It makes me think of that song I used to sing when I was a born-again Christian, “You’re the only Jesus some will ever see.” I forget the theologian who said about witnessing that if you have to tell people you’re a Christian, you aren’t living as a Christian. Well, I disagree with him there, but the sentiment is a useful one. If they only atheist most people ever know are the sound bites on FoxNews then we’ll never make any progress. But if all the non-theists out there who they’re already friends with just admit their lack of faith when it comes up, I think we’d be surprised at how powerful that can be.

My Christian wife also got a kick out of their reaction, especially the part about me being so “sweet” to her.