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  • Writer's pictureCourtney Heard

Atheist Life Hacks: How To Endure The Strangest Conversation You’ve Ever Had

It all started innocently enough. He asked if I wanted to debate. I don’t like to debate in private messages, so I mentioned that. I explained that I debate for the audience, not for my opponent and since there is no audience in a private message, it seemed a futile exercise. He wasn’t having it. He decided to up the ante.

If I lose then I’ll become atheist ? lol

Well, that’s a strange thing to say, I thought. I quickly responded, politely pointing out that becoming an atheist is not a choice. You can’t force yourself to stop believing in something you’re sure is real. Of course, you can fake it, but you’re not really an atheist if you fake it. I added,

besides, what does it matter to me if you’re an atheist? No disrespect, but I don’t know you at all. Why would I care what you believe?

Avoiding the question, he promptly let me know he was a Catholic and loved spreading the gospel. I ignored that, unimpressed, and directed him back to my question:

That doesn’t answer my question. Why do I need you to be atheist?

To which he humorously responded,

It was a bet that I knew I would win and not become atheist lol

Looking back, this line cracks me up even more knowing how this conversation ends. But I digress. Back to the strangest conversation I’ve ever had.

I still wanted to know why he’d suggested he could become atheist as my incentive for winning a debate, so I asked,

Okay, but if you want to offer me a reward for winning, wouldn’t it be something I want? Regardless of whether you think I win or not.

Still avoiding the question, just like Jesus taught, he asks me what I would want, then. As this conversation progresses, my face is squeezing tighter and tighter into a cringe extraordinaire. I don’t feel comfortable with this, but I press on because I’m not a fucking quitter. I say,

Well, I’m not sure. What’s the topic of the debate? Where is it being held?

My oddball buddy replies matter-of-factly:

Here and it’s about the pros vs cons of Christianity lol

I’m not sure why he’s laughing out loud so much. I’m not really finding any of this funny per se. Strange, mildly amusing, but not laugh-out-loud funny. It crosses my mind that perhaps my little friend here is Facebooking from an institution of some kind, and hiding his pills in the potted palm by the craft corner.

I explain again that,

I don’t debate in private messages, however what you can do is join me on twitter – I do a lot of debating there.

To which he responds with this strange little emoji face that I don’t fully understand: -.-

I leave it at that. I’ve had enough of Bishop Strangelove and went on with my day. Determined to keep me talking, he messages me a few days later and asks what my ethnicity is and adds an, “lol”. A few days after that, he asks what I think of guns (lol). Another couple of days and he asks where I stand on the political spectrum (lol) and then his attempts to get my attention just dissolve into a steady stream of “hello?”s and “you there?”s. It goes on for a month before he asks,

Should I stay Catholic or become atheist? Lol

At this point, it’s like the second season of True Detective. It sucks at every step but you just keep thinking in the back of your head, this has got to get better. I responded, finally, with,

I think you know what I think.

He didn’t know. He asked what I thought and I explained,

Well I can’t tell you what to believe and I will respect you regardless provided you do the same for me but I think anyone would be happier free from the chains of religion.

He quickly replies with,

I approve of you being atheist lol. I mean what you believe or not doesn’t matter to me lol. I won’t judge you lol. But I’m open for your preaching lol.

I know, this reads like he’s descended into utter hysterics. I mean, all that laughing and nothing being said is at all funny. *shrug* It just got to weird for me, and again, I left him alone to explore his mixed-up thoughts. Another week-long wave of “hello?”s and then he reiterates,

So yeah I’m cool with you being atheist lol

As though I needed his approval. I have to remind you at this point, this is a total stranger to me. Never met the guy, nor spoke to him prior to this conversation on Facebook.

He says again,

Preach to me lol

Now, I’m wondering if this is a fetish. I feel like I need to shower but instead, I tell him that I do “preach” on my blog. He goes silent for about a half-hour and I’m hoping he’s finally clued in that this conversation is making him look… unwell. No such luck. He comes back with,

Would u wanna convert me? Lol. I’ll let you. And I’m open ears lol.

Staggered by his mastery of communication, I tell him,

I can’t though. It has to be your choice. However, I am here to happily answer questions that you may have.

In a moment of genius, he says the first smart thing he’s managed this whole conversation:

Ima read your blogs.

Cool, I think. Maybe he’ll learn something there and the quality of this conversation will blossom.

Nope. That same day, he gets back to me once again with:

I read em. Why aren’t you a recruiter?

I started this blog in March of 2014. I have written nearly every weekday since then. As of the day he was messaging me explaining he “read em”, I had over 500 posts published.

“Read ’em” my ass.

I, once again, ignored this and went straight to trying to get him to explain his recruiter question. I asked him what he meant by that and he told me,

I read a lot of your blogs and they are gold lol. It’s kinda changing my mind lol ?

This one stopped me in my tracks. See, I don’t debate with people in private conversations because I’ve never changed the mind of a debate opponent and I feel it’s a waste of time to try. I have, however, changed the minds of people watching me debate these things on a public forum. I told our strange friend here that I don’t debate in private messages because I didn’t think there was any way I could change his mind, and there was no audience to entertain either. It seemed an exercise in utter futility until he said my blog posts are, “kinda changing his mind.”

I hadn’t even tried to debate the fella and I was winning. I decided to take my success with sportsmanship,

Well, thank you. That’s quite the compliment.

Feeling airy and proud of myself, I sat there grinning, totally unprepared for what came next. It was so sudden. So… strange.

Oh man I think I’m feelin a bit atheist lol should I be having this feeling? Lol

And that was good enough for me. I didn’t respond. I didn’t know how. What does that even mean, “feelin’ a bit atheist”? I walked away and left our little weirdo to continue sending a barrage of, “Godless mom?”s for the next few days.

Then, he said it again,

I’m feelin it lol a little. The atheist affect. Cuz I’ve been reading lol.

This time, I had to respond because whatever he was reading seemed to be terribly misleading. I said,

I don’t know what the “atheist affect” means.

To which he responded,

When I read your blogs and see your vids n pics and start to think lol. What do u think? Lol

Well, okay, I thought. That seems reasonable enough. Perhaps I was wrong about this fella all along. Maybe he’s not so much weird, as he is just different in how he expresses what he’s experiencing. I told him I was glad to hear that and encouraged him to keep questioning things if they don’t make sense to him. He told me he would, and then informed me he had skipped the last Sunday service at his church. I felt, at this point, the need to ask if these doubts were making him feel good or bad. I didn’t want to lead him away from something that may have been adding positivity to his life. He said he didn’t know, and that only time will tell. Fair enough, I said. This guy seems totally reasonable. I wondered if maybe I’d had him pegged wrong.

I got a swift answer: Nope. The answer to that was fucking nope. I did indeed get it right the first time around because after a pause, he asked,

Should a 14 year old boy ever tickle their dad? as like play tickling

Right out of left field. I didn’t know what to say. I told him I thought it was fine, so long as both parties involved were okay with it and it really was just tickling. He said his brother tickled his dad and explained his dad was very skinny. He asked,

Does his skin n bones make him super ticklish or very ticklish?

I sort of sat, staring at my screen for a good five minutes before I got up and had to walk it off. I shook my hands as I did a lap of my backyard and reflected on the conversation that had unfolded in this tiny private message window. I took my time. I focused on my breathing. I felt the world come back together, and headed back in where I found these messages:

Hey lol do you think my dad is skinny? ? lol. Cuz I think that affects his ticklishness. Do you think it does?

So, that was that. I knew I had to shut it down at this point. I didn’t know what this guy was up to or where this was leading but I was feeling like Liv Tyler in Strangers. Totally fucking unsafe and wishing I had a gun. I said,

You’re asking weird questions. I am an atheist blogger. If you have some questions to do with atheism, I’d be happy to answer them but I am not here for personal chats about ticklishness. I hope you understand.

I expected something strange and I was not disappointed.

Oh lol but I’m feeling 80% atheist now

I told him there was no such thing and he told me he was trying. My face was burning up at this point. How do you “try” to be an atheist? Does he even know what “atheist” means? I tried not to lose my cool,

You shouldn’t have to try either. Not being able to believe in something is not something you try to do. Did you have to try to not believe in leprechauns? If you believe in god, there is nothing wrong with that. Just be who you are.

I think he felt my frustration though because he didn’t respond right away, and then for a month it was back to the steady stream of “hello?”s and “Godless Mom?”s.

A couple of months ago, he sent me a single, solitary message and it read,

I’m atheist now

I rolled my eyes, politely responded with congratulations and went about my day. Since then, it’s been all “hello?”s, nearly every day, until about a month ago when he asked,

What should I do with my bible? Lol

and then finally a week ago, the cherry on the insanity sundae,

Is hogwarts bad for Christians? ? lol

.... Annnnnnnd I'm done.

…. Annnnnnnd I’m done.

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