I met Patrick in my neighbourhood. He is a tall, dark, charming guy with a gap in his teeth and is a likeable character. But I was better off being his friend than anything else.
When Mr knows-it-all spoke, one had no option but listen (even if you didn’t listen at all). He seemed to know every detail from his workplace, to what Obama was doing at that moment.
When we met, he would watch in silence as I opened the little Bible mum handed me when I was leaving home. I figured he loved the Bible. That he knew God and perhaps believed in him. It was quite fulfilling reading a verse out loud while he looked on in silence. Sometimes, I would pause and ask him to say amen, and then we would stare at each other and blush.
One evening, I served dinner and asked him to say a prayer. He said he did not know how to (of course there are people his age who can’t say one). I said the prayer and by the time I was done he was halfway his meal. He mumbled something that sounded like amen. It was okay. “He must have been starving,” I thought to myself.
I then shared about an ex who did not believe in God and had never said a prayer the entire time we were together. He was astonished. “Are there people who do not believe in God?” he asked. I said there were a number of them and I couldn’t handle dating one if he proposed. “How can you even date someone who doesn’t believe in his creator? How sure will I be that he even believes in the love that we share?” All this while, Patrick looked at me sternly.
I was forced to ask him, “So what’s your dad’s religion?” With his eyes focused on his rice and beef stew (his favourite), he said, “Atheist”. I asked again to be sure I heard right. “Yes, he is an atheist,” he emphasized. I then asked about his mother’s religion and he said she was Catholic. I breathed a sigh of relief. At least his mother knew God, and boys are so attached to their mothers. So most likely, Patrick was Catholic.
While I still affirming this to myself, he said he was atheist as well. He went on to say the last time he got in contact with church was at the age of three. His father introduced him to a group of people who nurtured him into atheism. When he came of age, he became chairman for atheist clubs in his high school and at the moment, he is a certified atheist, heading a staunch group in his city.
His story seemed like a hallucination that I kept trying to wake up from, only to realise he was looking at me all this while – the look he gives me when when he is not lying or joking about something.
I had no reason to be mad at him. At least he wasn’t cheating or telling lies. He is just someone who doesn’t believe in God and that is it. It is a shame this handsome body barely recognises its maker. I figured these are the kinds of people God gives people who are always on their knees praying for nothing else but a handsome, intelligent, loving man with a golden heart. Here he was. I had heard stories about atheists.
The coward in me raced back to the stories I was told while a child. I kept looking at his bald head, looking at it very keenly, and waiting for a pair of horns to develop there or just to a see a patched scar that would prove his status. I dragged the Bible from the shelf and put it next to him, hoping he would melt away or disappear. None of these happened.
He burst out in laughter and asked what it was I was trying to do. Patrick must be a psychic. While I was still fumbling with plates, trying to figure out whether or not to leave the room, he joked, “The horns do not grow during day. If you were to spend a night, you would see them at 3am”. I nearly disappeared out of my skin. The adult me had always known that atheists do not believe in any God or their existence. The rest were stories that were told to scare off children. Just to be sure there was just one type of atheist, I asked, “Are atheists those people who do not believe God exists?” He replied, “Brilliant! And they don’t bite”.
In life we spend so much time searching for people who believe in love and trust God. Yes, sometimes we get them, but, character is what matters. If someone has no problem with your religion, I don’t see why you shouldn’t mind a little bit of their business especially s/he is beyond change.