In my family, we are all atheists. But that changed recently when my brother went to college and found religion.
When my brother returned home from his first weeks at UC Berkeley, I was excited to hear about college. But when we sat down to eat, he closed his eyes, clasped his hands, and silently mouthed grace.
My jaw dropped in shock.
The first friends Cole made on campus belonged to a Southern Baptist church group, which is practically a 180 degree turn from atheism. Not long after, Cole converted.
When we learned about his conversion, we freaked out. Atheism is all we’ve ever known and been comfortable with. But my parents are trying to understand. They read those cheesy books about spirituality and even went to Easter church services. They want to understand this new part of his life. But it’s been hard for me to accept it.
I’m not really afraid of the religion itself. I can make peace with Cole studying the Bible and going to church.
But I’m afraid that his religion will pull him away from me. He now spends all his free time with his church friends–so much so that they feel culty and controlling. He refers to them as his “second family.” What if someday they become his only family? What if he replaces his real family with fellow believers? I want to hold onto the Cole of my childhood, the one that climbed trees and made puns with me, but maybe we’ll never have the same bond that he has with his church friends. I’m worried that our differences are too big to overcome.
Now I’m trying to step back and let him make his own decisions. I’m doing my best to remove his religion from the picture; he’s not Cole the Southern Baptist, he’s just Cole, my loving, funny, smart best friend. My connection to atheism may be strong, but he’s my brother, and I can’t just write him out of my life.