The still-busy liquorstore is nestled in a form of shopping center cul-de-sac between an over-priced gas station and a closed hair salon, facing a business that has gone under. The latter was a coffee shop, so it’s hard to know whether it was the city that pushed it into the cliff over the pandemic, or the Starbucks a few meters away that done did it in.
Amongst this corporate debris, merry Faris tends to his boss’s business, giving change while speaking on friendly terms with customers. He is a liked figure that I have the privilege of calling also a friend. I suspect he is Muslim, though we never talk religion. I know he believes in a higher power from his occasional, yet rare, “god bless yous” he throws at me, which I return with, “likewise,” or “you, too,” even though I don’t believe. While I know he’s a believer, he doesn’t know I’m an atheist.
He is also a lucky man. The business he tends to is considered essential, though it has as much liquor and cigar as a Bureau of Alcohol and Tobacco would if it opened its own shop, with minus the firearms and explosives, of course.
I’ve thought a few times of revealing I’m an atheist. Now, I must confess I’m not the sort of atheist I encounter on most social media debate groups. They come off as pompous and snooty, and claim all types of insanity, such as that conservatism is religious because it doesn’t “gibe with reality, something, perhaps, that a pontificate scholar—who happens to be a Marxist or socialist—told them. There is even a book or a video claiming that the free market—a totally irreligious system—is a thing of faith that was invented, not by people who were believers, but by Christianity! Such madness is intolerable. The thinkers!
But being a “different” atheist in a form of personality might dent, I fear, some of the good relationship I have with a man I respect. But I think it’s better this way. He might realize—when he does find out, eventually—that atheism is not a moral position that is ok with cheating or stealing, but a position of faith. I’ve done the right things. I’ve paid my debts to him every time he gives me credit, which he began doing after I ended up owing him $.50 over an item for which I realized I was short.
He actually seemed to have believed that he was going to be short those fifty cents his entire life, till I showed up simply to give them to him. His surprise at my returning something he considered lost produced such an effect on him that I gained his trust. And trust is a gift that one should never throw away. And I’m proud of myself, too, because I returned the fifty cents being as broke as a homeless man during that time of my life, which he seemed to have realized. I built a bridge, and now he is happy to give me credit whenever I’m short of cash, not just fifty cents. And I always pay back.
So he is a believer, and I am not. But we come together as two people, not as different believers. I think it will be ok when he finds out that I’m an atheist, even if he will be surprised; surprised that the man, whose hand he shook, who paid back his debts, happened not to believe. And I learned yet again that Muslim, Christian, Jew, etc., are simply terms that don’t rob a human off humanity, unless you’re a lying pastor, and that they are held by good people, who, while they believe in spirits I don’t, are rational in many other ways I’m not. I still don’t like those atheists, though.