Unlike most of my Christian friends, until I came to university I didn’t really have any Christian friends. I had a close group of schools friends who ranged from strident Dawkins-esque atheists to indifferent agnostics. It will not surprise people who know me that I have some fairly opinionated friends. We ‘discussed’ politics, religion and the meaning of life many times. It was during this time that I discovered what I believed, pretty much by deciding what I was not. I was not the Christian ‘straw man’ that they loved to criticise and/or mock. I was also not quite like my friends in how I saw the world. And as quite often happens when you’re a teenager, I started to define my faith by how I differed to other people.
My school friends are all wonderful people I admire each of them in lots of different ways. They are some of the most selfless people I know with very strong senses of justice. These atheist friends embody Christian values. These people who I grew up with shaped my vision of what is important to me, probably more than anything I learnt in church. It’s just that for me, unlike my friends, those values are linked to my faith.