I've moved around more than most. I've lived in four countries, two provinces, a canton, a district, four states (worked in six), twelve municipalities (pop 700 to 1 million) and made a large number of friends and acquaintances along the way. Of course, this also means I've moved away from a large number of friends and acquaintances as well.

Facebook has helped me reconnect with people I've known and cared about in real life from India to Sweden and all ports in between - west to east - north to south. (Inland Asia is still unchartered friend territory so far.

In any case, I had a close friend for about ten years (my 'starving artist' days) who I just reconnected with - not via FB but via friends on FB. Back then I would have told you I was an eclectic metro pagan. Mostly I was an existentialist seeking the spiritual without the religiosity attached. He was a kind of poser zen buddhist - also seeking something a little more accessible than a skydaddy.

What just happened was kind of weird - it should have hurt a little more I think. My therapist (who I was seeing during the collapse of my marriage) explained that friends who we no longer see and may never see are the 'unmourned dead.' They may not actually be dead - and they may. But, because they were alive when I last saw them, losing them didn't get the same overt emotional attention that those who die do.

Then FB came a long and even though I have friends who are 48 who I still think of as 17 - I get daily to weekly 'proof of life' and have even hooked up with a few when we, otherwise, wouldn't have known we were in the same town for one reason or another.

But this close friend of mine started sending me emails that said nothing more than 'be well' and then included forwards from his father and other redneck, teabagger types. At first I thought it was a joke. But they kept coming. One had 'photos' of the skeletons of 'Giants' supposedly unearthed somewhere in the former Soviet Union, another had Ben Stein explaining how Obama sold our freedom down the river, and other total fundie crap.

So - finally I sent him this email:

hey bud. I welcome emails from you - your heart, mind etc.

However, I am an atheist who thinks Ben Stein is an ass and a hundred years was way too long to wait for this country to understand that medicine for everyone makes sense for everyone - so please don't send me any more of this twaddle. No offense.

In any case - you be well as well. (names excluded to protect identities)

Now, that might sound a tad harsh - but keep in mind that we spoke pretty directly to each other for about a decade - and he had not composed a single email - just forwarded. Also, I always thought the type of crap he was forwarding was twaddle and we would both laugh at it. Nevertheless, he replied with:

please do not contact me anymore , I no longer want to be your friend thank you (names excluded because he didn't use any)

So - that's that. 3000 miles and almost a dozen away and I really don't know the back story. I have to wonder if he got himself a substance abuse problem and then got out of it by taking up with something nearly as bad. Something. In any case - wow - might have been better to remember him like the last time I saw him - a crazy intuitive artist - capable of being annoying as hell - also incredibly insightful. Alas, lost a friend to the crazies. I'll probably be visiting the dozens of other people I know and many I love back there in the next couple of years. Not him. Too bad.

Better figure out how to mourn. Lost a friend to god, or Ben Stein, or Bilblical Giants, or latent racism ... or something. Wow.

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Comment by Howard S. Dunn on April 22, 2010 at 9:32am
Jason - I think you are on to something. He is one of those people with a powerful native intelligence, but no sense of direction.

Jeebus is definitely a sexually transmitted disease, in addition to other well-known vectors.

Deeply sad and profoundly funny. I vote for that to get posted on a 'famous atheist quotes' site somewhere.
Comment by Jason Spicer on April 21, 2010 at 7:17pm
I doubt it's something as dramatic as what happened to Phineas Gage. One of my friends had a long-time friend who never gave a thought to religion. Then he hooked up with a girlfriend that had a real bad case of the Jeebus. Jeebus is definitely a sexually transmitted disease, in addition to other well-known vectors. He got it bad. It didn't make his dick fall off, but it definitely made his brain fall out. My friend tried to maintain the friendship with his friend, but after a few years, it just put such a strain on things that they pretty much stopped talking to each other. I met the infected chap a few times both pre- and post-infection. Alarming transformation. But then, he always struck me as quite weak-willed. Once he got sucked in, there really wasn't much hope for him.
Comment by Howard S. Dunn on April 21, 2010 at 10:02am
I've been thinking about it. I guess I would have been less surprised if he started following JZ Knight or Chopra or something. But for him to go over to the total darkside that includes hyper ignorant bigotry/racism - I wouldn't have believed it was possible to go that far backwards without brain damage. I mean, this is a guy who had more friends who were gay than the average (10%) in the general population. Mind boggling shit.
Comment by Edward Teach on April 20, 2010 at 1:23pm
Jason,

I have to give it to my cousin on that one. He is much more tolerant of my stuff than I am of his... Pretty unique in his camp ;-)
Comment by Jason Spicer on April 20, 2010 at 1:09pm
I've got some firmly religious friends who would never write me off just because I'm an atheist. They are genuinely capable of agreeing to disagree without it causing a rift. I'm sorry this guy went off the deep end, Howard. I've seen other examples of this with friends of friends. It's weird. How do minds get captured and imprisoned like that?
Comment by Edward Teach on April 20, 2010 at 1:06pm
Howard,

I have the exact same issue with my favorite cousin. I recieve every, fuckin, rightwing, brain dead propaganda e-mail in circulation. I got tired of replying with Snopes references.

I still love him. We just don't interact on a philosophical level any more. Our relationship is now more about "the old days."
Comment by Howard S. Dunn on April 20, 2010 at 12:49pm
Thanks guys. It's just so weird. I swear to you, here's a guy with the talent and craft to make the photos of 'giants' he sent me look real - then send them to me as if, apparently, he actually believes it. I mean, imagine spending ten years laughing at the National Inquirer together when you went through a checkout line and then become estranged later when you refer to that stuff as 'twaddle.' I mean - I really think it had to be the 'I am an atheist' part that sent him away. I can't wrap my head around losing a friend because I think Ben Stein is an ass.
Comment by Chrys Stevenson on April 20, 2010 at 2:00am
Hi Howard. I lost a friend this week too, and I really don't understand why. So, I know how you're feeling (that sick, pit of the stomach feeling) but I don't think there's much to be done. Sometimes friends just reach their use-by dates - it's just sad when you're the one who appears to have gone 'off'. I guess we can only console ourselves with the fact that they brought us joy when we had them, and that we have to respect their wishes and their right to choose. And, of course, there are always new friends to be made - although they never quite replace those we have loved and lost.

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