I have an Atheist friend.

I know, I’m amazing. There should be a bust of me at the Museum of Tolerance.

As a spiritual seeker, I personally believe in God. And I’ve always had an easier time with Agnostics, who are really just hedging their bets as if the hereafter was a roulette wheel. But as an enormously forbearing and open-minded person (see above), I respect everyone’s beliefs. Even the stupid ones. And I’ve really come to appreciate the Atheistic moral code – which, although it sounds like an oxymoron, is surprisingly not.

My friend Max and I argue frequently, not only about the existence of God, but about the practical realities of the Bible, like whether Jesus would have worn open-toed shoes in the middle of the desert. (I mean, come on, it’s filthy out there.)

But I cannot argue with his desire to invalidate the existence of a higher power in a world where there is SO much suffering and inequity. After all, God hasn’t exactly appeared on top of the Hollywood Bowl, hollering, “Hey, y’all, I know war and starvation and tsunamis are a bummer, but this is just Act One of your infinite existence!” (If he does choose to make an appearance, I hope he follows it up with a big tap dance number and maybe some fireworks.)

I can understand Max’s hesitance to believe. And this is exactly what I admire about him.

You see, given his conviction that when we die, we’re done, he conducts his life in a way that would have Christ/Krishna/Buddah/Allah pretty much high-fiving and chest-bumping him all over the place.

Most people in this world conduct themselves with some measure of decency because:  a) They’re scared to death of having to paddle around the everlasting lake of fire in a rowboat with a flotation problem; or B) They’re awaiting a reward of virgins or VIP seating in the bleachers by God’s right hand.

But someone who doesn’t believe in Hell – or Heaven – has little reason to behave in anything but the most heinous of ways. Why not steal milk from a starving baby? Why not screw old people out of their life savings? Why not subjugate the masses so you can buy slingbacks?

My friend Max lives a life based on kindness and respect for others. He behaves ethically simply because he thinks it’s the right thing to do. He has morals because not having them would feel weird.

And I admire the hell out of him, pardon the pun, for this.

I highly encourage you to get to know an Atheist, if you can get to know one like Max. 

But until you’re sure, I probably wouldn’t mention the fact that, technically, they could rob you at gunpoint and not feel bad about it.