Here is a story about the friendship between two men who did not let their differences in belief get between them, and all NPR could highlight was the fact that one of the men is an atheist. It’s as if the staff at NPR are surprised that atheists are humans also. Capt. Benjamin Tupper has a very moving story of his friendship with an Afghan translator, Fayez.
I spent many cold nights in Afghanistan sitting on worn mats in cramped, smoky huts, drinking chai with Afghan and U.S. soldiers. As soldiers often do on quiet nights, we pondered many things, including religion. I was the lone atheist, surrounded by equally convinced Christians and Muslims. There was one thing they all could agree on — that I was going to hell.
Then there was Fayez, one of our Afghan interpreters, who was the most eloquent in explaining the pillars of Islam. One night, I described my faith — that men could do good deeds without interference from God — and my fear that religion caused much of the strife we witnessed daily in Afghanistan. This was met by a chorus of condemnation. Fayez floored everyone by interrupting to say that they all should consider the possibility that I was right. This was a brave thing to do in a country where, even today, people face death for questioning Islam.
It’s telling that an Afghan understands more about religious tolerance than those American Christians who were raised in a democratic republic whose constitution explicitly states that its citizen’s religious and political opinions can be freely stated without interference by the state.