Friendship Thrives Despite Differences in Faith

Marybeth Clark and Kathy Swanson share at least one common experience of God.

As young children, each asked God to intervene in their lives and neither received an apparent answer. Now in their 60s, the friends have found themselves on opposite sides of belief.

“Every person is a creation of God and there is goodness in everybody,” said Swanson.

Clark, an atheist Unitarian, disagrees.

“I’ve never been able to find evidence of the existence of an intervening God,” Clark said. “For me, the goodness is pragmatic.”

Swanson now attends Trinity Lutheran Church, and Clark is a member of the recently formed La Crosse Area Freethought Society.

Their religious disagreements come up almost every time they get together, the two said. Sitting at Clark’s La Crosse home on a recent afternoon, the friends disagreed on the meaning of the Bible and what motivated Swanson to do good when she still questioned God’s existence.

But despite their divergent beliefs, their disagreements were tempered with humor, and Clark said the two are more similar than different.

“The talking and, especially, the listening in our relationship works well,” she said.

“And how am I ever going to convince her of the right way,” asked Swanson, laughing, “if she won’t listen to my words and vice versa?”

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