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This makes me want to punch right through my laptop screen. November 27, 2007

Posted by Teen Atheist in anecdotes, family, rants.
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41 comments

Pardon my French, but fuck this shit. I haven’t gotten this upset over an e-mail in, like, ever.

This dates back to that time when my parents asserted that atheists have no moral code:

 

TA’s mother: “Well, I can’t encourage your atheism because I don’t know much about it, but I think it is very important to have a belief. It is religion that teaches us moral values, like humility, generosity, and kindness. I don’t know what values you learn from atheism, and it makes me very sad that you’ll be growing up without a moral compass.”

The following day, I emailed them these two articles, written by Austin Cline of About.com, to illustrate how it is possible that not all atheists are heartless, amoral cannibals.

They never got back to me, and the issue hadn’t been brought up since. Until today.

My father just emailed me links to the following two (asinine, moronic) articles, “Could God Exist, Theoretically?” and “A Holiday for Atheists,” along with this little note:

“Here’s a Christian perspective.”

I could type up rebuttals for both articles here, but I’ll gloss over that part instead; I’m sure you guys could handle it yourselves. Go nuts.

I’m angry. No, I’m wildly upset over this. Don’t tell me that we’re even and he’s just doing to me what I did to him, because what I e-mailed to my parents wasn’t a dig at Christians, or an attempt to get them to de-convert, no, it was me defending myself and what I believe in. What my father sent to me was downright offensive. It’s an assertion that “Yes, you are a bad person because you are an atheist, now come and see the light.”

Time and time again, I’ve reiterated on this blog that I refuse to bash Catholicism or any other religion, and that all I want is a world where people don’t discriminate at all, be it based on religion, sexuality, gender, race, or any other label. I respect people’s beliefs; however, I have zero tolerance for bigotry. And this, my friends, is bigotry.

I already had a pretty good idea back then, but this email has now made me 100% sure that I deserve better. I deserve better than a family who treats me with begrudging tolerance, while making passive-aggressive remarks or attempts to convert me. As Genevieve had said:

“Build your own family one day. Build one that’s a hell of a lot nicer to you. You deserve it.”

One day, I’ll find (or build) a real family, one that accepts me for who I am, and loves all of me, not just the few parts that they choose to love.

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Survey: Christmas and religion November 22, 2007

Posted by Teen Atheist in family, interviews, issues.
Tags: , , , ,
11 comments

A journalism student in London recently sent me a group of questions through my Contact page that he would like answered for an article that he is writing. I hope you don’t mind that I answered them here instead of replying via email!

Please let me know when you’ve read them, Marc!

 

1) Figures show that on Christmas the attendance in church is much higher than at other times of the year which shows that for many Christmas is the only occasion they will go to church for. Therefore, do you think – if Christmas was “cancelled” – the people’s “last link” to religion be taken away?

Not necessarily. My family is an example of the kind of people who only attend church on Christmas, but that doesn’t make them any less Catholic than the people who attend mass regularly — they’re just lazier. They still live by the other doctrines and principles of the church, one of which, unfortunately, is “atheists are OMG TEH EVILZ.”

2) There’s also a debate going on whether it actually is okay to wish someone a “Merry Christmas” who doesn’t celebrate it. Because of that some stores (especially in the US) already changed their display and advertising slogans from “Merry Christmas” to “Happy Holidays” or something similar. What is your opinion on that? Do you think the religious origin of Christmas gets pushed into the background too much and it’s more or less all about consumerism?

Hell, I hope it becomes all about consumerism. I can see the point of “Happy Holidays,” but I don’t like being told what I can and can’t say, and frankly, this “politically correct” bullshit bores me to tears. I’ll say “Christmas” if I want to, damn it!

I would be sensitive enough, though, to change that to “Hanukkah” or “Kwanzaa” when speaking to someone of a different religion. There’s no Hanukkah or Kwanzaa where I live, however, so I just say “Christmas.”

3) Then of course there are the atheists like you, who don’t celebrate Christmas at all or – if they do – for who it has nothing to do with Jesus’s birth or anything else religious, but is just a holiday. Do you think religion is necessary to celebrate Christmas?

When someone mentions “Christmas,” I think of a day when you can sit down at the table and eat really good food with your family, exchange presents, and generally be cheery as you feel the chilly Christmas wind blow past. Jesus is the last thing that comes to mind. There are some people (ahem, mom) who insist that only Christians should celebrate Christmas, but I don’t see why the rest of us should be denied our presents just because we believe in one less god than they do. Maybe I can’t celebrate with them, but I’ll certainly find a way to actually have a good time, with or without the family.

(more…)

The hard part November 19, 2007

Posted by Teen Atheist in backstory, family, issues, teen angst.
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16 comments

People who have read this blog from top to bottom may have noticed that I have a rich smorgasbord of expletives and negative adjectives with which to describe my brother Pete. You see, swearing is a way for me to release my anger, and God knows I have a lot of anger when it comes to Pete.

Before I tell you about me and Pete, let me first tell you about my father. Throughout my life, I have been the subject of constant verbal (and when I was younger, physical — in the form of corporal punishment) abuse by him. I vividly remember a lot of these episodes, like that time in second grade when he called me an idiot just because I didn’t get a perfect score on a big exam. I walked to the bathroom, and once inside, cried silently. When I was around 7 years old, I was thrown on the bed and whipped with a belt repeatedly just because I didn’t like what was for dinner. I remember crying loudly and asking him to stop, but he only hit harder. My mother was either not around to see what happened, or when she did, she turned a blind eye to it.

The corporal punishment stopped when I was older, but the memories lingered like scars. The verbal abuse became more frequent, though, because when he would pick me up from the dormitory, he did it by himself, so Mom wouldn’t be around to witness him calling me a bitch, just because I overslept at the dorm. It felt a lot like emotional rape, really — wait until Mom is gone, then take all his rage out on me. I have a feeling he felt a sick satisfaction in watching me crumble.

The most hilarious part about this is that Dad can’t understand why we’re not best friends. Why I’m not Daddy’s Little Girl like all the other girls my age. In fact, he asked me once: “Why do you hate me so much? What have I done to deserve this?” He thinks that just because he says sorry after every time he verbally abuses me, means that what he did should be forgiven. When I admitted that I couldn’t forgive him (how could you forgive someone who will never stop hurting you?), he blamed me for being “weak of faith,” and suggested that I start going back to Church (I was still a Catholic at that time).

Readers, this is not an easy topic to talk about. I usually am able to go about my days feeling fine because I choose to block these memories, but when I think about what my father’s done to fuck up my childhood, I break down every time. In fact, in the middle of typing the first few paragraphs of this blog entry, I actually burst into tears. I’m still crying, actually. But, I carry on, because you have to understand that my angst isn’t just silly teenage angst, or emo-ness. It really did come from somewhere.

There are times when I wonder if the problem is just with me, and I’m the one who’s dysfunctional, because on the outside, we all look like good, normal people.

So, what does this have to do with Pete? I sometimes get into verbal altercations with Pete, and in those altercations I might call him an “asshole,” and whenever I do, I think, “Oh, shit, I’m turning into my father,” which is the last thing I ever, ever want to do.

Pete was also important to me because while I hated my remorseless father and controlling mother, I felt that Pete was the only person in the family I could trust and depend on. I’d told him once that when we had enough money to live on our own, we’d break away from our parents and split the rent on an apartment in New York. He could try to break into the music industry while I tried to get a job as a writer or a nurse. I honestly did see him as my best friend, and I know this sounds cheesy, but I wouldn’t think twice about giving up my own life to save his. If he ever needed a new liver, kidney, or even a heart, he wouldn’t even have had to ask. I was glad that even if I got stuck with a mostly crappy family, I had a good, kind and dependable brother.

Which is why when we had that fight and he finally revealed that he despised me, I lost it. See, with Dad, I knew what was coming, so I could at least prepare myself for it. With Pete, I was completely blindsided. Could you imagine the one person you thought you could rely on telling you the following? Verbatim:

Pete: “I’m done wasting my time on you.”

TA: “Oh? What have you done for me?”

Pete: “I listened when you had problems and no one to talk to. And listening to you whine and whine is wasting my time when I could talk to people who listen to me.”

TA: “Bullshit! My FRIENDS have heard more of my problems than you.”

Pete: “At least I did, and you didn’t even say thanks.”

TA: “I listened to all your problems, too, and you didn’t thank me either. Know what the difference was? I didn’t EXPECT any thank you. Because you’re my brother, and I’d always be there for you without you having to ask. I guess I was nothing but a burden to you, after all.”

Pete: “Indeed, you are a burden to me.”

TA: “You were never a burden to me! I cared about you!”

Pete: “Right. You telling me about care. Hell has frozen over.”

TA: “How could you be so heartless?”

Pete: “To have no heart is better than a rotten one. I curse God for being so cruel as to stick me with a horrible sister like you.”

(It’s hard to type through the tears, guys. Sorry.)

When I reached home after that exchange, I fell to the floor, sobbing because there’s nothing more painful than finding out that someone you loved very much had hated you all along. I crawled to the phone and, still in hysterics, I dialed my friend Tyler‘s number. Some of the readers of this blog ask me why I insist on keeping Tyler as a friend, even though he’s a less-than-open-minded fundamentalist. Well, here’s why (sent via text message after the emotional phone conversation I had with him):

“Just so you know, I have faith in you. Know that there will always be one person in this world who is on your side, and who believes in you with all of his heart. Please take care of yourself. And I’ll always be here whenever you need me.”

I’m the kind of person who is known as the strong one among my friends. When everybody else is weak and emotional, I am usually the one who keeps a cool, level-headed front, and I talk with them through their problems. This is why I never cry or show my weak side to them — because they need someone to lean on. So when I start feeling unstable myself, I only have two people who know what I’m going through. One of them is Fred, but we’re not friends anymore (and you really don’t want to go seeking advice from someone with a plethora of personality disorders). The other is Tyler, and say what you will about his beliefs, but he has always been there for me, and I need someone like that in my life.

I got the idea to write this blog entry as I was sitting on the couch, tearing up at this scene of an early episode of Brothers & Sisters: Tommy has pulled some strings to get a job for his ne’er-do-well younger brother, Justin, and is understandably upset when Justin gets stoned on the job.

Tommy: “Look, everyone else might sit around and feel bad for you, but I won’t.”

Justin: “I didn’t ask for your sympathy, and I certainly didn’t ask for your help!”

Tommy: “When are you gonna grow up?”

Justin: “You’re just like Dad!”

Tommy: “I’m not like him. Dad never stopped caring about what you did with your life. I do. I stop right now. I stop today.”

I always cry when watching Brothers & Sisters, because it reminds me so much of my own life. When Tommy uttered those last words, I knew exactly how he felt. Sure, “fundamentalist” =/= “drug addict,” but when you love your brother that much and he just keeps on pushing you away repeatedly, well, one day you’re finally going to walk away.

I would say that the hard part about being an atheist is dealing with a narrow-minded family like mine, and losing a brother, and losing Christmas, but maybe I’m better off knowing how they truly feel about me. At least now I feel more justified in hating them.

I realize that blood is thicker than water and all that, but I’m tired of crying. And the day I stop caring about Pete is the day I stop crying over losing him.

I’m done, Pete. I’m through with you.

Just because I’m an atheist doesn’t mean I’m [adjective] November 14, 2007

Posted by Teen Atheist in issues, rants.
Tags: , , , , ,
45 comments

I have a religious friend, Alice, who is working on a chick lit novel for National Novel-Writing Month. We haven’t known each other all that long (we met at an event), but we get along fine even though she knows I’m an atheist.

Reading her plot synopsis, however, made my facial muscles twitch a little bit: [Removed for privacy. Sorry, guys! And Alice, if you’re reading, don’t take it personally!]

Even funnier is this exchange:

TA: “Your protagonist is an atheist, right?”

Alice: “The girl is. The boy isn’t. He’s nice.”

TA: *trying hard not to headdesk*

I actually still like Alice despite this, and she hasn’t made any judgments (out loud, anyway) on my atheism so far. So while we’re still friends, I doubt I’ll be reading that novel anytime soon. Besides, I loathe chick lit.

The whole conversation got me to thinking about atheist stereotypes in the media. I’m not as big a literature geek as I am a TV buff, and while there are definitely types that atheist characters on television are categorized into, I can’t say I really mind these types:

  • The Brilliant, Snarky Misanthrope: Dr. Perry Cox (Scrubs), Dr. Gregory House (House), Dr. Cristina Yang (Grey’s Anatomy), Matt Albie (Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip)
  • The Heartless, Dysfunctional Whore: Andrew Van De Kamp (Desperate Housewives), Dr. Christian Troy (Nip/Tuck), Brian Kinney (Queer as Folk)
  • The Slutty, Angsty Rebel: Jen Lindley (Dawson’s Creek)
  • The Lab Geek: Dr. Temperance Brennan (Bones), Dr. Mohinder Suresh (Heroes)

The only one who doesn’t fit into any of the above categories would be Dr. Allison Cameron on House, and this fact is actually acknowledged on the show (House to Cameron: “You’re the most naive atheist I know”).

While I’m against stereotyping of any kind, I don’t really have a lot to complain about when it comes to what we atheists have been stuck with. Notice that out of the 10 examples I’ve provided, 6 are doctors (7 out of 11 if you include Cameron). Of the remaining four, one is a successful advertising executive (Brian Kinney) and one is a talented head writer for a popular sketch show (Matt Albie), while the last two (Jen and Andrew) are the cool, rebellious teenagers. And all ten are smokin’ hot.

Honestly, I kind of love it. A lot of these characters (see: Cox, House, Yang) tend to be the most popular among TV critics, they tend to be the most quotable, and most of them have been my favorites on the shows, even before they came out as atheists (see: the above three, plus Andrew on DH and Albie from S60). If anything, I take this as an indication that TV writers understand atheists better than most people do, otherwise all TV atheists would be serial killers, rapists and/or baby-eaters. Or “temporary” atheists, like Girl X of Alice’s novel. Thank God (hee-hee) TV writers know better.

And really, what would we have to bitch about? “We atheists are misrepresented! Not all of us are terribly smart, sexy and successful! We demand more idiotic, vapid atheists on television!”

That’s not to say there are no idiotic, vapid atheists in real life (because, well, I am one), and should such a character ever appear on a TV show, I’d welcome it. Right now, though, I’m really happy with the way we’re being portrayed on TV.

[ETA 11.15.2007: Oh my Godz! I forgot to mention one of my favorite characters of all time, the whip-smart, lovely Brenda Chenowith from Six Feet Under. In terms of the stereotypes I mentioned above, she’s a cross between the first two (brilliant, snarky misanthrope and heartless, dysfunctional whore). Absolutely looove her.]

Martha, part 2 November 9, 2007

Posted by Teen Atheist in anecdotes, friends, issues, school.
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14 comments

I met up with my religious friend Martha for the first time in months. During one particularly quiet moment when we sat on the steps, feeling the wind in our faces, I decided that it probably wasn’t a good idea to keep this part of myself hidden from someone I trust.

 

Me: “How do you feel about atheists?”

Martha: “I don’t have anything against them, though I do kind of feel bad for them since they don’t have someone to believe in.”

Me: “Yeah, it would probably be easier to have someone omnipotent to turn to in times of hardship.”

Martha: “Or someone to blame. I blame God all the time.”

Me (laughing): “Yeah. Um, I have to tell you something.”

Martha: “What is it?”

Me: “I’m an atheist.”

Martha: “Really?”

Me: “Yup. You’re not mad?”

Martha: “Why would I be mad?”

The sad thing about coming out for me is that I often act like my atheism is something I have to apologize for. It’s certainly not, but I do often have to brace myself for the worst, especially after facing rejection from my own family. I told her about getting kicked out of Christmas this year, and how I essentially lost a brother due to our differences in beliefs (he’s a fundamentalist, I’m an atheist — we’re like Dr. Cox and his annoying sister Paige on Scrubs, only we don’t reconcile at the end of the episode). She expressed disgust at the way they were treating me, and how people treat atheists in general. She told me she felt bad for what my family did to me, which is nice coming from a devout Catholic like Martha.

She then came out to me as a bisexual, which I, being an LGBT supporter, certainly had no problem with. Then we spent the rest of the gray-skied afternoon walking amidst the trees, talking about boys and singing show tunes, the same friends we always were.

The whole thing went much better than I’d expected.