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It could’ve been…worse? June 7, 2008

Posted by Teen Atheist in anecdotes, rants, teen angst.
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On a whim after breakfast, two friends and I went to a large, museum-like antique shop, with ancient relics and furniture from India, Sri Lanka and the like. The store owner was a handsome, 50-something woman named Layla who was the kind of person every woman (or me, anyway, if every other woman was wildly uncool and wanted to be Paula Deen when they grew up) aspired to be like — wealthy, worldly, been-there-done-him. Very, very cool.

One of the friends I have with me is the naive, wide-eyed type who hopes to settle down one day with her American boyfriend (it was an internet romance), white picket fence blah blah blah. The discussion topic turns to how expensive it is to get married in the “US and A” (TM Borat), as compared to our country. I share my personal views on the matter: that marriage, to me, is just a piece of paper with a bunch of people’s signatures on it; that I didn’t intend to get married, I’d much rather be like Oprah or Susan Sarandon.

Layla: “What about when you plan to have children?”

TA: “Well, I’m an atheist. It doesn’t really matter.”

Layla bursts into laughter. Really, really loud, “Oh, you kids” kind of cackling. My two friends had no idea, so we all just kind of grinned uncomfortably. When her laughter dies down, she just says, “Oh, I don’t know anymore,” and wipes a tear from her eye.

So, it goes back to me being a silly teenager whose atheism is just a phase.

Apparently, atheism is the new Wicca.

You’d think someone as open-minded and worldly as she would be more respectful about it, but it goes to show the power that religion has over people. Everybody outside of the congregation is an idiot or a heathen. But I guess that applies to every sort of belief, Wicca and atheism included.

I still think Layla’s cool. Just, ever so slightly less than I used to.

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Comments»

1. Kenneth Burchfiel - June 7, 2008

As a Christian, I don’t think you’re an idiot or a heathen. I respect that you’re trying to find the truth, just like me, and that’s an important thing we share.
In my opinion, the less labels, the better.

2. Teen Atheist - June 7, 2008

Thanks, Kenneth. ๐Ÿ™‚ And the world would be all the better for it if everyone thought like that.

3. Karen - June 7, 2008

Even in my very progressive part of the U.S., marriage confers many legal benefits to both partners that are either denied to unmarried couples or are a pain in the ass to establish by legal contract. (This is why I’m sooo jazzed that the California Supreme Court declared that denying marriage to same-sex couples is unconstitutional. I have too many gay friends who really, REALLY ought to be married.)

Atheists generally marry for the most pragmatic of reasons: the legal protections and benefits accorded to their partners and dependents. Don’t reject it out of hand, just put it off until it makes life easier for your partner and offspring. ๐Ÿ™‚

4. Karen - June 7, 2008

Oh, and it’s perfectly okay to choose NOT to have offspring. (You knew that already.) But as partners age, there are distinct advantages to having joint legal control over assets, the right to make medical decisions for an incapacitated partner, etc. I appreciate that such concerns aren’t quite on your radar screen yet, but understanding the contractual benefits of marriage is useful.

5. Karen - June 7, 2008

One more thing: TA, there will ALWAYS be people who think you’re an idiot. If they keep encountering you, most of them will get over it. If not, it’s their loss.

And until they die off, people of an older generation will often think of you as a kid. It’s hard to avoid, even if you’re trying — and lots of people don’t try. (I knew I was getting old when the cop who gave me my last ticket appeared to have crawled out of a cradle to do so.) Pity us, shrug it off, and hope you should live long enough to suffer the same cognitive dissonance. ๐Ÿ™‚

6. layla - June 7, 2008

lola or layla? im confused.

7. Teen Atheist - June 7, 2008

Layla. It’s a fake name, does it really matter?

8. Constantine - June 7, 2008

Being an atheist is not a phase or kind of whim. Its another way of saying why should be believe in some OTHER SUPERPOWER who is not seen or not visible to us. Why should I, rather, no believe in “ME” being that power and be confident about MYSELF.
So for fanatics who are irrationally releigious atheists and bunch of nutcracks who do not believe in God or a Worldly power.
And for normal people they are just kids or youth in a temporary phase.

I personally think calling yourself an atheist is just a self praise. There is at least one moment in your life when you long for a higher power to be with you, help you, solve your problems.

Even though that kind of power does not exist, still the belief prevails.
Its that belief that binds people, sects together. Unfortunately some religious idiots do not believe in togetherness and they seek separateness and hold grudges.

9. Jennifer - June 7, 2008

I can kind of understand people assuming a teen’s religion is a phase, since teenagers do tend to go through phases, try things out (according to common wisdom anyway). But a teen who says they’re a Christian is probably not going to get that reaction so I don’t see why atheism should get any less respect.

I agree with Karen about the legal benefits, but otherwise it seems like nothing more than a public celebration of something you’ve already decided to do (from an atheist perspective that is ๐Ÿ™‚ ). Which isn’t a bad thing. But not necessary either. The reason I’m not convinced about marriage is that I’m not convinced staying with one person your entire life is the best way to go – people change, you might be happier with different people at different times of your life.

10. zeynepankara - June 7, 2008

What it has a bearing on to have kids, lol…

11. vjack - June 7, 2008

I’ve always found it interesting how quickly open-minded people morph into something else entirely when the subject of their religion and how it just might not be true is raised. They have learned that all they have to do is make a belief statement and everyone backs off and takes it at face value.

12. Karen - June 7, 2008

vjack #11 — yes, but as TA notes, when someone declares nonbelief, people DON’T back off. Grrrr.

I’ve been on this planet for 48 years, but I still remember, vividly, how many of the ideas/positions I had as a teenager were dismissed as being “a phase”, or “naive”, or “when you grow up, you’ll understand”, etc. And while my attitudes and ideas about many things HAVE changed, the ones that were so casually dismissed have not changed much, perhaps because they were the ones that I thought hard about. Most of the change in my attitudes/ideas have been the result of actually thinking hard and rationally about various topics.

From your posts, TA, I’d guess your habit of thinking carefully about various issues is at least a decade more advanced than mine was at your age. You go, girl!

13. vitaminbook - June 7, 2008

Unfortunately, a lot of teenagers actually do treat atheism as a kind of ‘new wicca’. I know several young teenagers who are atheists purely because they know it will shock their parents and friends, which to me is just as bad as being a Christian or a Muslim because that’s what everyone else in your family is.

Hopefully these types will grow out of it, one way or another. It gives the rest of us younger atheists a bad name!

14. Gina - June 7, 2008

Nice post, TA. I’m curious … what does being athiest (or even married) have to do with having children???

15. time2shine - June 7, 2008

I agree with Kenneth Burchfiel (first comment). Christians who really KNOW the Lord are most interested in reflecting His love. That’s what He’s all about. Yes, people will say “But He is just!” Yes, He is, but first He is love. Whenever He has dealt with me, it has been His love that first gets my attention. I am humbled by it and that’s what brings me closer to Him. I know I’m speaking to an atheist, but you may be interested to know that God interacts and even speaks to us. He will speak to anyone who is willing to hear. Christianity isn’t about a system of beliefs or rules, it’s about a relationship, as God intended, with us. There are absolutes, but that is because God desires to give us all that is good and all that brings us abundant life.
I hope the very best for you in every way. I hope you find happiness and freedom that you are searching for. I am finding it more and more each day and it is good. May God, who has made you, knows you and loves you, bless you.

16. Show-Ender - June 7, 2008

Looks like someone has crossed the line… what do you think, TA?

17. time2shine - June 8, 2008

Whoa, I just read your disclaimer and I have to agree – I crossed the line. Please accept my apologies as I meant no disrespect. I certainly am not trying to “convert” anyone, just offering a different perspective – my guess is – you don’t want to know. I will respect that and I still hope the best for you : )

18. Teen Atheist - June 8, 2008

Constantine:

I personally think calling yourself an atheist is just a self praise. There is at least one moment in your life when you long for a higher power to be with you, help you, solve your problems.

Just because there might be a need for it doesn’t mean it actually exists. It’s not self-praise, it’s a declaration of personal belief.

19. Teen Atheist - June 8, 2008

Jennifer:

The reason Iโ€™m not convinced about marriage is that Iโ€™m not convinced staying with one person your entire life is the best way to go – people change, you might be happier with different people at different times of your life.

Exactly, thank you. It’s not like I’m dumb enough to make a big, sweeping declaration like forgoing marriage without even understanding the benefits of it. It’s just that, as you said, I don’t feel I would be happy with the same person for the rest of my life.

Anyone who says “You’ll find that Someone Special when you grow older” gets a roundhouse kick to the face.

20. Teen Atheist - June 8, 2008

zeynepanakara and Gina:

What does being athiest (or even married) have to do with having children?

Layla posed the question because, as a theist, she finds it completely immoral to have children while you are unwed. I, as an atheist, see differently.

21. Teen Atheist - June 8, 2008

time2shine hasn’t crossed the line too much, Show-Ender. Let me be the judge of that.

time2shine: I always appreciate differing points of view, and you weren’t being invasive unlike other Christians who have commented in the past. However, you might want to ease off on the “May God bless you” — atheists usually don’t take too kindly to that. I appreciate the apology, though. ๐Ÿ™‚

22. Agersomnia - June 9, 2008

time2shine: Indeed, careful who you send God to bless. For a Hindu, Muslim, or others, it’s like starting a whole diplomatic/war-like issue of being a US citizen in the Cold War and receive a condecoration from the old URSS… Or like being a US citizen nowadays and receive a condecoration from Fidel Castro, anyway.
As an example, I could send the Flying Spaghetti Monster to touch you with His Noodly Appendage. But you probably wouldn’t like it, so I won’t. ;P

TA: I don’t know how is marriage over your land, but here an atheist might not be so troubled: we pay for a civil judge to get a civil marriage, and a priest for a religious marriage. People often make the two things as closely together as possible, but non-religious folks only need the judge to literally sign a marriage contract. And it does not have to be for life, as there is a legal divorce procedure, too.

A female friend actually did that, after years living with her partner. She decided it for the reasons stated by Karen: protection for the offspring. And so she was married without the help of any god.

23. Teen Atheist - June 9, 2008

As an example, I could send the Flying Spaghetti Monster to touch you with His Noodly Appendage. But you probably wouldnโ€™t like it, so I wonโ€™t. ;P

Well-said. XD

I get that marriage is convenient for some people, but I just don’t happen to be part of “some people.”

24. time2shine - June 10, 2008

I so appreciate your response . . . and I get the “May God Bless you” thing. I have to laugh at myself about that. Just a note on some advantages of marriage . . . I’ve been married for 15 years and some times have been tough. Trust me, there were times I thought I wanted out. But keeping my commitment to my husband and kids, caused me to put someone else first instead of myself. I have had the privilege of sacrificing for another and have been rewarded with stronger character and sense of purpose. Staying married has helped me become more like the kind of person I really want to be. I am finding power in being able to keep my peace even when my circumstances are stormy.
By the way, as a new blogger, I find your site very impressive!

25. Agersomnia - June 10, 2008

I’m also on the not-married-just-yet list. I presently live with girlfriend, whom* I expect to be my life-partner, and who wishes to marry sometime, possibly with me.
But right now, we’re both postgrad students and we have no children. Sometimes we have dreams that pull us into different directions, and neither of us wishes to take away those dreams the other one has, but even so we’re trying to find middle ground and a common future for us.
I don’t know if in 30 years we will be together, but we both want so. It doesn’t make sense to marry with someone you love but that doesn’t share your plans for the future. Also it makes no sense getting married too soon just because you feel you gotta be with that special person: you should be able to do so independently of marriage.
Also, maybe it’s just me, but I would do everything just to protect my partner, anytime anywhere, and I don’t need a signed contract with any god or any judge to do so: I’d do it because I love her, I care for her, and she is important to me.

*(I hope that’s a good use of “whom”… english is not my first language, but it just felt right to use whom instead of who. correct me if I’m wrong)

26. petersmisek - June 11, 2008

Maybe Layla wasn’t laughing about your beliefs. She might just have gotten all nostalgic about how she used to imagine her life when she was your age? She might have been like that when she was young, but people change. For example: I used to have a biology teacher, an emotional tree-hugging hippie who NEVER wanted to marry her boyfriend, because it’s only a piece of paper. Two years later… they got married.

Not really sure what I’m trying to get across… Maybe don’t write Layla off just yet. Anyways, good luck to you.

27. metacynical - June 13, 2008

well, i know a lot of people who are going “ooh, atheism is cool because it’s basically devoid of the moral statutes of Christianity.” so there’s a small fad going through the ranks of the average intellectual, but as a kind of rebellion, sorta.

as for marriage, i have no say on the matter, not for another, oh, 10 years or so. :p i’m prioritizing getting some first. :))

28. Teen Atheist - June 13, 2008

Yeah, the just-a-phase atheist trope certainly does exist.

as for marriage, i have no say on the matter, not for another, oh, 10 years or so. :p iโ€™m prioritizing getting some first. :))

Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free, right? ๐Ÿ˜›

29. blackatticus - June 23, 2008

sometimes i laugh at how realistic people are.
i have a friend Omar, whose muslim, but at the same time a very “calculated, methodic/can’t stand waisting time or words” kind of guy. so for a while…his response to questions like:
“so…..what do you think about such-n’-such”
he’d just say: “…i don’t think about such-n’-such.”

i just found his plain non-chalant sincerity hilarious.
i’m guessing that may be how Layla took your response to her question. cause each generation is just wiser and growing up faster.

kids in middle school rockin’ black berrys,
and getting head in elementary — but that doesn’t take thought.

you say “i’m athiest, it doesn’t really matter” is a conclusion. thought out. done.

30. truepenny - July 21, 2008

I am an atheist and I personally thought the response was kind of unexpected and I was unsure how it was related until I read the comments. Maybe she didn’t mean to be critical or imply that you’ll suddenly become a religious zealot who wants two kids and a white picket fence. And if she’s in her 50s, you can’t really blame her for viewing you as a child.

That being said, I certainly know the feeling of being patted on the head as a cute little atheist who doesn’t want kids.

31. teenwithissues - November 6, 2009

Atheist in the new wicca? I don’t believe that. I think this is something I’ll have to deal with the rest of my life because it’s what I’ve decided to believe.

32. Teen Atheist - December 5, 2009

Good! I agree. ๐Ÿ™‚


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