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Ask Teen Atheist, #3 July 16, 2008

Posted by Teen Atheist in Ask Teen Atheist, family, issues, teen angst.
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Alissa writes:

Hey. Okay, so I recently found your website and was reading around and I really want to talk to you. I’m 13 years old and I’m in the 9th grade. I know, some may think thats really young but I know that I don’t believe in god and I think I may be an atheist. I went to church for a couple of years with my father and believed strongly in the Roman Catholic religion. I live with my mother and she is Christian but we don’t go to church and during that time period (when I believed in God), I asked my mom if we could go to church, but we never went. I started thinking more about the religion. It just doesn’t make sense at all and I disagree with just about everything in the religion. I recently told my mom and my 18 year old sister how I feel and they we’re shocked and confused. Naturally they wanted me to go to church A.S.A.P. It’s not going to help though. I have a friend that goes to church every Sunday, takes religion classes every Monday, and is going to a catholic school next year, but doesn’t believe in God. I took it to offense that they didn’t try and accept it and they tried to convert me instead. It turned into a fight. They are not taking me seriously, they think I don’t know enough about the religion to not believe in it. I would just like your help as to what to say to them or what ever you think will help me.

Thank you.

I think it’s wonderful that at such a young age, you’ve found the intellectual bravery to question the religion you’d been indoctrinated in. It’s very rare, even among adults — they can question anything else (their credit card bill, their boyfriend, their college professor, their salary), but religion tends to be the “untouchable” topic for most people. So kudos, Alissa!

Sadly, your family’s reaction is very common, at least in my experience. I pretty much had to go through the same thing that you did, and even now, after almost a year, they still don’t really accept it. Even if your family is not the most devout, they’ll go on “You heathen! Repent nowwww” autopilot once they’ve discovered a threat to the foundation of their beliefs (read: your newfound atheism). The first thing they’re going to want to try to do is to convert you back in order to “correct” your “mistake.”

Of anybody you’re going to have to deal with about your atheism, your parents will be the most difficult hurdle because they will always see that part of you as a disappointment, as a failure on their part. The best that you can do is to reaffirm your belief in yourself. Don’t let what they say affect you. Don’t put so much power in their words. I know they’re your parents and they’re an important part of your life, but they can’t dictate who you are and what you can and can’t do. You already have a strong sense of self, Alissa — hold on to that.

“They think [you] don’t know enough about the religion to not believe in it” is one of the first arguments my parents tried to throw my way. I directed them to an About.com page on atheism. It didn’t work, and beyond that, it got ugly. They’re really never going to listen, at least mine didn’t; the best I could hope for is their silence about it. Hopefully you’ll be luckier, and they’ll learn to accept your beliefs over time.

I also regret to inform you that since both you and I are teenagers, there are going to be a hell of a lot of people who won’t take us seriously, especially when it comes to things like this. Remind yourself: it’s NOT “just a phase.” You’re an individual, too, free to believe in whatever you want to believe. Surround yourself with friends who accept you for who you are, and adults who actually do take you seriously (perhaps a freethinking and openminded teacher, if you have one?). Also, the atheist web community is full of friendly, accepting people who would be more than glad to talk to you about your problems, and share their knowledge about atheism with you. When I was going through that big fight with my family after being outed by my brother as an atheist, a lot of the online atheists dropped by my blog and left encouraging words. Not only did I feel accepted, but I also learned a lot about my beliefs.

As for what to say to your family, I don’t think anything can change their mind about this, but you can at least assure them that nothing they say or do will convert you back, but despite your lack of belief in a god, you are still fundamentally a good person, and that you hope they still accept and love you as a daughter despite your differences.

I hope it turns out well! More power to you!

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Comments»

1. karen - July 16, 2008

“You already have a strong sense of self, Alissa — hold on to that.”

Yes!!!!!

It’s so damned easy to get turned around and upside-down and totally confused in adolescence, because you’ve become aware that there are many people with expertise on various subjects, and far more people without any useful knowledge but claiming expertise, and how does one a) sort them out and b) make sense of the real information offered?

The only real tools any of us have are patience, a determination to think carefully about the “knowledge”/opinions offered us, and a strong desire to NOT buy into any explanations that don’t make sense.

And, lest you think I’m picking on adolescents, my comments apply to all thinking individuals. I’m just acknowledging the fact that adolescence is the earliest time that people have the mental resources to start sorting out the most important questions in life. I wish my fellow humans the same things I desire for myself: wisdom and insight in this lifelong process.

2. Steven B - July 16, 2008

I found this blog and have read your answers to Alissa. You both sound so intelligent in your answer mainly because you are. I do not know where people have got the idea that things written down in a book, written thousands of years ago constitutes absolute universal truth. It’s just utter plain nonsense to think that people that lived 2000 years ago held knowledge beyond what we know today.

When argueing with Christians, I always tell them that we now know from the invention of the microscope, that diseases are caused germs, bacteria and viruses, diseases are not caused by demon possession and witch spells and the only cure is by prayer, prayer was the only available resourse to anyone who lived in the first century. Prayer to them was like us dialing 911 to us living today in the 21st century.

It’s just a crying shame that we live in this modern age and people still put stock in an ancient old rusty book.

For the most part, the Bible is mis-information, it’s basically total lies, it was written on what people believed over 2000 years ago, it shows the ridiculous insanity of what people believed back then.

This is a wonderful informative blog, thank you for expressing your born-with common sense.

3. GDad - July 16, 2008

TA,

I hope that you use your talent for no-nonsense conversation to volunteer with youth. There are a lot of kids who could use a sympathetic ear like yours.

4. Prudence - July 16, 2008

I’ve come across this blog a few weeks ago and after having read some of your entries, I kept coming back for more. I wish to encounter more people who can discuss your beliefs intellectually online. I just feel bad for those who may be putting pressure on you because of your beliefs and because of your age. And somehow I could understand you. I haven’t come out just yet (to the parents) and probably would not do so in the near future, in fear of the inevitable and for the disruption of peace. And to think that I’m even older than you are! But then, in pursuit of knowledge, age shouldn’t really matter.

Good luck, and I’ll be visiting every now and then. Keep writing.

As for the 13-year old atheist who wrote to you, I congratulate her for having those thoughts as early as 13 years of age. I think I’ve only started to question all of those stuff that I’ve been indoctrinated when I got out of high school.

5. debese - July 17, 2008

Stumbled upon your post today, and was quite interested in your posts. We obviously are looking at the world from two quite opposite perspectives and I’m not going to go into a religious tirade, but one of your statements caught my eye:

“you are still fundamentally a good person”

How would I come to the conclusion that I or anyone is good? Or to go the other way, how would I know that I or another person is fundamentally bad?

Let’s posit another situation, let’s say a teenager comes home to his two devout atheist parents and announces that he’s become “religious” (to keep it generic). Will that teenager still be “fundamentally good”? Will the parents have deep cause for concern and be righteous in their efforts to destroy their offspring’s newfound faith?

6. Brad - July 17, 2008

It’s great that Alissa is thinking for herself and making decisions based on her conclusions. I too had to confront the family incredulity and heavy persuasion at the ripe old age of 11.

My tactic was pretty simple, but I stuck by it: “I gain nothing by believing the same thing that you do. I am still the same person, I just don’t believe in a god.”

Sometimes analogies like “I can like chocolate ice cream and you can dislike it; the world doesn’t change because of it” helped somewhat, but the biggest part of my success was simply stating that I didn’t believe the same thing and I was the only person who would ever change that fact.

Good luck and thanks for the writing.

7. Agersomnia - July 17, 2008

Well said, TA!

And Alissa: You are _NOT_ alone. Remember you can always pick your fiends to hang around.

8. telcontarrulz - July 17, 2008

Congrats all of you for holding to your views. I was born into the Roman Catholic faith, and while I still consider myself a follower of God, I no longer believe in religious organizations because of the many dogmas which don’t make sense. For me, it doesn’t matter what religion you belong to, or whether you actually have a religion. The main thing is that you are a good person and you try to make the world better.

It really annoyed me when I went to confirmation preparation classes and the teacher told us that Christians were special because they were baptized. They don’t seem to realize that people were indeed created more or less equal. I think that’s one of the main things which drive people away from the Church, because it is quite exclusive.

I went through a bit of a crisis of faith when I was fifteen and for a while was very confused because most of my friends weren’t Christians, and the Church taught us that non-Christians were going linger in Purgatory after death. The film Kingdom of Heaven really helped me to see the truth, which is not exactly what the Church teaches.

Well, good luck with trying to make people understand why you don’t believe in religion anymore. I wish you all the best.

9. Colin M - July 19, 2008

“I know, some may think thats really young”

Nah, sounds about right to me. I was 14 and in 10th grade when I realized I was an atheist.

10. Teen Atheist - July 20, 2008

Karen:

there are many people with expertise on various subjects, and far more people without any useful knowledge but claiming expertise

Hee, I love that! So true.

11. Tasneem - July 20, 2008

“”I think it’s wonderful that at such a young age, you’ve found the intellectual bravery to question the religion you’d been indoctrinated in. It’s very rare, even among adults — they can question anything else (their credit card bill, their boyfriend, their college professor, their salary), but religion tends to be the “untouchable” topic for most people. So kudos, Alissa!””

I totaly agree with this, and I think it’s a real problem, every individual has to make his brain work, and not simply follow his parents beliefs…

I want to get your attention to a very important point: finding your religion ureasonable and not making any sense, that doesn’t mean that god doesn’t exist or that all the other religions are nonsense either..It says one thing: this very religion is false..

then , our turn comes to investigate other religions, or you know what, we MUST start invistigating the claim of God existence before..it has to be the first step, the most important step that we have to take VERY seriously , because it decides every thing after it!!!

Regarding my self, I am a beliver in God, and I did invistigate this truth very carefully, I got a conclusion that denying god means denying and canceling your own mind and thinking.

Ofcourse, you will hear the same claim from athiests, because every one thinks he is right.. my advice to you is to start your seeking after the truth jurney, without taking any pressures from anybody -athiest or believer- you have to make your own convictions and beliefs by yourself…

I hope you will find the truth..sooner!

12. Teen Atheist - July 20, 2008

We ALREADY HAVE found the truth, Tasneem. Thanks very much.

13. Tasneem - July 22, 2008

Well, I don’t think you did dear…It’s not going to cost you anything if you do your reaserch 4 the truth again…just imagine what if it was right that there is a God, you’ll not be in a good situation then…

In fact, I do understand that being in a religion that is based on nonesense and on things that the mind simply canno’t accept , is giving you that resistense to religions and believing in general…and it’s not logical to think that way…
you also seem to be happy with your athiesm: look people! I am different, I am rebelious, I am not stupid like you believers although I am young!! I am using my mind!!

so let me tell you something: Athiesm may start with intelligence, but keeping on it is the stupidity itself..

I think that you have to be honest with yourself, to be sure that you REALLY want to reach the truth(not simply saying ” I’ve already have it”, you don’t sound different than believers by saying that) because – in case if you don’t realize it – this choise is very serious and you will have to pay alot if it was wrong…

I am not telling you : you have to believe, I am telling you that you have to work harder in order to get the right choise…Eventually, It’s your own choice, and ofcourse your own RESPONSIBILITY.

14. Teen Atheist - July 23, 2008

WRONG, Tasneem. Just because you believe that you’ve found the truth doesn’t give you the right to tell us to “research” more. It doesn’t give you the right to stereotype the attitude of atheists.

If you’re just going to be a condescending shit, take your delusion elsewhere.

Banhammered.

15. Arthur Brash - September 16, 2008

What Tasneem is suggesting is a common attitude: Keep searching until you see it my way. I suppose atheists say the same, but they ask for weighing of the evidence, not _more faith_.

Alissa, your Christian family is already atheist towards Islam, Judaism, and many other faiths. They dismissed these faiths the same way you dismiss theirs. A gentle reminder of such might silence some voices of dissent.

You are NOT too young for thinking about this. Age has nothing to do with the matter. One is never too old or too young to think. A parent saying “until age X you will believe Y” is no better than “Because” in response to “Why?”


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