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Ask Teen Atheist #6 September 4, 2010

Posted by Teen Atheist in Ask Teen Atheist, family, issues.

Chadwell writes:

I’m a 16 year old in highschool and I guess my natural cynicism lead me to question the dogma and ignorance of religion. I was a christian but I just figured that why would god send the only salvation to man kind to a single area and practically turn his all-mighty back on the rest of the isolated world. More issues built up and I questioned more until I reached the point of atheism. I have been a self proclaimed atheist for a while now. However, I should just get to the problem I’m having. So my parents are relatively religious and always turn a blind eye to anything negative about religion. I “came out” to them two days ago and they literally laughed at me. They took nothing seriously and they said I would need to rely on my faith in god one day.

So whithout further ado, what should I do? (lol that rhymed) What should I say/do to prove to them I’m serious?

Though not all atheists had to go through the same thing I did (thankfully), I’ve been through enough to say this: it’s very, very difficult to make the religulous see our side of things. I’d even go so far as to say that it’s not worth the effort — at best, you get a fair debate, at worst you worsen the rift between yourself and the people you’re talking to.

In a situation like yours, I think the issue isn’t so much about how to convince them as it is about how to deal with them. Religious parents react in different ways upon finding out about their child’s atheism; I think you’re actually lucky your parents went for denial instead of anger, like my (estranged) parents did, but I understand how frustrating it is when your parents don’t take you seriously.

And this sounds stupidly simplistic of me, but: the best way to prove you’re serious is to be serious. As many a writing teacher would tell you, “Show, don’t tell.” You already know that your parents are likely to turn a deaf ear to anything you have to say in defense of your non-belief, so instead, be a living example of how you can be a sane, good and kind person even without God or Christianity in your life. Refine your motivations and your values system. Donate to charity because you like helping others. Study hard because you want to succeed. Don’t hurt or steal because you genuinely believe that such acts are wrong because they violate basic human rights. Be nice to other people, including your parents. That way, if your parents ever start coming at you with attacks on your beliefs, you can defend it through real-life examples.

It’s still possible that no matter how well you live your life, your parents will still refuse to show any modicum of respect or tolerance for your beliefs. My estranged parents still see my atheism as a personal failure on their part. (They failed me in countless ways, but atheism wasn’t one of those.) But if you have a life you’re proud of and a belief system and values system you’re secure in, their approval won’t (and shouldn’t) matter to you anymore. You’ve risen above them. You take yourself seriously. And that’s what’s really important.