Ask Teen Atheist, #2 May 15, 2008Posted by Teen Atheist in anecdotes, Ask Teen Atheist, friends, issues, teen angst.
Tags: advice, atheism, friends, Martha, peer pressure, religion
Hi. My name’s Emily and I’m 14. I’ve been athiest for about a year. I haven’t told my parents, and I still go to church with them. I don’t have the heart to tell them. Anyway, I’ve found one other atheist, my best friend. All of my other friends are very religious. I’m afraid to tell them, because a few will probably dump me right off, but I really want to keep them as friends. I want to tell them, but it will get spread around school, and I see what happens to others. I always stay out of religous discussions. What should I do?
Well, Emily, you might be asking the wrong person about this, because I’m not one of those very vocal, “I’m an atheist and everyone knows it!” types. But since you asked, I’ll give you my perspective.
As I’ve mentioned before, I follow a “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy when it comes to my atheism, except when the person is very close to me and I can feel that he or she wouldn’t turn on me upon finding out. I’m not ashamed of my atheism, mind you, it’s just very annoying to have to be armed with counters to various inane arguments all the time (“Then where did the universe come from?” “That’s just a phase, right?” “Why is this world that we live in so beautiful?” and other fun crap). There’s also the risk of making your relationship awkward with whoever it is you’re talking to. Even with people you’ve just met, like what happened with me a week ago at a movie premiere:
TA: “I think this movie would appeal to all denominations. I mean, I’m an atheist and I’m totally interested in seeing this.”
Elderly Woman: “Ah.”
TA: “And what did you say your job was again?”
Elderly Woman: “I’m an organizer at our local parish.”
TA: “I see. Cool.”
[awkward silence ensues; TA and Elderly Woman eventually excuse themselves to go talk to other people]
Let me tell you, though, it’s very liberating to be open about your beliefs, which is why I’m slowly becoming more confident in discussing my atheism with others. I think that’s what you could do, too. You don’t have to have a big “Coming Out” party or anything, just try to work your way into becoming more comfortable about your beliefs.
If you feel like your friends will reject you for being an atheist, you don’t have to tell them just yet. You can approach the friends you feel closer to and try to get a feel of how they might react; for example, you could start by asking them about their thoughts on religion and atheism. This is actually what I did with my religious friend, Martha (“How do you feel about atheists?”), and that went pretty well. I also told my friends from school about my atheism after a long discussion on religion (I had a post here, around November 2007, but I deleted it by accident. *cries*).
I don’t want to resort to cliches here, but I do believe you’ll know the right time when it comes. It’s when you feel like there are a million things you’d rather do with your sixty minutes than go to Mass with your parents. It’s when your upper lip starts to twitch when your friends all agree that “all fags should go to hell.”
It’s all a matter of priorities, Emily. If you feel like preserving your friendships at the expense of keeping your beliefs hidden is the better idea, no one’s stopping you. If you can’t stand it anymore and you feel like you need to speak up, that’s okay, too. There is no right or wrong answer here, it’s completely dependent on what you feel would be better for you.
Let me know how it turns out! And if you feel like my advice isn’t enough, feel free to browse through the comments section, because my readers usually have better ideas than I do. 🙂