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“Atheist” =/= “Alien” October 10, 2008

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

The workplace gives me a good bird’s eye view of how people in my country see atheists. There’s the weird “I was gonna tell you something but now I’m not because you might get offended” reaction, for one. And lately I’ve been more open about religion to more people. Luckily, the reaction’s not Bible Belt bad, it’s just an amusing sort of cluelessness. “What is this strange creature they call ‘atheist’?”

Gary (whom I now find really annoying and creepy): “Did you hear about the — oh wait, you’re an atheist…”
TA: “Dude, we’re not hateful misanthropes who can’t take a joke. I like Altar Boyz and the occasional Lifehouse song, and Judd Apatow anti-Semitism references. People act so weird around you once they know you’re an atheist.”
George (nebbish guy that I’m sort of crushing on): “You’re an atheist, TA?”
TA: “Er, yeah. You scared?”
George: “No, I just didn’t know.”
Anne: “Ah, your religion is atheist?” (to others) “Hey, TA’s religion is atheist!”

Like bald is a hair color, as many would say.

TA: “Just tell the damn joke already. I’m not easily offended.”
Gary: “So, there’s this very smart, atheist professor, who would challenge his class with arguments about how God does not exist…”
TA: (tries hard not to groan) “Does this involve a piece of chalk and whether or not it breaks?”
Gary: “Well, it’s an egg…”

Again, I’m not easily offended, but he had to pick the one joke that specifically targeted my beliefs and claimed that some stupid coincidence disproves everything I believe in? Somebody hand this guy the Idiot’s Guide to Interacting with People.

Bern: “Yeah, my girl and I are having some issues, especially when it comes to religion.” (note: he’s Catholic, she’s…some smaller sect of Christianity)
TA: “Heh, you said it. It’s doubly hard for people like me.”
Bern: “Why, what religion are you?”
TA: “I’m an atheist, actually.”
Bern: “Oh! Where’s your church located?”

So yeah, sometimes it’s easier to just not bother bringing it up, because it gets fairly tedious to have to spell everything out for everybody.

It still beats the Bible Belt, though. Better cluelessness than bigotry and hatred.

By the way, did I mention that Gary is really annoying and creepy? Have you ever experienced having a friend of the opposite sex, who you really want to tell to stop fucking touching you, but you can’t because you don’t wanna make it weird? I mean, it’s not like they’re caressing your tits or anything, but the constant touches on the shoulder or forearm, or high-fives are beginning to seriously piss you off because you’re just not a touchy-feely kind of person, except when it’s a serious, crying-your-eyes-out issue, or if it’s from someone you dig (like when George touches my hair, I totally don’t mind).

Luckily, Gary’s quitting next month, so I just have to keep my distance for a little longer.

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Ask Teen Atheist, #4 September 22, 2008

Posted by Teen Atheist in Ask Teen Atheist, issues.
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8 comments

Curt asks:

When you say you like Unicorns, are you refering to unicorns in the mythical sense or the IPU?

I’m referring to unicorns primarily in the “cute cuddly illustrations you find on little girls’ pink Lisa Frank lunchboxes” sense. How can somebody not like unicorns? They’re so darn pretty! I’d always listed unicorns as my favorite animal. (Bunnies are a close second. EEE BUNNIES) I also like unicorns in the “Neil Patrick Harris’ shroom dream” sense. I can certainly appreciate the invisible pink variety, as well. They’re all beautiful!

Unicorns rock!

Unicorns rock!


[Credit: Perry Bible Fellowship]

Yes, my atheist life is this boring. August 9, 2008

Posted by Teen Atheist in anecdotes, career, issues, rants.
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26 comments

Excuses on why I haven’t posted in about a month now:

  1. Religion is no longer something I want to discuss with my parents. (However, I get more and more resentful that I have to sit and wait while they pray before dinner. At least I have breakfast and lunch elsewhere, and with co-workers who, while religious, don’t shove their beliefs in my face.)
  2. Workplace drama isn’t all that interesting. It’s mostly bitchy co-workers making rumors about me, like I’m fucking my married boss, et cetera. Tedious.
  3. I don’t have much time to go online, and when I do I’m usually feeding my crush on Steven Weber and Casey from Make Me a Supermodel. (He’s a Buddhist! He thinks that “the whole peace and love thing is, like…awesome”! Is it weird that I find that totally sexy?)

Now, I did mention that workplace drama isn’t all that blog-worthy, but I’ve experienced some new, weird reactions to my admitting my atheism.

Once, I was talking about a dire-but-funny situation with Gary, 36, and for some reason he asks…

Gary: “So, are you a Catholic or a Born Again Christian?”

TA: “Atheist, why?”

Gary: “Oh, never mind.”

TA: “No, really, why were you asking?”

Gary: “It’s nothing.”

Then just yesterday, I was walking home with Marc, 28, and we were talking about his close encounter with a different married boss whom he’s crushing on big-time.

Marc: “Are you a Catholic, or…?”

TA: “Atheist.”

Marc: “Oh okay, nevermind.”

TA: “Why?”

Marc: “No, I was just asking.”

It’s weird how they get eerily quiet about it, like there was a joke they wanted to tell you but they refrained from it because people of your “kind” probably wouldn’t get it. What does this reaction even mean? It’s good that they’re not going into some idiotic argument about how I should see the light or whatever, but are they scared to offend me now? I like offensive jokes as much as the next guy. Take this hilarious skit from Judd Apatow and friends.

…Man, I love me some Jews. (And Justin Long! Woohoo!)

On the tangent of interesting things I found on the Intarwebz, I’d been Googling Christian Bale since watching him in The Dark Knight (unpopular opinion: I liked Heath Ledger’s Joker, but my favorite performance in that movie was Aaron Eckhart as Two-Face). Much digging led to my discovery of a full recording of the less successful of Todd Haynes’ two rock-star-inspired films,Velvet Goldmine.

Now, the movie itself wasn’t the greatest thing ever, but it was definitely interesting, and worth watching just for Ewan McGregor’s brilliant turn as the Iggy Pop avatar Curt Wild. He was a revelation! I’d been “eh” about him before, but after seeing the awesomeness that is Curt Wild, I am all over this boy. Plus, he’s one of the very few men who look hot in platinum blond hair and guyliner. Is anyone else as psyched to see I Love You Phillip Morris as I am?

Check out his rocktastic take on “TV Eye” (warning: NSFW!):

Velvet Goldmine had me as wistful as Christian Bale’s character in the movie, even though I wasn’t even alive in the 70’s. It was more centered around the sexual freedom of the era, which made me sad in realizing the truth: that we’d experienced a regression since then. Whatever happened to the days when being gay or bisexual was cool?

And then I get to thinking, was it easier to be an atheist back then, as well?

Interview with Teen Atheist July 20, 2008

Posted by Teen Atheist in anecdotes, issues.
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6 comments

I’ve been interviewed by The Pakistani Spectator! Granted, I feel slightly less special because the questions were canned (take a gander at the other interviews and you’ll see what I mean), but it’s nice to be interviewed anyway.

Go check it out!

Ask Teen Atheist, #3 July 16, 2008

Posted by Teen Atheist in Ask Teen Atheist, family, issues, teen angst.
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15 comments

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!

Wordy ruminations July 9, 2008

Posted by Teen Atheist in career, family, friends, issues, teen angst.
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4 comments

T.A. – sleep + unlimited internet access + 1 week paid leave = tedious, lengthy diatribe on “my thoughts, let me show you them.”

Taken from an e-mail exchange with Holy Prepuce:

If at some point in your upbringing you bought into the Catholic idea of a heaven or resurrection (i.e. that our conscious selves survive death and perhaps even live forever), was it difficult to come to terms with the loss of this belief?

It wasn’t difficult for me, I found it to be a breath of fresh air. I’ve always been a very inquisitive and imaginative child, so even at a very young age, I’d read the Bible (Revelations was my favorite part; I’m weird that way) and think, “What if this is just really tedious fiction?” The more I thought about it over the years, the more absurd I found the whole concept. Virgin births, talking bushes, life after death? Really?

I remember going through a very difficult time when nobody in the house would even speak to me, and I thought, “Well, at least God’s there for me. If I just keep praying, He’ll help me through this.” I realized much, much later on that God wasn’t doing shit, because what help did he provide, other than maybe sitting there, hearing my prayer and going “Mm-hmm”? I pray, and nothing happens. Nothing’s ever happened my whole life that was a result of a strong faith. It wasn’t God that helped me through that time, it was my own imagination.

Religious leaders scare people into remaining faithful with talk of eternal damnation and other horrific consequences. And the more you devote to the religion, the more you want it to be real, because you grow increasingly reliant on it, and it does seem like such a nice concept. So, despite a lack of evidence that what they believe in is real, religious people don’t want to question it because they don’t want to open up another can of worms when the alternative, turning a blind eye, is so much easier, especially when everyone around you is just as blind as you are.

As for my Predominantly Catholic Country in general, most atheists here come to that realization in college (I have yet to meet anyone who was raised atheist over here!). For instance, Carl became an atheist in the middle of a college course dissecting creation versus evolution. I think this trend exists because in college, the power of influence shifts from the parents to the peers and teachers, so people start to consider all sorts of options — beliefs, orientations, what-have-you.

The whole “college self-discovery” thing is a transition I never experienced or had to experience, probably as a result of my poor relationship with my parents, my natural inquisitiveness, my rebellious nature, and a hefty dose of introspection.

In short, I’m really weird.

But it’s always seemed to me that denial of mortality was one of the primary motivators for religious belief, even in the face of strong contrary evidence for the claims made–so finally accepting that we are not immortal has to be one of the defining moments of a a theist’s “conversion” to atheism.

That’s definitely true for a lot of Catholics. My philosophy about it has always been, I want to live in the now, and live the way I want to. Why would I be banished to hell or thought of as an evil person or a bad follower if I decided to eat a cheeseburger in Lent? It’s my life, and that cheeseburger looks pretty damn tasty!

I find it to be a terrible waste of life not to enjoy yourself because you’re waiting for the next life, which God promises will be much better. I see my life the same way I see my job, I suppose: I don’t ever want to fall out of love with it. I don’t want to settle just because there’s going to be something better later on, because I don’t want to be looking for something better in the first place.

I found this wonderful quote from Lance Armstrongย that sums it up pretty nicely: “Quite simply, I believed I had a responsibility to be a good person, and that meant fair, honest, hardworking, and honorable. If I did that, if I was good to my family, true to my friends, if I gave back to my community or to some cause, if I wasn’t a liar, a cheat, or a thief, then I believed that should be enough. At the end of the day, if there was indeed some Body or presence standing there to judge me, I hoped I would be judged on whether I had lived a true life, not on whther I believed in a certain book, or whether I’d been baptized. If there was indeed a God at the end of my days, I hoped he didn’t say, ‘But you were never a Christian, so you’re going the other way from heaven.’ If so, I was going to reply, ‘You know what? You’re right. Fine.'”

Also, tell me about life as a teenage atheist in your country…

I’m getting more comfortable with it now, as compared to back in September when I started the blog. ๐Ÿ™‚ I don’t proclaim my godlessness to everyone, but I can reply honestly to anyone who asks without even batting an eyelash. Reactions vary (it’s usually a polite smile, followed by a change of topic), though thankfully none as violent as my parents’ reaction. It’ll always be the pink elephant in the room with them. I wonder what it’ll be like when my brother goes to college… ๐Ÿ˜‰

Atheism and debate June 22, 2008

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

“The more you stomp in poop, the more it stinks.”

Who thought I’d ever be quoting Billy Ray Cyrus, eh? It’s true, though, and it’s the best way to describe how I feel about responding to the anti-atheist comments I get here. Sometimes they’ll go all-out on their rage (“You’re going to hell!”) or be deceptively nice (“May you see the light someday”), but I treat them all the same way: I delete them.

It’s not as easy when you’re confronted with that kind of spammage in real life, though. If there’s one thing I learned after almost a whole year of being a “heathen” atheist, it’s that you have to walk around carrying an arsenal of proper responses to arguments that will be thrown at you from any angle. Atheism and debate walk hand-in-hand, or at least, debate is constantly humping atheism’s leg.

Here are the different debate tactics I’ve encountered so far:

1. The sanctimonious approach
Case in point: Tyler

“Your atheism is just a phase. You’re a good person, TA, I know you’ll come back to the light eventually.”

Insisting that you’re not in a dark place of any sort will only lead to the two of you running around in circles, so I just respond to this with a noncommittal nod and smile, followed by…

2. The change-of-topic
Case in point: Me

Tyler: “Why are you still an atheist?”
TA: “Oh, um…hey, the espresso brownie at Starbucks is really good, have you tried it? Come on, let’s go get one.”

If debate were a PlayStation (sorry guys, I’m loyal to Sony — wider game selection), this tactic would be the “reset” button. Yeah, I know, shame on me for taking the easy way out and wearing out that button like a motherfucker, but you’ve got to learn to pick your battles. Time is of the essence, and I’d rather waste it on other things than explaining why yes, I’m an atheist and no, I’m not Satan’s daughter.

3. The banishment
Case in point: CDT

CDT: “You were being condescending, blah blah blah.”
Me: “Are you kidding me? Here’s why your comments were completely condescending, and I just responded because I don’t tolerate that kind of asshattery around here.”
CDT: “…Satan has got a hold on you!”

Still the dumbest argument I’ve ever had (next to the ones with my mother), and the funny thing is that I’m pretty sure CDT still thinks he won.

4. The personal attack (closely related to #3)
Case in point: Fred

Fred: “I can’t believe you posted our whole debate on your blog and made me look like an idiot!”
TA: “I just quoted you verbatim, dude. I didn’t make you look like an idiot, you made yourself look like an idiot.”
Fred: “Oh yeah? Well, all of my friends think you’re an elitist bitch!”
TA: “…And? What does that have to do with anything?”
Fred: “You’re not offended?”
TA: “No. Should I be?”
Fred: “You’re not compelled to change your personality and be a better person? Wow. That’s kind of horrible.”

I couldn’t help laughing because Fred, who happens to be a bigger elitist and a far more abrasive and unlikable personality than I am, was OMG Morally Outraged (TM) that I wasn’t affected by that “revelation.” And the moment he lost his temper over that while I maintained my cool, I knew that I had won.

See, Fred’s a very predictable type of debater: if he knows he’s been backed into a corner, he’ll go right for the jugular and throw everything but the kitchen sink at you, even if it’s completely unrelated to the topic at hand. These debates are very easy to win. All you have to do is keep a straight face and remain calm and unaffected. They’ll go batty.

5. The non-sequitur
Case in point: Mother Dearest

“How can there not be a God, when I managed to get through all of these difficult times in my life? How can there not be a God, when this world is so beautifully complex? You can’t possibly believe that it came out of nowhere!”

It’s tough arguing with idiots. You can’t win, even when you win. Not to say that my mother is an idiot entirely, but you all know how she is when it comes to my atheism.

So, there you have it. TA’s Top 5 Encountered Debate Tactics. Now, it’s up to you whether you want to respond to the argument, or be a lazy bum like me and just press the “reset” button.

It could’ve been…worse? June 7, 2008

Posted by Teen Atheist in anecdotes, rants, teen angst.
Tags: , , , , , , ,
32 comments

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.

The importance of being earnest May 26, 2008

Posted by Teen Atheist in anecdotes, friends.
Tags: , , , , ,
26 comments

I have this grotesquely ugly friend who, for some reason, finds himself totally hot (which makes him like…a lot of other people I know). Don’t ask me why. He’s the kind of dude who is baffled why he can’t seem to make it with women, and he thinks that a mere glance his way from a chick means that she’s checking him out. It irritates the hell out of me, but I try not to let it register on my face.

One day, this friend puts me on the spot: “Am I ugly?”

I was so caught off-guard that it literally took me ten seconds to answer. And the only B.S. I could come up with was, “Don’t ask me that question. I have weird taste when it comes to aesthetics.”

It’s one of those things where I’m damn sure I could have come up with a better response if I’d had the chance to concoct one beforehand. So anyway, this weird little exchange has prompted me to ask you guys, since I am completely curious (and would like a better response for the next time somebody asks me that question):

What is the meanest/smartest/wittiest/most hurtful/most evasive response you’ve given when an ugly friend had asked you if s/he was ugly?

Or, if you haven’t been asked that before (consider yourself lucky), what would you say? Would you pick tact or honesty?

I’ve finally earned my wings! May 18, 2008

Posted by Teen Atheist in anecdotes.
Tags: , , , ,
33 comments

I don’t think I’ll ever tire of using theist references. Although I’m currently in the process of graduating from “OMG” to “OMJ(oe)”.

Anyhoo, two days ago, I received a wonderful present from Benj of Atheista.net. Despite the fact that Atheista may have inadvertently outed my nationality as a result of this blog post, I’m still totally psyched!

I’ll admit that I came really close to going on hiatus due to the lack of atheism-related events happening in my life, but now that I have this, my enthusiasm has been newly energized! Even though that might mean more atheism-free, workplace-ranty posts. Sorry, guys.

Thanks to Atheista’s generosity, you may now redirect your servers (or not, if you’re lazy) to…

teenatheist.com

(I would have made it do that HTML blinky thing, but even I’m not that annoying.)

Now, with regards to my nationality being kind of out in the open now, it’s no big deal, as I have mentioned in my About page. Let me just say, though, that I am not in the least bit ashamed to be a countrywoman of [insert country here]. (Okay, so that sounded kind of hilariously ironic, but I do have a point here!) I only maintained ambiguity here because I do not feel that my citizenship is not relevant to the message I am trying to convey with this blog.

…If there is one.

Also, I started this blog aiming to reach an international audience rather than a country-exclusive one, which is usually what happens when [insert country here] bloggers know that you’re from their country. I hope that knowing where I come from does not change your opinion of me; I am still the Teenage Atheist, period, rather than the Teenage Atheist From [insert country here].

I’m not 100% sure on what to do with this shiny new domain since I’ve always been dependent on blog hosts (me to Atheista: “I feel like a hillbilly who just got an iMac โ€” Iโ€™m totally honored, although I have no idea how to work this internetty website thingamajigger stuff.” Yes, I am a little bit racist, too. Everyone is!) but I’m currently in the process of figuring this out. I may be contacting Jersey sometime soon to enlist her help, since she’s been very helpful about telling me which buttons to click and all of that. Hee.

In closing, let me quote Wayne Campbell: “Party on!”