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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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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!

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Mixed messages April 6, 2008

Posted by Teen Atheist in family, issues, rants.
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16 comments

Watched Horton Hears a Who with my Mother Dearest last Thursday. The animation was downright stupefying, the characters were likable (slightly emo son Jojo was so cute, and my favorite would have to be that weird sheep-porcupine-looking thing that goes “aaaah”), and the story was really good. And Seth Rogen. That’s my future husband, right there.

At dinner with the rest of the family after the show, my father asked about the movie. “The message was very nice,” my mother answered. “He believed in the Whos, even though they were invisible.”

God fucking damn it.

Seriously, I can’t watch anything with my mother without it turning into some metaphor for the virtues of theism/Catholicism. The paranoia hampered my enjoyment of the movie, especially in scenes where the antagonist kangaroo is like “If you can’t see it, hear it, smell it, or feel it, then it isn’t there.” (Which I agree with, by the way, but I’ll get to that later.) My atheism will always be the elephant in the room — hee, get it, “elephant.”

I was seething inside, but I managed to maintain an only mildly irritated-looking facade. “But he could hear them,” I retorted, trying to restrain myself from getting too snarly.

“Yeah, well.” Typical Catholic response.

As for me, I actually like the message I got from Horton Hears a Who, which is obviously a different interpretation from my mother’s. And it goes as such:

The tyrannical kangaroo was angered upon finding out that Horton held a belief (that there were little people living in the speck) that was radically different from hers or the rest of the jungle’s. Fearing that the propagation of this new belief would encourage people to start thinking outside the box and cause her to lose her vice-grip on the kingdom (the kangaroo was the self-appointed leader), she ordered her minions to persecute Horton and force him to admit that what he said he believed in was absolute hooey. She also managed to convince everyone that Horton was a nutjob for believing in this shit.

Sound familiar yet?

Horton stuck to his principles, and luckily for him, the Whos of Whoville managed to make themselves heard in time to be saved. The animals embraced Horton and his beliefs, and blah blah happily ever after.

So, from what I can see of this story, it’s not pro-theist at all. It’s anti-narrow-mindedness. I feel like we atheists are the Hortons in this picture, persecuted and stigmatized for choosing to think outside the box and seek an answer that makes more sense.

Unfortunately, while our Whos in Whoville are loud and clear (read: logic and tangible evidence are in our favor), most choose to turn a blind ear. ‘Cause, you know, they might go to hell for even considering it. What’s important, though, is that like Horton, we shouldn’t give in to the pressure of fitting in.

I’d share this with Mother Dearest, but as I’ve mentioned before, I refuse to argue with anti-atheist theists. It’s just not worth the effort.

Update: Christmas January 4, 2008

Posted by Teen Atheist in anecdotes, family, teen angst.
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7 comments

I’m not sure why I haven’t updated recently. I don’t think it’s because I’ve run out of things to say, but because I’m starting to worry that my parents might find this blog and ream me. I really should work on finding a job and moving out. My mother (we’re on speaking terms now, more on that later) is sending me job advertisments now; can’t decide if that’s an un-subtle way to say “Get off your lazy ass” (because she’s made that quite clear already), or if she’s actually trying to be helpful. In any case, I’ll take it.

I didn’t want to write about Christmas, because while it was better than I’d expected — having my cousins over cushioned the blow a little bit — I still think I would’ve had more fun by myself in a hotel, getting wasted and stuffing myself with chips. After a week of the cold shoulder, Mother Dearest started talking to me again. I played along, but this certainly doesn’t make everything okay. I hate it when people expect a free pass for the shitty things they’ve done “just because it’s Christmas.” A holiday should not be enough to excuse a person for hurting someone else. So, yeah, still hate her very much, but I guess I’ll try to hide it until I can get out of this place.

On Christmas Eve, I accidentally outed myself to my cousin, John*. He was on my laptop, logging on to Radio Blog Club and for some reason, the username form said “teenatheist.” I don’t know how it happened, since I’ve never visited Radio Blog Club before. In any case, he was like, “Are you an atheist?” And I’m like “Yeah, but you weren’t supposed to know.” He asked me a few questions about it, but he was pretty okay with it.

I wish I could say more, but I’m feeling particularly numb at the moment. I’ll leave the comments section of this entry as a “Q and A with Teen Atheist” kind of thing, so if you have anything at all that you want to know about me (favorite color? actor? movie? Do you really think that ECW’s John Morrison is hot?), fire away.

12 Things I’m Thankful For December 25, 2007

Posted by Teen Atheist in family, friends, issues.
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19 comments

So, it’s Christmas, and despite all the shit I’ve been put through recently, I still think that it’s a time to be happy and to reflect on the things that made 2007 a spectacular year for me. I figured that 12 was a Christmassy enough number, so here are the top 12 things I’m thankful for this year:

 

12. My 18th birthday celebration (best birthday ever)
It was the first birthday I got to spend with just me and my friends, because in previous years I’d tried to ask but would invariably have my father try to guilt-trip me, all “she doesn’t want to spend it with us.” This year, I guess I’d finally earned it. I had an amazing time, being with people I loved who treated me like a queen. I was smiling the whole time.

 

11. Scrubs
For a sitcom, this one sure makes me cry an awful lot (damn you, John C. McGinley and your out-of-this-world acting skills!). I’m especially thankful for this line by Dr. Kelso:

“Nothing in this world that is worth having comes easy.”

It’s become my personal motto, and it’s helped me through a lot of the challenges I’ve faced this year.

 

10. Clothes shopping and spa trips
Shallow as it may sound, shopping and getting my hands and feet pampered never fails to brighten my day no matter how down in the dumps I’m feeling. They’re my favorite vices.

 

9. Fred
I still refuse to apologize for standing up for gay people, but it’s not like Fred was a horrible friend otherwise. I do owe him for being one of the few friends who could truly empathize with me and be there for me whenever I was in a bad place emotionally. We’re still on bad terms with each other (and I still think he’s a little off his rocker), but I am still thankful for what he’s done for me over the years.

 

8. The LGBT Pride March
Special thanks to everyone who encouraged me and gave me the testicular fortitude to go through with it. Through the march, I met a lot of amazing LGBT people, like Justin and Emmett, who truly inspire me. I felt so proud of myself for standing up for others’ rights, and I would gladly do it again next year. In fact, I’ve already signed up for a couple of local gay-straight alliances, and I plan to be an even louder voice in support of LGBT rights in college.

 

7. Greg Berlanti
This TV wunderkind, the creator of Everwood, Brothers & Sisters, Dirty Sexy Money and Eli Stone, is exactly the kind of person I aspire to be like when I’m older. It’s my personal ambition to become a television screenwriter (and clearly, I’m siding with the WGA on the writer’s strike), and if I ever achieve the dream of creating my own drama series, I hope mine could be as significant as his shows, which are not only well-written and entertaining, but are a huge step forward in terms of LGBT visibility on television. (more…)

Anger management: Sporkage December 22, 2007

Posted by Teen Atheist in family, rants, teen angst.
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24 comments

I haven’t talked to that judgmental, self-absorbed bitch Mother Dearest since last Monday’s argument, and with every day that passes, I just get more and more upset about what a total asshole she’s been.

(I’m sorry, Mom. I know I shouldn’t talk this way since you pay for all my shit, but I’m angry, and when I’m angry I get irrational.)

‘Cause, really. She’s actually talking about me behind my back now. I don’t usually eat dinner, so at one of these dinners I’m within hearing range (but not in anyone’s line of sight) and I hear her whine “She’s so disrespectful and ungrateful” to my father, who’s all “I don’t want to hear it”/ “This is between you and her, keep me out of it.” Classy, Mother Dearest. Really classy.

So I figure, if she’s doing it, I might as well continue the Mom sporkage on this blog, which by the way, is the only venue where I talk about her. My friends, save for Tyler, have no idea that I hate my family this much.

The nearer Christmas Eve looms, the more upset and restless I get about the shitty Christmas that she’s forced me into. What’s worse, spending Christmas alone or spending it with a bunch of people you hate, two of whom you’re not on speaking terms with? This has “Worst Christmas Ever” written all over it.

Sure, I could take the easy way out and offer an empty apology to her so we can at least have a Christmas that looks okay, but I’m sick of getting bent over and fucked in the ass here. I’ll tell you why I won’t apologize: BECAUSE I HAVE NOTHING TO APOLOGIZE FOR. What do I say, “Sorry for being myself? Sorry for sticking to my convictions?”

Mother Dearest is so self-absorbed that she thinks all of the major decisions I’ve made are centered on her. She told me that she thought I became an atheist just to piss her off, and she thought that I chose Dream College over Smarty-Pants College because it would directly disobey her wishes. And now she thinks that I wanted to spend Christmas away from the family just to spite her. Not only is that theory incredibly narcissistic, but it’s also a huge insult to my intelligence and character. So, no, Mother Dearest, I’m not doing it to spite you, because you’re hardly ever a factor in my personal decisions. I wanted to spend Christmas at a hotel because a) I assumed that you were kicking me out of Christmas, and b) I’d rather be happy alone than miserable with my family, especially on Christmas Eve.

During the argument, she explained that she wasn’t kicking me out of Christmas, she was just trying to tell me that they weren’t going to give me any gift. (And let’s face it, she’s only doing this so she can buy that motherfucking digital camera.)

Mother: “I just feel that gift-giving isn’t a tradition that atheists follow.”
TA (snickering): “Why, because it’s written in the Bible somewhere that Baby Jesus wants you to buy each other Nintendo Wiis to celebrate his birthday?”
Mother: “No, but giving each other presents is a way to celebrate our Savior’s birth, and clearly you don’t believe in Him, so you’re not getting one.”

It’s not that I’m bitter about not getting a gift, since I got a good amount of money for my birthday, but who wants to spend Christmas with someone like her?

I apologize if it’s been nothing but ranty-ness so far, but I’m extremely resentful and I’m venting here. Moving on, here are the various arguments for Christianity that she made in her argument, which I will proceed to spork: (more…)

Vulnerable December 17, 2007

Posted by Teen Atheist in family, rants, school, teen angst.
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19 comments

In tears once again. Fresh from a particularly acrimonious fight with Mother Dearest, where she let a lot of bitterness come to the surface.

Apparently, I have no right to feel offended by anything they say or do, just because I’m still living under their roof. Because they’re paying my tuition. She actually stooped to guilt-tripping:

“We spent thousands of dollars for your 18th birthday! It was a huge sacrifice for me — I opted not to buy that digital camera I’d wanted for myself because we were saving up to make you happy.”

Fucking seriously.

And she said that since they are still making these huge fucking sacrifices for me, disrespectful, ungrateful, spiteful old me (her words), I’d have to be at peace with the fact that she would always be disappointed with herself for letting me become this way. My choices — to be an atheist, to enroll in my Dream College instead of Smarty-Pants College like her — are her failures.

How could a speech like that not make any child want to kill themselves (hey, at least they’d be making a lot less “sacrifices!”)? How could she expect me to understand that I will always be a reminder of her shortcomings, and be okay with it?

She also wanted to criticize my choice to remain closeted in Dream College:

“You have to fight for what you believe in.”

You know what? Fuck you. Who are you to judge? Am I supposed to settle for a limited number of choices (the only non-sectarian institution is Smarty-Pants College, where she wanted me to go to), just because I’m an atheist? The world isn’t fucking fair, okay, and I’m going to take what I can, even if that means taking on a “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in college. If I’m facing this much discrimination at home, imagine how much worse it would be in a Catholic college!

She accused me of taking advantage of Catholic education, which, again: IT’S A CATHOLIC MOTHERFUCKING COUNTRY, WHERE THE HELL AM I SUPPOSED TO GO?

Also, I’ve now been forced to stay home on Christmas Eve, because she said that going out and partying and staying at a hotel would be “too unsafe.” I agree, it is a risk, but I don’t want to be miserable on Christmas Eve. I want to enjoy myself and have a special night, with or without you.

Oh, what I wouldn’t give to be able to free myself from all this fucking drama. I wish I could run away, but no, I’m too financially dependent. I’ll probably just stay at home and do whatever she tells me to do, like the daughter she wants me to be. Maybe I should lie and say I believe in God again. After all, she sacrificed her longing to have that digital camera, just so I could have a nice 18th birthday! Because really, wasn’t it enough to see the smile on my face after I came home from the best birthday ever? I was so happy! You had to hold it over my head that it took a huge toll on you, just to prove a point? Well, thanks! You win, asshole! Now when I look back on that wonderful night, all I’m going to remember is THE FUCKING DIGITAL CAMERA YOU NEVER HAD.

What are you doing [Christmas] Eve? December 16, 2007

Posted by Teen Atheist in family, issues.
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6 comments

Mom,

Okay. Fine. I’ll leave you all alone on Christmas; I’ve picked out a nice enough hotel and a dance club where I’ll spend the evening. When you and Dad and Pete have your Christmas dinner, though, and you’re looking at the one empty chair at the table, I hope you know that you did that. Not me, not my atheism. You.

Love (…not),

Me

 

Okay, moving on. Had this exchange with gay cutie pie Justin:

TA: “Yeah, they’re kicking me out on Christmas because I’m an atheist. I’m not sure what to do yet. I’m either going to be partying the night away at [well-known club] or doing volunteer work, although I haven’t found a proper organization yet.”

Justin (grinning wickedly): “Well, I certainly know what I would pick.”

By the way, I got the awesome idea to do volunteer work from Sexy Secularist. Again, though, I really can’t find an org that needs help on Christmas Eve. I contacted the Make-a-Wish Foundation, and I got nada, the other orgs are too religion-centric and probably wouldn’t welcome someone like me. And Justin has a good point, partying my heart out would be a lot more fun.

Suggestions for good international charity organizations (or other activities I could do) are welcome. Or you could buy me a one-way plane ticket to New York. I’d love you forever.

Anyway, I’m asking you all: What should TA do on Christmas Eve?

And where is this line I’m not supposed to cross? December 13, 2007

Posted by Teen Atheist in anecdotes, family.
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21 comments

We were having lunch at a Chinese restaurant I really liked, and the waiter had just served the cold cuts and fried rice.

“Wait,” my mother said as she always did, “let’s pray first.”

The rest of them prayed while I immediately helped myself to the jellyfish. This scenario happened every time we ate out. Today, however, Mother Dearest couldn’t help herself.

“Next time, please just stop what you’re doing while we’re praying. Even though you don’t believe in this anymore, you should still show some respect for our beliefs.”

I rolled my eyes and continued to add jellyfish to my plate by the forkful as she yammered on about “respect for religion,” although I really wanted to voice a rebuttal. Why should I show respect for your beliefs when you haven’t shown any respect for mine? Besides, I’m showing enough respect by not talking shit about your Catholicism (only your bigotry) the way you’ve been talking shit about my atheism.

Besides, how is this any different from the forced moment of silence being imposed upon American schools? Then again, I probably shouldn’t expect much. We’re not a secular family, after all.

Still, it’s an imposition on me to have to wait until you finish praying, and it in itself is showing disrespect to what I believe in. Is it really so hard to just mind your own fucking business while you’re praying? Just close your eyes and ignore me, damn it.

I realize that I’m being a total brat about something this tiny, but I’m already out to the family. It’d be a step backwards for me to bend over any further for their bigotry, even if it is just for a meager fifteen seconds before a meal. I’m not ashamed of my atheism, and I’m sick of taking any more bullshit from these people.

If they don’t let me eat in peace the next time we’re at a restaurant, I’m getting the fuck out of there. Enough is enough.

What I did for love (TA at the gay pride parade) December 9, 2007

Posted by Teen Atheist in anecdotes, family, friends, issues.
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7 comments

(Why yes, that post title is a reference to A Chorus Line. Man, I’m cheesy.)

It was the night before the parade, and I approached my mother in the kitchen to ask her again if I could attend the gay pride parade. She, again, refused.

“Please,” I whined, “my gay friends are counting on me to be there!”

After taking a while to think it over, she sighed, “Ask your father.”

So I did, and Dad was like, “It’s up to you,” and hey, a victory is still a victory, even if I didn’t get to use the “they’re being discriminated against, like meee!” speech I had prepared in my mind.

My parents have a certain way of showing their disapproval of my choices, and that’s by leaving me to fend for myself as much as possible. They pulled this little trick on me when I enrolled at Dream College; Mom went through all the red tape to procure an application form and even bargain for an extended deadline for me when it came to College That She Wanted for Me (also known as Smarty-Pants College), but when I insisted on applying for Dream College, they didn’t lift a finger to help. I had to take three-hour-long trips on public transportation (no walk in the park, especially not here) to and from the school for a number of days to complete my application. For the parade, I had to take the whole journey myself as well.

This trip was made significantly more difficult because of what I’d chosen to wear. I’d never been to a gay pride parade before, but I figured that what I wore to the parade made an important statement, so I gay-ed it up some, with a black mini-skirt and rainbow striped knee-high socks. It was a little discomforting to hear the catcalls and lewd remarks as I walked to the bus stop, as well as the odd stares from pedestrians, but hey, it’s for a good cause, isn’t it? Ah, the things I do for love.

I’d actually signed up as a volunteer with the organizers a week beforehand, so I got to be a marshal to the madness, which was really cool. People loved my outfit — some even stopped to take pictures of me! I’m always flattered to hear praise about my sartorial choices from gay men. I remember being at a high-end shoe shop once, where the gay manager approached me to tell me how much he loved my outfit. I happily recounted this to my mother later on.

“Yeah,” she snorted, “it’s no surprise that he liked your outfit — he’s a fag.”

Thanks a lot, Debbie Downer. I just brushed it off, because I love gay people, and my mother is a frumpy dresser, anyway.

(more…)

I don’t know any better, but you might! December 2, 2007

Posted by Teen Atheist in anecdotes, family, issues.
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33 comments

So I’d like to ask you all for your advice again.

There’s an LGBT Pride March in our country this month, and as an LGBT supporter, I of course want to go to show solidarity for the awesome gay/bi/transgender people of this ultra-conservative country. And my gay friends too, hee-hee.

I approached my mother and asked her if I could go. She gave me a firm “No,” explaining that I was too young to attend such an event.

“Why am I too young?”

“Well, there’s the whole thing about gay marriage, and gay rights…issues that even some adults can’t understand, let alone a child like you. Besides, if you’re only there for show, you’re going to look like an idiot.”

I smelled bullshit (come on, it’s kind of flimsy, don’t you think?), but I wasn’t surprised. Mom always underestimates me. Of course I understand gay rights, why the fuck do you think I’m going? To look fabulous, or scout for the perfect Gay BFF? This march is about anti-discrimination, which has always been my biggest cause. LGBT people deserve as much respect as everybody else.

Naturally, I’m bummed about it. My first-ever semi-political event, and I’m not allowed to go because I’m too young. Sure, there’s this other party that day that I’m going to attend in case I really can’t go to the march, but since when has my mother’s disapproval ever stopped me from doing anything? If I did everything my mother told me to, I’d be a timid, frumpy Catholic girl instead of the fabulous, go-getting atheist that I am today!

Readers, I have a couple of questions for you:

  1. Is my mother right? At 17 (going on 18 in less than a week), am I too young to attend this march?
  2. If not, how can I convince my mother to let me go?