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Ask Teen Atheist, #2 May 15, 2008

Posted by Teen Atheist in anecdotes, Ask Teen Atheist, friends, issues, teen angst.
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25 comments

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. 🙂

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Ask Teen Atheist, #1 April 13, 2008

Posted by Teen Atheist in Ask Teen Atheist, friends, issues, school, teen angst.
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22 comments

Hooray, somebody finally wrote in to ask me for advice!

I would have answered this sooner, but my PC frickin’ ate my thousand-word response. Spurred on by the promise of a love letter (yay!), I finally got my lazy ass around to writing a new one. Feel free to give your own input to help Luke out.

Hello, My name is Luke(Kinda obvious). I’m 17, and I currently live in the USA. I guess this fits under personal problems. I’ve been an atheist for awhile now…about 4 months I believe. Before I became an atheist I was a Lutheran, and basically attended church every Sunday. One day I realized that “God” is hurting this world, people fight wars over Religion ect. I finally came out to my mom about a month ago, funny thing is, she said as she grows older she’s been having some atheistic thoughts as well. She basically agrees with most of my ideas and beleifs on religion. I don’t care to tell my dad, since he’s a Lutheran yet he never attends church. I guess my family life is ok, it’s school that is a bitch.

My school is basically very stereotypical. Almost every student in my high school is either a “Red neck” or an extremely religious teenager. Since I don’t care much for trucks or country music I tend to befriend the religious types. I’ve came out about my atheistism to my best friend, he accepted it, didn’t think less of me, told my other two close friends, and they accept it just fine. It’s everyone else that I tend to care about that is a problem. A few days ago I was talking on AIM in a buddy chat room with a few other friends. We were all talking for awhile, and some how Gay Marriage and Religion came up. Of course, all the people were against it, I for one, am for it. I gave them my reason which mainly came out something like this. “You’re against gay marriage because the bible says it’s a sin? Well, the Bible also says a parent is allowed to stone their child if he disobeys, maybe the bible doesn’t have all the answers”.Not sure if that whole stoning thing is actually in the bible, my mom told me, so eh. After a few more statements, they asked if I was an atheist. And being the honest bastard that I am, said I was. Every since then, they’ve all been ignoring me, seeming to look down on me. One ever said I was going to hell, to bad it doesn’t exist eh? They all seem to think I’m a bastard who has no morals what so ever.

So, I’m kinda stuck, basically the whole group of people who I used to consider friends (Besides the 3 I mentioned earlier) Think I’m “evil” or a “satanist” of some sorts. Funny thing is I used to respect a lot of these people and thought they were more intelligent then this. The one person who doesn’t think this way is this one girl, who says she doesn’t hate me or anything for me being an atheist, but she acts like it so the rest of her friends don’t ignore her. I guess I can’t blame her . So I guess this is my real problem, do you think I should just fake being religious again. It would probably be a lot easier on myself if my school didn’t look down upon me. And my best friend’s girlfriend lumps in this crowd, so it’d probably be easier on him since he’s whipped as hell. Or do you think I should just stand up to beliefs, and fuck them all. Funny thing is, I don’t hate or look down upon them for their beliefs. I don’t try to shove my atheistic ways down their throats. I don’t talk behind their back either. Even if I did become their friends again, I’d probably wouldn’t ever respect them the same way again. Damn, looks I’ve rambled. Well, thanks for reading.

First of all, Luke, I admire you for being so honest about your beliefs, even when faced with consequences like that. It definitely takes balls. Hell, you’re more forthcoming than I am — I wouldn’t lie to people and say I’m still Catholic, and I do sign the “Religion” portion of application forms with “Atheist” (that might be technically inaccurate because atheism is not a religion, but whatever), but I practice a “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, and I tend to avoid joining in discussions when they turn to religion. So, good on you for being out and proud.

Being in an environment like that is definitely tough, and I hate that prejudice is still so prevalent, even among young Americans. You say that you like these people despite how they’ve treated you, and that’s all well and good, but…are they really worth keeping as friends? Because if I were in your shoes, I wouldn’t bother trying to pander to people who don’t like me anyway. Why would I want to be friends with someone if it meant that I’d always be wondering in the back of my mind if he secretly hates me? Things would be great if you got to be friends with everybody, but real life doesn’t work that way (at least judging from my experience).

Faking being religious may seem like a good idea at first; I did consider it myself for when I go to college. But the more I thought about it, the worse it seemed. If you’ve read even a few entries on this blog, you’d know how little I think of my family, and how my atheism changed their perspective of me. I could have pretended to “find Jesus” again to get back in their good graces (or just get Mother Dearest to stop bitching). But I didn’t, because I realized it would have been pure torture for me, and it became clearer and clearer to me that it just wasn’t worth it. What I did instead was seek solace in my friends, who, no matter what their religions were, accepted me for who I am. I learned to stop caring about what my family thought of me, and once I did that, I finally felt happy with myself. That’s the key question, Luke: What is more important, that they like you, or that you like yourself?

Stop caring, I say, and find better friends. Even that chick who only pretends to hate you isn’t worth hanging around, because she clearly values her reputation over her friendship with you. How popular we were in high school doesn’t matter in the long run, anyway, at least from what I can tell. I’ve got co-workers who used to be high school cheerleaders, and are now just bitter, pizza-faced hags, having retained only their rancid personalities. The totally-out-of-it stoner dude who always zoned out in class and was made fun of by the other, “smarter” kids? He’s now my boss, Mr. McKenzie, well put-together, smart, and hella sexy, with ladies all falling over themselves just to get to talk to him. (Not me, though. I’d do him, but only when offered. :P)

If you really want to repair your friendships with these people, though, don’t lie to them. That shit will get tired, eventually. Instead, try to prove that despite your differences in beliefs, you are still a good and compassionate person. As they would say, “Turn the other cheek.” Hopefully, they’ll warm up to you and figure out that not all atheists are vicious, ill-intentioned demons.

I hope that despite everything that’s happened, you’re still doing well in school and in your personal life. Always keep in mind that what they say doesn’t dictate who you are. You’re still awesome!

The world is shallow. Trufax. February 16, 2008

Posted by Teen Atheist in anecdotes, career, issues.
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15 comments

[Apologies in advance for the number of non-atheism-related posts recently. If I limited my blog to experiences pertaining to my beliefs, this blog would be waaay thinner. This is most likely because I haven’t interacted much with my sanctimonious, preachy Mother Dearest since I started working, and god damn it, I love working!]

I realized in the fourth grade, while pondering on the ways of the world with a couple of friends, that anyone who claims that “Looks don’t matter” is a fucking liar. Of course they matter, and I honestly don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

Little Steve: “All that counts is what’s on the inside.”

Little TA: “Well, it counts for something, but I wouldn’t want to marry a guy whose face I don’t really want to see first thing in the morning.”

We were strange children. Hee.

When I say looks matter, I don’t mean that we should only go for the Adonises of the world, because that’d leave a helluva lot of lonely people. I only mean that it’s natural for people to want to be with those whom they are attracted to. Appearances are not the end-all-be-all, but they certainly do matter. Not just in romance, but in all sorts of interactions: from my experience, people are nicer to me if I wear something pretty and show a little leg.

In case you were wondering, I’m discussing this because an experience this past week had me thinking about how shallow I truly am. The experience happened on Wednesday morning, with 50-something divorcee Murray.

Before I continue, let me give you a brief description of Murray, whom I’d mentioned in my last post as the co-worker who gave an unsolicited lecture to me and fellow atheist Carl. That TL;DR moment aside, Murray and I had a pretty good friendship going, with an Opie-and-Cool-Older-Guy dynamic. In terms of looks, since that’s the topic, Murray is, well…old. And pretty gross-looking. (Hey, I never said I wasn’t shallow.)

I showed up on Wednesday wearing faded jeans and a fitted black Pearl Jam t-shirt with a low neckline; I’d taken to it with a pair of scissors because the collar was tattered. It showed off my ta-tas pretty nicely, although that wasn’t my reason for wearing it — I just really liked Pearl Jam.

Right as I walked into the office and sat down at my desk, Murray went “Woooo, someone’s looking hot today!” complete with the touch-your-skin-while-making-a-sizzling-noise gesture. Which, okay, it’s always nice to hear that you look good, but this was bordering on creepy. I’m fucking eighteen, dude, watch your boundaries.

I tried not to let the comment bother me too much, or affect my rapport with Murray, but I ended up avoiding him for the rest of the week. I think he took the hint, and he didn’t try to say anything like that again, limiting it to a “You look nice today.” It’s kind of a shame, because no matter how you slice it, that’s still one less friend for me in the workplace. (Oh well, he was kind of annoying, anyway.)

It was after that incident that I started thinking about whether or not I was overreacting or being superficial. If, for instance, it were Gay Friend Mikey or Platonic Soulmate Ray who made that remark, I wouldn’t have been bothered by it. Hell, even though he’s still got a good 15 years on me, if Totally Doable Boss Mr. McKenzie grabbed my ass and whispered dirty things in my ear, I’d have nodded, grinned, and locked the door behind us.

But since it was gross, old Murray, it bugged the heck out of me. It’s like that one SNL skit with Tom Brady, where he was in a 50’s-style PSA on sexual harassment, which included this awesome bit:

3 Rules of Avoiding a Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

1. Be attractive.

2. Be handsome.

3. Don’t be unattractive.

Funny but true.

Overall, I was a little shaken by what happened, but I’m not going to let pervy comments or lascivious stares affect the way I dress. I’ll wear whatever the hell I want to, thank you very much, and if you can’t keep your comments (positive or negative) to yourself, then I hope you won’t mind if I avoid you for a while.

Ah, the workplace. I learn something new every day.

TA would hit it (she totally would) February 10, 2008

Posted by Teen Atheist in anecdotes, career, friends.
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17 comments

Just finished my first week of work, and it was hella fun. Yay, me!

I met all sorts of interesting people at work. There’s my semi-cute, early-30’s boss, Mr. McKenzie, who doesn’t really make my heart race when I see him (plus he kind of has a beer gut), although I’d still hit it. I’d totally hit it. I’ve never had that phrase repeated so often in my head in one week. Whenever he’s got his back turned and I’m checking out his butt, I’m like, “I’d hit it.” When my co-workers squeal about how gorgeous he is, I’d say, “He’s not that hot, but I’d hit it.” Haven’t you ever encountered that kind of person? You know s/he’s totally wrong for you, and maybe isn’t even your type, but you’d still tap that ass given the chance. I’ve only experienced that kind of thing with McKenzie and with a former teacher of mine, Mr. Dexter, who somehow managed to be a Catholic and a Wiccan at the same time. He was weird, pale and spindly, but still kind of hot. Don’t ask me why.

McKenzie picks on me a lot because I’m the Opie of the workplace, but I’m handling it pretty well. I think McKenzie and I would have been good friends under other circumstances, but since he’s my boss, I find him just a little bit intimidating.

Back to the co-workers: fat, condescending uber-bitch Judy. I took this job knowing that people would probably underestimate me because I’m at least a decade younger than everybody else, but Judy is in a class all her own. She’s twice the bitch on the outside that I am on the inside, and that’s saying a lot, because you all know I’m a total bitch inside. I tried to be friendly towards her, but she’d raise an eyebrow and then turn her back on me. Whatever, nobody else likes her, anyway. Maybe she’s just jealous because she’s a 29-year-old college grad who’s earning the same amount as a dumb teenager fresh out of high school? Hee.

We have Annie, 27, sweet but slightly clueless. I spend most of my time with her, I guess because she was the first to approach me when I was new to the workplace. I sort of have to dumb myself down when I talk to her, but I don’t mind too much. It’s nice to not have to be on my toes all the time.

Ray, 24, brings out the inner dork in me, which is why I love hanging out with him. In the middle of work, we’d jump out of our seats and sing showtunes to each other! He’s the Jim to my Pam, if you remove the underlying romantic tension from the equation.

If all goes well, then Mikey, 28, will soon be my Gay BFF. Tee-hee. We like all the same things, and we get along great. He’s the only guy in the office whom I feel is on my level, intellectually.

Then there’s Carl, a kind father of two in his mid-thirties who sits next to me at work. I don’t know how the discussion came to religion, but it did, and when he told me he was an atheist, I breathed a huge sigh of relief, told him I was an atheist too, and then high-fived him. (What? It’s hard to find fellow atheists here!) Unfortunately, Murray, the mid-50’s guy who sits behind us, overheard the conversation and wheeled his chair over to share his thoughts on God and faith. I know he meant well, but it was incredibly TL; DR, and I spent most of that monologue trying not to space out. To make things worse, it was an “I used to be an atheist, but…” story. “But then I decided that logic just wasn’t for me.” (Okay, it was “But then my mom got cancer.” At least it’s an interesting twist to the whole “My mom got cancer so I became an atheist” story.)

It’s another annoying habit that theists have. It happened to me before when I had dinner with Joe, a hugely irritating friend-of-a-friend. I was telling him about my rocky relationship with my family and how horrible they are to me just because I’m an atheist. From out of nowhere, he starts preaching to me about “it’s not really about God, it’s about love” and blah blah fishcakes, and I just nodded and smiled even though I was thinking, “Guh, what? Worst date ever.”

I don’t know what compels someone to do it, but whenever I say that I’m an atheist, a believer who happens to hear me will suddenly go into a looooong sermon on the tenets of Catholicism or whatever. I hate to break it to you guys, but theists? We usually don’t care. Well, I’m speaking for myself, anyway. You’re not going to convert me by saying something long and boring about a topic I don’t give a flying fuck about, when we could instead be talking about something interesting, like rock music.

Murray’s actually my friend, and I like the guy, but once he was out of earshot, I whispered to Carl, “This is exactly why I don’t tell everybody I meet that I’m an atheist.”

Carl: “Agreed.”

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…)