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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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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. 🙂

Martha, part 2 November 9, 2007

Posted by Teen Atheist in anecdotes, friends, issues, school.
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I met up with my religious friend Martha for the first time in months. During one particularly quiet moment when we sat on the steps, feeling the wind in our faces, I decided that it probably wasn’t a good idea to keep this part of myself hidden from someone I trust.


Me: “How do you feel about atheists?”

Martha: “I don’t have anything against them, though I do kind of feel bad for them since they don’t have someone to believe in.”

Me: “Yeah, it would probably be easier to have someone omnipotent to turn to in times of hardship.”

Martha: “Or someone to blame. I blame God all the time.”

Me (laughing): “Yeah. Um, I have to tell you something.”

Martha: “What is it?”

Me: “I’m an atheist.”

Martha: “Really?”

Me: “Yup. You’re not mad?”

Martha: “Why would I be mad?”

The sad thing about coming out for me is that I often act like my atheism is something I have to apologize for. It’s certainly not, but I do often have to brace myself for the worst, especially after facing rejection from my own family. I told her about getting kicked out of Christmas this year, and how I essentially lost a brother due to our differences in beliefs (he’s a fundamentalist, I’m an atheist — we’re like Dr. Cox and his annoying sister Paige on Scrubs, only we don’t reconcile at the end of the episode). She expressed disgust at the way they were treating me, and how people treat atheists in general. She told me she felt bad for what my family did to me, which is nice coming from a devout Catholic like Martha.

She then came out to me as a bisexual, which I, being an LGBT supporter, certainly had no problem with. Then we spent the rest of the gray-skied afternoon walking amidst the trees, talking about boys and singing show tunes, the same friends we always were.

The whole thing went much better than I’d expected.

Martha September 24, 2007

Posted by Teen Atheist in anecdotes, friends.
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Two years ago, my friend Martha* was feeling depressed. She was in tears, and this close to giving up on God. Guess who came to the rescue? That’s right. Me. Teen Not-Quite-Atheist-Yet.

“God has a plan for all of us,” I’d told her, meaning every word I said. “I know you can’t feel Him right now, but that doesn’t mean He’s not there. You just have to keep believing. It’s all going to be okay, trust me.”

After talking things out a little more, Martha smiled, thanked me and resolved to start actively trying to restore her faith in God. We left the dormitory room for a walk around the track, feeling much lighter.

I was actually quite proud of this moment. It made me feel like I could really help people. I, after all, am the kind of friend who would probably spend the most time trying to talk you out of your depression or attempted suicide. (Which I have done, incidentally, on more than one occasion.)

I’m not sure what this moment means to me now that I no longer believe, though. Further to that, I wonder how Martha would react if I told her that I now think it’s all bullshit.

*not her real name