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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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Let’s make things easier on all of us by not telling me anything May 6, 2008

Posted by Teen Atheist in anecdotes, career, issues, teen angst.
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18 comments

M’kay? Seriously, this office is TMI Central. I’m just a kid, let me flounce around in my weirdo outfits and devil-may-care grin without having the weight of your problems on my shoulders. Don’t you hate it when people tell you shit without you asking for it?

Just when I’d forgotten about my problems with Carl and Mrs. Carl (he quit, by the way — and oddly enough, I kind of miss him), Nikki comes into the picture with an issue of her own.

22-year-old Nikki (named after, yes, the song “Darling Nikki”) is the girl in your office who will stop at nothing to draw attention to herself. Some will be greatly annoyed (dude, nobody likes Nikki), while others, like me, only feel sorry for her. Just some silly girl with a histrionic personality disorder, is all. She’s essentially the office whipping girl, to the point that it drove her to tears once.

Still, it’s not like the derision is completely unfounded. Nikki would proclaim to anyone who asked that she used to model on the catwalk (still does part-time, supposedly), and everyone else would be like “…Really?” And I’d be one of those people. I’m not trying to be mean here, but Nikki, who might be model-ish from the neck down, is Broomhilda from the neck up. No kidding. She’s all splotchy and blemished and crooked-nosed, the kind of ugly that isn’t even modelesque ugly but just plain ugly ugly. She also brags about having expensive clothes, but when you ask her which outlet she got it from, she takes ten seconds to respond and then gives a wrong answer (read: she’s making it up). Nikki is the annoying kind of person who wants everyone to think she’s well-off, but it’s clear to everyone that she’s, well, not.

Let’s get one thing straight, though: unlike many of my co-workers, Nikki is not a bitch. The girl means well, she’s just a little off her rocker.

One day after hours, everyone else has gone home and it’s just me and Nikki, so I chat with her because I’m not picky about who I befriend. I’ll talk to whoever approaches me. She confessed that the pressure of everyone talking about her behind her back was really getting to her, particularly the latest gossip that she’s supposedly going out with one of our bosses, Kyle, even though he already has a girlfriend.

Now, weeks before my one-on-one with Nikki, I’d already spoken to some of my other (admittedly bitchy) officemates about her. One of them told me the whole situation, explaining that Nikki had a huge crush on Kyle and was now lying to people by claiming that they were in some secret relationship.

Back to where I left off, Nikki was like, “I can’t believe people would make up stuff like that, just for fun.” As a target of their rumor-mongering myself (I apparently have relationships with a couple of the bosses and several of my guy officemates), I just shrugged and explained that it was their nature to do that kind of thing.

Half an hour later, we’re standing outside the building, and she asked, “TA, are you good at keeping secrets?”

“Sure, yeah.”

“I have to tell you something,” she confessed. “But you have to swear not to tell anyone.”

“I won’t.”

She got this weird expression on her face. “…It’s true.”

(more…)

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!