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August 2003

Dear Kimmy:

My name is M, I am 16, and I have just recently become an atheist. I have tried explaining this to my parents but they think that I'm only going though a phase. Not only do they not believe me, but they also make me go to church. What should I do to get them to realize this isn't a phase?

Trying to Phase It Out


Dear Phased:

If your parents are absolutely stone-cold convinced (or they really, really want to be) that this is only a phase, you can't talk them out of it. Trying, time after time, to convince them of how much you really feel this way will only convince them of the phase theory. The phrase, "doth protest too much" will come to their minds. If that is the case, the only thing you can do is wait. Just wait it out. Eventually, as time passes and your mind doesn't change, they should come to grips with it. Just a warning: they may not. It's been known to happen. So long as relations remain cordial, try to laugh it off.

As far as the church thing goes, that depends on the relationship you have with your parents. If it were me, when I was sixteen, the relationship I had with my parents, I'd just have refused to go. That would have worked for me. It might only make things worse for you, I can't say without knowing your family. Try to get them to humour you. If they really think it's a phase they might let you skip just because they think you'll come back. If not, see if you can sit in the back and read a book. If all else fails, learn to sleep with your eyes open. This is a trick I learned in algebra class, and it's never failed me yet.

I know it's hard. I was sixteen when I became an atheist. It's been nearly eight years, but I still remember. You feel like you know your own mind, but no one will believe you. It's a powerless feeling, and it's awful. But the fact of the matter is, you're a minor and you still live with your parents. Yes, they should let you make your own decisions about something as personal as religion. Yes, they should know you well enough to respect your thoughts, and at least let you try a different path if that's what you want. They should, but they aren't required to by law. If there's no other way around, just wait two more years. Once you're eighteen no one can drag you into a church if you don't want to go (except maybe for weddings and funerals). It's awful and the time seems endless, but it will pass. I promise.

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