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January 2004

Hi Kimmy.

My mother, the Beast, has taken on the feat of changing me into a Christian because, well, she knows everything. At least that's what she tries to portray. I am 17 years old, 18 in March... I am most definately old enough to make the decision of what I choose to believe or not believe. The Beast, unfortunately, has other ideas. She has said to me, in a very heated argument, that I cannot make that decision until I have studied the bible and such and gone to college for it. For the life of me I cannot find the logic behind that statement. They (and when I say they I mean my parents and, well, everyone in the religious community) see a CHILD walk up to the front of the church and hear that CHILD utter the name of god and claim to feel something and take him into its heart and they shed a tear, exclaim their happiness and show how proud they are of their shiny new clone baby and all is well. But I, a 17 year old adolescent, cannot make that decision until I go to college. Once again, can't begin to explain the thoughts behind that whole deal.

She has come up with ultimatums to force me to go to church, and in her eyes, revert back into what I grew up as, a Christian. One of which was "go to church at least once a week or you can't drive your truck." Do you find that a little bizarre? I mean really, punishing your kid for not wanting to go to church???? But after many screaming matches, me getting so verbally abused I cannot breathe, and many nights of me crying at home on a Friday night (because I am not allowed to go hang out with my friends because they are male and that's not ladylike) I revoked that ultimatum and stood my ground and through tears and sobs tried my best to let them know how I feel. Which was in itself an accomplishment, because of the way I am treated and talked down to and expected to act like an adult but treated like a two year old. Not to mention "When I was a kid, girls only talked to ONE guy. But I guess it's different these days." Can you say traumatic experience? The Beast makes me feel as if I am in the wrong. Because of my religious beliefs (or technically, lack thereof) and my tendencies to associate with people of the male persuasion (which, by the way, is only because of the two faced, hypocritical, ignorant ways the females carry themselves around here) I am a BAD person, a slut, and in dire need of church. That is not a message someone should send to their child.

Do you have any advice for me? I know a handful of Atheists and we have these little inside jokes and it helps relieve some stress but sometimes I am so overwhelmed by the whole thing. Every day someone tries to shove god down my throat and insist it's for my own good and they are just trying to help and whatnot. I don't come up to people and try to prove them wrong. I don't tell someone I don't agree with them. I don't start religious arguments. So shouldn't I be shown the same decency? But I think we all know that's not going to happen. So in the mean time, while I am forced to live under their roof and take all their mess, is there anything you can say to maybe help me. I know there are others out there like me, but where I live we are outnumbered and outcast and looked down upon. Not by ALL, though. I have a few religious friends, maybe 5 or more, and they accept me. People younger than I am!!! They are more accepting and compassionate and understanding than any adult I know. This is disturbing, in my opinion. But back to my question....any words of comfort or any way I might go about talking to my parents? Thank you for your time.

~Infidellicious~


Dear Infidellicious:

The first thing I would recommend may be one of the hardest. I know, because I tend to get fairly emotional over this sort of thing too. But try not to cry, or scream, or in any way lose your cool. The easiest way to get someone to listen to you is to show them that you are behaving like a rational adult. If your folks scream and you remain calm, it automatically makes them look bad and they'll realize that eventually. Also, so long as you're screaming and crying they can dismiss you as hysterical and excuse themselves from paying attention to what you're actually saying.

That might help, anyway. It's worked on a lot of people that I know. The only other thing that you can do is just take a deep breath and remind yourself that your parents love you, and that you won't have to live with them forever. It sounds like your mom especially has some very odd ideas of what proper behavior is, and I'm sure that's tough to deal with. But you can cope for another year or two until you go to college. Then, if it's at all possible, I would recommend living away from home. Find a roomate, or live in the dorm, or whatever you can do. But it will help establish some distance between you and your folks, and that might help you all deal with each other a little more rationally.

In the meantime, stay calm like I told you. Hang out with your atheist friends and your reasonable Christian friends. Let them serve as a reminder that you are just as good a person as anyone else, and deserving of the same respect (even when you don't get it). Part of growing up as an atheist is learning the best and easiest ways to deal with the people who will look down on you or hate you just for your beliefs. It's no different than any other persecuted group in history, really. Eventually, I hope, you'll be able to see that the opinions of people like that don't matter at all.

Surround yourself with the kinds of people who will appreciate you for who you are. It may be hard now, but it will be easier once you get to college. Unless you go to a religious school, you will probably find that you're surrounded by both teachers and students of a rationalist bent, and you'll begin to feel more at home.


Hello!

Your site has proved very useful! Being an atheist I have over the past two years been studying religion, just to check that there isn't anything out there! As part of my final question (part of a degree) I need to answer the question "is religion relevant?" I think I am edging towards YES but only due to the fact that it involves so many people. It is relevant to my family (They beleive in God) so I respect that. Your opinion would be most grateful on this.......

Many thanks,

From unreligious religious student


Dear Unreligious:

My answer to your question really depends on the context. Is it relevant to our society and our views of America (and to a lesser extent other countries)? Yes, for the reason you stated. Such a large percentage of Americans are religious that in order to consider the society you must also consider the religions found therein.

Is it relevant in a larger (perhaps even cosmic) sense? My first instinct would be to say no. There are arguments (right or wrong) that religion has actually retarded mankind's development as a species by causing people to follow directives instead of determining things for themselves. In that sense, religion is just a bump in the road for our species. To use a slightly Fruedian image, it is a difficulty with weaning or potty training that can be surpassed when we have reached our adulthood as a thinking species.

This may have been absolutely useless to you, and if so I apologize. I'm very "big picture" in outlook most of the time, and I find it difficult to look at things in smaller lights without a very personal face to them. That's why, as you may have noticed, my essays tend to be very personal and very particular. If there's anything I can say to clarify, or if you have other questions, please don't hesitate to let me know.

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