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March 2004

March 12

I live in the middle of the bible belt, a medium sized town in the Northeastern part of North Carolina. I was raised as a good person by my father, and a christen by my mother. All my life I have been a 'freethinker' although I was unfamiliar with that term until very recently. Right now I'm completing my final year of high school. My question to you is this, how can someone that doesn’t believe in 'god' or something like 'god' find love?

Throughout my life I have had some very bad experiences with dating and religion (one ending in me standing at the front door of her house at gun point by her father telling me to never talk to her again). People have gotten to know me and liked me quite a bit, then upon discovering that I'm not a 'god-fearing soul' they no longer wish to know me. I have been a good person my entire life, standing in the back watching the world around me, seeing the good Christians go to church on Sunday and then Monday get in fights b/c of simply stupid reasons. I do have some people that have been able to see past what I belive, but I still feel as though I’m alone. I’m asked why I never allow people to get close to me, and no matter how much I try to explain it to them they never seem to understand. It’s as though I’m speaking a different language, and no matter what I say or how often I say it, they can’t understand.

It’s very hard to look past the situation that I’m in right now, I’ve known nothing else but rejection from females. I have been told that I’m nice, kind, even the type of guy that you want to marry… I’m the captain of a sports team, in honors classes, and work out on a regular basis. My build is nothing to laugh at, and yet I’m treated as though I’m nothing more then a warm body when it comes to social situations. It’s as though I’m only invited to party’s b/c if not, they’ll feel bad later about it, leaving the “nice guy that would bend over backward for anyone” at home with nothing to do.

I have talked with a variety of people about my situation and I’m told that if I could simply open up that I would be able to find someone, but how can you open up when everytime you do you get burned… I like to think of myself as a smart person, and I’ve learned that when you let someone in, all it brings is pain and embarisment, so I stopped trying. Although I have quite trying to reach out to someone, I still wish I could go out on Friday night with someone there caring for me. I’m not looking for true love, but it would be nice ot know how to act in an intimate relationship if and when I do find true love…

So I ask you this. What can I do?

-Lost in a deep sea of sorrow and longing

Dear Lost:

Oh boy. I know it won't make you feel any better, but your story sounds like a few million others I've heard or read about. It's awful being young, feeling in experienced, and being different in the way you are (a nonbeliever) doesn't make it one whit easier. I wish there was a magic piece of advice I could give you that would make it all better, if only so you wouldn't have to despair anymore. But you know I can't do that, much as I might wish to, and that's not what you asked for anyway, is it?

The short answer is that you must give love to get it, love yourself for who you really are, and you have to be open to new people and new things before anyone can come close enough to you to love you, even a little. I should have said that was the cliche answer. That stuff is all true, but it's also impossible to follow advice sometimes. Maybe a lot of the time.

Now, it sounds like you're still in school. I'm not sure whether it's high school or college, but either way. The point is that you're young yet. The women around you have not yet matured enough to recognize the kind of guy that every girl really wants: the nice guy who truly cares about people and who will make sure that they feel loved every day of their lives. My brother went through the same thing.  He was 25 before he met the girl who could recognize what a treasure he was, and then he married her.

So, it's possible.  No, my brother wasn't an atheist, he didn't have that to fight against. But he was (and I say this with all possible love and admiration) a comic book and sci fi geek. Not quite the same burden to fight against, but a burden nonetheless. Some people will judge you by your religious beliefs. That's true, and sadly that will probably never change. But as you get older, and go to college (if you're in high school), move out into the world and get to know a wider range of people, you'll learn that many people are willing to see you for who you truly are.

So, I recommend hanging in there until graduation. Then, when you can, go to college or get a job in a larger city with a more diverse population. That will allow you to get to know the kinds of people I'm talking about. Also, you can seek out freethought/atheist/agnostic groups in your area (you might be surprised who's there) and learn to bond with people who you know won't judge you by your nonbelief.  Once you can open up in that safe environment it will be easier to do it with others.

I know, it feels safer to just keep people at a distance. There's no risk of being hurt that way. But (and I'm pretty sure I'm quoting somebody or another here), there's no risk of being loved either. It's hard, and it's painful and it sucks.  There ought to be an easier way, but there isn't. Just find the people who make you feel comfortable and accepted, and work outward from there. Don't focus on finding love, just focus on finding friendship. Sooner or later the love will find you, if you can be open to it when it does.

Good luck, my friend.

March 25

I happened upon your site just today and decided to take a chance that your web page is still operational. I too have shed the burden of religious belief. The good thing is that from surfing the internet, I now realize that there are way more non-believers than I had imagined. My issue is this though, Kimmy. There seems not to be any older African American atheists/agnostics, etc. of any significant representation on the web.

The only organization that I keep coming across is the African American Humanist org. This group has a magazine that presents some of it's previous articles online. However, my impression of this magazine is that it's so intellectual and seems not to address the everydayness of being an African American atheist and the social situations we have to navigate through.

Every African American I know professes Xtianity so I feel I have to be cautious when participating in casual conversation. And it seems so many of the online discussion groups are frequented by intense, angry, immature teenagers and young adults. I would appreciate any suggestions or comments.

A Minority's Minority

Dear Minority:

I feel for you. It's hard to be a minority, and it's even harder when it gets divided down even further. Especially if you don't have an obvious representative voice to turn to. I did some surfing and I found a few interesting links. The first several seem to be just good reading (although the authors might be worth looking into). But the last four or so might be of some practical use to you in finding like minded people.

Before I present you with those links, let me add one other thing. I wouldn't rule out groups that seem to have a lot of young adults. If you keep looking around, you'll find discussion groups where they're interested in actual discussion, not just teenage rebellion against their parents. I myself am a young adult, and I have been told that I have some useful ideas to lend to the issue. I know it would be ideal to find a group of older African Americans, to make you really feel at home. But, in the absence of that, you may want to find a group of people with similar goals, or similar methods of thinking to you. It would, at least, make you more comfortable than among those closer to your age/race demographic who are thoroughly Christian. Just a thought, anyway.

Of course, if none of the above links turns out to be of any use to you, you can always take another tack. If you're feeling especially ambitious, you can do what I did when I looked around and found no atheist group in my part of Oklahoma. I started one. So can you. It would take a great deal of determination (especially at first, when it will generally feel like no one gives a damn), and you would have to comb the web like a maniac to find people to send polite invitations to. Chances are good that they won't come to you on their own for months or even years. But it's possible, if you've the time and the inclination to put in all the ridiculous amounts of work necessary. It also helps if you can find passionate people (as I've been lucky enough to do with the Oklahoma Atheists). They'll keep it going when you've tuckered out.

Anyway, I hope something that I've mentioned here will turn out to be a help to you. If you do end up starting a group, write a Letter to the Editor to advertise it. You never know, some of my other visitors may feel just the way that you do, and I'll be glad to give you a hand getting started.


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