I live in a town in which around 95 percent of residents are of some sort of christian religious denomination. So, naturally, Jews, Muslims, and Atheists are virtually unheard of. In fact, I know of one other Atheist, but, I'm sure that the fear of being the same kind of outcast that myself and that other person are seen as is less than desirable, so, there's likely more. That, or, people tend to meet in church. It's not a "Religion is the supreme law of this town" thing, but churchgoers tend to often flock together, and be instant friends.
Now, this other person is about three years younger than I am. And I find that he's much braver. He was last week discussing how he was going to spend Easter Sunday sleeping and maybe getting some homework done, much to the shock of many high schoolers. If asked about my easter plans when I was fifteen, I would shrug it off and quickly mutter something about spending time with family. Which, okay, my nonreligion wasn't a topic I was prepared to discuss at that time, especially because of the reactions I got from close friends.
Now, I'm not sure about the other kid, but I've gotten my fair share of emails from people in school and in the community about how they're "Concerned that I've fallen from the 'righteous path' and worried for my soul." It's reached a point where I've simply taken the best of replies that I've sent, and created copy and paste replies. I've also taken groups of emails with the same idea and created scenarios for your enjoyment and mine.
"I'm _______(Name of person I go to school with)________'s ___________(Relation)__________. I've heard that you identify yourself as not believing in God. I just want you to know that God loves you, but will not spare punishment. I'm praying for you."
This is one of my favorites. I call it the "tough 'love'" email. God loves me, but will burn me. This is my response.
"Well, I always welcome healthy debate. And I'm flattered that my lack of belief in your god is a vital enough part of your worries that you pray for me. I'm sure the billions of people in the world starving would be glad to hear that you find THAT to be the most important thing.
Now, I would like to address the rest of your email. Now, I'm going to assume that you love _______. Now, even if they did something you didn't approve of, you wouldn't set them on fire for the rest of eternity. I wouldn't, and I refuse to believe in a god that would. I do fully respect your right to.
I really am flattered that you were willing to take time out of your day to tell me that you find the life I lead to be less than acceptable, but it is MY life. And I would appreciate being left to live that life in peace."
I try to be mature when I reply. To that person, it really is an act of kindness to pray for someone. Who am I to turn that down?
Here's another. It's got little detail, but I really wanted to address this particular one.
"You can't prove God doesn't exist! You don't want to go to hell!"
I find this to be so irritating. I ditched my C+P entirely, and just from the heart reply. This tends to be the gist:
"You can't prove that there isn't a clown behind you. How do you know he doesn't just disappear when you look at him? You can't prove a negative. I also want to point out that as an Atheist, I don't believe hell exists. I also want to point out that even if there is, I'll probably see you there, as I believe that God is the only one who can condemn people to hell. OR, God will look upon his company and be disappointed at the ignorance and hate he's allowed, while I'll be in hell with Ghandi, and Celebrities, discussing philosophy with Satan over a cup of tea. However, none of that really applies, as HELL DOESN'T EXIST."
Now, my response is immature. However, I get sick of being condemned to hell.
Now, these are only a few, but it's nearing 1 AM. So, I must end it here.