Before I write my first post here I would like to make a quick introduction. I am a teenage, mostly closeted atheist. I have been an atheist since 8th grade and I am currently over halfway through high school. I would love to say more, but I don't want to make it too obvious who I am.

Recently I have been finding myself thinking much less about religion when others bring it up, and I call myself a christian without even thinking about it at all. Recently a person told me they believed in a different religion than Christianity and I didn't even think about what they said. In fact I didn't even realize what he had said until later on when my friend confronted me about my nonchalant response... That was awkward to say the least.

At this point I can go to church and leave not knowing a single thing about the sermon, topic, devotions, or anything else other than hanging out with friends afterwards. In a way this is nice because honestly I don't mind going to church because it gives me time to take a break from thinking. I simply follow the routine of the morning without putting any thought into it.

Sometimes I snap out of this numbness and take some time to think about what the people around me are saying and think about what they think I believe. This is when I feel stupid about going on with the normal routine, and I want to say something to make people realize what I hear when they say something that may sound completely normal to them, but to me sounds incredibly ignorant... I usually do say something at times like this, but it's usually something to get people thinking, and every now and then it will get people worrying about my spiritual health. Of course I immediately go back to denying it and I feel just as stupid as ever.

I often want to come out of the closet about my atheism, but I feel like I have too much to lose at this point between my job (which I love), relationships, and the church community which despite my beliefs I have always loved to be a part of. I know I will have to say it at some point, but I feel like I'll be better off waiting until I'm in college to be open about it.

Can anyone relate to being completely numb to beliefs and religious differences?

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Comment by Gus Heist on September 2, 2014 at 9:40pm

Steve:

I didn't catch how old you are, but I agree with you in that if you don't want it done, it is abuse to force you to do it, and I think you might have to say something like that.

I know avid Christians who put off being baptized, and who never submitted to the laying on of hands because they "didn't feel like the Lord was telling them it was right for them at this time".

Again, I don't support lying, but I think all but the most radical fundamentalist would buy the "I don't fee like I am ready for that yet" statement.

Be firm, be kind, and stick by your guns.  Don't be afraid to question their "persecution" of you.

Comment by Steve on September 2, 2014 at 9:25pm
"and you may have to suffer through the laying on of hands and a lot of prayer for you."

There are two things I decided will not happen. People will not be laying hands on me to pray and I will not get baptized into the church.

So far I haven't had issues with the first, but every year I see more pressure to get baptized. I simply say I don't feel comfortable with it at this point... I think people might be catching on though.

If people want to perform superstitious rituals that's fine but they're not pulling me into it.
Comment by Gus Heist on September 2, 2014 at 9:10pm

I know how you feel.

I think most ex-christians, ex-jews, and ex-muslims go through a period, often several periods in their life, when it is either impossible or extremely difficult to "come out" as a non-theist or atheist.

I don't think you should feel bad about that.  There are often good reasons for not speaking out.  You don't want to hurt/disappoint people who you love, nor do you want to lose their respect or care or support.

That might be selfish, but it also might be responsible and appropriate.

I have relatives and friends who are staunch Christians  - Pentecostals and Mormons and other fundamentalists. But I love them and respect their opinions anyway.  I don't go out of my way to tell them of my non-belief, even if sometimes they already know.  I know it hurts them because they firmly believe that I am going to hell, and that they won't see me after death, while they will be spending eternity with the rest of the family.

I know better, but don't need to argue about it at every Thanksgiving and Christmas and family wedding or gathering.

I would suggest two things to you - one is to not lie.  If somebody asks you if you believe, tell them that you have trouble believing sometimes, that you doubt.  Most people have gone through that at some time in their life and will understand.  Of course, some won't, and you may have to suffer through the laying on of hands and a lot of prayer for you.

The other thing is, learn to be quiet and listen.  And then, instead of making a statement, ask a question.  The other day, for instance, I got an adamant email from a radical Christian relative ranting about the children immigrants coming into the US from South America, and how we need to send them home.  I sent him back the Biblical quote of Jesus saying "Suffer the little children to come unto me", and asked if his rant followed this precept.

He admitted that it didn't, and that he had to change his attitude. 

I would never have got that concession if I had jumped all over him - but a quiet question using his own religion against him shut him right up.

 

Good luck with your non-belief.  In the long run, you will be so much happier, and maybe already are - knowing that you are your own destiny, and that it doesn't depend on asking the right questions of some diety.

 

 

Comment by Future on September 2, 2014 at 9:18am
I can't relate. I was forced to attend church from childhood till high school, the entire time as a nonbeliever. Every single week, without fail, I was in church - and the only part of it that I enjoyed was the part where we were climbing into the car to go home.
Comment by Steve on August 31, 2014 at 3:57pm

Thanks for the input and encouragement! I really wish I had known about this site earlier on. Over time I have become comfortable as an atheist, but I figured it out mostly on my own which absolutely sucks. I'm guessing I'm not the only person who has experienced this.

This site is great, and I haven't found any grumpy people on here yet :D ...which is awesome!

In response to some of the other comments...

@k.h Growing up in a conservative christian home I know quite a lot about that specific belief system. When it comes to other religions I have done a lot of studying on quite a few specific religions and religion in general. Of course there are too many to study them all in depth, but I find religious studies to be incredibly value in building your own belief system. While I have not adopted any religion I have found specific principals of various religions to be helpful and incredibly valuable in helping me build my own way of thinking.

@Joan I'm listening to his interview with the thinking atheist now :) Its good stuff, highly recommended!

@Laura Yeah... That could get awkward. Hopefully I'll be able to avoid that one.

@Nick My grades actually aren't the best mostly because I have slacked too much in school. This is something that I am planning on changing this school year. As far as college and careers go I hope to go for a law degree. I've always been that guy that actually reads legislation because the media too often skews it to make it look however they want. As for where I'll go... I have no idea yet at this point, but its about time to get on it at this point. I definitely would like to go to a more progressive campus where I can feel more comfortable saying I am an atheist.

Comment by John Aultman on August 31, 2014 at 11:38am

Welcome Steve and yes I can identify with what you are going through.  Do not come out as an atheist if you think it will damage or destroy relationships with your family and friends or cause you to lose your job.  There will be a time when you can do that. Be patient and good luck. 

 

Comment by Nick Bottom on August 31, 2014 at 10:08am

My own experience growing up was similar to yours. I went to church only because my dad said I had to, but just sat there and thought about all the other things I'd rather be doing outside. Plus, I'm deaf, so I was spared from listening to any of the sermons (all those lofty words just floated past my ears and did not influence my thinking in the least). I didn't say anything to anyone until I went off to college and had the freedom to do what I wanted—as long as I was under my dad's roof, I had to remain respectful and not rock the boat. By the time I got to high school, I became a fairly decent lacrosse player and spent most of my time at practice or with teammates instead of doing church stuff. I hope you have some interests and hobbies that you can share with friends in a non-church setting, as one can find a very satisfying social life in other places. 

I can tell from the way you write that you are a smart person, much more intellectually inclined than others your age. If you have good grades (I'm guessing you do, because you write so well), start thinking about where you'd like to go to college and what field of study to pursue. I went to a big school with a liberal reputation (UC Berkeley), and even though I wasn't involved in any atheist groups in college, I found the atmosphere of the campus to be very open and accepting, and was not afraid to tell people I was an atheist. Not once did I take criticism for my views when I was at Berkeley.

If I had a group like A/N when I was growing up, I wouldn't have felt so out of place in the world. Whenever you need a bit of support or feedback on how to deal with a situation, don't hesitate to put the question up for other A/N members. Most of us on A/N have dealt with the same issues you are going through now, and even though the majority of us have never met in person, we have our little support system here, and it does make a difference.

Comment by Luara on August 31, 2014 at 9:07am

I feel like I have too much to lose at this point between my job (which I love), relationships, and the church community which despite my beliefs I have always loved to be a part of. I know I will have to say it at some point, but I feel like I'll be better off waiting until I'm in college to be open about it.

It gets really difficult if this kind of thinking causes you to end up marrying into the religion.  You might end up with a wife who you're also hiding your atheism from. 

People do unpredictably fall in love ...

Comment by Randall Smith on August 31, 2014 at 7:03am

You're on the right path, Steve. Ditto the comments. Perhaps gently rock the boat, but don't tip it over. Hang in there.

Comment by Joan Denoo on August 31, 2014 at 12:01am

Steve, thank you for sharing your story with us. I am 78 years old and I can tell you honestly that it was difficult to face the reality of there being no god, no sin, no savior, no heaven. I am glad there is no hell. I think that all the stories may have been true for the time in which they began. However, the stories are retelling ancient legends that happened in the Bronze Age to explain things they could not understand. I find no evidence that any of the stories are anything but myths, tales, delusions, or denial.

You are wise to think about the risks of telling others that you think there is not enough evidence to believe there is a god. When the time is right to express your thinking you will know it. I like the idea of saying something that gets people thinking. After all, we have brains and should be able to withstand questions about beliefs. If people become stressed by your questions, it says more about them than it does about you. 

May I suggest you read or watch anything by Peter Boghossian. Just Google his site for an introduction. He has many articles and videos on line. He takes a gentle, friendly approach to discussing religion with others, using the Socratic method of asking questions. 

You have an interesting path living as a skeptic. For me, it is the only way to live. I find more satisfaction, confidence and competence when I have thought enough, read, asked questions and found answers that stand on the firm ground of reality. 

In my opinion, religions build on fear, demand obedience and declare that doubt is not a good thing. Many of those cults that claim to be dedicated to peace have histories of violence. 

Doubt is your best friend. Ask questions, seek answers, explore options, examine ideas, experiment and explore. That is what becoming an adult is all about. I look forward to walking with you as you make your journey. I wish you well. 

Joan

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