As a 15 year old, I might not be the best person to give advice on this, but I think I have a few helpful hints.
1. Do not lie. Lying gets you no where in relationships.
Always tell the truth, and if they cannot accept the truth, then you are better off without them.
On occasion, I will run into a new person and have to have the whole religion conversation with them. Sometimes it goes well, sometimes they don’t know enough about their own religion to argue with me, and sometimes they are a total jerk that I am better off without.
You will run into jerks. They are out there. Another common intolerant type of religious people are the ones who know nothing about their religion and just spit out what their parents have told them about their religion. I love those, I will get to talking about how stupid religion is and soon enough they wish they had never asked and never ask again.
The hardest people to tell the truth to are going to be authority figures. Your boss, your professor, your older family members, etc. These are the most important people to tell the truth to. Normally, they will keep whatever their thoughts are to themselves and be mature about it. I have been treated unfairly by teachers before after they discover my religion. After that any respect I might have had for them was gone, and soon enough other people noticed, too. I figure karma will get them back for it later.
If you have already lied then you might find yourself in a deep hole. Be smart about it and dig deeper using the extra dirt to build a staircase. Just kidding! That doesn’t always work out very well. You will have to choose to continue to lie or start telling the truth. They are both going to not have the best endings, so use wise judgement. Just don’t do that again.
2. Pick a good time and place.
A bad time would be science class. That’s when I told. Really it was very innocent. I didn’t see a problem, but that didn’t stop the so easily influenced minds of middle schoolers from being able to separate me from themselves. What good little Christians to not be understanding to the little troubled atheist girl in her ‘time of need.’ A teacher did refer to it as my ‘time of need,’ too.
It is best to just say it when the question comes, and if you think it is a bad time, just say so, and tell them later.
3. Don’t take any crap.
If they say they are going to pray for you, tell them not to waste their time.
If they invite you to church, turn them down. (Unless you want to go. I want to go church touring when I can drive, so I can get some live entertainment.)
If they totally openly disapprove, make some sly comment about how you don’t want to be included in any organized cults that produce so many rude and intolerant people.
If all else fails, tell them the god they believe in made you this way. That normally gets people thinking.
4. Kill them with love.
I know it sounds corny, but it works. It is difficult to hate those who are so kind to you.
Also this works out well for everyone. Even though atheism is not really a religion, we are somewhat organized and definitely stereotyped. Correcting any negative stereotypes we have is difficult but definitely something to work towards in order to have more people feel comfortable with coming out as an atheist.
This is the biggest problem I have encountered. Many people in the South confuse atheism with satanism. This is a church produced concept. We are not for god, and therefore we are against him with Satan. Many people I encounter believe I have a demon in me or something insane like that. I think it is hilarious. How could a demon possessed atheist be so nice? Kill them with love. Maybe we aren’t possessed by demons after all.
John Corvino, a gay atheist, gave a great speech on this subject at Skepticon 3, and compares coming out as an atheist to coming out as a gay man. Great speech. hope it helps you in your life and in being comfortable as an atheist.
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