Well, hello everyone. I just found this site approx. 20 minutes ago, and ironically, I found it through a post a former boyfriend (and former mutual "uber Christian") put on Facebook.
To give you some background, I grew up in and have lived in the Midwest for the majority of my life. I lived in a couple of big cities (Seattle and Las Vegas) for about two years, then came back to the Midwest. I was raised Christian (Lutheran), and almost everyone I know identifies as Christian, with a few awesome exceptions. I've been leaning towards Agnostic for quite some time, but after the death of my grandmother last summer, and after a super-secret conversation with my father ("I don't think I believe in God anymore" / "I don't think I do either"), I've decided Atheist fits my views best.
I've been slowly "coming out" to various people in the past year, and reactions have been mixed. Mainly, those few who are Atheist/Agnostic have been very receptive, and any other (mainly Christian) friends usually affect a silent shock and sadness. Poor me, going to Hell after all. Shit, I had a waaaaaaaay better reception when I came out as bisexual over a decade ago. My Mother is now trying to get me to go back to Church, even though she herself hasn't attended regularly in the past 10 years. My father pretends to be Christian when my mom's around, and then gives me silent affirmation when no one's looking.
The place where I struggle the most is with my nieces. I have two adorable nieces, ages 12 and 13, who are smart as a whip, and adore the heck out of me (the feeling is mutual). Every time I see them, they always wait until we are alone, then hit me with a barrage of grown-up questions they are dying to know the answers to...they know that I will never lie to them and never make them feel ashamed or embarrassed for their inquiry. I wish their mother, my sister, could fulfill this role, but alas, she's more of a woman-who-happened-to-have-kids, and not a nurturing mother. Anyway, a lot of their questions have started to veer towards political and religious opinions...political questions I never have a problem answering, but religious ones, I tend to balk. As strongly as I feel the Christian religion can discriminate against so many, I am NOT their mother, and I know she would not agree with me sharing my Atheist views. Hell, she's one of the last few that I have not openly shared my Atheism with, mostly because I fear she might go as far as to limit my time with them. My brother and his family would be another one with whom I have not openly shared my views with, but that's because he is a Missionary Baptist minister. Pretty sure they are all confident I'm hellbound already.
So, what do you think? How would you approach discussions with young, impressionable minds on the topic of religion, when you know what they are currently being taught is so far from what you believe?
"I don't believe in God; I believe in people."
It sounds like your nieces already have a lot of trust and respect for you. Explaining to them the importance of being able to think critically and openly about things will help them as much as anything. You sound like a fine role model for them. Every family needs at least one freethinker to keep things on an even keel.
Maybe sometime next week.
I haven't quite arrived at the stage where I can openly mock it...but I'm sure I'll get there soon enough. ;)
You don't have to ever get to that point. I'm an atheist, and I was a Christian in the not-so-distant- past...I don't "mock" anyone. I don't think that I ever will "mock" people, but what I'm learning is when and were to get angry. There is a time and a place for a productive sort of anger that can guide your energy in a positive way towards affecting other people's lives for the better and being able to stand up for what you believe in (or what you don't believe in). This develops with knowledge. Lots of it. The more you know the more you can't sit still.
Mockery is child's play.
Welcome to TA. :)
Welcome, Lita. I'm from the greater Cincinnati area, so I can relate to being surrounded by Christians/Christian culture.
As far as talking to young people, I'm not sure if my younger relatives know about my atheism. I don't hide my opinions but it doesn't come up a lot. I figure it's enough of a battle in my family to simply be 'out'--I was told to never speak of "this" again when I told my Grandmother about my atheism and she is withholding the identity of another atheist in our family from me, someone who is too afraid to be open about it. If the teens came up to me with specific questions, I would be open to discussion. I would make it clear that I have to expectations of them and am not trying to decovert them...that I'm only capable of sharing the truth as I see it.
Re: "I found it through a post a former boyfriend (and former mutual 'uber Christian') put on Facebook." - how did that come about, Lita, was he warning people not to come here? We could use more of that kind of advertising, once told that by a Christian, anyone who's atheist material wouldn't be able to resist!
Welcome, Lita - good to have you here.
As to your question, all you can do is tell them how YOU think and feel and make sure they know it's only your opinion, that they need to search for their own truth.
RE: -------> "how did that come about, Lita, was he warning people not to come here?"
No, actually, he just shared a link from the article "WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE" about the dreaded Mantis shrimp. However, I noticed the originating URL was www.thinkatheist.com, and I thought that was an incredibly interesting site for him to be posting from. For a moment, I thought maybe he'd gone rogue...but a quick look at his FB wall screams otherwise. Who knows? Perhaps he was surfing this site for information on how to approach/witness/convert Atheists, but so far, his batting average is no looky so good.
-1 Christians / +1 Atheists
P.S. - If you're reading this my friend (which is totally possible, since YOU were here first), well, yeah, I'm talking about you. But I didn't identify you, because I'm polite. Also, yeah, I'm talking about myself too...cat's out of the bag I suppose. Now you know. And knowing is half the battle. G.I. JOE!!!!!!!!
"P.S. - If you're reading this my friend (which is totally possible, since YOU were here first), well, yeah, I'm talking about you. But I didn't identify you, because I'm polite. Also, yeah, I'm talking about myself too...cat's out of the bag I suppose. Now you know. And knowing is half the battle. G.I. JOE!!!!!!!!"
Pffffffft! Mrrowr! Are you sure I've never been married to you?
Pretty sure. At least, I don't recall having been married.
Stranger things have happened tho.
I know what you mean, there're a couple of years I don't recall all that clearly - I think that ended yesterday, but I won't know until tomorrow.
about the dreaded Mantis shrimp.
That Mantis Shrimp was awesome. Welcome to TA, Lita. Asking questions of your nieces will lead them to discover things for themselves.
Show them some pictures from the Hubble telescope, showing that most of the stars they see in the sky are not really stars, but whole galaxies. That will make them feel small. Then let them know that they are made of atoms that used to be in stars, and that they have the very special property of being able to recognize that fact. That should make them feel big.
Teenagers, religious or not, have many challenges in their lives. Help them with those challenges and they will look to you for guidance later in life as well, when they are more in charge of their own lives.