So hey everyone. I'm new to the site. My name's Chelsea and I'm a young atheist (fifteen years old). I've been an atheist since May of 2011. I told my parents but they didn't take it very well ("Where did we go wrong? Should we check her into a mental facility? I wonder if she's just doing it for attention?") so I was able to convince them that I am Catholic, even though...I'm not. But I'd rather lie to my parents about my religious beliefs (or lack thereof, rather) than be treated like some kind of rebellious heathen. I'm a good kid, really, I think. I worked hard to get into a really great high school and I keep my grades up; I don't drink or smoke weed or have sex. But somehow the idea of atheism can cancel that all out for my parents.
Anyway, I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm glad to be a part of something where I can talk about atheism without being punished for it. And if the majority of you are adults, as I presume you are, you may or may not have more experience in the world of atheism than I. With that being said, I have some trouble backing up what I believe when people ask me. It's like, I know what I believe and why I believe it, but it makes more sense in my head than it does out loud and I can't change my thoughts into sentences. I'd really like to be able to arm myself with knowledge so I don't look like a fool next time I'm asked.
Anyway, thanks for reading if you're there.
As a newly found agnostic myself, I have also had trouble dealing with family. At first they were shocked and disappointed with me, but I don't see why they felt this way. I was raised half-assed catholic, never being baptized, and I have never had the desire to either. I have chosen to label myself as an agnostic rather than atheist. In my eyes, atheism outright denies the existence of god, where agnostics neither believe nor disbelieve in a god. Logically, since we cannot prove the existence of a god, we cannot outright deny the possible existence of one. This all stems from one's definition of "atheist" and "agnostic".
Now, my family is comfortable with our differing views. One thing I suggest is be sensitive to their faith. Discussion is fine as long as it doesn't become aggressive or attacking in nature. As a skeptic, I can respect their views while at the same time, I can engage them in some challenging questions, of which usually end with their saying, "god works in mysterious ways."
welcome chelsea. there is a ton of information available to you if you do some quick searches just on this site. there are also many people here more than willing to help you form a better understanding of your conclusion. which brings me to one thing that may help you orient yourself a bit -
quote "have some trouble backing up what I believe when people ask me. It's like, I know what I believe and why I believe it, but it makes more sense in my head than it does out loud and I can't change my thoughts into sentences."
you have not necessarily come to some unexplained belief that you dont believe in god...sounds strange right? you essentially came to the conclusion that you dont believe, its a small change in phrasing, but helps you understand that you are not basing your actions and understandings on "beliefs", simply rational conclusions. while it doesnt sound as romantic as believing, it is a better way to explain yourself. you will have no trouble defending your conclusion, when people who believe in/practice a religion have very little to "prove" to you. they can just roll around on the ground in protest that you dont agree. take your time, read up listen to the radio show, and continue to form a refined conclusion based on acquired knowledge. best of luck
For fifteen you are very level-headed and I don't think you should worry a whole lot about defending your position right now. Relax and if someone questions your lack of belief ask them to respect you as an individual with a different outlook on life. Theists don't like it when someone doesn't agree with them about the existence of supernatural beings. They feel everyone should think as they do. They'll get over it though.
Hopefully you will find some same age friends in your area who have similar thoughts to yourself. Online forums are very helpful but nothing beats having a friend nearby who is on your same wavelength.
The only justification that any atheist needs for why they do not believe in a deity is the very noticeable lack of evidence. You know, for a deity. Theists have posed some evidence (i.e. argument from design, argument from scripture, so on and so forth) but it is not evidence that lives up to any reasonable empirical standard. As a general guide, Dawkins' The God Delusion is immensely helpful for the new atheist, and was particularly helpful for me. I have problems putting my thoughts into words, too.
As far as your parents go, it may just take time. I wouldn't worry about telling them any time soon. There are years yet to deal with that problem.
That being said, being a closeted atheist does not feel good. I spent a lot of time pretending to agree with particularly bad points growing up. If there is a way that you can express your doubts to your parents without actually letting them know that you are an atheist, you should. For instance, pose questions that sound genuinely curious - I used to phrase questions in the form of doubts that worried me, with the false intention of "strengthening my faith" by overcoming those particular issues. Really I just wanted my friends and family to see that there was good reason to doubt. That way, when I finally came out as an atheist, nobody thought that it was just a phase, or that I had some ulterior motive. You might be surprised - or might not be - at how many people think that disbelief is a kind of spiteful thing that we do in the spirit of rebellion.
Anyway, you seem pretty intelligent - definitely smarter than I was at fifteen, and I was pretty damn smart - and intelligent people tend to worry too much. Don't do that. You'll go grey-headed. If your parents love you, and I'm sure they do, they'll force themselves around. From a religious perspective, that might seem like an impossible concession, but despite all the scripture recommending that people put god first and foremost, and despite what most devoutly religious people say, only the morally insane put god before their children. Give it some time.
And there is the advice that you didn't ask for. If you play your cards right, one day you might get to be an over-caffeinated, under-stimulated and unhealthily sedentary college student, just like me. This is the life.
I spend a lot of time on Yahoo Answers in the religion section. There is a boatload of back and forth there and a lot of traffic from all sides. If you want to learn to debate it's about as good as you'll find.
The great thing here is if you don't know how to answer, you can just watch. Most of us have email that's open too, so you can directly ask questions off the board.
yesterday in class I did some "atheistic musings" (as I call it) in my notebook. I'm thinking of making a neater copy of it in another book and maybe typing it up and sharing it. It contains a whole list of reasons why I became atheist, containing lots of physical proof.
Welcome to the site Chelsea,
I'm sure many of us can relate to your problem, it's hard to be an Atheist Teenager in a Religious Family. My younger brother and I faced similar problems with the idea of telling our parents that we were Atheists, and while I'm not sure about him, I still haven't told them straight up. It's an ugly thing to have your family turn against your decision, but I can't stress this enough: In all likelihood, they still love and care for you very much. With time, they may come to understand that Atheism does not automatically make you an evil heathen, and constantly reminding them of the good you do OUTSIDE of being a member of "the flock" will only reinforce the idea that there is nothing wrong with you being an Atheist.
Stay strong Chelsea, we're all in this together for the long run.
you are welcome. i tell you that this site is great and i have a personal experience where i got no help but here from atheist friends who do not really know me.
furthemore, it's open and you can ask whatever gets in your mind.
He Chelsea! Welcome to the site. Arming yourself with knowledge is always a great idea and it will surely make it easier when you do decide to sit down and explain to your parents that you are an atheist. I understand completely what it is like to hide what you believe for fear of what your parents may think but eventually you will want to tell them the truth. My advice to you is to read, read, read, and then read some more. Read books on science, critical thinking, philosophy, etc. Read up on some of the major arguments for the existence of god, e.g. cosmological, teleological, ontological, etc. That last one is so silly it's interesting. Youtube has an amazing assortment of atheists and atheist themed videos thunderf00t,theamazingatheist,quailasoup to name just a few. Watch some of the debates between prominent theist and prominent atheists. Before you do that learn what the major logical fallacies are and how to spot them. This will help you spot fallacious arguments from people whom you discuss religion with. And there will be many, fallacies that is. Welcome to the world of free thought. You will love it.
Welcome to TA and the world of reason. Most of us have been through the difficulty of dealing with the reactions of family and friends when they find out that we no longer suspend our judgment with regard to popular myths. And that is really all atheism is; examined objectively, there is no more reason to believe in god than there is to believe fairies.
That being said, there is a whole world of prejudice out there that must be navigated and the task is treacherous. Fortunately, it is getting a bit easier. I hope that you and other young rationalists don't have to go through some of the things that I went through. I advise caution, however. Don't share your non-belief with anyone who isn't trustworthy or who is a religious fanatic of any stripe. In fact, as soon as you catch a whiff of a personality that has "dedicated his or her life to god", you should run away (usually metaphorically, but perhaps literally). Also, I advise not using your real name on the internet. You might even want to be vague about other identifying information as well.
As for expressing your thoughts well, just research your ideas or the questions and arguments posed by believers. You will find very good counterarguments to any arguments that the religious can throw at you and, if you look hard enough, you will find very well expressed replies often from famous thinkers.
Welcome again, and good luck!
I read many of the comments, but forgive me if I am repeating something already said. In your search for knowledge, don't neglect the chance to learn about Christianity. I was raised atheist, but attended parochial schools for much of my pre-college education. I found the education in Christian theology absolutely priceless when I began discussing why I rejected religion later on.
I know it really sucks to paste on a devout face and go to church or what have you, but you can learn a lot, and that will help state clearly why you don't agree with religion. If it helps, think of yourself as an undercover investigator, or as an anthropologist in a foreign country, trying to learn as much as you can about this culture. (I did this through high school, and it was kind of fun, although I did have my family in my corner. Then again, you have the entire internet community of atheists!)
Also, if you have the chance, take some courses in religion, mythology, even in Christianity. You may not have access to anything like that until college, but it's really invaluable to know what you're refuting!
BTW, I teach college classes about Christianity from a historical, cultural, totally non-theist perspective, so if you ever have questions, or find that you want resources on history of Christianity, let me know. Not that you don't have TONS of resources already here (which are all fantastic), but still.
Welcome, best wishes and good luck!
When I was 13, I became a born again Christian, much to the pleasure of my Catholic parents, until I told them that they were going to burn in hell for praying to the saints and Mary, etc (the differences between Catholics and protestants). In the end they were just happy that I was some kind of Christian, until I left the church at 17 (experimented with Taoism and New Age and other things for a while, until it was clear that naturalism made the most sense). Now I'm much older and I've learned a thing or two. Back then, my parents were liberal Catholics with their own problems, so they didn't freak out so much when I left the church, but now that they are old, they are much more religious and dogmatic than ever. After many years of discussions, often very heated, we agree to disagree and when we are all together we just don't talk about it. We've decided that family is more important. Not every family can do that though, and it took years to get there. Every situation is different, but you might come to a point when you just can't or don't want to hide it anymore. If that happens, be respectful with your skepticism, humble about what you do know, and have some diffusing bible verses like these handy to share right from the start:
“...And be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1 Pet. 3:15)
“Prove all things; hold fast to that which is good” (1 Thes. 5:21)
“And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient...” (2 Tim. 2:24)
“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath, For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20)
“Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend” (Prov. 27:17).
“Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord…” (Is. 1:18).
“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world’ (1 John 4:1).
“The simple believeth every word: but the prudent man looketh well to his going” (Prov. 14:15).
When I use these verses with Christians online, I notice they almost always turn the heat way down when I ask them difficult questions. It won't always work though.
Last, I'd like to 4th (5th?) the motion that youtube is great as well. I like qualiasoup and nonstampcollector- his cartoons are very informative and accessible, even if a little more provocative than might be suitable for sharing with them, you will learn where the controversies are. Remember, it doesn't matter if you are right, you WILL turn them off if you are rude, aggressive, or arrogant. Always find something to agree on when discussing what you don't agree on (per the work of Mercier and Sperber).