Are all teenage atheists going through phases?

As a junior at my high school, I participate in a series of events with freshman and incoming freshman to help them get used to the transition from middle school. When at an event honoring the Honor Society (why yes, I AM a nerd, thank you) I was asked what I wished to pursue as a career upon leaving. When I answered "Biology, with an emphasis on evolution" I really didn't think anything of it until later I was pulled aside. A "concerned parent" asked me if I wanted to study evolution because I believed in it.

Silencing my inner comments I politely replied "Yes, I do". She then asked me my religion, and when I told her I was an atheist she looked alarmed and asked me "And they promote this phase in this high school?"

While I quickly assured her that "Here at [Name of School] we encourage mental, physical, and spiritual growth of all kinds", I felt both terrified and offended. A friend of mine noticed and talked the concerned mother down with assurance that she was a Christian and many of her friends were, and that I was nothing but a token atheist, not in any way a majority. (I'm not offended by what my friend said, it was a lot nicer than I put it, I assure you.) But that thought stuck with me for a long time.

Do parents really believe that everything happening in their teenager's life is a phase?

I do understand that yes, adolescence is a prime time for experimentation and that at the end of these four to eight years we learn who we really are, and that the road getting there is often a roller coaster. (I mean, hell, in my freshman year I was a gothic lesbian Wiccan, neither of which I am now.) But when someone takes the time, often years to think of what they truly are, why is being an atheist such a "phase" regardless? Why can it be summed up as "the hard time in our life where we turn back on god"?

And with homosexuality in the mainstream. it is being excepted at a rate that atheism would dream of having. So why do parents so fear the teenage atheists?

And why do they easily cast aside other religions?

Views: 66

Tags: Concern, Parent, Phase, Religion, School

Comment by Jānis Ķimsis on June 11, 2010 at 10:04pm
You'd be very lucky to learn who you are in four to eight years. I don't think you ever can learn, actually, unless you just stop caring, because every new experience changes you in a more of less profound way.

As for atheism being a phase - yes, there are probably atheists who are just going through a phase and will return to their old faith. And it seems obvious to me that a parent will view every kind of behavior in their child they find unacceptable as a phase. It's simply a defense mechanism. The woman was afraid her kids could be atheists, so she must keep herself convinced that it's a phase.

I hope her kids turn out atheist.
Comment by Galen on June 11, 2010 at 11:25pm
Religion was the phase I went through. Started off my adolescent years agnostic, then got friggin' "saved" by my girlfriend when I was 16. Took me years to recover from that phase. Ugh!
Comment by Owen on June 12, 2010 at 7:12am
I'm 22, so not that far out of being a teenager myself. The "it's only a phase" line has always annoyed me for the exact same reason I suspect it's so popular: there is no real defense against it.
Sure, this atheism, this homosexuality, this sudden taste for chicken wings might be "only a phase". People change, and people change their minds all the time. Maybe go back and read that last sentence again; notice how it can be used as an argument for or against?

By definition, the person at whom the phrase is directed won't realise that it's "only a phase", so all that pointing it out does is make the person who says it feel superior. They know it's only a phase.

Perhaps it's worth mentioning that I get this myself, hence the annoyance. I hear it not because of my atheism but because I am engaged, and 22 is a young age for that over here. I've been with my fiancée for over three years, and we got engaged fairly early on in our relationship so at least I can understand why people say it.

I admit that I have no defence - but I tell them that I'm not about to give up what I have "just in case" it doesn't work. The difference here is, I think, similar to the difference between you (Samantha) and the 'concerned parent'. They are considering one point of view whereas we have considered the options and made a choice.

Thanks for a really interesting post. Here's betting that woman didn't give half as much thought to this as you did.
Comment by Jānis Ķimsis on June 12, 2010 at 8:20am
This phase thing goes both ways. Next time someone claims atheism is a phase express your simpathy with them for still being stuck in the theist phase. They can't know it's a phase, but you know better, you were there once.
Comment by Galen on June 12, 2010 at 11:36am
I am engaged, and 22 is a young age for that over here.

Wow, how the hell long do folks live over there? I got married at 22. Most people get married in their early or mid twenties.
Comment by Owen on June 12, 2010 at 1:20pm
Galen, I always thought that was because sex before marriage is not as Big A Thing over here in the UK, so people tend to wait longer.

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