Teenage atheism

This week we received two email with very similar themes….

Name: Dylan
Email: dylanblade.ex90@hotmail.com
Message: I’m 15 years old and I’ve been an atheist for about 1 1/2 years openly. I had been brought up in a baptist family and went to church for a year or two. I opened up to my parents about 3 weeks ago and they challenged me with such questions as “Prove he doesn’t exist.” I fought with them for a few hours and then my father claimed I was just uneducated on the subject and was just “talking out of my *ss.” I went to church for a year and learned much about God and decided that he didn’y exist. They now want me to go back to church to learn more about him. I do not wish to go back and sit through and hour of gibberish. Is there anyway that I can get out of church in a way that my parents can respect? If I had a logical reason my father will have to agree for he is a man with a respect for knowledge. I just wanted to ask if there was any way to get out of church, either with the U.S. legal system or even with just a good argument. Thanks in advance.

And this one….

Name: David H
Message: Hey im 13 years old and I’ve accepted being an atheists but i have 2 problems . 1. I have a fear that devil might exists i have tried getting over that a lot of times but its just stuck to my head what can i do? 2. My parent wont accept or let me be an atheist and I know I have right for my decisions  what do I do what do I tell them ??

Hi there Dylan and David. I hope you two don’t mind if I answer your questions together. It’ll save me some time. David, don’t worry, I’ll get to the first part of your question towards the end.

First the bad news. You both are minors. That means that until you are on your own and independent, your parents are responsible for your well being, both mental and physical. This means that they have to try to help you become a decent person. For a lot of parents this means installing a sense of faith in a god by giving you their religious values. I know it’s easy to believe that they are trying to suppress you and force you to believe what they believe, however keep in mind that being a parent is a sometimes scary thing. They have a lot of hopes for your future. They want things to go well for you, and having a god on your side, to them, can only help. In other words, they are doing the best they know how, and for right now, you don’t have a choice in the matter. This means that if they want you to go to church, you go to church.

Now obviously they can’t force you to believe, and to some degree they know that. What they are doing is gambling on your lack of life experience and hoping that if they keep pushing you in the right direction, that eventually you will see things the same way they do. Try to not be to upset with them. They just don’t know a better way. They feel pressure from their own past, their community, and society as a whole to indoctrinate you into their faith. If you keep this in mind, and try to understand that they have the best intentions for you, then the rest of what I will tell you will make sense and help you to show them that your lack of faith, isn’t going to ruin your life.

First, be more then they think you can be. Show them that being an atheist doesn’t make you less compassionate. It doesn’t make you less moral. Show them this by BEING more moral. By BEING more compassionate. If you’re acting like some brat who sits around and plays games all day and doesn’t do his chores, then how can you expect them to believe that you can make the right choices for yourself if you can’t even keep your room clean? I’m not saying you have to be a perfect child, however a little maturity can go a long way in this matter. How can they think less of you, if you are doing more then they expect?

Next, show them some respect. I understand that you may no longer respect their faith, but don’t allow that to be the cause of your disrespect for your parents. Fighting and arguing will only push them to push you in to their way of thinking, If they want you to go to church, then go to church. You can still, if asked, talk about your lack of belief, but do it in a respectful way. Do a Google search for the ” Socratic form of argumentation ” and teach yourself how to ask the right questions of your parents in order to get them to understand where you are coming from.

There are no laws that protect the religious rights of minors. There is no magic argument that will convince your parents that you are right. At your age your parents aren’t looking to see what you know, they want to see if you can put what you know in to practice. So show them.

Oh and David, here’s a great post by SmartLX on fear of the devil. Check it out.

I hope that helps !