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 IAmAnAtheist » What do I call myself

What do I call myself

From a comment on this page:

Im 11 and my friends, who are strongly Christian and Muzzlem, think I’m Greek but I’m actually atheist like my mom. I have heard them say some pretty bad things about atheists and I don’t wat to lose my friends but I don’t want to lie anymore because everytime I say i’m Christian my stomache feels weird. Don’t know what to do so please reply.

Thank you very much for sharing your problem with me. I hope I can be of some assistance.

I definitely understand your discomfort when you say you are a Christian. By saying you are a Christian, you are not only lying to your friends, but also adding fuel to your worry that they won’t like you if they knew who you really are. Denying yourself can be very stressful and depressing; you are right to want to set the record straight.

But how do you do it? That’s the real problem.

The first step is one you have already taken: decide that you need to stop misrepresenting yourself. You may not even realize it, but that’s a big step in and of itself. Realizing that being true to yourself is more important than being who others want you to be is a strong sign of maturity. Hold on to that knowledge; it will serve you well.

For the next step, it would be best if you had someone on your side. If you can talk to your mom about your problem, that would be great. She’s an atheist, so it’s possible that she has had a similar problem at some point and can offer you some suggestions. Even if she has no advice for you, if she knows what you are going through, she can support you while you deal with your friends.

Finally we come to the issue of your friends. That’s the toughest nut to crack, and because I don’t know them, it’s hard for me to give you more than general advice.

At the top of your list has to be stopping lying about being a Christian. You know it’s wrong and you hurt yourself every time you do it, so don’t do it anymore.

Next, you have to decide how you want to tell your friends about your atheism. The specifics are going to depend on what your friends are like, but there are four basic options:

1) Wait until one of them is talking about religion and either asks your opinion or says something about atheism. That’s your opportunity to say, “Actually, I’m an atheist,” “I don’t agree with that. I don’t think God exists,” or whatever you feel comfortable saying.

2) At an appropriate point in a conversation or in-between topics of discussion, bring up the subject yourself. It might be easiest to just come right out and say it. Something like, “I’ve been thinking about religion a lot lately. I think you should know that I’m an atheist.”

3) If there is one friend you are particularly close to, find a time to talk to him or her alone and reveal that you are an atheist. After that friend knows and has accepted you, you’ll have someone at your side when you talk to the rest of the group.

4) Finally, you could just stop talking to your friends about religion and remain noncommittal when the subject comes up. This is sort of a “chicken’s way” out since it avoids confrontation at the cost of not really addressing the problem, and it leaves your friends thinking you are a Christian. Of the four options, this is the only one I strongly recommend you not take.

No matter when you broach the subject, try to do it in a calm, almost matter-of-fact way. Don’t be defensive or apologetic. You have nothing to be ashamed of. I wouldn’t suggest that you go out of your way to remind them that you’d been saying you were a Christian, but if one of them asks why you said you were, go ahead and admit that you were afraid they’d be mad if you said you were an atheist.

I know you’re worried about the possibility that your friends will reject you because you are an atheist. Since your friends are not all the same religion and still get along together, you know that they are not completely religiously intolerant. This works in your favor. They also know and like you, which is another thing in your favor. They might be mad that you’ve been misrepresenting yourself, but if they reject you for your lack of religion, then perhaps they never really your friends in the first place. Rather, they were friends with someone you were pretending to be, and you’d want to find friends who like you for who you really are. I know that sounds harsh and difficult, but in the long run, it’s for the best.

Something else you can do to help this go smoothly is role-play conversations about atheism in your head before talking to your friends. Think about the negative things they’ve said about atheism and how you would (politely, calmly) disagree. Think about positive things you can say about your lack of religion — you’re not depressed, it doesn’t make you scared, you don’t look down on your friends for being religious, etc. Odds are that the real-world conversation you have won’t be identical to one you’ve gone over in your head, but at least you will be better prepared.

If you have any questions about how to respond to a specific question about atheism or religion, feel free to write to me. If you would like to let me know how things go, I’d love for you to write to me about that, as well.

After all is said and done, the most important thing for you to remember is that you need to be true to yourself. You are going to be living with yourself for the whole of your life, and you need to treasure and respect anyone you’re going to be spending that much time with.

All my best.

Posted on January 30, 2013 at 10:39 pm by ideclare · Permalink
In: Atheists' problems

One Response

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  1. Written by ff42
    on January 31, 2013 at 5:17 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    I’ve wondered if an appropriate response to “Do you believe in god?” would be “I stopped believing in Santa Claus a while ago” (and if I’m in a particular mood add) “, haven’t you?”

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