Growing Up Atheist
Greetings. I am a 17 year old Atheist who seeks your wise advice from "Positive Atheism" regarding (of all subjects) a delicate family matter. I am sure you receive large quantities of e-mail and I appreciate your time.
Such is that I will first present you with the situation itself. Please take this matter seriously for it is very meaningful to me and is important I find resolution
I live in a very religious society. The 1997 Almanac statistic for religion in Honduras (where I live) is Roman Catholic at a whopping 97 percent. So being an atheist here is hard. Right now the only problems I am having is with my parents, they force mandatory church attendance and seen to refuse to accept the fact that I am atheist. I have tried talking with them which resulted in lout shouting, negative remarks, and , yes, they even banged the table once. I tried protesting in church by not moving or saying anything. That made matters worse and got a serious reprimand from my parents (father especially). So far the only resolution achieved (against my will) is as follows: mandatory church assistance continues but I utter nothing but am forced to stand and kneel, nothing more. Then as long as I live in his house (my dad) then I must obey him regardless of my beliefs. I have even tried counseling but with mixed results.
Thus is my situation. But my real question is this: every time I bring up the subject that I don't believe in god or I am an atheist they reply and I quote "well you just do not appreciate all the gifts and welfare god has given you while there are other children who are not as fortunate as you" end of argument. They claim I don't "appreciate the things god has given me", so my reply is "yes I appreciate my parents for their effort and hard work" but that brought discussion on how god helped them and how it was god's will for them to be successful. Then the discussion abruptly ends.
I am at the end of my wits, finding a way to battle this argument which has plagued my every attempt to proclaim atheism and for my belief to be respected by my parents. I am basically at a dead end until I find a powerful way to contradict this in some way or another.
Please reply promptly if possible. I am happy to answer any inquires about this matter which might aid you if any discrepancies should appear. I need an answer because I reached dead end discussions because of this argument, and it seems that all my arguments are ending that way.
Thank you for your time and effort
Reply promptly and wisely
From: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: PA-via_Positive_Atheism_ Seeking Your Advice
Date: Wednesday, October 04, 2000 2:39 AM
I have known many parents to require church attendance of both child and adult offspring who live in their homes. Occasionally, what the parent is trying to say is, "Find a way to support yourself" and at times the parent sincerely believes that the religion will do the kid some good. I have even seen one situation where the parent was simply displaying power, but the parent still had a point in that the parent owned the house and paid all the bills, and the offspring could make an effort to be self-supporting.
The best I can give you is that we all make choices once we are adults. I don't know at what age a minor can be emancipated in Honduras, but here you can be on your own in some states at age 16. Usually, though, when a child lives in the house, the child is expected to do what the parent says, unless the parent requires that the child break the law, and then the parent becomes a lawbreaker and the child could end up in a foster home.
If remaining in your parents home has advantages that outweigh having to participate in meaningless rituals (at most, perhaps, a degrading experience), then you do well to play the game. This might include if you are to study at the University, etc., versus leaving to join the work force or the military when you turn 18. Many would gladly pantomime some empty rituals if it meant getting an education, and others wouldn't be untrue to their convictions even at the risk of life and limb. In Oregon where it gets very cold, hundreds of grown men spend an hour singing religious songs and listening to religions sermons just to be able to eat and perhaps sleep at the Rescue Mission. Sure it's degrading, but it all depends on what you want and what you value.
Our forum called "Moving Beyond Just A Polite Response?" involves a young woman who was risking being allowed to see her friend. Some might call this a small risk when compared to risking losing the opportunity to get a college education, but others might call jeopardizing a friendship a high price to pay for dignity. She chose to pursue dignity, and I would not have faulted her if she had made either choice.
Meanwhile, have you pointed out that for you to participate in this ritual is for you to lie? that by forcing you to take the sacraments, etc., they are requiring you to lie to the priest and to the congregation? Does honesty and truthfulness mean anything to them? I realize that some people take their religion much more seriously than most people do, and this colors their perspective when dealing with religious matters.
But, if you can make any headway with the honesty angle, you would do well to keep a spotless behavior record in all other respects. This would mean following all the other rules such as curfews and chores and all things that families expect of the various individual members of the household.
But then, perhaps you are like me and do best to live alone. I live alone and have for twelve years straight, and have lived alone on several occasions before that. Only once did I live with someone else and have a good time at it. To live alone is very costly, but sometimes you really have to pay for what you want or need. Again, almost everything is a choice, and we make choices based upon what we want versus what we can afford to pay. Many of us must live with others because of economic factors or because we have commitments to a family situation. If we live with others, we cannot do whatever we want, but must always take the other family members' quirks into consideration.
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