Is it ever appropriate to pretend to be religious?

101


Discussion by: yumyumbob2

I am 17 and my parents signed me up for confirmation in May. My whole family is coming from around the country to see me sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Although I hate living a lie, I do not want to hurt all of them by telling them that I am an atheist.

I am also getting my Eagle Scout award thus summer, and if my troop knew I was atheist I might be denied the award.

It is a personal belief of mine that an atheist should not pretend to be a theist because being an open atheist would help create more tolerance for atheists in society, but I am too cowardly to live by my own advice.

What are other people's opinions on when, if ever, it is okay to pretend to be religious?

101 COMMENTS

  1. Life-or-death situations. In your case, if success or failure hinge on your paying lip-service to the prevailing mythology, I think we can call that strategic politics.

    Muslims have a word for it, which escapes me.

    • In reply to #1 by ZenDruid:

      Life-or-death situations. In your case, if success or failure hinge on your paying lip-service to the prevailing mythology, I think we can call that strategic politics.

      Muslims have a word for it, which escapes me.

      Perhaps you mean taqiyyah?

    • In reply to #1 by ZenDruid:

      Life-or-death situations.

      I’d have to agree with this.

      I was once caught up in a rabid crowd of Muslims and Christians who were ostensibly celebrating New Year but the situation quickly deteriorated into violence — the kind of situation that sometimes happens in the Arab world.

      As an atheist, I knew that I’d be in trouble from both sides if they found out about my non-belief. In this situation, I was more than willing to pretend to be either one (Muslim/Christian), depending on which side was threatening me. It was life or death.

      Having said that, I once had to bite my lip when an in-law I was staying with during a short emergency insisted on me praying with her before meals etc. As I was relying on her generosity at the time, I pretended to be praying too. It was a relief to finally leave her house.

      In short: sometimes ya gatta do what ya gatta do, and then get the hell out as soon as you can — hopefully to a place safe enough to be able to express yourself without health or safety concerns!

    • In reply to #1 by ZenDruid:

      Life-or-death situations. In your case, if success or failure hinge on your paying lip-service to the prevailing mythology, I think we can call that strategic politics.
      Well said
      Muslims have a word for it, which escapes me.

      • In reply to #97 by Thomas Carter:

        In reply to #1 by ZenDruid:

        Life-or-death situations. In your case, if success or failure hinge on your paying lip-service to the prevailing mythology, I think we can call that strategic politics.
        Well said
        Muslims have a word for it, which escapes me.

        Taqiyya

  2. Peer and family pressure can be stressful, to say the least. I can remember being at social and family activities, where all were expected to stand as a prayer was said. Recently i walked out of the activity until the prayer was over. People noticed, but there were no recriminations. This type of situation does not compare to yours, but my point is that it can take a long time before one has the will and courage to stand up for one’s principles. Eventually you will have to do it, but you have to decide if your confirmation ceremony is the right moment to “come out”. You have to decide if lying and pretending to be religious to not offend your family is less harmful than standing firm on your principles. You either live a lie now and hide behind a deception or you make you stand and accept the consequences,which is not an easy choice. Remember, if you are true to your principles, you will eventually have to declare you are an atheist. Seek out a humanist or atheist support group that can help you if you decide on the latter course of action.

    • In reply to #2 by delva:

      Peer and family pressure can be stressful, to say the least. I can remember being at social and family activities, where all were expected to stand as a prayer was said. Recently i walked out of the activity until the prayer was over. People noticed, but there were no recriminations. This type of si…
      I have no problems with doing the sign of the cross or even saying prayers as they mean nothing. What really bothers me is that I will have to say “I do” when the bishop asks me if I believe in God the father almighty. I also am not okay with people who tell me that atheists are going to hell. I can do the actions out of respect, but I have no respect for irrational beliefs and the way they cause people to act. I think it was Dawkins, but it might have been Hitchens who said “If I woke up tomorrow believing that my bagel could be turned into the body of Elvis Prestly with some latin words, I would be called delusional.” Nobody has any reasons to respect delusions.

      • It’s probably an apocryphal story, that when Galileo was brought before the Inquisition to renounce his heliocentric views, he renounced them publicly, but said under his breath, “But they(the planets) do revolve around the sun.” When you are asked by the bishop,”Do you believe in god?’, you can reply in the affirmative and do a variation of Galileo, “But I don’t really.” We stand on the shoulders of giants. In reply to #19 by yumyumbob2:*

        In reply to #2 by delva:

        Peer and family pressure can be stressful, to say the least. I can remember being at social and family activities, where all were expected to stand as a prayer was said. Recently i walked out of the activity until the prayer was over. People noticed, but there were no recri…

      • In reply to #19 by yumyumbob2:

        In reply to #2 by delva:
        What really bothers me is that I will have to say “I do” when the bishop asks me if I believe in God the father almighty.

        In fact no one can force you to say “I do” to this.
        According to the Catholic Catechism one of the effects of Confirmation is supposed to be

        it roots us more deeply in the divine filiation which makes us cry, “Abba! Father!”

        So you could instead reply “Abba! Father” to the startled bishop (perhaps while wearing a T-shirt depicting a well known Swedish pop group).
        But seriously, talk to your parents about your thoughts on religion.
        If that fails, write to the bishop. I dont think he is supposed to “administer the sacrament” to a person who has openly declared themselves unwilling to receive it. Same applies to marriage!

  3. It’s very hard to say whether you should “come out” or not. Yes, in theory you are right. The more atheists that come out, the more it benefits the atheist community as a whole. On the other hand I don’t think you should feel ashamed or cowardly for pretending to be a Christian. You are still quite young and dependent on your family. I’m just glad to hear that you have figured out your own beliefs at such a young age. This means, that you have a whole life ahead of you to learn more about the actual universe instead of being limited by bronze-age superstition. It’s much harder for people who lose their faith as adults when they are married, have kids, have careers and other things to take into consideration. The ones I really pity are the priests who lose faith and become atheists. If they come out they they will lose pretty much everything they have. Since many of them are middle-aged it’s very hard to find another job. Who would like to hire a priest that has lost faith? I read an article by Daniel Dennett that dealt with this issue. I can’t imagine how hard it must be to stand up and lie to your congregation every Sunday.

    This might sound a bit condescending, but I really don’t think you should worry too much about this for the moment being. I understand that it can be hard and annoying to live what you probably perceive as a double life. But, remember that you are almost of legal age. My advice to you is to study as hard as possible and get as good grades as possible. Then apply to a college not too close to home and one that has a reputation for being tolerant and liberal. There you will meet people who share your view of the world. By time you will create your own circle of friends and perhaps a family of your own. Believe me, it will be much easier to come out when you have people around you who support you and have similar beliefs as you have. There are many out there who have similar beliefs (or lack of beliefs) as you have. In this day and age it also quite easy to get in touch with other atheists.

  4. I know how you feel as I had the same problem at your age >50 years ago. I went through with it because it was easier than dealing with the inevitable upsets in the family. I left home for university shortly afterwards and never went to church again (apart from weddings and funerals when I didn’t take part in the mumbo-jumbo).
    It’s not about being cowardly. There is no harm in respecting your parents and not causing serious upsets until you leave home and can then live your own way.

    • In reply to #5 by bigJ:

      I know how you feel as I had the same problem at your age >50 years ago. I went through with it because it was easier than dealing with the inevitable upsets in the family. I left home for university shortly afterwards and never went to church again (apart from weddings and funerals when I didn’t ta…
      My mom recently asked me if she thought I would go to church in college. I know that I will not, but I didn’t want to tell her that, so I told her I didn’t know. She was not impressed with this answer.

  5. Hi yumyumbob2, In September, 2013, Pope Francis affirmed that God’s forgiveness and mercy is open even to the atheist…….. and the key task for atheists is to “obey their conscience.” In my opinion, any man who stands up for what he believes will always be a winner in life. Follow your conscience.

  6. There are no absolute answers here. I doubt any atheist can honestly say that they’ve never held their non-beliefs to themselves in some situation. I tend to be pretty open about my atheism. I “came out” around your age to my parents although I was confirmed before that, I thought confirmation was around 12-14 although I’m sure it’s all dependent on the specific church and culture.

    Just a few thoughts: if you are going to tell them before the ceremony then better to do it ASAP. As to whether or not to tell them at all I definitely don’t think you should feel that you are selling out the cause of atheism or anything by not telling, it’s one thing we have in common with the gay rights movement that for each person it’s an individual decision and others shouldn’t judge them.

    So how much are you looking forward to the ceremony and to the ritual of being with your family, regardless of the religious aspect? There are a lot of Jewish traditions (although I’m not Jewish several of my girl friends were) that I actually like quite a bit but it’s different with Judaism, the non fundamentalist ones at least tend to be a lot less hung up on the dogma and more into the community and family aspects of it.

    So if you really like hanging out with your family and can enjoy the ceremony as a rite of passage and just ignore the dogma I say go for it. On the other hand if you are going to be miserable and feel like a hypocrite the whole time perhaps it’s worth just being honest. Good luck whatever you do.

    • In reply to #10 by Red Dog:

      There are no absolute answers here. I doubt any atheist can honestly say that they’ve never held their non-beliefs to themselves in some situation. I tend to be pretty open about my atheism. I “came out” around your age to my parents although I was confirmed before that, I thought confirmation was a…
      I am definitely not brave enough to “come out” now. I will enjoy being with my family, and I do not want to hurt them by bailing out of confirmation. However confirmation itself will be extremely hard for me. I hate lying, but it would be tough to know that your whole family thinks you are going to hell. Another problem, especially for somebody as young as me, is that people would think that I was going through a phase. I doubt that it is uncommon for people my age to go through atheist phases, but I was agnostic for two years before I became atheist and I have thought a great deal about it. This was no small decision for me.

      • In reply to #21 by yumyumbob2:

        I am definitely not brave enough to “come out” now. I will enjoy being with my family, and I do not want to hurt them by bailing out of confirmation. However confirmation itself will be extremely hard for me. I hate lying, but it would be tough to know that your whole family thinks you are going to hell. Another problem, especially for somebody as young as me, is that people would think that I was going through a phase.

        I agree, if you were open about your atheism your family would come up with all sorts of rationalizations just like that, “it’s just a phase”, “an act of rebellion”, maybe blame it on your friends, or those evil atheist web sites ;-)

  7. I wish I’d come out before I went through all that.

    However, no one can advise, they’re your family and it’s your life. as an atheist you’ve grown up and found yourself responsible for the feelings of your parents.

    When I went through mine though, there was one guy a little older than me, in the same confirmation group, who said he didn’t feel he was ready to be confirmed yet. I thought this was strange (at the time I was desperate to get out of catechism and I assumed he wanted another year of it. I was so well conditioned I didn’t even imagine there was a choice about these matters) but soon after noticed he never turned up at church. I guess he’d had that awkward conversation, it had been translated into something that sounded very grown-up and serious to us younger ones, and freed himself from the church.

    Life is full of “how long do I keep this up for?” situations. you’ll always wish you’d fessed up sooner but it’s never simple. It all comes down to the big question; who matters most to your family? you or god? seems a no brainer for most but I know it’s not an easy question if you have a religious family

  8. I’m guessing that your family is Catholic.
    You don’t have to tell then you are an Atheist. All you need to do is tell them you are not a Catholic.
    If your parents still insist on making you to go to confirmation you can tell them you will be wearing a “God Delusion” T-shirt.

    • In reply to #12 by Logar:

      I’m guessing that your family is Catholic.
      You don’t have to tell then you are an Atheist. All you need to do is tell them you are not a Catholic.
      If your parents still insist on making you to go to confirmation you can tell them you will be wearing a “God Delusion” T-shirt.
      Any parents of a seventeen year old who claimed to have abandoned the family religion would tell their child that they were going through a phase. My parents have no idea how much time I have spent thinking about religion, and they have no reason to think that I have made an informed decision.

  9. If you are not prepared, practically and emotionally, to deal with the consequences that you anticipate, then don’t come out. They may not be as bad as you think. Or they may be worse. You are in the better position to determine what might happen, and the only one with the right to make that choice. But don’t buy into the idea that you have to come out for the good of everyone else, or to be honest, or to stand up for your beliefs. Part of that stems from a culture that once and sometimes still does celebrate martyrdom.

    You will be happier in yourself if and when you do come out, but if there are practical concerns right now, such as possible consequences regarding finances or habitation, then just put it off for now. Those circumstances are not your fault or your responsibility.

  10. My advice would be to go happily into the ceremony with an open mind. Afterwards, if you want, and at a time that works, to tell your family about your beliefs, or lack of them, you will be able to say, “hand on heart”, that you have tried sincerely to embrace their beliefs but simply cannot.

    Be honest, try what is being offered, and any subsequent rejection will be less able to be criticized, and may, to your family, be more able to be accepted.

    • In reply to #14 by Sheepdog:

      My advice would be to go happily into the ceremony with an open mind. Afterwards, if you want, and at a time that works, to tell your family about your beliefs, or lack of them, you will be able to say, “hand on heart”, that you have tried sincerely to embrace their beliefs but simply cannot.

      Be ho…
      I go to a catholic school and have for eight years. I have learned a lot about Catholicism and know what it offers. The more I learn about christianity more I am sure that it is false. I do not understand how other people in my class can believe in a this religion after learning about it. Christianity, when you really learn about it, is quite absurd.

      • In reply to #23 by yumyumbob2:

        In reply to #14 by Sheepdog:

        I agree with you, and leaving the deep philosophical reasons for the rejection of any kind of god aside, the utter absurdity of what you are asked, rather, demanded, to believe is enough to reject religion in all its forms.

        You are already free, just unable to excersize the freedom fully. Going the last yard will give you the full justification for your point of view, and will protect you from accusations not giving it a fair chance.

        Don’t worry about it too much, you are already immune. Congratulations, and best of luck.

  11. do as follow: go on with your confirmation, for you it does mean nothing and this way you won’t have to explain to all your relatives things they probably can’t even understand. Than after the cerimony when all the other relatives are gone talk to your parents and start with “by the way I’m gay”. Wait till they start to cry and shout and things like those and than say: “calm down, i was joking, i’m only an atheist”

  12. You are young. Go ahead and pretend. You can live the life of an Athiest after you move out. I speak from experience, I went thru the motions when I lived at home to keep from hurting my mother who was very religious. When I left home I stopped going to church.

  13. This is very difficult. It depends a lot on the nature of the relationships within your family. Only you can know this. It may be that this event is “Very Big” for your immediate and extended family. At 17, you probably don’t have the power yet within the family to stand on your own. If the consequences of coming out will be dire for you, then you shouldn’t come out. There will be time in the future when your relationships are more mature with your parents. A time when you have more life skills, more confidence in your own identity, and more judgement as to the consequences of your coming out.

    It sounds to me that this confirmation is “Very Big” for the family, immediate and extended. I suspect the consequences for you will be dire, if you cause your parents to loose face in the eyes of the extended family.

    Think of this as a white lie. The telling of white lies is a constant and universal activity of all humans. We do it almost as a matter of course. Don’t come out yet. Go through with the ceremonies. Get you scout badge that will tell future employers that you are a person of substance. At 17, you will have plenty of time to come out when the circumstances will not get you ejected from your family support.

    I was about to type “Good Luck” but that would be promoting a superstition. How should a rational person sign off on a positive note in correspondence.

    • In reply to #17 by David R Allen:

      I was about to type “Good Luck” but that would be promoting a superstition. How should a rational person sign off on a positive note in correspondence.

      Personally I think “good luck” is OK, as it can and often does just mean “of the possibilities that may occur, may the one that happens be beneficial to you” (and hey, if you’re running with a Sheldon/Spock shtick, maybe you could say it like that). But you could be more explicit and say something like “I wish you well”, “I hope all goes well for you” or “I’ll be thinking of you” (though that can sound a bit creepy in some contexts).

  14. I’ll refer you the The Kohlberg Scale Of Moral Development

    You are a thinking individual living by principles. Adhering to principles is superior to rules, and sometimes requires breaking rules initially established to defend the principle. It’s easy to find exceptions to the rule. If it saves lives, lie. If grandma is on her deathbed and a lie can give her solace, lie.

    Your situation is not so clear and extreme. Only you can know. I think the only error you can make is not doing your best. To follow rules blindly is lazy and ignorant. As for your premise that being open about atheism is beneficial and thus a moral imperative, you are absolutely correct. Whatever you do, I urge you to take notes and share, cuz we’re all just making it up as we go along too.

    • In reply to #18 by This Is Not A Meme:

      I’ll refer you the The Kohlberg Scale Of Moral Development

      You are a thinking individual living by principles. Adhering to principles is superior to rules, and sometimes requires breaking rules initially established to defend the principle. It’s easy to find exceptions to the rule. If it saves live…
      I just read the whole wikipedia article on Kohlberg’s scale of Moral Development. I would place myself at stage 5. You pointed out how following principles is superior to following rules. I completely agree; one of my pet peeves is when people think or tell you it is “good” to follow rules blindly. I know that my morality is not perfected because there are many moral dilemmas where I cannot justify what I believe is the right choice.

  15. I went through it. No big deal. If you start to go all anti-biblical on them, they can chalk this up to youthful rebellion, and make your life miserable while they dig a hole in the sand big enough for their collective head.

    It’s up to you, just be aware of the consequences, and if you value your current relationship with your family and friends. I suppose it would be a good way to find out who your friends really are. But people get tetchy with those matters (because, religion), and would rather see you pretend, to save face.

    As for the award, screw them anyway. If that would be their attitude towards a long serving atheist-whatever scout getting recognition, it’s not worth a damn, and is just plain and simple hypocrisy.

    It is a personal belief of mine that an atheist should not pretend to be a theist because being an open atheist would help create more tolerance for atheists in society.

    You may find the opposite is true. But then if that were indeed the case, you’d get the chance to see them for the bigots they are.

  16. Some points. Basically supporting the comments here.
    You are young perhaps not yet financially secure. You may need help from parents to go to University. You do not know how they will be affected and the affect on your life. It is not your fault that your parents are this way. IF you cannot live with yourself pretending, then as they say “you gotta do what you gotta do”. BUT I’d say you should manage your trasnsition to public atheist and even maybe antitheist strategically. Doing it now would be unnecissarily hurtful to your family. Reminds me a of the novel SHOGUN. Be a good son for them go through with it. DO NOT feel bad about yourself, you are victim of circumstance doing the besy you can. Good luck.

  17. I agree with all the comments urging caution at this stage. You can go through the motions without having to say too much ( apart from ‘I do’ apparently). I’d keep the actual ‘lying’ to a minimum, as you may be confronted with your words at a later date.

    Until I was about 40yrs, I tended to keep my opinions to myself unless on very safe grounds. I had no wish to alienate friends or colleagues. At my current time of life I have no need to keep silent and I’m usually upfront about my atheism. In certain circumstances I say nothing unless the topic comes up. Play it by ear but be mindful that suppressing your inner convictions can be stressful, so try to avoid certain conversations for a while.

  18. Young man, you do what you need to do. It is not self betrayal to desire things that you rightly deserve and desire. There will be plenty of times to chirp and fight your fight. If you need to scream it out, DO IT. But, do not beat yourself up because of some perceived code you gotta live up to. Be who you are. Everyone deals with insecurities and all are trying to figure out just who we are, even to my ripe old age (46).

    I say grace with my wife’s family every time we eat. Every one of them knows I am NOT praying to anyone or anything. However, they all also know my head is bowed and I am quiet in deference to them. I think it is actually more of a “prayer” than the bullshit rote garbage words they are reciting. Yes, atheists can have respect and meaning in their lives.

    Son, you are NOT cowardly. You have earned the right to be an Eagle Scout. I have spoken at two Eagle Scout ceremonies as the invited guest speaker of the young man receiving the honor. I spoke forcefully and well and no one needed to know my politics or beliefs.

    Belief in a deity is so so so far down the priority list for atheists, that you need to put it in it’s place. It is the LEAST important thing about a person. Go and pursue the things that ARE important.

    • In reply to #32 by crookedshoes:

      I also do the sign of the cross, fold my hands, and say prayers when others are praying just out of respect. I do not respect their delusion, but I respect their wish for me not to protest their belief in delusions.
      You are correct that a belief in a deity is a very, very low priority and is not important, but to many people it is important. I cannot choose not to live in a society in which most of the population believes that a deity knows that we exist, cares that we exist, cares what we think, cares who we sleep with, and will send people to hell for disagreeing with it despite that it provides no evidence for its own existence. I am not isolated from that society and I cannot act isolated.

      • I cannot choose not to live in a society in which most of the population believes that a deity knows that we exist, cares that we exist, cares what we think, cares who we sleep with, and will send people to hell for disagreeing with it despite that it provides no evidence for its own existence. I am not isolated from that society and I cannot act isolated.

        True, but, you can know better and use your knowledge to live your life in a way that will allow you to someday look back and puff your chest out in pride about not only who you are, but who you have been for the people in your life. Everyone else can eat shit. You owe no one no thing; save for yourself. Isolation is only OK if it is by choice and you can choose what you like. Please internalize that you are in control of and responsible for YOU. Stress over only what you can control or change. If that does not include other people, then make peace with it and chase the things that matter. You can do it.

        In reply to #33 by yumyumbob2:

        In reply to #32 by crookedshoes:

        I also do the sign of the cross, fold my hands, and say prayers when others are praying just out of respect. I do not respect their delusion, but I respect their wish for me not to protest their belief in delusions.
        You are correct that a belief in a deity is a ver…

  19. by the way, throw you a bone here:
    many many many many people around the world go in front of a priest and they swear in front of god when they marry their loved one. None of them really believe in it and bothers, they just do it cause the location is glamorous and they don’t want to miss that opportunity.
    It happened to almost all the marriage i’ve been invited to. So do like most of the believers do: “just pretend”

    • Excellent post! You are NEVER the only atheist in the church. As a matter of fact I dare to think that most of the priests, in fact, do not believe. They most certainly do not believe in the god that the idiots standing in front of them believe in. The priests are far too educated to believe in the conventional god thing. That construction is most certainly make believe, yet the overwhelming percentage of people would subscribe to it’s existence.

      In reply to #36 by Andrea R:

      by the way, throw you a bone here:
      many many many many people around the world go in front of a priest and they swear in front of god when they marry their loved one. None of them really believe in it and bothers, they just do it cause the location is glamorous and they don’t want to miss that oppor…

  20. I will act as if this is not an April Fool’s joke.

    Regarding the Eagle Scout award…I’m not sure what this is, but if you earned it then you should claim it.

    Regarding the confirmation – You are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. You may as well have it side in your favor. What do you think would happen if you tell your parents that you don’t want to be confirmed and cannot explain at this time? “Please don’t ask questions, but I don’t want to be confirmed…”and don’t participate in any yelling, keep quiet. Is that possible?

  21. In simplistic terms, YumYumBob2, do what you think is right, as* you see it. It may be right to live up to your atheistic ideal that an atheist should not pretend to be a theist. But from your perspective, it may also be right to NOT subject yourself to stress that you cannot tolerate ~ stress that would result from “coming out”, (so to say). So *not meeting your ideal may be OK for now, and you may keep open the option to be open about this, later in your life.

    You are the one who must be satisfied and happy with the choices you make. If you can find it in yourself to tell the truth now, so much the better. I mean that it would be the more honest approach. If it were me in your place, I would view confirmation as a solemn oath, made with the professed belief in “God”, and in your case, as you have explained to us, that would be a lie.

  22. When you are ready you will be able to tell your family and you are not a coward. It is not cowardly to not want to hurt the people you love and be fearful of the ramifications of coming “out.” Wait until you are a bit older, when they begin to see you as an adult— it will be easier then. I never did tell my mother because I knew she would just worry and stew over it. She still loved me and I still loved her. It just wasn’t worth upsetting her and religion was never a big part of our life anyway. At some point you will be ready to discuss it with some of your family but don’t feel the pressure to confront them or start an argument right now. You could always drop an occasional “question” about the “evidence” for some of the belief (or question why there isn’t any) and just let the conversation flow naturally– kind of setting the stage for the eventual discussion. Your kindness and love will be enough in the end… hang in there! Besides, guilt is so overrated!

  23. For some time scale.
    I worked for the same company for 40 yrs
    –benign silence for a long time maybe 25 yrs
    –several years of “you know who is and who isn’t”, still undercover.
    –vocal atheist if provoked (e.g. “Christmas Party”, saying grace at a meal, mention of anything non-secular at a meeting) maybe 5-8 years
    –aggressive anti-theist last 10-12 yrs, I was bulletproof because my career was essentially over.
    maybe others can share their time scales…young and old as dirt like me

    • Excuse me for replying to myself: Personally: aggressive anti-theist with friends and people I debate with. Benign non-vocal indifference with relatives. I cannot change them, they “know”, don’t want to alienate. Wife and 2 adult sons are atheists, benign non-vocal indifference.

  24. You are quite right that the more out of the closet atheists there are the better. However each closet atheist should decide for him or herself just how much they stand to lose by coming out. Additionally you have to decide how much of the theist ideology goes against your own personal principles.

    The example I often give is about attitudes to homosexuals (which reminds me, I must switch my browser to something other that Firefox). If you personally find those around you express intolerant attitudes towards homosexuals that you really cannot live with then perhaps now is the time to speak out. My own father had terribly racist views and I wasted no time telling him that I did not want to hear them.

    However what harm is there to you personally in going for the award, doing the silly ritual, and then gently graduating into atheism after the family have gone back to their various homes?

  25. Think of it like this, during the second world war many people were being persecuted mostly the jewish people. They were made to wear a star of David armband or patch in order to be able to tell who was what. Homosexuals got pink triangles.

    Once people learned that they were not being taken to work but to rather be tortured and killed. Jewish people, in an attempt to save their family and their lives, lied about their religion as best as they could.

    They went as far as to stop traditional circumcisions in order to pass as a non jew because that was another way they were found out.

    Many jews who converted or pretended to be Christian did it only to save their lives. Some remained Christian. Because they were children when this happened and that is all they knew.The small children were told never to speak of anything jewish to save their lives.

    I think I have always been an atheist. It is as simple as believe or not believe there is a god. Or that gods are involved. I am sure it is as logical as not breathing underwater. I was pulled between my catholic mother and jewish father. Had to go to temple and to church. But had to keep it a secret from dad that we went to church.

    I pretended to be catholic for my mother and jewish for my dad. I was an atheist for myself. All I could do is observe and wait for the day when I would be free from that. I left home at 17 and started my new life with nothing but my integrity. I am glad I did.

    The only thing I can advise is that you should be true to yourself whenever possible and only lie when your life depends on it.

  26. What a rotten, evil thing to do to a seventeen-year-old person! This strikes me as a deliberate smack-down for someone who is just starting to get their independence. No choice about it really. If you were much younger, it would be more like something your parents wanted you to do so you do it. At 17 you have more of a moral preference and are basically being required to proclaim allegiance under duress. Unless they asked you if you wanted to do this…it doesn’t count!

    • In reply to #49 by notany:

      What a rotten, evil thing to do to a seventeen-year-old person! This strikes me as a deliberate smack-down for someone who is just starting to get their independence. No choice about it really. If you were much younger, it would be more like something your parents wanted you to do so you do it. At 1…

      Rights of passage like this have been a part of human culture as long as anyone has recorded human culture. Most primitive societies have some kind of similar right where a boy “becomes a man”. And since the OP hasn’t come out to his parents yet this hardly seems like a “deliberate smack down”. They think he still believes in their religion so of course they would expect him to want to be confirmed. Also, if you read the original comment more carefully and read some of his responses he is looking forward to the community aspects of this, being with his family, etc. it’s just the dogma he has a problem with.

      • In reply to #50 by Red Dog:

        In reply to #49 by notany:

        They think he still believes in their religion so of course they would expect him to want to be confirmed.

        However, I was never asked “Do you want to be confirmed?” I, being from a religious family, am assumed to be religious. I am assumed to be a “Catholic Child”, which Richard Dawkins argues does not exist. Nobody labels me as a republican because my parents are, and I am not considered to have been “born republican”. Why is it not the same for religion? I have my own mind; nobody has any reason to assume that I will use it, because I will.

        • In reply to #65 by yumyumbob2:

          In reply to #50 by Red Dog:

          In reply to #49 by notany:

          They think he still believes in their religion so of course they would expect him to want to be confirmed.

          However, I was never asked “Do you want to be confirmed?” I, being from a religious family, am assumed to be religious. I am assumed to…
          It appears as though waiting for 11th grade to confirm is an attempt to get at the youth just before they become full participants in the world at large. I don’t see how this is a rite of passage, those are usually associated with puberty. Maybe last chance to inoculate them from worldly influences. Your only responsibility IMO is to enjoy the gathering and be gracious. As for the Eagle Scout award, you’ve earned that.

        • yumyumbob,
          I didn’t want to ask initially. But, well, here goes. I was raised Catholic and we were confirmed in 5th or 6th grade. I was wondering about 17 being the age of confirmation. Is it the norm in your parent’s practice of the religion? Has your confirmation been delayed?

          In reply to #65 by yumyumbob2:

          In reply to #50 by Red Dog:

          In reply to #49 by notany:

          They think he still believes in their religion so of course they would expect him to want to be confirmed.

          However, I was never asked “Do you want to be confirmed?” I, being from a religious family, am assumed to be religious. I am assumed to…

          • In reply to #71 by crookedshoes:

            yumyumbob,
            I didn’t want to ask initially. But, well, here goes. I was raised Catholic and we were confirmed in 5th or 6th grade. I was wondering about 17 being the age of confirmation. Is it the norm in your parent’s practice of the religion? Has your confirmation been delayed?

            In reply to #6…

            The church at which I am getting confirmed has everybody get confirmed in 11th grade because our minds are more developed than in middle school. Most people go to confirmation classes for three years so that they are motivated to stay catholic their whole life, but since I go to a catholic school, my parents only signed me up for the last year, which is required. My mom is protestant, so this is not as big of a deal to her side of the family, but both my parents want me confirmed. This is why they never even bothered to consult me before they signed me up.

          • In reply to #73 by yumyumbob2:

            I go to a catholic school, my parents only signed me up for the last year, which is required. My mom is protestant, so this is not as big of a deal to her side of the family, but both my parents want me confirmed. This is why they never even bothered to consult me before they signed me up….

            Bingo; the key word is REQUIRED, your parents were given a non-choice. So that eliminates the possibility of family repercussions, but highlights the threat to your possible qualifications.
            You and your parents are having your arms twisted.

            So, what price principles? Are you willing to risk your chances of employment or further education, or do you fly false colours for the day?

  27. Presumably you are having some sort of instruction by a member of the clergy? I am assuming that you have voiced none of your misgivings in that arena. It’s a painful situation for you. Perhaps best to go along with it at this time. Just check your motives and intention. If these are for the best, then try not to worry.

  28. Hi Bob, Technically by law, a 17 year old is not an adult. If your parents are people of strong faith, they may believe you are breaking the 5th Commandment if you do not go through with your confirmation: Honour your Father and your Mother (Exodus 20:12). Incidentally, the penalty for breaking this law was death (Exodus 21:17). Please think about mum and dad!

  29. This brings back memory about the day whem my Mom brought me to some kind of shaman who told her I was to undergo baptism, so that he would be able to perform exorcism on me.
    I told her no, because I did not believe in God then (actually I was about 17) and do not believe now.
    She tried to persuade me to lie to the priest, but, of course I said no, because I still respected Church that much. So this became the only thing we talked about for ayear. She tried to persuade me, I always replied no. Gradually she gave up. Attempts to persuade me, not idea that I am possessed.

  30. BTW,
    Over here in “mericah, earlier in the week, three men went into the Pacific ocean for a baptism. A witness, a convert, and the man performing the baptism. A rip tide swept all three out and only two returned (the one being baptized was lost at sea).

    Shouldn’t all the members of the church the man was converting to take a step back and look pretty hard at their “church”? God killed a man for wanting to enter it!!!!

    • But crooked…now he’s in a “better” place, right? I mean as far as I understand it and as far as what’s being sold to its adherents. The view could be that this guy won the Baptismal lottery as it were, completely circumventing the oft less than glorious times here for the alms promised to the believers. Ok, yeah, I call bullshit on that too, but it’s the first thing I thought when I read your anecdote.

      In reply to #54 by crookedshoes:

      BTW,
      Over here in “mericah, earlier in the week, three men went into the Pacific ocean for a baptism. A witness, a convert, and the man performing the baptism. A rip tide swept all three out and only two returned (the one being baptized was lost at sea).

      Shouldn’t all the members of the church th…

    • Or god loved him so much that he took him away with him :D :D :D :D

      In reply to #54 by crookedshoes:

      BTW,
      Over here in “mericah, earlier in the week, three men went into the Pacific ocean for a baptism. A witness, a convert, and the man performing the baptism. A rip tide swept all three out and only two returned (the one being baptized was lost at sea).

      Shouldn’t all the members of the church th…

    • In reply to #54 by crookedshoes:

      Over here in “mericah, earlier in the week, three men went into the Pacific ocean for a baptism. A witness, a convert, and the man performing the baptism. A rip tide swept all three out and only two returned (the one being baptized was lost at sea).

      Even though it is wrong to laugh at tragedy, these kinds of tragedies make me roll on the floor laughing and ask , WHERE IS YOUR GOD NOW ?????

      I live for these moments of I Told you so… the moral of this story , Baptismal SCUBA GEAR

  31. They are going to find out sooner or later. You have the (unholy) gift of reason, use it. If Eagle Scout awards are based on believing in the tooth fairy, then let them, you live in free country. I am 73 years of age, married to a practising catholic, very intelligent but with barmy beliefs. The inquisition has gone, and you cannot be burned at the stake for your views. Do not pretend, invite debate. If you have read the bible, you should have enough information to tell them that it is full of contradictions and exaggerations, and as the late, great Christopher Hitchens said, religion poisons everything.

  32. Well, no. But I had a boss who forced me to give a “prayer” at a company Christmas party. I told him I wasn’t religious and didn’t know any prayers but he insisted anyway.
    Loose your job, or play games with the Christians?

  33. You will have to tell them sooner or later. Presumably you arrived at your decision by reason. Use that (unholy) gift of reason to tell them where you stand. You cannot be burned at the stake or sent to permanent torture any more for your views. If you have read your bible you should be able to point out the contradictions, exaggerations and downright bullshit in aforesaid volume that set you on the road to reason. Let them pretend to believe in the tooth fairy, god, bigfoot, whatever, the burden of proof is on them.

    • In reply to #59 by marriedtoone:

      You will have to tell them sooner or later. Presumably you arrived at your decision by reason. Use that (unholy) gift of reason to tell them where you stand. You cannot be burned at the stake or sent to permanent torture any more for your views. If you have read your bible you should be able to poin…

      I did arrive at my conclusion through reason. I attend a catholic school, but the more religion classes I take the more contradictions I see with religion. I was agnostic for two years because I could not refute arguments from either side, but as I examined the issue more closely I realized that all theistic arguments (that I have seen so far) could be refuted. If I wanted to I could throw boatloads of evidence against the existence of a deity at them, but they would disapprove of me.

  34. I think that it’s ok to pretend when it suits you to do so. And this will be very much dependent on circumstance, as you are aware. For example you seem to be less worried about pretending, or at least keep a low profile, at scouts but find that your sense of integrity gets in the way when it comes to being upfront with those who matter. To me this suggests a good sense of perspective, and common sense.

    A couple of things you said hint that your mum, who I assume to be the driving force behind the event, already has an inkling that you don’t believe. Is it standard to do confirmation in late teens in your community? She may be thinking that it’ll seal the deal before it’s too late.

    • In reply to #60 by Zap135:

      A couple of things you said hint that your mum, who I assume to be the driving force behind the event, already has an inkling that you don’t believe. Is it standard to do confirmation in late teens in your community? She may be thinking that it’ll seal the deal before it’s too late.

      Actually, the church at which I am getting confirmed does it in 11th grade because they want people to be as mentally mature as possible, but not in college yet.

  35. You already know what you should do. It isn’t easy, but you are under no serious danger.

    These people keep laying on praise and they think that your accomplishments are partly because of your belief in god.
    If they don’t respect you as an atheist, then they don’t really respect you.

  36. I’m 99% sure from the content of your post that you live in America.

    It really is staggering to someone from the UK how so many Americans aren’t free to say what they believe or don’t believe.

    Someone should read this post to your congress and ask if they can really consider that their country is the epitome of freedom when so many citizens face being ostracised by their family or community if they say they don’t believe in the supernatural.

  37. Don’t tell them you’re an atheist. But, after the event, when you are all sitting and recovering from your meal, when they asked you if you enjoyed the ceremony, say -
    “Yes, it was wonderful” – Then wink at them and say -
    “But of course, you know, and I know it’s all a load of crap”.

  38. First of all, like others I am very impressed by your clarity and maturity – which extends to considering your families feelings.
    It is a difficult balance, but (from this great distance!) I think you are right to conclude it is better to go through with it all for now. Perhaps it is possible to salvage something positive for yourself – the prayer times could be periods when you reflect on your own (private) beliefs in humanity and you could genuinely wish the best for your family, even the church. By this I mean you might somehow divert the frustration and perhaps anger at being railroaded into this into strengthening your existing determination to act honestly and compassionately towards others. This might help you in the probably inevitable time at some point when you do tell them, or at least stop going to church so often or at all.

    I also agree with others that you are probably not the only atheist in the church, let alone the town, but (obviously) they are under the same pressures that you are. Overcoming harmful religious dogma is a long term project which will surely outlive everyone here – we can only do now what we can only do now – you will be able to do more in the years ahead.

    • In reply to #69 by steve_hopker:

      First of all, like others I am very impressed by your clarity and maturity – which extends to considering your families feelings.
      It is a difficult balance, but (from this great distance!) I think you are right to conclude it is better to go through with it all for now. Perhaps it is possible to sal…

      I have been thinking the past few days why atheists and people of different religions are enemies despite that they (mostly) all share the goal of peace on earth and a happy world. I am very angry at religion, but I know that attacking it will just make its believers angry and hostile to atheism. Since religion (evolutionarily, we have learned from observation) has to exist, I wish atheists and religious people could work together to achieve common goals. Sadly, religion is too preoccupied with condemning homosexuals and telling people not to use condoms. Hitchens was right when he said that religion poisons everything.

      • In reply to #74 by yumyumbob2:

        I have been thinking the past few days why atheists and people of different religions are enemies despite that they (mostly) all share the goal of peace on earth and a happy world.

        Not all atheists consider religious people to be their enemies and vice versa. I’ve been an atheist since I was several years younger than you are and I never considered religious people my enemy. Don’t judge the whole atheist world just by the comments on this site. The Internet tends to attract people who are most divisive and looking to vent frustration and anger, in my experience at least the real world interactions between atheists and religious people aren’t always or even typically like that.

        I’ve also been interested in the “goal of peace on earth” since I was very young and in the various times I’ve gotten off my butt and actually taken part in peace movements I always worked side by side with religious people (and was always open about being an atheist) and never felt any pressure or hostility, on the contrary there was always a feeling that we are in it together. Read up a bit on the history of the civil rights movement in the South in the 60′s, people of faith led that movement and they often put their bodies on the line, going to places in the deep south where they knew there was a very real risk of getting beaten or even killed.

        I am very angry at religion, but I know that attacking it will just make its believers angry and hostile to atheism.

        There is a difference between attacking religion and being honest about what you think. An attack on religion as I define it is an emotional utterance. Calling religious people names like “faith heads” for example. I completely agree that kind of action is pointless. First, because it won’t convince anyone and second because it’s actually contrary to the very values of rational discussion that I value most.

        But that doesn’t mean you have to keep your opinions to yourself. Being honest with religious people about why you think the way you do, the problems you see with religion, etc. to me that’s not “attacking” that’s honest debate. It’s what I expect from people that I disagree with but still respect as people.

        Since religion (evolutionarily, we have learned from observation) has to exist,

        I disagree. We’ve learned that it always has existed since humans have had civilization that in no way means it always has to exist. It’s a longer discussion but I feel confident in fact that it won’t exist forever and that in a few decades even we will see some major shifts in the percentage of believers to atheists. Again, this is where studying history can be helpful. There are all sorts of ideas that people assumed had to exist because they were with us for so long that are now mostly gone. Slavery used to be common place and accepted. A few hundred years ago it was considered unthinkable to have a major western (i.e. Europe and colonies) nation that wasn’t founded on religion and a king. I think atheism is just one more example like that, something that the human race will eventually come to embrace.

        I wish atheists and religious people could work together to achieve common goals.

        As I said they do all the time. Groups I’ve been involved in include CISPES, Organizing for Action, Peace Now, there are many, many others. All those groups have religious people and atheists working side by side for common goals and no one cares what faith you are or if you have no faith at all.

        Sadly, religion is too preoccupied with condemning homosexuals and telling people not to use condoms.

        Some religions spend all their time doing that not all of them by any stretch. I live in San Francisco and you would be amazed at how diverse and gay/tran/whatever friendly many of the churches here are.

        • In reply to #76 by Red Dog:

          In reply to #74 by yumyumbob2:

          Wow, you have some great responses and critiques to what I said which require a response. I see you want me to be very careful that everything I say is factual, which will not happen without me devoting large amounts of time to making sure it is.

          Not all atheists consider religious people to be their enemies and vice versa.

          Most religious people I know want nothing to do with atheists. They are all catholic, and some religious people may be different. (I know some are different) However, religious people willing to work with atheists constitute a minority of religious people. I would venture to say this is because most religious people have not been exposed to atheism, so they buy into the negative stereotypes. Many religious people also hold conservative social views, and if these are their main objectives, atheists do not share common goals. Although both religious people and atheists want a peaceful world, most atheists want homosexuals to be able to marry and women to have reproductive rights, things that conservative religious people strongly oppose.

          A few hundred years ago it was considered unthinkable to have a major western (i.e. Europe and colonies) nation that wasn’t founded on religion and a king

          Good point. I certainly hope religion is significantly weakened during this century. However, I am not as optimistic as most atheists. This is perhaps because everywhere I go people are very religious (school, home, boy scouts). I see people who never question their faith. I have close friends who are smart people and unquestioningly devote time and effort to following their religion to be considered “good”. Considering that people are raised almost completely in this setting, I find it hard to believe that their children and grandchildren will be likely to lose their faith even in a changing world. Maybe I need to look less at my observations of the world and more at statistics on society as a whole, but I know firsthand the power of indoctrination and the enormous difficulty of escaping it. I can see firsthand how people with minds less skeptical than mine cannot abandon their religion.

          I live in San Francisco and you would be amazed at how diverse and gay/tran/whatever friendly many of the churches here are

          Wow, I should look at some colleges in San Francisco. I have heard before that it is very atheist- friendly, which would be a breath of fresh air compared to the Midwest (which I love very much). My dad today warned me that at secular colleges I might be ridiculed for being catholic. I wasn’t too worried.

          • In reply to #82 by yumyumbob2:

            In reply to #76 by Red Dog:

            In reply to #74 by yumyumbob2:

            Wow, you have some great responses and critiques to what I said which require a response. I see you want me to be very careful that everything I say is factual, which will not happen without me devoting large amounts of time to making sure…

            California is less up tight than most states. If you come here you may never go home again.

  39. OK lad, So you’ve been sent to a Catholic school (so was I, and had to be baptised in order to do so, though I left before the Confirmation stuff) At one point I felt ‘wronged’ by this but ultimately reached the conclusion that there is nothing behind the religion and thus the ceremony was empty and worthless. As such I have no regrets about the event, though I was at Uni by that point.
    Obviously with you being older there will have been more indoctrination than I was subject to, and it will take longer to work out of your system. Some of that will be emotional, your family is an unknown quantity for us, so you will have to judge their probable reaction yourself. Are they regular churchgoers? Do they allow the religion to infiltrate ordinary life, or do they just pay lip-service?
    My parents weren’t religious so I was lucky there.

    As for general advice; plan for the worst, hope for the best. Bottom line is; are they likely to kick you out and would you be capable of dealing with that outcome?

    As for lying to guy in the dress, I’d go go pragmatic, whatever works baby.

    Another aspect is the small question of the Spanish Inquisition… If you say ‘No’ you will be taken to a side room, by your head & the priest and given a choice either to go on an intensive indoctrination program or face expulsion and from the sounds of it right before your exams.

  40. It’s a tough call. But you have already made the most important decision of your life — to reject the dogma of religion, to reject a superstitious belief system. This was a most courageous and mature act of conscience and free thought. I suggest that you now follow the path you have chosen, rather than waiting for an uncertain moment later in life. In this way, you will not be forced to deceive your family by an action you will certainly regret in the future. Instead, you will complete a conversion of free conscience of which you can be very proud.

    I suggest that you might be able to achieve this with the least trauma by writing a letter to all members of your family, explaining your decision as a moral free-thinking person. You could tell them — in all good conscience — you can’t accept confirmation because it would not be consistent with the beliefs you now hold. (Just be sure your family gets the letter before the event; use your own words and don’t refer to yourself as an atheist — it’s a deadly term for most theists).

    I think informing your family by writing is somewhat easier for everyone than announcing your decision in person. It puts some distance between you and the family and allows time for everyone to think before responding. I think If your family loves and respects you, they will ultimately accept your decision.

  41. Hello, Yumyumbob.

    Given that you are seventeen years of age, and not ten or twelve (as when I was confirmed), it strikes me as ethically amiss that you have not been formally asked whether you wish to be confirmed. Regardless of what the sacrament of confirmation is supposed to mean, you are too old be put through it without your own consent. For that reason I wonder what your response is to QuestioningCat’s question at #38: “What do you think would happen if you tell your parents that you don’t want to be confirmed and cannot explain at this time? “Please don’t ask questions, but I don’t want to be confirmed…”and don’t participate in any yelling, keep quiet. Is that possible?”

    • In reply to #79 by Cairsley:

      Hello, Yumyumbob.

      What do you think would happen if you tell your parents that you don’t want to be confirmed and cannot explain at this time? “Please don’t ask questions, but I don’t want to be confirmed…”and don’t participate in any yelling, keep quiet. Is that possible?

      I don’t think that would go over well. They would demand to know why. Besides, my extended family already has plans to come. If I were to tell them I didn’t want to be confirmed but did not tell the reason, they would not accept it. Their response would be worse than if I just told them that I was atheist. I would tell them that I am atheist, but I am not that brave. (I wish I were). I think my parents consider religion a “given” fact just like science, so they want their kids taught it just like science. I am rightfully not asked for consent before I take a science class.

      • In reply to #81 by yumyumbob2:

        If I were to tell them I didn’t want to be confirmed but did not tell the reason, they would not accept it. Their response would be worse than if I just told them that I was atheist. I would tell them that I am atheist, but I am not that brave. (I wish I were). I think my parents consider religion a “given” fact just like science, so they want their kids taught it just like science. I am rightfully not asked for consent before I take a science class.

        That’s a fair enough answer; though it does not seem to be a matter of bravery so much as prudence and respect for others whether you tell your family now or later that you do not actually believe in the Christian religion or in any god. I can understand Christian doctrine being a compulsory subject at a Catholic school, but reception of a sacrament is a little different. However, the situation you are in is as it is, and I think you are being very levelheaded and mature about it. Going through with the ceremony of confirmation is part of the upbringing your parents have provided you with. It is an important community occasion in a Catholic community (I was raised Catholic too, back in the 1950s and 1960s), and that community aspect of Catholic and family life you seem to appreciate. So make the most of it – it will be a genuine part of who you are – the son of Catholic parents, raised in a Catholic community. It will probably be your last significant experience in the Catholic community and it need not be unpleasant. Let it be something you can remember as representing all the positive things in your Catholic upbringing. It will not be long before you have the freedom to drop Catholic observances and start expressing your own thoughts and values. There is no cowardice in this course of action, just the good sense of protecting what is good in your life (e.g. your familial relations) and developing your own lifestyle as circumstances permit when you have left home for university and so on. I wish you all the best.

  42. Many years ago I had a Boyfriend who tried to convert me to his faith. I was in two minds as I just wanted to please him. Cutting a very long story short, I end up hating going to church and pretending to believe in something which I was not interested in. You are what you are. Never waste your life trying to be something which you are not. I am now a member of the Atheists society and proud of it.

  43. In reply to #82 by yumyumbob2:

    Most religious people I know want nothing to do with atheists.

    We have to be careful not to over generalize from our specific experiences. Partly because the world is a big diverse place and also because even our own experiences come with bias. You may meet, I would bet you do actually, religious people every day who are polite and nice and you don’t pay any attention to it because the subject of religion doesn’t come up. But when it does come up (again I’m making a lot of assumptions here I admit) for you it tends to be with people who are close minded and bigoted and you notice those people and they make a lasting impression.

    They are all catholic,

    There’s your problem right there. Just kidding. Sort of. I was raised Catholic as well.

    and some religious people may be different. (I know some are different) However, religious people willing to work with atheists constitute a minority of religious people.

    That’s debatable. It’s also debatable that most religious people are conservative and homophobic. For one thing I think it depends if by “religious people” you mean people who take religion very seriously or if you just include anyone who says they believe in some form of God. If you take the latter definition the vast majority of the world’s population are “religious people” and in that case I definitely think assertions that they are mostly conservative and homophobic don’t hold.

    IMO questions about how many people believe this or that aren’t all that interesting. What is important to take note of, and what often gets ignored on sites like this, is that religious people do work closely with atheists all the time and that religious people can be very moral people who lead exemplary lives. I gave examples of all those in my previous comment.

    Wow, I should look at some colleges in San Francisco. I have heard before that it is very atheist- friendly, which would be a breath of fresh air compared to the Midwest (which I love very much). My dad today warned me that at secular colleges I might be ridiculed for being catholic. I wasn’t too worried.

    I’m biased but absolutely I think we have some of the best schools in the world here. UC Berkeley and Stanford are both amazing places. Both have very high academic standards and they are just very cool places to be. And there are plenty of other schools that are quite good as well. Not to mention the weather is a lot nicer than the midwest :)

  44. I was raised Catholic but became atheist during my first year of high school, roughly as soon as I was able to think seriously about such things. I think I was 14 at the time. I was also afraid to tell my immediate family, fearing my parents might disown me. My father was especially devout and we were every-week churchgoers. I don’t feel guilty about that; I just wasn’t ready. When I went away to college I stopped going to church. I told them I no longer believed during my first year of college. Every situation is different but I thought you might like to hear one more person’s experience. As it turned out, although they were a little upset they didn’t disown me and eventually more or less came to accept me for what I was, although my father probably prayed for me to regain the faith every evening the rest of his life.

    Since it sounds like you have people already making preparations to travel, I think you should stay the course for now and enjoy the family aspect of the event. Don’t feel guilty. Let your beliefs become more open when the time is right.

  45. I think that religion is just some stupid nonsens and not worth wasting any thoughts on it. Just take the award and the presents and forget about it.

    Of course you should avoid direct lies to people you love, but traditional celebrating your coming closer to adulthood should be possible without that. Good luck!

    marstal08

  46. Okay this may seem a bit harsh but just fake it. They are foolish people. Let them believe that you are a thiest. Get what you can from them. Then forsake their faith. I was an agnostic from the ages of 6-16 and an athiest then onwards. But till this day I can’t openly state that I am an athiest (owing to the fact that I live in India and that I don’t care what people think I believe). I joined college on the pretext that I was a catholic and that I deserved the ‘quota’, although frankly at that time I did not care much about matters like these. But now that I’m standing on my own feet (and thinking for myself), I will never accept anything from them to become a part of them. As long as it gives you a chance to survive in this competitive world, pretending is fine; although not very noble

  47. yumyumbob2 you have a difficult personal decision. In life one always balances expediency against principle. It doesn’t make you any less of a person, especially as a dependent teen to pretend – lie by behavior – to participate in a delusional farce which you correctly know to be an absurd, juvenile and insane act. Weigh the costs. You will feel better about yourself – upholding your “honor” – for acting in ways consistent with your intelligent beliefs. But the costs may be too high. You can always renounce such behavior later on when the costs are less. Personally, I have always been a very out atheist. I am criticized for being to ‘in-their-face’ and to ‘confrontational’ but I do not suffer fools gladly, if at all. So to me, it is never ok to pretend to be religious, but I wouldn’t criticize you for it.

  48. Anybody heard of Berthold Brecht, Keuner Stories? Here, the Keuner story about violence which might fit here perfectly?
    In brief its key sentence: “I have to live longer than violence, therefore I submit to violence as long as I have to.” In the present case, it is not even violence, but it might mean hurting others you love, and for something that should not be as important as the people you live with.
    Have a nice confirmation !

    • In reply to #90 by Mike Macke:

      Anybody heard of Berthold Brecht, Keuner Stories? Here, the Keuner story about violence which might fit here perfectly?
      In brief its key sentence: “I have to live longer than violence, therefore I submit to violence as long as I have to.” In the present case, it is not even violence, but it might me…

      Brecht is awesome. That is a great quote.

  49. You already know the answer. You’ve already spelled it out.

    You can live your life closeted for the benefit of others or to avoid potential social awkwardness, or you can show the world your honest self. As a decade-long US Servicemember, I have no trouble relating to those atheists who may feel isolated from or ostracized by their peer group. A few thoughts on your specific situation:

    • How important is it really that you become an Eagle Scout? Important enough to get around the fact that you are already disqualified according to their rules, and thus your achievement amounts to little more than cheating on an exam or falsifying an official document? They might never find out, but you’ll always know – and long after you leave the scouts you will still have to answer to yourself – is it worth trading in your integrity?

    • Telling your family you are an atheist will not hurt them. Unless you say it through a loud speaker at uncomfortably high decibel levels or something, it is just sound traveling through the air. They may be sad, or angry, or bewildered by your announcement. They may take awhile to get used to the idea. They may not speak to you for years…. or ever again. Depending on where you’re from, they may bury you up to your neck and throw rocks at your head until you die. Or they may love you unconditionally and fully accept your decision. But keep in mind that the thing we are talking about has already happened. Whatever their reaction, it will be to an event that has already taken place. All that is left for you to do is stop lying about it.

    Harden yourself for the realization that you are an extreme minority. Everywhere you go, an overwhelming majority of everyone you meet will not be like you. You are, at all times, completely surrounded. But you are not alone. Be strong enough to appear as you are, and the things you will lose in the process – community, family, friends – will return to you over time, or be replaced by a network of people more accepting and understanding. Be strong, and be patient. Life is long, and worth living on your own terms.

  50. Only you know your parents and the relationship you have with them. No one on this site knows you and is in no position to tell you what they think is the right thing to do. You must do what you feel is right in your heart. You are only 17, if you decide to go along with the confirmation to please your parents then there is no shame in that. Tell them when you are ready and when you are ready to accept their response, whatever that might be. Good luck

    • Shabbetai Tzvi would commiserate with you. In 1600′s Europe he was the Jewish Messiah and created great problems through the area. He went to Jerusalem where the Caliph did not take kindly to that kind of talk. So he gave Shabbetai Tzvi his choice: “I lop off your head or you become a Muslim.” Shabbetai Tzvi said “OK. Fine. I’m a Muslim.” He was given a hefty income and excellent housing for the rest of his life. You face a similar problem, emotionally. There are times when you cannot deal with people on a rational level because their beliefs and feelings to the contrary of you are just too strong. Making the point is simply to lop off your head and not even come close to increasing tolerance. You can answer the question, “Is this the hill you want to die on?” affirmatively if you like. That would appear to me to be a total waste of a really good life (you). It is OK to “Duck!” to stay functional enough to fight another day. That is not cowardly – it is rational and reasonable. In other words, you affirm your beliefs by acting with care and reason even if it does not get you to your ultimate goals right now. Wait until you have your doctorate, when you can start to make a serious difference. Then you can come out.
  51. I’m pretending more and more now at church.

    I was looking for a thread where I could make the comment to Richard and the community that the one thing IN THEORY that Christianity has that is underused by Himself, is loving ones enemies.

    And a quick look at this thread shows I’d be ‘preaching’ to the converted.

    My pretence is not in being Christian, i.e. topping out at present it feels as a postmodern neo-orthodox, but in behaving myself in church where the liturgy does my head in if I regard it as anything other than formulaic. I want to correct the hymns in descant. I want to (and you’ll fall about at this) get real.

    I just want to say that I love Richard, in the colloquial AND pious senses. When many secularists don’t. I UTTERLY embrace and endorse EVERYTHING being said on this site and by Richard. I have vast sympathy, empathy for it. Him. You. None of it can change the gift of faith I’ve been given one iota. Apart from refine it.

    Keep up the good work and God bless you and be with you IN your atheism.

    And yumyumbob2 – how’d it go?

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