My scarlet letter

Over the course of my high school experience, I’ve faced a lot of prejudice. I’ve been gossiped about, people would tell my friends that I hated all Christians or would question why my friends would want to associate with me. I’ve had romantic relationships end because being with me went against their god. Oh, I forgot to mention why: I’m Atheist.

I was raised Christian. We were a big part of our church’s community, attending a service every Sunday. However, in eighth grade, I realized I didn’t agree with many of the ideas and that some of my morals didn’t align with the Christian ones.

When I first identified as Atheist, I was taught to hide myself. The gossip made me feel intimidated and scared to come forward. It didn’t help that at home, my mom told me not to talk about it around other people. I felt ashamed of my belief system. I wasn’t wearing a cross or another religious symbol around my neck, but there was apparently a scarlet “A” pinned to my breast.

At first, my parents urged me to go back to Christianity, though they were unsuccessful. However, I recognize I was very fortunate to have my parents react in such a mild way. I know of many Atheist students who are afraid of coming forward, in fear they might be shunned by friends and family members. There are some kids in our halls that fear being kicked out of their home if their family found out the truth.

People, mainly those ignorant of other belief systems, began to view me differently. It became clear to me that there was some sort of confusion regarding my belief system. That somehow my disbelief in a god was reflective upon the quality of my character. That I was hateful and, therefore, rightfully hated. I think part of the problem is that Atheism isn’t a norm here at OOHS. It drives ignorance and discrimination.

Most people don’t understand Atheism and what it means. Let me take a moment to answer some commonly asked questions: No, I don’t believe in a god. I don’t think we have souls, but I believe in psychology and I see the similarities between the two. I think that when we die, we become nothing but our energy is returned to the soil for a pair of snails or mushrooms to absorb. I don’t think things happen for a reason, but instead that we all have a choice in life to make things have a purpose. No, I don’t believe God has a plan for me, but instead I have a plan for myself and fate in the palm of my hand. Because Atheists may be scared to come forward, we don’t have a community or support system. We’re all on our own and the judgement from our peers can be daunting. Which is why I’m currently in the process of creating, not only a club, but a community which would be centered upon the idea that all belief systems are of value and should be respected. I want to advocate for those people who may be hiding and showing them that they are not alone.

I’m not intent to change people’s beliefs or religion, but I do set out to enlighten those who don’t understand. No one deserves to feel ashamed of themselves. And I am resolved and determined to no longer feel that way about myself.

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