There are some times in life when it is simply better to bite your tongue than to speak out. With atheism, it may be the best course simply to keep a low profile. However, as I understand it, given your secular, humanistic World view, you want to be honest to yourself, and to avoid the practical conflicts that your views might bring you. It may be of some help to you to know that I had similar, but not identical, conflicts at your age. (And I guess, by the way that you write, that you are in the UK. Although the advice is specific to the UK, it could be adapted to many other countries.)
When I was about 14, while I was at a State grammar school, I became an atheist. It caused me no difficulty not to attend the daily religious assembly â€“ there were other pupils who stayed out, too, some for religious reasons. I told my parents about this and, while they were not exactly supportive, they raised no objection. They also accepted that I would no longer be going to church with them. As far as school was concerned, I carried on with religious classes (â€˜Divinityâ€™ lol) because I found the subject interesting and there was certainly no pressure to believe. I, and the growing number of non-believers in the class, simply saw the classes as a special sort of History. Mind you, we did ask some very tricky questionsâ€¦
You say that you are â€˜forcedâ€™ to go to a Catholic school but you donâ€™t explain the nature of the force. If your Mother has chosen the school, you may have the opportunity to go to another, but bear in mind that you will be separated from your friends and have to make a totally new start. If there is no other suitable school in the neighbourhood, then there are almost certainly other pupils, at your Catholic school, with the same problem â€“ theyâ€™re unlikely all to be Catholics. I would expect there to be special provisions for you if the school is at all typical. Many Catholic schools are very relaxed about non-conformity.
Outside school, to the conventionally religious, atheism often comes across as confrontational. It will be a long time before it is acceptable to criticise religion freely. However, when someone else brings the subject up for discussion, it is reasonable to discuss the matter carefully without being rude. Bear in mind that people you talk to will remember some of what you say and think about it afterwards. If it is well thought out and expressed, you may be beginning some long-term conversions. But if you are too confrontational, you will drive them deeper into their delusion. For some good arguments, read the very readable The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. I wish Iâ€™d had it handy all those years ago in my teens.
It isnâ€™t part of your question, but I am convinced that faith schools are a bad idea: they cause, or exacerbate, divisions in society. Assuming that you are in the UK, I suggest that you make yourself known to your MP and let her/him know your views; you may not have the vote but it is important that people who legislate understand how their decisions affect the young.
Finally, try to think what you are trying to achieve: it seems that you want to find a way to be yourself in what you see as a controlling environment. This is the eternal teenage problem; try to be yourself without being antagonistic.
Posted: August 24th 2007
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