This is Waylon Hedegaard/KKbundy, long time atheist and founding member of the Northern Prairie Secular Society. As many know, my wife and I homeschool our son. For a writing project,Reilly wrote about what it’s like to be a teen atheist, and I want to share it.
My atheism, like many things, has many causes. Thousands of different factors, all thrown at me to produce who I am and what I believe. One of the biggest things that played into my atheism was exposure to everything. I was exposed at a very young age, to church. We never actually attended a Sunday service, but I went to a Bible day camp. Now one thing I must get straight is that my parents are just as atheistic as I am. However, I didn’t find that out until i was seven. I think that they wanted to let me make my own choice and expose me to everything. Every summer for around three years, I went to the church next door every day for a week. It was fun, I had a good time, and never got the subliminal messages about God. Never really knowing too much about religion, I just thought that it was a big game. However, one thing I did notice was the fact that all of these people were a little odd. I later found out, that this oddity is called religion.
Many Christians are very good people. They live good lives, and have fun. Almost all of my friends are religious. However, stubborn, mean, overly religious people fall into three categories for me:
* Bible thumpers: These people bring up God or the Bible up anytime they can! They constantly praise Jesus for allowing the turkey to be cooked properly, or for having the people they don’t like being struck down with the sniffles. These people think that ‘God’ does everything, and that if they praise him enough, he will forget about that one time in college, when that thing happened with that girl.
* Hardcores: This is the class of people that will go to church every day except Tuesday, when they will write on their Blog about god. These guys usually tend to be rather nice (Or tend to act like it), pretending to not care what your beliefs are, as they bombard you with church meeting invites.
* Zombies: The final, and worst, class of overly religious people. They seem calm, mellow and boring at first. You talk to them for a bit, and notice that they have a lot to say about God. They go on and on about how great he is, centering every conversation on religion. And when you can’t stand it anymore, you let on that you are an atheist. Then they go insane. They freak out at you, talking about how deep in hell your going to go. They attack everything you say, with the tried and true arguments that make them feel as if they’ve won. And if you wonder why I call them zombies, replace God with human flesh. You’ll understand.
Now one thing that I have found out, is that many people simply don’t care. A lot of people will accept you, no matter what you believe. Other people, however, freak out on you and never speak to you again. I know this may sound corny, but these people aren’t worth befriending anyway. I used to never tell anyone that I was an Atheist. It was horrible, because if people don’t know your beliefs, they will assume that you have the same beliefs as they do. With most people, this is actually a good thing. However, with the right-wing, Bible thumper-hardcore-zombies (yes, they do exist), it gets pretty bad. And then you start getting invited to ‘Jesus camp’ and the Element.
Another thing that makes it hard being an atheist, is that I am a homeschooler. The reason that I am is that I know that I can get a better education this way. But the reason that many people do it, is that the schools aren’t religious enough. That one statement should give you a good impression of the average homeschooler. Well, I went to the homeschooler Physical Education meeting, Tuesdays and Thursdays, every week. We played a random assortment of sports, ranging from track, to open swim, to sitting on the floor and rolling a volleyball around. Like P.E. everywhere, it was kind of dull, but I became friends with the people there. They were very nice.
Well one time, one of my friends asked me if I wanted to go to the Evangelical-free youth meetings (I know Evangelical-free seem like it would be free of evangelicals, but no, quite the opposite). It didn’t come to mind that it might have been religious, because usually religion wasn’t a big thing with me and my friends. Little did I know that my homeschooler friend’s lives revolved around it. So we went to the E-Free mega-church and went into this low ceiling room, full of people doing various activities. I looked around, thinking that this was going to be awesome. But about fifteen minutes into it a tall man, dressed all in black, came into the room and ushered us down some steps. We sat in a blindingly white room, chattering Quietly, until another man came in and handed us each a Bible verse. We all got up, one at a time, and recited our verse. I was getting a little weirded out, when the first man came around and started answering our questions about God. When it was my friend’s turn for question time, his one question was “Where is the proof?”. I gave a little smile when I heard this, but that smile quickly faded at the response. “The proof is the Bible, the word of God” So the proof of God, is something God said? That was the moment when I fully became an atheist.
Due to the highly noticeable lack of atheists in Bismarck, not many of my friends have the same beliefs as me. Many of my best friends are highly religious, going to church every Sunday, attending the Element and taking part in all of the religious events that they can. I really don’t care what their beliefs are, as long as they don’t shove it in my face all the time. I even help with some of their church-based-charities. Not only that, but all of my friends know that I am an atheist. It would seem like this would be something you would tread lightly on, but no, its actually a bit of a joke to us. We point out ironic moments, like when we played Clue, and I get stuck as the Reverend. That is how I know that I am hanging out with good people. They don’t care what I believe, as long as I’m nice about it.
So, in conclusion, Atheism really doesn’t affect my life that much. Many people talk about how depressed they would be if they were an atheist, but I feel quite the opposite. I feel like I lead a great life. And I do lead a great life, because I feel like I do (This, unlike proof of god, is an acceptable use of circular logic). I don’t lead a good life because of what I believe, but because of my actions.
I suppose this last paragraph could have been summed up in four words: Don’t be a dick.