Young Atheists

Nov 14, 2013


Discussion by: GeorgeSmith

How might one retort to criticisms of atheism due to age? For example many of my family members put my atheism down to rebellion rather than reason and independent research. However I cannot speed up time to prove that my beliefs are my beliefs so I was wondering how other people deal or have dealt with this kind of situation. 

37 comments on “Young Atheists

  • 1
    aaron.marshall3 says:

    I wouldn’t worry about how they view your atheism, as long as they respect your position.
    Their putting it down to rebellion, could just as easily be their own way of justifying it to themselves, to make it a more comfortable prospect to deal with. This way they can believe that it is ‘just a phase’ that you are going through. the only way to convince them otherwise is to stick to your position.



    Report abuse

  • 2
    Mormon Atheist says:

    My family had a similar reaction and unfortunately only time passing by allowed them to see that it was serious and not just a phase. It just seems to come with the territory unfortunately.



    Report abuse

  • 3
    CdnMacAtheist says:

    Hello George,

    Since the members of RDFRS come from different backgrounds and/or religions and are located worldwide in varying societies, it would help if you gave us some more details to ponder.

    What age are you, what’s your approximate location, what’s the religious background of your family, did you go through religious indoctrination at home, church or school, and how did you arrive at your atheist conclusion?

    We will then have some context and can give better opinions relevant to your situation…. Mac.



    Report abuse

  • It’s aways going to be difficult having a different opinion to your family. You love them and dont want to hurt them while at the same time they are trying to tell you what to think (not cool). And you are quite naturally being defensive. You use the word ‘retort’ so it seems your interaction with family members is already slightly antagonistic and confrontational and you want to get back at them someway. Arguing is not useful. Think more; exchange ideas. That’s much more important
    Don’t ‘retort’. Present your ideas in a calm, reasoned, knowledgeable way.
    I admire your courage in standing by your beliefs and please continue to do.



    Report abuse

  • For example many of my family members put my athiesm down to rebellion rather than reason and independant research.

    Are they right?

    Mike



    Report abuse

  • 6
    Len Walsh says:

    You can’t use retorts to speed up normal development without compromising other aspects of life. Emergent rebellious behaviour and a need to prove yourself is quite normal at your age, as is the urgent need for instant gratification. Your family have been anticipating you needing to prove something ever since you were born.

    Be tolerant of your family and respect the fact that they’re far more experienced than are you, whenever you feel the urge to demonstrate that you’ve grown up. Such behaviour will prove far more convincing to them than trying to persuade them that your beliefs are authentic by retorting.



    Report abuse

  • Don’t explain yourself. Just keep asking them how they justify believing what they believe. Listen carefully and follow each thread back to where it hangs, floating in the wind.



    Report abuse

  • George Not knowing your age, it is difficult to advise in some respect however, from your well formulated question I would suggest the following:- Take strength from your own conviction and remember that your reasoning is formed on good inquisative thought and logic. Keeping these things in mind don’t formulate or try to formulate any type of retort as there is no need. Simply say to any members of your family “I understand your position” and keep it as simple as that. Untimately they love you and will find it difficult to adjust to your growing independance.



    Report abuse

  • George Not knowing your age, it is difficult to advise in some respect however, from your well formulated question I would suggest the following:- Take strength from your own conviction and remember that your reasoning is formed on good inquisative thought and logic. Keeping these things in mind don’t formulate or try to formulate any type of retort as there is no need. Simply say to any members of your family “I understand your position” and keep it as simple as that. Untimately they love you and will find it difficult to adjust to your growing independance.



    Report abuse

  • 10
    RealEyes says:

    It seems to me that age is not the real issue here. In the eyes of your family, apparently, rebellion is a symptom or bi-product of youth. Whilst it may be true that many young people rebel against what they know to be the norm, that does not naturally lead to the conclusion that such a rebellion would lead to Atheism, over say a belief in Islam or Scientology (or any other opposing view). What I mean by that is that age-induced rebellion (assuming the premise that you are rebelling simply because you are young) has no real correlation to the truth. It simply means that you’ve been forced to question your beliefs, or consciously or sub-consciously ‘chose’ to do so as a means of rebellion, and as a result you have arrived at a new conclusion (a well-reasoned one too, I hope). That, in my view, does not criticize the Atheist position in and of itself, but it does then fall on you to explain how you reached that conclusion in a way that your family might understand (This is not an obligation, but it’s something you obviously care about). I’m not quite sure how you can prove that you reached the decision rationally, as opposed to arriving at the conclusion due a dishonest rebellion. I suppose I would start by explaining the reasoning behind your shift in opinion and then move on to some of the incompatibilities between many organized religious claims and scientific findings. I think it is also relevant that age has little to no bearing on the truth. I would even suggest that the young and developing mind is perhaps even more likely to believe something on face value, up to the point of being able to think and question rationally. All I can say is, understand WHY you believe in what you believe, and express it both rationally and with conviction.

    It’s interesting that your question almost implies that your family doubts the validity of your ‘Atheism’, because you have not reasoned or conducted independent research. Ironically, this is often the basis of Atheist counter-argument to religious belief. The difference is that your stand-point is not one of belief, but one of disbelief. It’s not on you to prove that something you don’t believe in doesn’t exist, it’s on them to prove that it does. Of course, you may then provide evidence to question their claims (thus re-enforcing your own) if you so wish. However, this may upset your loved ones so consider whether or not this is a path you’re willing to walk. The path of least resistance is often an appealing one, but it does not necessarily lead to enlightenment.



    Report abuse

  • How might one retort to criticisms of athiesm due to age?

    If you wanted a retort, you could tell them you grew out of believing in Santa Claus and now you’ve grown out of believing in god.

    But the advice given by others in this thread is probably the best route. You don’t need retorts. Age is only a factor in their minds; I’m pretty sure Richard Dawkins’ atheism is not ‘just a rebellious phase’. Given that the only way to demonstrate it’s not ‘just a rebellious phase’ to your family is to live to 284 like Richard, I’d just shrug and get on with your life.



    Report abuse

  • 12
    SaganTheCat says:

    How might one retort to criticisms of athiesm due to age?

    “that’s so unfair!”

    sorry, open goal, rude not to…

    i wouldn’t worry about it. believers need to cling to some “reason” why you’re not like them. if you were older it’d be something else.

    i’m still “rebelling” well into middle age by the looks of things but at the same time i’ve been accused of being an atheist because of my “traumatic childhood experience” of religion. everyone rationalises other peoples lack of belief.

    the way to deal with it is to just deal with it. you can’t cure people of denial, has to be their choice



    Report abuse

  • 13
    Martyns says:

    I don’t think it’s important. Everyone has a different reason for becoming atheist. If it’s rebellion then so be it – it’s your life, they are your beliefs the person who it’s important to where they come from is you! If it’s a rational examination of science and religion and their opposing world-views then you could try and explain that.



    Report abuse

  • 15
    Alan4discussion says:

    We are all born atheists, but many suffer indoctrination according to whatever local religion dominates in their family or in their area.

    Acquiring critical thinking skills is a normal development for most people during their teens.

    Some religions try to retard this process, to maintain a child-like dependency and social support for their dogmas.



    Report abuse

  • 16
    crookedshoes says:

    Ask them whether they were a democrat or a republican when they were 5 years old? Ask them.

    Ask them if they have ever seen a three year old smoking a cigarette? If they say “NO”, then ask why not? Because this is too young to make such a decision and engage in such an act????

    Then ask them how long they have been Christian or Muslim or Hindi or Shinto or Catholic or or or or or…. And ask them why they think it is ok to have that decision made for them and when they were so young.

    Then just wink at them.

    That, I think, will display to them that, in fact, you have made a much more mature and informed decision than they, themselves, made.



    Report abuse

  • You could say. “I have read the bible cover to cover. Have you?”

    “At what age did you make your decisions about religious belief?”

    “I have read X books on biblical scholarship. How many have you read?”

    “What evidence is there for your religious beliefs?”

    “What alternatives did you investigate before deciding on your religious beliefs?”

    “How many books have you read about atheism by atheists?”



    Report abuse

  • I had the opposite problem. I was raised atheist, but I was curious by what people meant by “believing in god” and why they did it. My Mom commanded me to stay away from religious people. They were dangerous, hypocritical and liars. So, I expressed my teenage rebellion, not with drink, drugs, sex or rock and roll, but by sneaking out to churches and interviewing people. I was very unimpressed. Nobody had the foggiest idea what god was or why they believed he existed.



    Report abuse

  • 19
    Timothy McNamara says:

    To avoiding being labelled, perhaps try not to say or do things that fit their profiling of you. For instance do not seek out witty or dominant rebuttal. Sentences that throw insult at others and claim righteousness can generally only be viewed one way from the mouths of youths.
    Sadly an obstacle to the speed you seek is the fact knowledge and study trump memorised retorts.
    Those of us of more years, and I believe, those of us raised in a religion as a child, have experience and empathy many young atheists are perceived (sometimes correctly) to lack. Do not lose heart, simply read and watch and learn more. Take in debates and listen to both sides. Indulge in the entertaining brilliance offered by those such as Dawkins and Hitchens. Read great books, and websites.
    Give less heed to the need to be announced winner of a discussion. Delight in sharing the best our secular, scientific and atheist peers and heroes teach us. Sharing it in a subtle fashion, where poignant and thought provoking, will open the eyes of others. Take the advantage of enlightenment and free mindedness at your young age. Use it for the good of your family and peers, not to be their adversary.



    Report abuse

  • A Machiavellian strategy would be to go into hyper-sales mode every time the topic comes up and try to “sell” them on atheism. This will make them uncomfortable and they may decide other topics are more interesting.

    If you want to convince them, just being quietly stubborn is quite effective. People quite often defer to whomever is surest of themself without being hysterical.



    Report abuse

  • 22
    MAJORPAIN says:

    I became an atheist at around 8 or 9. After that, I started to wonder if people were just pretending to be religious or pretending to believe in what we were hearing in church every Sunday. I soon found out that wasn’t the case. They really do believe this non-sense.

    I’m still told that I must be an atheist because “something bad must have happened” to me and I’m 50. So, it doesn’t get any better….sorry! It is comforting for them to think that way. You can’t change this unfortunately. Good luck!



    Report abuse

  • 23
    crookedshoes says:

    You could tell them that you are only an atheist from 2 pm until 4 pm at which time you convert to Islam and from 4 until 6 you are Muslim. Then at 6 sharp, you become Jewish and you sustain that until 8 when Catholicism kicks in. After 10 you go full Buddhist (as every one knows, they have the best nightlife). When you wake up you are Shinto.

    Oh, and each minute of each hour you shift your particular sect.

    So, during your 2 hours as a christian, you actually are a particular type of christian for…. hhmmmmm… ( 120 minutes divided by 41,000 different sects) so 7200 seconds divided by 41,000 = .18 seconds. So, you are evangelical for .18 seconds and then lutheran for .18 seconds and baptist for .18 seconds… etc etc etc…

    Maybe then they will see how stupid the whole enchilada is.



    Report abuse

  • 24
    flyingfsck says:

    I have been an atheist since 9 months before I was born and more than 50 years later people still think I am strange and sometimes try to convert me. So just smile disarmingly and don’t let it bother you.



    Report abuse

  • 25
    alaskansee says:

    Perhaps telling them that everyone is born atheist and needs to be indoctrinated after birth to become a theist.

    You’re the perfect age, they should be proud of you.



    Report abuse

  • 26
    Alexinpessac says:

    A good thing would simply be to get them to read your question and all the comments on this page. Not only will they read intelligent arguments against their position they might see that you are actually a member of a grown-up community.



    Report abuse

  • I have recently become acquainted with two young brothers who are in a similar situation. I have referred them to this discussion thread and told them that the replies here are heartfelt and serious and may be of help to them.



    Report abuse

  • Avoid high expectations. There is little likelihood this will go the way you want. It is no fault of yours. It is just the way humans hold onto beliefs because they were taught them young, not because they have overwhelming evidence.

    Think of it this way, if you have babies, they will cry. If you have parents they will try to micromanage your life. This is normal.

    I remember counting the hours until I was old enough to leave home. One day that day came. My mom was shocked that I would/could leave. It is so much easier once you live on you own. Of course back then finances were so much easier. I was able to pay for university, room and board without help from my parents.



    Report abuse

  • 29
    matt1162 says:

    I told my parents that I was an atheist when I was 13 years old. They just shrugged it off as a phase. I’m now 41 and still an atheist. Only a few members of my family know about it. I have some Southern Baptist Fundies in my family who might smite me if they found out.



    Report abuse

  • 30
    ed.selby says:

    I am 50 years old, and my now 25+ years being an out atheist is still seen by my family and some friends as just rebellion and trying to be different or a phase that I am going through. Just shrug off the criticism and move forward in your intellectual pursuits.



    Report abuse

  • 32
    Atheist123 says:

    Hi George!

    I think how seriously your atheism will be taken depends on how you put it across to your family.

    There are some young people who are merely going through a rebellious phase who just say things like “I hate God” or “Christianity is meaningless nonsense”, without saying why they think that.

    I think your family would take you seriously if you said something like “I find all the arguments in favour of God unconvincing” and tell them why.

    Good luck!

    Kevin



    Report abuse

  • 33
    Xíìna says:

    I suppose that everyone with a religious bond think that noone can think outside of trhe box of the “Gods” deal so they think that your atheism it´s caused by impetuous fire of youth.



    Report abuse

  • 34
    ReasonableTheist says:

    Well, atheism is responsible for most of the mass murders in recorded history, so I can understand why they are nervous.



    Report abuse

  • 35
    Joseph Wolsing says:

    Times on your side. You don’t have to speed it up. Fist of all it is important what you think or believe not what others do. And if you do not believe in supernatural powers and keep this for your life your parents and others get used to it and will stop questioning it one day. I’ve made the experience, that leberal believers seldomly question unfaith, because they fear the problems in their own superstitious worldview …



    Report abuse

  • 36
    Joe Wolsing says:

    Times on your side. You don’t have to speed it up. Fist of all it is important what you think or believe not what others do. And if you do not believe in supernatural powers and keep this for your life your parents and others get used to it and will stop questioning it one day. I’ve made the experience, that leberal believers seldomly question unfaith, because they fear the problems in their own superstitious worldview …



    Report abuse

Leave a Reply

View our comment policy.