A Matter Of Faith This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   Freedom of religion. It's one of the central ideas of the Bill of Rights. Still, many people are persecuted because their beliefs differ from those around them. I have endured this type of discrimination at the hands of my neighbors, schoolmates, and even teachers. This religious scrutiny is unfair, unjust, and inappropriate.

I have been brought up with religious beliefs different from most of my neighbors - I have been raised an atheist.

In the small, conservative towns of northeastern Maine, the prominent religions are Protestantism and Catholicism. Most of the population has a very low tolerance for foreign or liberal ideas. This blind intolerance can be unbearable at times. Allow me to provide you with some stories from my experience.

At the age of eight, I learned to avoid religious discussions with those who hold ideas that conflict with my own. The result of this learning experience was a heated argument with several friends over the eternal soul. I found that lesson to be a valuable one. It was painfully reaffirmed in sixth grade when a friend since kindergarten began to snub me because I did not share her religion.

I thought I would find more tolerance to diversity in high school. This turned out to be a foolish and innocent assumption. My first shock came freshman year when a member of my history class developed an intense dislike of the teacher. In my naivete, I asked her why. Allow me to paraphrase her response, as well as I can recall it: "This evolution stuff is so stupid. Why can't they just teach Creation?"

"Well," I replied, "Evolution does have more concrete evidence."

"The Bible is all the evidence I need," she replied.

Perhaps so. I had, by that time, realized the foolishness of my idealistic view of high school. Thus I was not terribly surprised (despite my anger) when a teacher, for some odd reason I have forgotten, recently saw fit to announce to the class, "Well, BRONWYN'S an ATHEIST!" It struck me that he spoke as though he were cursing me. I was truly offended by this profound inattention to the separation of church and state, and to the fact that I am not just an atheist, I am a human being.

I do not mock the religious beliefs of others, so why should they mock me? I would remind those who try to convert atheists that we, as a group, tend to be a quiet bunch who would not set out to convert others to atheism. We deserve the same respect. ?


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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Jamison S. said...
Nov. 2, 2010 at 6:46 pm
your right! And the irony is that the most religious people are often the most corrupt, hostile, and judgemental
 
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