The Uninspired Manifesto

Thursday, September 20, 2007

In Honor Of My 100th Post

It's been a pretty slow news day, so instead of posting another Youtube video of a song I like of some random comedy routine, I thought I'd talk a little more about my own atheist experiences. After reading stories from an excellent site, Coming Out Godless, I began to think back on a few incidents in which I had some trouble with the overtly religious proselytizing to me. Both of these stories occurred not long ago, while I was in High School, the first as a Sophomore, the second as a Senior.

10th Grade: Let me preface this by saying that I moved around a lot in High School. My parents had gone through a divorce, and I was moved back and forth between my mom and dad, which resulted in several different High Schools (five in total) before I eventually graduated. I spent the majority of my Sophomore year at a very small school in rural Louisiana, with no leniency in the way of religious freedom. The type of school in which, on my first day, I was called into the counselor's office, and asked if I belonged to one of the local churches yet. At this point in time, I was very firm in my atheism, though, not wanting to start something on the first day, I just politely told her I hadn't decided yet. I was immediately put off by how much religion was infused into the school. Having moved from a much larger inner city high school, to a place where the ten commandments adorn every classroom wall, and the Christian Student Union encompasses 90% of the students. This immediately led to me being the 'odd man out', especially when it surfaced I was an atheist, apparently the only one within a 40 mile radius.

A few months in, my first conflict (of many to come) came up when I began work on an atheist website, mostly covering news about atheists, much like this site, but also with stories about random students approaching me with tales of how jesus 'saved' them, and how he can help me too. Once it had been up and running for a few weeks, the website address had found it's way around the school, and by the following week, everyone had read it. Up to that point, only 15-20 people actually knew about my atheism, but now I was being approached by students I had never seen or met before, with promises of a better life as one of the flock. Let me put it this way. Have you ever had to deal with one really annoying christian; the type that can't understand your choice to be an atheist, and no matter how much you ask them to stop, they can't let it go... Now imagine that, except instead of one person, it's your entire high school, including the staff. Every morning when I walked into first period, for a few weeks straight after the website had gotten around, there was a different copy of the bible, and a hand-written note detailing jesus' love for me, and how I will be in their prayers. At one point, they actually started a letter writing camping, flooding my mailbox with their stupid messages of hellfire and damnation if I continued on my evil, secular path. Eventually the letters and free bibles stopped coming, mostly due to my dramatic burning of a stack of bibles with an acetylene torch in metal shop, and I was able to continue in relative peace for a short time.

The next incident, which involved the shutting down of my website, is where I became really vocal. It should be prefaced that I started the website as a class project. I was forced to take an introductory computer course (I arrived a few weeks into the semester and wasn't allowed to choose my electives) that was a 'work at your own pace' class. Since I was well enough versed in Microsoft Office (which is what the course covered) I breezed through a semester's worth of assignments in roughly three or four weeks, and had another month and a half to fill with whatever I wanted. This, at first, entailed spending the hour playing solitaire and minesweeper, before moving up to Runescape for at least two weeks. Then, my teacher told me I had to find something productive to do, and handed me a stack of books, one of which was an introduction to HTML. It took me a little over a week to write the code for the site, which, though simple, had pages filled with information about my atheism, and stories similar to the one above. My teacher, not caring what I did, as long as it wasn't an online game, didn't pay much attention to the site, so I was allowed to write pretty much anything I wanted. Once it had gotten around, though, she suggested I no longer work on it in class. So I gave that up, and instead started doing homework for other classes, though still updating the site on my home computer.

After my fireworks display with the bibles and torch a few weeks later, the 'flock' (the most empowered of the Christian Student Union, for which I became a testament of their devotion to the lord) tried to go about changing my mind in another way... by narcing. It was four of five days later when i was called into the principle's office for a little chat. Apparently the 'flock' had gotten their panties in a twist on a select few articles in which I divulged their names, and their annoying practice of leaving 'Jesus Love's You' notes taped to my locker. Now, my principle, a smart person, I'm sure, had it in her mind that simply giving out a person's name on the internet, regardless of the website, immediately opens them up to attacks from predators. Somewhere in the middle of our conversation about her insane notions, my atheism was brought up, in a very derogatory tone. (Something along the lines of, 'I know you're an atheist, but even you...') I remember the conversation that followed very clearly, because it was one of the first time I had gotten really mad at the bigoted comment someone made. Here's the gist of it:

"You have to understand, Nick, that you're endangering these people."

"I'm not endangering anyone. They only came to you with this because they don't like the website, and hate the fact that I'm an atheist."

"Now, I don't think that's true."

"Of course it is. Do you realize how much crap I've had to deal with (bare with me... I didn't swear in front of teachers during High School...) from these people? It borders on harassment."

"They're just trying to help you."

"I don't need their help, and I want it to stop. If you really want me to take down my website, I will, but only if you tell them to stay the hell away from me."

"Fine, I'll talk to them..."

We continued on for a bit before I went back to class, and deleted the site. I was called in the following day to make sure it was down, and she once again promised to talk to the 'flock'. Of course, she never did, and I just had to put up with it until I left, close to the end of the school year.

Well, that's all from 10th grade. I mean, there was more shit that went down, but you get the idea. I'll follow up with my senior year when I get the chance to sit down and chronicle it for you.
posted by Nick at 1:22 AM

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