It’s strange to see some of my peers, who are academically brilliant, accept the rules of a supernatural and capricious being even as they begin their careers in physics and mathematics. They spout arguments based on their nature-defying savior, and I can only shake my head.
The core problem with each dialogue or (more likely) debate that I enter comes from the logical fallacy known as burden of proof. The theists I speak to will make claims about their god and will ask me to disprove them. I tell them in return that it is their responsibility to prove their claim.
I will usually turn the example on its head by claiming there is a walrus located in the center of Pluto; because the other cannot technically disprove it, I then claim I am right. Most theists ignore the analogy.
I was fortunate to be raised by parents who taught me about all religions. I studied Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism. I considered myself a Buddhist for a time after I found that a teacher I idolized was a student of Siddhartha Gautama’s lessons. I was told by a Christian friend that I was only being a copycat and didn’t truly believe.
The irony of his statement didn’t hit me until I became an atheist, and I realized he was in an even worse situation — instead of choosing a religion (or nonreligion) a religion had been forced on him since birth. I’ve come across some who no longer believe in the dogma of their parents’ religion but hide their true beliefs in the face of disapproving peers, family members and other adults.
This is the biggest problem facing young freethinkers, feeling uncomfortable expressing their ideas due to the convictions of others. Fundamentalists preach hellfire while parents and peers compound these visions of hell. I’ve been told many times by people I consider friends that I was going to burn.
I can’t imagine how hard it must be for those who have parents with a firm faith that non-Christian beliefs will lead to eternal damnation. We deists, atheists, humanists and others have no need to be militant, but something we must do is help those who bury their ideas to “come out.”
Nathan Stevens, 18, Friendswood, Texas, is attending Clark Honors College at the University of Oregon, majoring in journalism and minoring in political science. In high school he was a College Board AP Scholar and co-founded the Humanist Club.