10 Things Your Friendly College Atheist Wants You to Know

10 Things Your Friendly College Atheist Wants You to Know

I’ve been too scared to be open about my lack of religion in the Bible Belt, until now.
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There are many reasons you may have clicked on this article, but there are likely going to be two main responses here: disapproval, and approval. I want you to know that you should go into this article with an open mind, even if you feel atheists are wrong. Just keep in mind we are people too, and although I cannot speak for all atheists I have taken this opportunity to tell you what my personal experience has been. That being said, I know there will be plenty of feedback--positive and negative--and I appreciate it all! Now, here's the top ten things I've wanted people to know and haven't been able to tell them all these years.

1. Just because I am an atheist does not mean I live my life without morality or values.

My lack of belief in religion or a higher power does not automatically negate my ability to judge between right and wrong. I learned many lessons from my parents, from my own experiences, and from the experiences of others that helped me form my own belief system, which stands alone from any religion. Simply because I do not rely on a religious text or anecdotal fables to invoke or reinforce morals does not mean I lack them. I did however, form my own set of opinions and conclusions about the world that may not match up with what you or your respective religion adheres to. Just keep in mind this could be true of anyone, regardless of religious belief. Please don’t hold the fact that I’m atheist against me when it’s wholly irrelevant.

2. I am happy to respect your belief, if you are willing to respect my lack thereof.

The most popular thing that people believe about atheists’ lack of belief is that it is disrespectful to those who are theistic and believe in or practice religion. My aim has never been to negate or challenge the beliefs of religious individuals. The only statement I am making about being religious by being atheist is just that: I am atheist. You can choose to believe whatever you choose and I will respect that choice. As long as you are confident in your belief, I am happy that you have found what is right for you, and I respect and support that choice! I just hope you will do the same for me.

3. Please, I beg of you, don’t invite me to church services or any other religion based event.

Let’s just get this out of the way: this type of invitation is unwarranted, awkward, and most of the time it puts me in a precarious situation. I am being disrespectful if I say no, but you will believe there is a chance to convert me if I say yes. Let me be clear: going to one church service, worship concert, or college outreach event is not going to change my mind about my beliefs. Trust me! I’ve been to dozens of these types of things, even before I had my mind set on atheism, and I can tell you they have no effect on me. Imagine if I asked you to go to an atheist gathering where we would discuss our lack of belief despite knowing that you practice religion. Wouldn’t that be awkward? I’m glad we agree on this one.

4. I really hope you won’t write me off over my lack of religion.

The first time I lost a friend to my atheism I was in 9th grade. I told someone offhandedly that I didn’t attend church and they asked why. At the time, I was not a self-proclaimed “atheist” but I did mention something to the effect of “not believing in that kind of stuff.” That was the last I ever heard from that friend, and even her mother was cold to mine. Our differences are what makes us unique, and I hope that if you befriend me or remain friends with me we can revel in our similarities, but also celebrate our differences. Without them we would all be the same, and I don’t think my lack of belief should cause anyone to cut ties with me. If someone you know reveals to you that they’re an atheist, consider that you’ve been friends with them all along without knowing this difference—and that maybe, just maybe—it’s because atheists can be just as great at friendship as those who practice religion.

5. If you practice what you preach, it will make it a lot easier for us to get along.

If you do practice religion, I will expect you to practice it the same way you preach it. If I am friends with you and I see you going against the religious values I just heard you shouting from the rooftops for others to follow, I will likely question your morals and motives. The largest dissonance I see in religion is what is offered by believers as a “code of conduct” (i.e. The Ten Commandments), and the actions they commit that go against it. If you cannot even follow the most basic of religious principles that you are supposed to practice, I will have no choice but to question your commitment. This doesn’t mean that I won’t be your friend anymore, but it will definitely change my view of you. Thankfully, as an atheist, we don’t have a universal set of rules, so I get to choose what I believe, but the beliefs I have chosen are ones I stick to each and every day—and I expect you to do the same.

6. I am happy to answer questions, as long as they don’t have underlying motive to convert.

So you want to know how I chose to be an atheist? How I came to the conclusion that there is no higher power? Or maybe you want to know where I went wrong and crossed over to the dark side that is atheism? I am happy to answer any questions that have a direct, unbiased delivery, because I do want people to know that coming to this decision was not easy, and I did struggle with it the same way believers can and do struggle with their faith. However, if you have a negative bias just in your first question, I can guarantee our discussion will not be civil, and I may choose not to answer. Please understand that I have no ill will toward those who are curious, only toward those who seek to undermine my reasoning and convince me I should change my mind. Those are the ones with whom I refuse to engage, because I don’t want to fight about who is right and who is wrong.

7. I don’t believe that my religious worldview is necessarily correct, it’s just what I choose to believe.

There is a saying that my now fiancé, who was my boyfriend at the time, discussed my lack of religion with me for the first time. He said “If I’m wrong, I hope you’re right.” I do not believe that everyone should be an atheist, and I do not try to convert believers into nonbelievers. Why? I see the value that religion adds to the lives of believers and those they touch with their faith, despite not being a believer myself. Religion serves a purpose in our world, and although I don’t personally participate, I believe that everyone should have the right to choose. Religion helps people overcome hardship, forges connections across the boundaries of space and time, gives people something to believe in when it seems that there is nothing good left, and in many cases promises a glorious afterlife for those who follow its path. For that reason, if I’m wrong, I hope you’re right.


8. When you make a biblical reference, please don't judge or degrade me if I don't understand.

This is something I have come across frequently as an atheist living in the Bible Belt. Whether I am participating in a literary discussion in class, discussing an interesting topic with friends, or just having a passing conversation with someone I don’t know, I am often looked down upon for not being familiar with the fables and morals the Bible describes. “You don’t know the story of Solomon?” or “You really don’t know John 3:16?” No, I really don’t, but I would never demean you for not knowing a very specific piece of knowledge about something you lack interest in, the same way you shouldn’t demean me. If anything, use it as a teachable moment, even if just to portray the sentiment or moral of the story.

9. I am open about being atheist, but don't take it as an invitation to judge or question my beliefs.

Do you display and practice your religion without shame? Is your religion respected among the majority of your peers? Do you proclaim your religion without fear of persecution or prejudice? If so, please provide others with that same dignity and honor. Just because someone believes something different than you doesn’t mean they are your enemy, or that they deserve to be berated for it. Imagine what life would be like if someone constantly challenged the validity of what you believe and practice. Put yourself in the shoes of those you are tempted to judge and hopefully you will rethink it. “Treat others the way you would want to be treated”—this is a moral that transcends religion and applies to all.


10. Every atheist is different!

The things I have written here are all my opinions and viewpoints as an atheist, but I am one among many. You may or may not interact with atheists in your daily life—maybe you do and you don’t even know it!—but I can guarantee you one thing: they are not all the same. The one thing that all atheists share is the lack of belief in God. Beyond that? We are all different! The friendships we have, our favorite foods, our major in college, our taste in movies, music and books, and all the other things that make us unique are worthy of your acknowledgement too. Get to know an atheist for who they really are, despite your potential disagreement with their religious choices. I guarantee you will find that they are people, just like you, who deserve more than being written off just for being atheist.

Cover Image Credit: Lisa Renye

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I Went To "The Bachelor" Auditions

And here's why you won’t be seeing me on TV.
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It’s finally time to admit my guilty pleasure: I have always been a huge fan of The Bachelor.

I can readily admit that I’ve been a part of Bachelor fantasy leagues, watch parties, solo watching — you name it, I’ve gone the whole nine yards. While I will admit that the show can be incredibly trashy at times, something about it makes me want to watch it that much more. So when I found out that The Bachelor was holding auditions in Houston, I had to investigate.

While I never had the intention of actually auditioning, there was no way I would miss an opportunity to spend some time people watching and check out the filming location of one of my favorite TV shows.

The casting location of The Bachelor, The Downtown Aquarium in Houston, was less than two blocks away from my office. I assumed that I would easily be able to spot the audition line, secretly hoping that the endless line of people would beg the question: what fish could draw THAT big of a crowd?

As I trekked around the tanks full of aquatic creatures in my bright pink dress and heels (feeling somewhat silly for being in such nice clothes in an aquarium and being really proud of myself for somewhat looking the part), I realized that these auditions would be a lot harder to find than I thought.

Finally, I followed the scent of hairspray leading me up the elevator to the third floor of the aquarium.

The doors slid open. I found myself at the end of a large line of 20-something-year-old men and women and I could feel all eyes on me, their next competitor. I watched as one woman pulled out her travel sized hair curler, someone practiced answering interview questions with a companion, and a man (who was definitely a little too old to be the next bachelor) trying out his own pick-up lines on some of the women standing next to him.

I walked to the end of the line (trying to maintain my nonchalant attitude — I don’t want to find love on a TV show). As I looked around, I realized that one woman had not taken her eyes off of me. She batted her fake eyelashes and looked at her friend, mumbling something about the *grumble mumble* “girl in the pink dress.”

I felt a wave of insecurity as I looked down at my body, immediately beginning to recognize the minor flaws in my appearance.

The string hanging off my dress, the bruise on my ankle, the smudge of mascara I was sure I had on the left corner of my eye. I could feel myself begin to sweat. These women were all so gorgeous. Everyone’s hair was perfectly in place, their eyeliner was done flawlessly, and most of them looked like they had just walked off the runway. Obviously, I stuck out like a sore thumb.

I walked over to the couches and sat down. For someone who for the most part spent most of the two hours each Monday night mocking the cast, I was shocked by how much pressure and tension I felt in the room.

A cop, stationed outside the audition room, looked over at me. After a brief explanation that I was just there to watch, he smiled and offered me a tour around the audition space. I watched the lines of beautiful people walk in and out of the space, realizing that each and every one of these contestants to-be was fixated on their own flaws rather than actually worrying about “love.”

Being with all these people, I can see why it’s so easy to get sucked into the fantasy. Reality TV sells because it’s different than real life. And really, what girl wouldn’t like a rose?

Why was I so intimidated by these people? Reality TV is actually the biggest oxymoron. In real life, one person doesn’t get to call all the shots. Every night isn’t going to be in a helicopter looking over the south of France. A real relationship depends on more than the first impression.

The best part of being in a relationship is the reality. The best part about yourself isn’t your high heels. It’s not the perfect dress or the great pick-up lines. It’s being with the person that you can be real with. While I will always be a fan of The Bachelor franchise, this was a nice dose of reality. I think I’ll stick to my cheap sushi dates and getting caught in the rain.

But for anyone who wants to be on The Bachelor, let me just tell you: Your mom was right. There really are a lot of fish in the sea. Or at least at the aquarium.

Cover Image Credit: The Cut

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I Started Building A Better Life On A Foundation Of Faith

"Faith is not believing that God can. It is knowing that God will." — Ben Stein

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I am going to start out by saying, I am not the kind of person to throw religion in your face and that is certainly not the point of this article. I am sure, however, that we can at least agree on the fact that we have all faced challenging situations in our lives, but we chose a positive path and came out a stronger and better person, right?

Well, my reasoning for that just so happens to be because I chose to live a life through faith and God.

I have been put to the test quite a few times in my life- I mean, haven't we all? In those moments of pain and what feels like massive suffering, I have always wondered, "Why? What did I do to deserve this?" In those times, it was hard to see an end, it was hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and above all, it was hard to trust and believe in anything. I have always believed in God, but I have never acted on faith. I never put full trust in Him or let Him take control. It wasn't too long ago that I was put to another one of life's harder tests, but this time, I handled things differently: I surrendered myself to God.

And as I am sitting here writing this, I think about how now I know I had to go through the pain in order to lead me down the path of living my life through God. This is exactly where He wants me to be.

The true pivotal moment where I began building my life on faith was soon after this painful and life-changing event, which lead me to go church. The message that they taught that day was about letting go. Out of all the possible things in the world they could have discussed, they discussed the topic of letting go and giving it to God. Something in me that day changed, and I knew at that moment, it changed me forever. During the sermon that day, they read aloud Proverbs 3:5-6; they read: "Trust in the lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths."

I now have that hanging up in my room.

I look at it, read it every day and I remind myself that whatever comes my way, to trust in the Lord with my entire being, knowing he will take care of me because I found true strength and power in letting go and letting God.

Sometimes we don't want to face the truth about ourselves. Sometimes we do not want to seek help because it means we will have to change, and change can sometimes be painful and unpredictable. And sometimes we find ourselves at a crossroads between good and evil, which I believe there is both inside all of us, but what defines you is which one you chose to act upon. I saw this post the other day and it read,

"A woman was talking to a girl and said, 'there are two wolves always fighting inside me. One is filled with anger, hate, jealousy, shame and lies. The other wolf is filled with love, joy, truth and peace. This battle rages inside of you and all people.' The girl thought for a moment and asked, 'Which wolf will win?' The woman answered, 'The one you feed.'"

It is such a powerful message and something I believe we all battle on a daily basis, especially when life throws us a curve-ball and puts us to the test. At that point, which one will you decide to feed?

I, personally, decided to feed the wolf-filled with love, joy, truth and peace. I can proudly say now, that I see the world differently, I see my life differently and most importantly, I see myself differently. Many people have been telling me recently how much I have changed, in all the good and positive ways. I smile at them knowing exactly how and why I have become a better and happier person. The day I gave myself to God, believe me, I was terrified but my pastor, Chad Moore, said, "Growth is on the other side of your fear, and if you refuse to move until the fear is gone, you will never move."

I have found strength, wisdom, courage, acceptance and clarity from Him.

I have put all my trust in Him,

He has made me fearless.

During my times of struggle, I still thank him when I feel weak, I still take steps of faith when I feel uncomfortable, and I know with that, God will continue to give me strength beyond my natural ability. He has taught me mercy, grace and to see the beauty in every situation. I always pray to have eyes that see the best in people, a heart that forgives the worst and a soul that never loses faith in God. During my journey thus far in self-discovery and saying 'yes' to following Jesus, I decided that it was time to not only wash away my sins but to wash away the old me; I am now getting baptized for the first time in my life on May 19, 2019. It is a beautiful thing to know and understand that someone will always be there no matter what and have such a true and unconditional love. I am blessed.

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