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Dr. Darrel Ray is an atheist, humanist, and psychologist. He is the author of The God Virus, and specializes in issues relating to religious deconversion. [ more ]
If you have an issue relating to religion but no one to talk to, ask Dr. Ray. He doesn’t promise that he has all the answers, but hopefully he will be able to provide insight and experience that will be beneficial for both you and for the many other young people in similar situations.
The Apostate


Dear Darrel,

I am an Iranian teenager attending a very Muslim high school. How can I announce to the teachers and students that I am an atheist?

From Dr. Ray

Thanks for your question. It is particularly difficult to be an atheist in a very religious community no matter what your age, but it is most difficult when you are enrolled in a religious school.

First, BE SAFE. It is certain that people will persecute you or shun you if you reveal how you really think. Religions do not like when people ask too many questions. Even in the U.S. students are persecuted for their non-religious views. See stories about Jessica Ahlquist or Damon Fowler, among many others.

No one can tell you what to think, but they can punish you for expressing those thoughts. As long as you are in a religious school, I would advise keeping a low profile. Do your own research; ask questions, but never challenge or reveal your own thinking as long as doing so would put you at risk. Your safety is of primary importance.

If you can get yourself out of the religious school environment and into a more secular school, you might be able to talk a little more freely. But as long as you are living in a religious country, where independence of thought is discouraged, you will always need to be aware of the consequences of revealing how you think.

One of the greatest delights in life is learning and developing a reality-based life philosophy. As you continue to critically examine the world around you, it will be important for you to connect with other freethinkers and read science, evolution and philosophy. Since there is danger in your current situation, you might join some online groups; but be very careful to not use your own name and keep your computer clean.

AtheistNexus has a group specifically for apostates who have left Islam. You might join under a fake name and an email address that is not easily traced back to you.

You can also try and quietly connect with other atheists in your community. Meet for coffee and share experiences and concerns. Join a science club in your community. Science clubs are often full of freethinkers and atheists.

I cannot emphasize enough that whatever you choose do to: be safe.

Here is a recent article from The Economist that shows you are not alone, but which also points out the dangers that exist, even in Turkey which officially has a secular government.

Other resources I can offer you include: the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, Apostates of Islam, and the Ex-Muslim Blog. Make sure you are able to view these websites in secret, and keep your web history clear.

You may feel restricted right now, but there will plenty of time later to express yourself when you are older, out of school and away from religious family and institutions. Now is the time to study, read good science books, and explore the natural world.

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