If you are seriously questioning the religious faith of your family and community… millions of Americans stand with you.
Thoughts on Exposing Your Secular Beliefs
By Susanne Werner
If you are seriously questioning the religious faith of your family and community, or if you have come to the realization that you can no longer believe these religious ideas and participate in religious observances, you are not alone. Millions of Americans stand with you. They have concluded that belief in a supernatural being not only makes no sense to them, but the teachings of the church and of their ancient writings often have little relevance to their present day lives. Instead, they find meaning in a Humanist life stance which is grounded in reason and science and is free of supernaturalism, which understands that humans are an integral part of nature, and which values working toward the betterment of the human condition and the preservation of the planet on which we live. Now the big question is, what do you do with your new beliefs?
The answer is as varied as the individual who asks it.
- Some are comfortable keeping their nonbelief to themselves and maintain an outward appearance of religious belief. Because revealing their secular beliefs to family and friends might jeopardize these relationships, they are content to hold onto their new secular views without acting upon them.
- For others, participating in religious activities and accepting the imposition of religious dogma is simply not possible. Such individuals have strong feelings about their new understanding of the world. The need to be true to themselves, and avoiding behavior which compromises their integrity is of great importance to them. They feel compelled to identify themselves as Humanists and speak out against religious injustice in support of secular ideals.
- Still others take a middle ground, revealing their secular insights to those they trust and perhaps engaging in limited secular activities, but concealing their non-theistic viewpoint from unsupportive friends, relatives, and teachers.
As a young person, you must give serious consideration to the possible outcomes, both positive and negative, which may result from your “coming out” to family, friends and community. On one hand, you may be subject to strong reactions from those around you such as shock, indignation, or public scorn. In extreme cases some have experienced rejection and disownment by family and friends. But on the other hand, you may be surprised at the support your family offers, the new friends you make, and the new and exciting world of ideas and possibilities that opens up to you.
One young woman in North Carolina started up a student Humanist group in her high school. With the support of her parents and help from the Secular Student Alliance, she overcame the objection of the high school administration. The group is now entering its third year. In the process of organizing and leading the group she has developed strong leadership, research, and speaking skills and has grown and matured both intellectually and socially. Another high school student received national recognition and an AHA award when she successfully challenged the legality of a prayer painted on the wall of her school.
As you think about how you will integrate your secular beliefs into your life, consider the level of religious observance within your family, your school, and your community. If you decide the consequences would be too negative at this stage in your life to reveal your nonbelief, you can still explore the ideas of non-theism through books and humanist publications, websites, and blogs. If you have a relative, teacher or school counselor who you think would be supportive, talking to him or her may be helpful. Check online for local secular organizations that are affiliated with organizations such as the American Humanist Association and the Secular Student Alliance. They can be a source of information, support and advice.
Whatever route you decide to take in revealing your secular beliefs, have confidence that your decision to free yourself from the chains of religious dogma and supernatural myth will open up a world of endless possibilities to you. By placing your ultimate values in the humanist principals of reason, ethical living in the here and now with no regard for a mythical afterlife, and working for the greater good of humanity, you will set yourself on a path toward a life of authentic personal fulfillment and growth.