A Secular Revelation
Robert took a drink out of his glass of water and placed it on a while floppy disk, which he was using as a coaster. He was sitting on the living room sofa, having just finished reading a book for English class.
Glancing out the window in the office, Robert saw that it was a nice Saturday, right in the middle of the weekend. No clouds, very sunny, and a bit warm. The sight enticed him to go out and ride his bike for a while. His parents were away from home, running some errands. However, before Robert sat up and was about to put his helmet on, he had just remembered something he was wanting to do.
Booting up his computer, Robert went to a secular student website, where he was contemplating to register with the organization as an individual member for quite some time. Over a month earlier, he had considered starting a freethougt club on his high school campus, but he had many problems with the idea and he worried about too many risks. Although Robert had been an atheist for over a year, his family and some of his friends had been blissfully ignorant of it. Having been raised in a religious family, he felt very worried about revealing to his fundamental friends and family about his lack of faith.
He clicked on the link for the online registration form and the browser displayed the page. He stared at the registration page, and thoughts raced through his mind. ‘Hmm, I really want to join a nonreligious organization…but what can I do to prevent these problems?’ he thought to himself. ‘The CFA will mail me material from time to time, and how can I intercept them from the mailbox without my parents knowing of anything? If they ever examined my mail, they may discover my secret!’
Such possibilities were troubling him. Over the year or so he had officially been an atheist, his interest in some activism in the subject increased significantly, so he was very interested in joining a secular organization. However, he seriously did not want his family to discover his atheism. Robert had met atheists before who told them their stories about revealing their disbelief to their families, and he did not want the same results. He concluded that he would keep it a secret.
’Wait…the mailbox key is left on the tray in the kitchen, next to the pone. I am out of school a couple of hours before anyone is home,’ He thought some more. ‘ I can grab the key, go to the mailbox and recover the CFA material, leave the other mail in the box, and they would never know.’
Now that Robert had fabricated a sound solution to his problem, he was now filled with confidence that he could join the organization, receive mail, and still keep it all from his family. Robert filled out the online registration and submitted it. He shut down his computer, and was now available for the bike ride. His interest in sailing the course of reason motivated him to overlook any foreseeable problems there may be with joining.***
A few days passed, and it was now Thursday. Although he had just registered on the weekend, he did not know how early the first material from the CFA would arrive. Therefore, each day he was home from school he checked the mailbox across the street to make sure nothing had arrived.
Robert, sitting with his friend Jordan in the cafeteria, were eating and engaging in discourse.
”So, have you chosen a topic for the English term paper yet?” Robert began.
”Well, I’ve been thinking between either human cloning or perhaps abortion,” Jordan responded, who was also a freethinker. “I don’t think I will choose that topic, however. I don’t want the teacher to get mad, because it is certainly one of modern taboo topics.”
”Indeed, I don’t want to handle and of those very controversial topics as well, so I think I’ll do mine on morality. Hey Jordan,” Robert added, initiating a new subject, “Remember when we were thinking about starting that freethought club?”
”Well, even though we gave up the idea, I decided to join the Campus Freethought Alliance. Are you familiar with it?”
”Oh, I’ve heard of them. Thought about joining them myself, but I just haven’t taken the time to do so yet.”
”My only problem is that I am going to have to collect the mailed material that they send me without my parents knowing. You see, they have no idea that I am an atheist, and I am afraid that there may be unpleasant results if they did discover it.””You haven’t revealed it to your parents yet?” inquired Jordan, as if this was a secret being kept from him. “Why not?”
”I just don’t feel comfortable with it. I fear that the relationship may be disrupted. Religion is a big part of their life, and I don’t know how they would take it.”
”I see what you mean,” replied Jordan. “When I had given up on religion, I told my parents soon after. I don’t like living a lie with my family. I feel better when I get something off my chest and when my parents know. “
”Oh, so you had no problem revealing it? How did they initially handle it?”
”My parents were a little upset at first. We talked on the subject a little, and they came to accept it. Their reaction is that they thought I was depressed. On the contrary, I was quite happy with my new ways. But we get along fine now. The best thing is that I no longer have to go to church.” chuckled Jordan.
”Interesting,” commented Robert. “I would like my parents to handle it in the same way yours did, but I don’t feel confident about it. I think I will still keep it a secret for a while.”
”Well, if I may add a suggestion, you should tell them some time. You will have to deal with it. If you expect to have a long relationship with your parents, it needs to come out at some point. I mean, it’s not like your parents have only months to live. In that case, I wouldn’t bother telling them, but you’ve got a whole life ahead with them, and it may be necessary.”
”Correct, and, like I said, I will tell them eventually. Perhaps when I am out of the house and in college, but not when I am still under their full jurisdiction,” Robert concluded.
”That sounds like a good idea. Well, whatever you decide, Robert, I hope it turns out fortunate.”
They both finished up their meal, as lunch was almost over. They then went to the lockers to get their books for the next class.***
Walking into the kitchen, Robert was looking for the mailbox key. Over two weeks had now passed since he registered, and nothing had arrived thus far. He had been in the house only a few minutes after getting off the bus. Robert reached into a mug next to the kitchen tray where the key sat.
Robert walked out of his house and across the street to the mailbox. He opened the cover with the key, and there it was—a large brown case with several items inside. He then opened it to take a brief look at the contents. There was a magazine, a pen, and a newsletter. ‘Good, not simply a lame newsletter.’ He closed it and went back into the house.
’At last,’ he thought to himself. He was excited to get the material. In the house, Robert walked into his bedroom and placed the brown case in his closet. He figured it would be a safe place to keep it, without fear that his parents may discover it. He felt guilty of secrecy.
Robert then laid down on his bed and began reading the magazine.***
The next day, Robert brought the magazine to school in order to show his friend. The bell rang, and first period was over. On the way to second period, Robert caught up with Jordan, who was headed to Spanish class.
”Hey, I received the material yesterday,” Robert informed.
”Oh cool, so it came. You parents didn’t find out anything, did they?” Jordan asked.
”Nope, my plan worked. They don’t know of anything.”
”Just be sure that they never have the opportunity to obtain your mail, because you won’t have a secret any longer. Well, let me see it.”
Robert opened his backpack and brought out the magazine, titled “Secular Inquirer,” and handed it to Jordan. Jordan opened the magazine and started to look through it.
”Looks good,” Jordan mentioned. “I didn’t know you received an actual magazine. I think I’ll register with the CFA as well, since our club will likely never see the light of day.”
”Yeah, it has some interesting stuff. There was an article on the teaching of evolution in school and some of the reactions by the students. It’s really informative.”
Jordan handed the magazine back to Robert, and he put it in his backpack. They were approaching the classroom.***
A few days later, Robert was with his tennis team. After-school practice had ended, and it was now time to go home. Robert zipped his racket into it’s case, and proceeded toward his mother, who was waiting in the car.
”How was practice?.”
”Fine, but I think I need to practice a little more until next weeks game.’”
Minutes later, they pulled up inside the garage of their house. Robert exited the car, grabbing his backpack. He could have sworn it weighed more than fifty pounds, since he had to do some work on three of his textbooks.
Robert was on his way into the hallway to his room—when he passed by the kitchen table and saw that there was a CFA newsletter, titled ‘On the Separation of Church and State,’ lying on the dinner table.
’What?!’ sparked in his mind. ‘Another piece of mail arrived! I just got one the other day…oh great, did she look at it…does she know? Oh, I hope she doesn’t hammer me with questions!’
Robert placed his backpack on his bed and went back out into the living room.
”Well, Robert, what is this?” his mother inquired him of the packet. His mother presented a tone as if she had discovered drugs in his presence. “’On the Separation of Church and State?’ What are you doing with a magazine like this? I looked at it, and it has all these secular humanist writers.”
It had further bothered Robert that his mother waited until they arrived at the house until she pursued the matter.
Robert was thinking of a cover, but his mind was not quick enough to fabricate one. He was now faced with the situation. He felt queasy, but now there was no escape. He couldn’t hide it now.
”That is a magazine sent to me from an organization that I joined, the Campus Freethought Alliance.”
”And what organization is that, exactly?”
”Mom,” Robert began, uneasily, “It is an organization for student nonbelievers. I am an atheist.”
His mother had a confounded look on her face. “What do you mean you’re an atheist?”
”I don’t believe in god,” he replied.
”How do you not believe in God?” his mother questioned him, shocked over what he had revealed. “What has happened to you?”
”Nothing, Mom. I have just been doing lots of rethinking, due to my own searching. I no longer believe any of it.”
His mother gave a big sigh. “Why didn’t you tell me or your father?”
”I was afraid of how you might react. I didn’t know if would harm the relationship or not. I’m sorry.”
“I just don’t understand. How can you not believe in God?”
”I don’t want to argue, Mom. These are just my personal views. Everyone has a right to their own beliefs, you know.”
”I asked you a question,” his mother insisted. “Tell me, why do you think that way?”
”Because, Mom, haven’t you ever thought twice about your religion?” Robert claimed, quickly becoming agitated at his mother’s persistence. “Has the bad justice of ‘Original Sin’ ever occurred to you? What about the fact that a ‘loving god’ that would send some of it’s creations to a Hell forever wouldn’t be that good of a god? What about the complete lack of evidence for a god? Have you ever heard or seen god? And what about…”
”Oh, stop it now,” his mother interrupted. “The lord works in mysterious ways.”
Robert almost laughed under his breath at the response, one that he had heard many times before. “Yeah, that’s what the religious all say. I choose not to take that, though. I choose not to have all the answers to life spoon fed to me by a fictional all-powerful deity. I want answers here in the natural world.” He did not like the fact that he had just engaged in a quarrel with his mother. He decided to end the conversation, and just apologize. “I’m sorry, Mom. You just have to accept it. I don’t believe any of it now.”
”I can’t believe you’re saying these things!” his mother exclaimed. “I didn’t raise you to be a heathen!” His mother sat for a minute before responding. It appeared that she wasn’t gripping the new fact
Robert then walked into his bedroom and laid on his bed. He was fed up, and did not want to go any further in the arguing.***
”You won’t believe this,” Robert told Jordan. The next day had come, a day after no longer being in the ‘closet’. Such a phrase had always been attributed to the homosexual community, but now the new representative of that phrase was atheism.
They were both sitting in Spanish class again, before the bell rang. “A newsletter came in from the CFA again, and my mother saw it. I had no choice, so I went ahead an revealed it.”
”Really?” his friend replied. “I didn’t know it would happen so soon. How did they handle it?”
”Well, when I told my mother, it escalated into a minor argument. But after a while we cooled down. My father was away, and he came home later to learn the news. That evening, we sat down at dinner, talked for a little while, and they accept it. They are not necessarily happy about it, but I approached it as well as I could, and they accept it. I wasn’t grounded, or anything like that, fortunately. At least we do not live in times where heretics are burned.”
”Good,” Jordan replied. “It looks like it was quick for you. At least you no longer have to worry about living in secret. And your parents took it better than you had anticipated, right?”
”Indeed. I do feel better now that they know. Hopefully, as time goes by, they will fully accept it.”Suddenly the tardy bell rang, and the teacher wrote an assignment on the board. Robert and Jordan, along with the rest of the class, took out the textbook and began working.