I started inching out of the proverbial atheist closet when I was about 12. In middle school, I had other students approaching me just to call me a 'dirty atheist' and a 'Satan worshiper.' Those words stung at first but I soon became desensitized to them. I got used to the hostility towards me. I even came to understand it.
But I did not sympathize with it. I employed a "know thine enemy" mentality. People became shocked that I knew so much about their religion but still didn't believe as they do. I would quote verses from the Bible as a rebuttal to people complaining about prayer in school. I would first tell them that prayer in allowed in public schools but there can't be school-lead prayers. I would then quote Matthew 6:5-6.
"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."
They didn't like that very much. They also didn't like me pointing out that the Bible endorses slavery in the Old and New Testament and, when they had nothing intelligent to say, they would just utter those four very familiar words: "You're going to Hell."
The funny thing is that being told that I'm going to Hell or being told to go to Hell never really bothered me. One time, in middle school, I'm standing in line for lunch and a girl walks up to me. She asks me if I'm an atheist. I say yes and she says, "Go to Hell!" She proceeds to walk back to her place in line with a step similar to the one a cat has when it catches a mouse. With her still within ear-shot of me, I yell out, "So much for that loving Christian attitude you hypocrites love to boast about!" She ignored me.
My middle and high schools bore the same name. I saw a lot of the same people and, therefore, already had a reputation for being that dirty atheist who "won't shut up, submit, and worship our silly ideas." Okay, maybe nobody actually said that. The point is that people kept approaching me. I even started to welcome it. I could show them the flaws in their arguments and their religion as a whole, so long as they didn't quickly dash off right after uttering what Daniel Dennett would call a "deepity."
The fun, however, was interrupted one day. Rather than just trash talking me or offering an argument, I was just punched and spit in the face. I wanted to, as one stupid rap song goes, make their face beat up my hand. I decided not to. I mean, the guy was twice my size and not alone. Instead, I told him that I accepted Jesus into my heart and that Jesus accepted me into his ass and that he should too. His clinched fist seemed to indicate that he didn't find my comment funny. Just then, a member of the school staff walked right by us. That was my opportunity to slip off to class.
After a week, the comment I made had spread through the school. At lunch time, I saw someone walking towards. I automatically assumed what it was about and I was right. She asked me if I was an atheist. Maybe she was new. I confirmed her suspicion and she surprised me. "So am I!"
We talked all about religion and philosophy until the bell rang. That was a great day.
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