Atheism Central for Secondary Schools
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Thanks for writing back! I have visited many sites in the last few months, and have put entries in all the guestbooks I could find, and this is the first response that I have gotten!
I suppose I could tell you about how I came to be an atheist in the last few years. I used to be a very religious person. I was, until three years ago, a Roman Catholic, from a very devout family. I however, more than anyone else I know, question the things that I am taught, and after a while, I began to question my faith as well. This prompted me to explore what it is that I truly believed/felt at the time. (I was having some issues with my personal life and my school work at the time too, which probably helped shape my current beliefs.) It mostly involved a lot of thinking at nights about what I truly felt and believed. In the end, I realised that my religious beliefs we're only "skin deep" and that I really didn't believe at all. So I was a self-labeled agnostic. That summer, I repeated my search for inner meaning (again staying up at nights thinking about what I felt and believed) and found that the agnosticism had turned to full-blown atheism.
One thing that was really hard for me during this time was dealing with my friends and my school environment. Most people's minds just are not open enough. I go to a Catholic school, not out of any real belief in the religion, but because the education is better there than at the public board in my city, and also because it allowed me to participate in what is called the "Craig style of learning" which allows students to learn at their own pace, without classes or teachers. Its something like a correspondence course in a school setting. I am currently enrolled in this school, which is a very exciting opportunity indeed, my marks have shot up 10% since the transfer. This is most likely because I am better suited to the style of learning there than at the old class-based system. When you chose to take a course, you simply take the work out from the library, take out a book, and start. When you are done a chapter you hand it in or take a test at the testing centre, and you can do whatever subject you want whenever you want. Guidance and motivation are helped along by teacher-advisors, whose job it is to monitor progress. Unlike normal schools, there are no semesters.
At this school, I took a religion course (which is mandatory) but instead of them teaching you Christian beliefs, they allow you to direct your own search for meaning, and I took many philosophical courses. From these courses, I chanced upon humanist values, though I did not know that is what they were until much later. I became a humanist then and there, but, once again, did not know it. Then one day, on my random searches through the internet, I came upon secular humanism. And so now, I look upon myself as having a humanist life stance, for lack of any better term. Humanism is the belief that people are just smart animals, and that religion is a way for people to guide their morals/ethics. We, having independent morals and ethics, do not need religion for guidance, and do not believe its teachings. We believe that people should work to the betterment of humanity and not the benefit of the individual. This is called by some a religion, but is really a philosophy.
For more information on humanism, please visit these pages:
This search for meaning has changed my life, and while my family, friends and teachers look upon my choice as questionable, I have never in my life felt better about myself. Even though they disagree with what I believe, they support me in my decision, and do not try to change it. (I really don't think there was any conscious decision at the time, merely a realisation.)
I have now been an atheist, secular humanist, freethinker and skeptic for 3 years, and while I have only limited experience with this (3 years is not a long time) I have never actually met someone (in real life) that shares my beliefs. It helps to have people on the internet who understand my position, and people who I can talk to about my choices. I would be happy to do any sort of discussion forum or anything of the like. I would be happy to talk to anyone about their beliefs, as the opportunity has never arisen otherwise. I am also interested in any sort of debate. If I can contribute anything to the site, please let me know, and if anyone wants to talk, feel free to give them my contacts.
Thanks for writing!
Thomas is a secondary school student in Alberta, Canada
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