Name: Erica Hopkins
Location: Mahwah, NJ (home), Haverford, PA (school)
Organization affiliation: none
Label: atheist, reconstructionist Jew (somewhat)
Former Religious Affiliation: Reformed Jew
I was raised Jewish, and I remember going to temple and Hebrew school and being told about god and Jewish tradition. As far back as I can remember, I remember thinking there was something wrong with me because no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t believe in god. I remember thinking that this idea of the Judeo-Christian god made no sense at all. But I was afraid to tell anyone, but of the feeling that something was wrong with me.
I told myself, even if I never really believed it, that when I had my Bat Mitzvah, I would somehow magically have some big revelation about god, and all my doubts would vanish. When nothing happened, I gave up.
The first person I told was my dad. He was raised Christian but hasn’t belonged to any organized religion for years, so I knew he would be ok with it. When I told him I wasn’t Jewish, he said that it was fine and if I had any questions I could talk to him and he would help me. At this point I started looking at some Eastern religions and was deist for a little while.
A few months later I told my mom I wasn’t Jewish. Her first response? She is Jewish, therefore I am because the Torah says so. Then she said that I wasn’t old enough to make a decision like that, and it was just a phase. I’m twenty now, and she still doesn’t completely accept that I’m atheist.
As I got older, I just accepted the fact that my mom might never really accept me, and I think that’s just her personality. She’s the type of person who is afraid to stand out and just wants to fit in with the crowd. I think she saw it as an embarrassment to her friends at temple that I didn’t want to continue on that path. She was never that involved at the temple until after I came out. It was like she wanted to make up for the fact that I didn’t believe. My mom is also someone who is afraid of change and thinks everything should follow in a way she wants.
If people close to you refuse to accept you, instead of just being upset about it, think about why they won’t accept you. Think about their personality and how they were raised. It doesn’t make up for it, but if you aren’t putting in the effort to understand them, why should you expect them to put in an effort to understand you? And maybe in the end you will just need to accept that some people need what religion provides for them, and they feel the need to fit in more than anything else.