Q: I am a 16-year-old girl who doesn’t believe in God. Frankly, I feel uncomfortable when religion is brought up. All my friends are firm believers of Christianity and attend Bible study or help out with other things at their church.
My parents and brothers don’t believe in God. When I say I’d like to be a Christian, my brothers make fun of me. When they do, it makes me feel ashamed of myself.
I want to be a Christian because it would be nice to feel like I belong, and most Christians aren’t accepting of atheists, especially other girls my age. They might be polite, but they’re distant. It also doesn’t help that the boy I like comes from a religious family. What should I do? — Outsider in Alabama
A: I think you should continue being true to the person you really are. Let me point out that if you’re feeling isolated now, consider what a fraud you will feel like if you join a religion and must pray to a deity you don’t believe in in order to “fit in.”
While many churches promote church-related youth activities, you should explore what nonsectarian activities are available in your community. If the boy you like cares about you, he will like you even if you aren’t religious, and you will have your self-respect. It’s not easy feeling different, but sometimes it’s worth it.
Q: We are not sure what to do about a nosy neighbor I’ll call “Myrtle.” She’s nice to talk to, but quite honestly, I suspect she must be watching us with binoculars because she told me what brand of wine we drink. When my husband sends me flowers, she calls me to find out why. If we have a party, she calls to find out what it’s about!
A few years ago, I was talking to Myrtle in front of her house and mentioned that I usually walk my dog in the morning. She responded, “Oh, I KNOW when you walk your dog.” (Is that creepy or is it me?)
Abby, we have nothing to hide, but our life is none of her business. I’ve been neighborly to her, but it seems like she wants too much information about us and has no problem telling us all her business and how much she spends.
She’s single and friendly with all the neighbors, as are we. I haven’t asked if they experience the same thing or if we’re the “lucky ones.” How should this be handled? — Fed Up in Utah
A: Continue to be polite to your neighbor, but when she asks questions you would rather not answer, instead of answering her directly, respond with another question: “Myrtle, why do you ask?” If she presses for an answer, without being confrontational say, “It’s personal,” and change the subject. Be sure to keep your shades drawn on windows that face her house, and when you walk your dog, take a different route.