Kathleen Rose Kennedy

Life with atheists

By  Kathleen Rose Kennedy, Youth Speak News
  • October 3, 2014

“Why are you busy Sunday morning?” my high school friends would ask. “Oh, I have Church,” I would reply. 

This was the sort of discussion I often had with a group of atheist friends I grew up with in Montreal. Our conversation would usually result in an awkward silence. These friends were great friends, however, there was always a little something missing. It was a struggle to explain to them why I actually wanted to go to Mass while no longer forced to go by my parents. 

I found it quite difficult at times to even tell people I was religious. In my Grade 8 Religion class, the teacher would start off the class by asking, “Who here is religious?” Only a few would raise an uneasy hand and I was one of them. I was worried what my friends would say, which looking back now frustrates me. I wish I was a stronger 13-year-old who wasn’t shy or scared of what people would think or say. 

Is it a sin to have atheist friends? No, of course not. If they are good and ethical people then there’s no reason to sweat it. But having friends who are atheist can build a thin wall between you and your faith at times. During my early teens, I distanced myself from the Lord and my parents. I would give useless excuses to skip Mass on Sundays, argue with my parents over pointless issues and be less involved with my community, isolating myself from God. But really it wasn’t a permanent turn away from my faith. It was all part of the job of being a rebellious teen to keep my parents on their toes. 

Religion has always been a sensitive topic around which we tiptoe or just completely avoid. I only started having Catholic friends once I joined the youth group at my parish. When you meet someone who is rooted in the same faith as you, the friendship feels different. There’s an automatic switch that is flicked on and you know it’s going to be the start of a splendid relationship. It feels like being part of a club that anyone can join. 

I still remember the first time I made a Catholic friend at school. It was my first fall semester at CEGEP and I was enrolled in Calculus 1. I had just returned from World Youth Day in Spain a few days earlier and I was certainly not excited to be back at school. Before returning to Montreal, I had bought myself a WYD pin as a souvenir and attached it to my school bag. I walked into my first class and sat next to one of my friends. Sitting on the other side was a girl I didn’t know. A few minutes later, she turned to me and quietly asked if I had just gotten back from Spain. My first reaction was shock. She pointed to my pin and all I could say was, “Oh my gosh! You know what World Youth Day is?!” Since then, we’ve become incredible friends and we promised to be each other’s bridesmaids in the future. 

Don’t get me wrong, atheist friends can be just as fun and amazing as Catholic friends. One of the first friends I made in elementary school has no religious affiliation and I’m just as close to her as ever. If non-religious friends respect the fact that you have a religious belief, these friendships can be as splendid as any. 

It still isn’t easy being the only religious one out of your group of friends, but having God on your side ensures you have a lifelong friend, who will always have your back. One way or another, God has a knack for knowing who to put in your life, right when you need them most. All we need to do is trust Him. 

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6). 

(Kennedy, 20, is a second-year political science student at McGill University in Montreal.) 

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