DEAR ABBY: I'm 16 and come from a devout Roman Catholic family. My parents have taken my brother and me to church every Sunday without fail my entire life. We pray before meals, before school, at bedtime and at other times every day. My room is filled with religious objects. As far as I know, everyone else in my extended family is equally fervent.
My problem is, I have never felt very religious. Since I was 10 I have challenged the teachings of the church and, as I mature into adulthood, I'm beginning to identify as agnostic. When I told my parents, at first they were angry and disappointed. Then they told me I was "just going through a phase." I know this is more than a phase. It's a personal belief of mine they have been trying to bury my entire life.
I can't continue letting them ignore the real me. The stress of constantly having to lie to my parents about my faith is tearing me apart to the point that it interferes with my schoolwork and social life. How can I convince them that this isn't a phase, and that I'm not the Catholic girl they want me to be? If they continue to refuse to acknowledge my religious beliefs, who can I turn to for support? -- AGNOSTIC IN STOCKTON, CALIF.
DEAR AGNOSTIC: Your parents should not have minimized your feelings by saying they are only a phase because it was dismissive. That said, you must not allow their devout faith -- and your lack of it -- to become a contest of wills or a basis for argument.
This is an important time in your life with your parents as you enter adulthood. Thank them for the great foundation they have given you. Tell them you hope they will continue to love you as you explore what your beliefs are on this spiritual journey -- because it is a journey.
The opposite of faith is not doubt; it is certainty.
DEAR ABBY: My friend "Molly" and I have been good friends for two years. But this year at school she has gotten new friends, and our relationship is slowly fading away. I'm not sure what to do. Should I wait and see what happens later on down the road or talk to her about it? Please help me. -- LEFT OUT IN CEDAR RAPIDS
DEAR LEFT OUT: What you're experiencing is painful, but it is also a part of life. The fact is, friendships don't always stay the same or last forever.
Your idea of talking to Molly about this is a good one because you won't be left wondering what happened or blame yourself. But you should also explore ways of making new friends. If there are after-school clubs, special interest groups or other activities you can join, they will give you the chance to meet new people. By staying busy, you won't miss Molly so much, and may even form more long-lasting friendships.
DEAR ABBY: I'm getting married next year. I am very excited to be marrying my fiance, a kind and caring man. But I am not at all excited to go dress shopping. What should I do? -- NO-FRILLS GIRL IN DAYTON, OHIO
DEAR NO-FRILLS GIRL: No law says you must go dress shopping for your wedding if you don't want to. Tailor your wedding to your own tastes, and make it simple and casual. It's your day, so do what feels right for you.