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.