DEAR ABBY: 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
DEAR OUTSIDER: 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.