Just because Alex Wick was born into a household with atheist parents didn’t mean he had to become one.
His parents, Tim and Patricia Wick of St. Paul, let him choose whatever path he wanted to take.
“There was never a point where we said to our kids, ‘Hey we’re atheists. You should be atheists.’ It’s just when we talk about religion, we talk about what we think,” Tim said. “We invite them to tell us what they think. Alex, while very young, concluded, I just don’t believe there’s a God.”
Alex — the sole atheist eighth grader at Crosswinds Arts and Science School in Woodbury — sees the world through a scientific lens. Even in first grade, he questioned the existence of Santa Claus simply because “it didn’t seem possible” to him.
Although, he tries to apply logic and reasoning to make sense of the world, Alex said he doesn’t take pride in it. It’s just something that “naturally happens.”
When did you conclude that you were an atheist?
I don’t really remember. I’ve been told that I have very little bias. The only bias I’ve had is that I haven’t gone to any church. But my parents didn’t urge me toward the path of atheism. I’ve just logically concluded that there can’t be a God. The same reason I learned pretty quickly that there was no Santa Claus. That’s what God is. Another Santa Claus to me.
Was there a decision making process, though? If you can’t pinpoint an age, was there a moment when you at least thought, ‘Wait, how can this be?’
Not really. It just happened. It seems to me that people made up God just because people didn’t understand how the universe worked. Why was this world created? Why? They had so many questions, and the only way they could answer it was with God. I understand that. I’m sure that if I was in an older day and age, I would be believing in a God, too. But nowadays, we have science. People have just clung onto that because it’s what they’ve known for so long.
Have any of the concepts behind religion — good and evil, heaven and hell — ever made an impression on you?
Well, I wouldn’t say it never has, because before I was in first grade, I did think there was a Santa. But now, I don’t. I’m just a good kid. I mean, I like to think of myself as a good kid. I try and do my best in whatever I do. I don’t care about going to heaven and hell. I don’t think there is an afterlife. I just try to be a good person.
When did you start using the term ‘atheist’ to describe your views? How did your peers react? Did they know what it meant?
No, they didn’t. In sixth grade — I’m a grade ahead in math — in sixth grade, when I was in a classroom of seventh graders and we had conversations about God, there were quite a few people who sided with me. But then the next year, when I brought it up, people were like, ‘What’s an atheist?’ I explained it and said, ‘I really don’t think God exists.’ They were just baffled by this idea.
Have you ever had moments where you thought religion could be a part of your life?
Not really. On occasion, I was like, ‘OK God, if you want this to happen, just do this.” It’s not like it ever happened, of course.
Prayer, no. I have never thought it would have any intention of working. When I did what I said earlier, like saying, “OK God, this is your chance,’ there was nowhere in my thinking process that I thought it would happen.
How big of a role does atheism play in your everyday life?
I guess it means I don’t go to church on Sundays … It means I get to play more video games in the morning. (Laughs.) I don’t go to church. I’ve had a bit of questioning, but that’s about it. It hasn’t had much of an impact.
How do you interact with peers when the topic of religion is brought up?
Well, I get a bit uncomfortable when it’s brought up. When there’s a big conversation about Jesus and all that stuff, I get very uncomfortable and I usually let it out. In a camp I was at, before lunch we sung a prayer. I said, ‘You know what, I’d rather not be a part of this,” and they let me because I’m an atheist. I just didn’t want to be a part of it. It made me feel uncomfortable. Other than that, when it’s brought up with me, I usually answer the question honestly. I say why the idea of God is a silly thing.
Do you like to debate people of faith? Or for the most part, are both sides civil with each other — you don’t look to pick a fight with them, they don’t look to pick a fight with you …
One of my (former) best friends (who moved away) was a huge God believer. Unless people badger me about my atheism, then I’ll be fine. My best friend has done it, and since he’s my best friend, I didn’t let it bother me. I badgered him about his Christianity, so I think that we’re even.
No further conflicts?
I brought it up once, and after I outlogic-ed him for a bit, he said, ‘Stop it or I won’t be your best friend anymore.’
And you came to a conclusion that, ‘We might not agree on this, but we can still be friends?’
We just stopped talking about it.
Is it hard being an atheist?
A little, but not that hard. As I’ve said, there are a few uncomfortable situations … when there’s 19 people going against me, saying, ‘Oh, it’s not true. Oh, it’s not true.’ I find that really hard. I’m able to stand my ground against one person.
If God does exist and you had a chance to ask one question, what would it be?
I just want to say that if there is a God, ‘What are you doing wrong?’ You let five thousand religions take over your one! What are you doing wrong, God? You’ve let yourself go.