This annoys me that you are judged by what you are - especially by friends and family. Does their opinion of you change even though they have known you all your life as you are but to find out your a 'closet atheist', their opinion changes? Really what difference does it make. You are and have been the same person and they accept you for that but not if they find out you are atheist?
"Sometimes it isn't worth it if it is going to affect personal relationships, right?"
This hurts. It is shallow and disrespectful, but then that's religion. Sorry for you guys, I am glad you can come here and feel respected and not alone.
My brother and his wife are fundies, and I could see them not allowing my niece to have contact with us anymore if they found out. Hell, even my husband's sister, who is a pretty liberal Catholic, has treated me slightly differently since finding out I was a non-believer. My husband has never come out to his family, but he thinks they all know. I'm out to all of them and my mother, but I don't want to lose my niece, so my brother and his wife can stay in the dark :)
And I agree that it's sad. It's also a pain in the ass to have to listen to the Jesus talk and not speak my mind.
If my sons and daughter, grandchildren and great-grandchildren were christian, muslim, or any other believer in a personal god I would especially want them to know I can find no evidence of god, or life after death, or answered prayers, or redemption for my sins, or the power of prayer.
Every one else, family and friend, will either accept my decision or not and it really doesn't matter to me. I have no interest in converting anyone else, but if they impose on me I make sure I respond so powerfully with reasons I do not believe, they usually don't bring up the subject again. Except for my cousin's husband, who is determined he will convince me before he dies. He is in his 80s and believes I shall burn in eternal damnation. That belief is one of the reasons I hold my ground with him, he is afraid of the big burn and he doesn't need to be.
I dunno ... how personal can the relationship be without something like that out in the open? Coming out several years ago definitely showed me who my real friends were, and it wasn't always the ones I would have bet on. The family member who gives me the LEAST trouble for it is my Southern Baptist granny. She's ultra-religious but knows that family is an exception and she's never let her religious opinions affect how she treats her kids/grandkids.
My experience includes realizing the beliefs held by family members contributed to the challenges I faced as an adult. If I need to change my beliefs, I also need to change my relationship with my family members. That done, I also need to build a strong support system as new and different values form in my life. I discovered finding friends with shared values of wanting to flourish was relatively easy and far more beneficial. It is kind of like those who grow up in alcoholic homes often have to make a break from their families in order to live a sober life.
Also from my experience, once I made the break, and once I established a healthy, happy, productive life, some of my family re-looked at their belief systems and found them lacking. They wanted to know why and how I made my changes.
Scott I think you would find great enjoyment and release if you found a local group of atheists to hang with once a week. Good luck.
It is different for each person. I can only give you my perspective. If I am to be a genuine person, I have to be honest with myself and with others. I can think of no occasion where I would not want a family member or friends to know how and what I think. As to others, it is none of their business.
I follow the cues I receive from others. If they do not accept me as I am and make it their life's purpose to convert me to their delusions, I don't want anything to do with them. I leave them, realizing this is the price for thinking for myself. I am willing and able to make that sacrifice.
If they do not proselytize, or badger me, even if they avoid the topic of religion all together I can be a grownup and behave decently with them. If they ask me questions I answer as honestly as I can.
There is no reason to respect an unreasonable belief based on faith. My obligation is to use my full capacity to the fullest of my abilities.
90% it would hurt family members if I said it right out that religion is a fairy tale , I just say that I'm a total evolutionist and leave it at that . Once I had a extremely elated moment and could not stop my face from beaming when one of my work mates said we being made in the image of god " did I then think that god also looked like a monkey at one time " and I replied did he think god had a nose and a chin ? and he said yes "wow I was beaming " that means he had a mouth , did he then eat and I am sure there must have been waste ? and what about a penis ? was there then goddess or did he do it with mortals ? It made my week.