My situation is a little strange in that I didn't believe in God even as a kid, and not understanding that it was a big deal, I was perfectly happy telling everyone I knew that God was made up. Only much later did I find out that my parents took a lot of criticism from the rest of the family about how they were raising me. I was completely sheltered from that.
My "coming out" has been less about people finding out that I'm an atheist, and more about people finding out that I'm a serious, argumentative atheist. As Douglas Adams said, "I am a radical atheist." This has been a gradual process, in that I do my best to not start arguments, but am more than willing to jump in if someone else brings the topic up.
As my radical atheism has gradually become more known, I have also learned more about the religious leanings of those around me, and found two things that I didn't honestly expect:
First, that there are a LOT of extremely ignorant Christians. There was a time in which I thought that the ridiculously bad Youtube Christian arguments were a small, tiny fraction of what most Christians believe. I honestly thought that the argument "if people came from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?" was a joke made by atheists to make fun of Christians. It's not. There are a large number of people who seriously think that is a killer argument.
Second, that there are quite a few atheists (or agnostics, or whatever) out there. You might be surprised how many people are just like you and also haven't spoken up. I've met similarly-minded people at work, in school, in my family, you name it. Just about a month ago I found out my cousin was an atheist, which completely surprised me since her father is an evangelical minister.
This felt very familiar to me. My parents raised us without religion, nor positive nor negative input. It was a religion-free house, simply. But I come from a previous generation where schooling was still managed by the church, and so I was exposed to Catholicism and its catechism in school. It always annoyed me, I was a precocious kid, and an argumentative one. But oddly enough, religions and faith had such a lack of rational foundation, that I could not even imagine there was anything to argue about, which made me appear quiet about religion, when in fact I just thought it was so stupid, it was simply not worth wasting any brain time on, and I was a brainy kid too. By age 13-14, my political self started to develop, and I started being more and more annoyed by my religious classes, so I took legal action against the school (with my parents) to be exempt from religious classes on the basis I was atheistic... so I became a radical atheist at 14. My fight against the school system was a tough one, I was THE ONLY atheist in my small village. There was a protestant girl who was exempt from religious (catholic) classes, but declaring oneself atheist did not even register on these people's radar, they could not understand someone who lived entirely in reality, vs imaginary (I don't remember any belief in childhood imaginary beings either). So in the end, I finally won my exemption for the last two years of highschool, which was replaced by self-directed morality classes, which I was supposed to spend time at the library for... ha ha ha. :)
But after that, the mere thought of faith/religion completely fell away my frontal lobe for the next two decades. Oh there was the occasional conversation where I'd cautiously state I had no beliefs, whatsoever, but I always pitied the people I had to state that to, and society coerced me into dishonest "respect for diversity". What's the point of showing false respect, I really never got that.
My desire to live in reality only became an issue again when I lived several years in Florida, and all my friends attended church on a semi regular basis. These were fun friends, who partook in life's decadence to the fullest, but our Sundays were my time away from them. I eventually came to be really annoyed by the constant duality in their lives regarding their failure to live up to their own self proclaimed morals.
After a couple of years of this, the atheist in me was getting more and more annoyed, which is when I found Florida Atheists and for the first time in my life felt the complete and utter joy of being able to converse with people without being forced into dishonest false respect. Oh what a joy those Tuesday evenings were.
Since then, I've moved back North, and I now wear my reality driven world on my sleeve in almost all circumstances. I exclude job hunting from this, since it impacts my earning potential, but otherwise I'm pretty open.
In Canada, our polls on religion study 'religious affiliation' and not faith per se (as opposed to USA polls which study faith), which gives atheist organisations an erroneous perspective of atheists in Canada. A majority of these Canadians who don't attend church or don't consider themselves religious actually do have faith, they are believers, they just aren't actively religious... but that religious value system underlies everything they do socially.
It's weird how my home was exempt from beliefs, and my teen years oosed political atheist, yet I spent two decades as an apatheist. I'm glad to be back to real honest self again.
Your write so clearly, and sound very honest and willing to be open about yourself. It seems to me that is the only way to live a decent, healthy life. Glad to read your comment.
honesty has become the least valued human characteristic in our society, whether it be friends, work, politics. There is simply no honesty left anywhere. This perturbs me enormously. Everything is a marketing ploy, everyone is trying to get ahead of one another. Workplaces wish to impose servitude onto their workers. I am not cut out for this world. At least people who were raised in faith got to learn all those stupid lying rules. But to have been raised in honesty has left me quite unprepared for this crazy millennium :(
It's quite possibly the biggest challenge facing atheist parents... it shouldn't be only about raising kids in reality, but also preparing them for continued lifelong hatred and dismissal for this rational choice in a society which is still 85-90% faithers.
I agree with you totally, TNT. I have always believed in honesty, but everything else in this world is a game. Nobody is honest. Yesterday I lost my job of 18 years in a trumped up senario that never should have happened. Be that as it may, 85 to 90% of people today still claim to be people of faith. They are not honest to their faith and therefore not honest to themselves or others.
But on the GOD issue I've found a website that everybody should visit called "godisimaginary.com." They have about 50 points there that nobody of faith can get around. This is also good training for the atheist in explaining why he simply does not believe in any deities.
Dennis, I hope you find a better situation, and soon!
The author not only demonstrates that God is imaginary, but also discusses life and morality, from the perspective that we each only get about 30,000 days of life, and ends with a ringing call to work to create "heaven on earth".
A thriving church community can be an amazing thing. But it is the people who make that happen, not any imaginary being. Once the imaginary being is gone, churches continue to exist as communities of people who enjoy each others' company, who help one another in times of need, and who focus on goodness and good deeds for the benefit of society as a whole. What's not to like about that?
Isn't it interesting that the recent growth of mega-churches seem to be "success gospels". How far from "focus on goodness and good deeds for the benefit of society as a whole."
Dennis, I am far behind in reading and just now read this. First of all, so sorry to learn of your job situation and hope you are OK and sad to learn you face yet another challenge.
As to being people of faith and honesty, it seems ludicrous to expect honesty from people who believe in delusions. If one hears man-made images of god, or whatever, that is religious, and does not question the claims is highly likely to believe make-believe in real life.
Thanks for the site "godisimaginary.com". I am going there now.
Good luck and stay strong. Do you have a plan of action yet? Perhaps too soon, but if you are like me, take a breath, then start strategizing. Whatever you do, and how you find your best way, my thought go with you.
Thanks Joan. I have no plan of yet. Have applied for unemployment and expect to be contested, but how could they deny? There are no set of circumstances that would change being an insured worker. Taking a breath as you said, and no strategy so far, but if I have to, I can live a year on savings. Problem is, I'll be another year older and have no savings then.
Maybe I can figure something out. It's a time of transition.
What are your natural interests? What do you do that when you finish, hours have passed? What gives you pride and self-respect? What are your functional skills, i.e. people skills, machine chills, computer skills, math skill? Are your natural functional skills the kinds that others want and need?
These are not question intended for you to answer me, they are the kinds of questions you can be looking at for yourself.
You might ask your trusted family and friends what skills they see that you have. We often are not aware of how others see us and sometimes we have blind spots.
It may help to just take a deliberate time in a quiet place that gives you pleasure, lay back and just daydream. i.e. imagine yourself as a retired person, what do you imagine would be work from which you retire. This gives you a broader vision than just going for any job to get food on the table and benefits.
Do you have any skills that you can put to use, that people desire and you create your own employment.
May your day go well, have positive thoughts, widen your vision, and realize you have all you need inside you to make your life rich and rewarding and meaningful.
I'll be thinking of you.
I don't bother arguing with them, I just scowl. To me they are sub-humans. And I don't agree with the "why don't he heal the amputees" argument. There is a false argument among atheists which tends to require that for some delirious god to exist, it ought to be obsessed with "good" all the time. Religion is not about "good all the time", so arguments basing themselves on that point are moot. Life is a balance of unpleasant and pleasant experiences. To expect our lives to be made up of only pleasant ones I think may be more delirious than even religiosity.
To me, there is only one reason needed, no evidence, zilch. I choose reality.
If I could create a nation of atheists, our license plate, in lieu of New Hampshire's "live free or die" would be "reality or death".
If somebody asks me I don't have a problem with telling them, but even though alot of my friends are religious, somehow religion never seems to come up in conversation and I don't usually bring it up myself unless they say something really blatantly ignorant or false that I just can't let go. I don't discuss being atheist a whole lot, but I'm not trying to hide it either, so anyone who doesn't already know probably suspects or assumes. There aren't many theists who subscribe to the FFRF newsletter and put FSM decals on their cars.