My situation is unique I suppose, I've always been an atheist (that's not the unique part), I was born that way. I'll save you the details, suffice it to say ...I was the only atheist in my family, but my family took the concept of personal belief seriously, emphasis on personal.
I was born in Canada, grew up in Canada and lived all but 2+ of my (almost …'bout 6 weeks to go) 50 years on this planet in Canada. I never had a reason to hide it, or to be overt about it either, though I probably deconverted more than my share of Christians and Muslims in the last few decades I lived in Eastern Ontario/Western Quebec.
...Mostly by discussing it with them, not debating it with them. Of course, this was mostly a meat-world thing, not "online". Though I've turned a few people online, ...it's a lot harder though.
I pick my battles, by that I mean, ...I only bother with the "soft-sell" with fence sitters, mostly people who only self-identify as an adherent because their family did. Y'know? Those who haven't actually read about, studied or actively worshipped. It's great to here someone say, "Y'know? You're right, I am an atheist."
A few "deconversion" rules of thumb...
Know your audience, treat 'em accordingly, never say anything you can't back-up, ...and remember, ...it's pointless to be unreasonable when trying to reason with reasonable people. The most important rule: You can't reason with an emotional conviction, ...don't bother, it never works.
A little over 2 years ago, I moved to North Carolina. Strangers and passing acquaintances assume you're a Christian
I don't hide my beliefs from anybody I know well, but I'm slow to bring it up. And, only with people who I've gotten to know well enough that there's at least the seed of a friendship ...mutual trust/respect.
Know your audience... Now, it's not just soft-sell, ...it's subtle-sell.
...and picked my battles there.
But, this is bible-belt, …churches on every corner. I don't make myself a target, that's for sure.
I have experienced the, "You're …[gasp!] …an ATHEIST?!?", but, I had to leave Canada to see it first hand.
@Richard - I'm in NC also, that smallest county in the very center of the state. /Waves hello! You definitely have to be careful with whom you out yourself here, we are the smallest county and yet there are literally 4 pages of church listings in the county phone book and we're a concealed carry state, not to mention a Castle Doctrine state, so yeah... it's wise to pick ones battles a little more carefully than you would in other states here.
I'm often irked to piss during holidays, by the constant wishes of Happy Easter... Merry Christmas, I love putting them on the defensive by pointing out that my last name is Jewish, but I haven't yet come to the point that I would feel 'safe' letting the atheist cat out of the bag around here. Another point of contention with me is those who will tell you they are 'blessed' for no apparent reason when you ask "How are you?" , I literally have to bite my tongue to keep from saying, "Did I hear you wrong, did you say 'touched' in the head?" What is the trend toward reassuring oneself in a public proclamation that you believe in an invisible sky daddy and it believes in you?
I am open about being an atheist and don't think that I've ever been in the closet about it. I was fortunate to grow up in a very socially diverse city and was raised by loving, compassionate parents who accept me for who I am. My brother and husband are also both atheists, as are many of our friends.
That's not to say it hasn't occasionally lead to problems. For instance, I once ignored my better judgement and had a discussion about religion with my manager at an old job I held for a very brief time. I don't even remember how it came up, honestly. After telling me her reasons for believing in God she asked me point blank if I believed in God also. I said no. Her response was simply, "Oh, well I do." I went from getting about 20-25 hours a week in shifts to 12-15 after that.
I am both open and closed about it.
To my friends and my father, I am open to them about being an atheist
To my mother and her side of the family, I am closed to even talking about it. I'd love to just go off and tell them one day, but I'd most likely get cut off from speaking with them for a long time and I am sure my mom is ok with it to a point, but I'd rather not be too out right with it.
I wished things could be better, but I'll just have to wait and see how things go.
I'm open about my atheism. My family and friends (all Christians) know and it's no problem.
I'm very open about my atheism. It has served me well to limit contact with annoying relatives and neighbors. The ones that do talk to me are so much more enjoyable. And, they usually have something relevant to talk about instead of wasting my time with meaningless noise. I sure am going to miss being a social pariah when atheism becomes more mainstream.
Andrea, great idea for a post! The way you appear to feel resinated with me. I don't necessarily worry about thinking I'm a bad person when I express my freethinking views, but moreso feel like I will be in an instant confrontation. I try to arm myself with information to battle any zealot. Keep up the fight! I will too.
I am semi out myself.It's very hard for me to accept the religious text.I'm the type of person that requires proof in order to believe something.
I know the feeling... When I was college I would have told anyone and everyone but it had many "effects/consequences" that were unpleasant. So now that I am older I keep it to myself since most of NC is religious and it can be difficult to find a rational person in a state full of churches.
Oooh long thread, didn't read it all. But it seems most people are semi-out, huh? Aren't we all... it's unfortunate how Atheism is still such a negative stigma. After living in a state where gay-marriage has been legalized and being in a job where two girls could publically show their affection within their relationship without judgement... I know and have seen how Atheism still just isn't acceptable to most people!
As for me, I've been an atheist for about 4 years. I first came out to my husband whom I eventually divorced from. So obviously, I was very hesitant of telling any one else. I was a huge part of my church, ministry, and went to a private Christian college!! I slowly did though. I talked with friends first, then family slowly, then professors, and now I'm just openly and publicly Atheist.
It can be a hard and damaging road though. I'm sure we all know that all too well. That's why I think the relatively new eruption of communities like these are wonderful to have. I think the most difficult part for some Atheists is the being labeled as an ex- something and finding themselves completely disowned without a community in which to associate. Many of us ex-s were used to church dinners, groups, fellowships, weekly meetings and such... and then when we lose faith we lose all of that! It can easily lead to a fairly depressive life and social reality. These kinds of communities are a great starting to getting nontheists to being an accepted part of society.
Sarah, I appreciate your situation. Losing community was the hardest thing for me, and I found virtually no one to discuss my thinking or feeling in my family, neighbors or friends. I felt muzzled and then ran across several atheist internet sites. Finding these friends helps me to explore ideas and clarify what I feel. Now, everybody knows I am an atheist, however, my thinking is more nuanced than before. I still get the "Have you given your heart to the Lord" or "Do you know Jesus" from all of them, but being able to articulate those things that seem absurd to me seems to be questioned by some of them. I generally have no reason to bring it up, unless someone asks, or makes some claim ... a physician worked 12 hours to save a son when he had a stroke. "God saved him" sent me off on a rant. So I don't have to deal with any more of that. My reputation takes care of it and I don't have to rant very often.
I always found those questions odd, "Do you know Jesus?" They're so... weighed. I've noticed that the purpose of those questions aren't at all to start a discussion, but to begin a long witnessing rant. As with every JW I've encountered who come up to the door and ask such questions, they aren't really interested in what I have to say just in what they want to communicate which is what they believe to be the "saving" necessity of Jesus.
I still struggle with the articulating part. I also find that the reputation is often simply a negative one, rather than an understanding one. Rarely do people actually engage in a discussion over why one is an Atheist and discover one's reasoning, it's simply left at the lack of faith and almost treated like a label.
However I agree, these communities are so helpful in helping to understand and deal with the difficulties involved in the major life change. =)