Are you open about being an atheist or are you in the closet?

I am semi in the closet. I do have to admit that I am not comfortable discussing my views with just anyone. I am the type that wants everyone to like me (such a fault I have!) and I am nervous someone will think I am a bad person. Even when I find someone who is passionate about science, I still try not to venture down that avenue. So lucky to have you guys!

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I decided I was an atheist in 1982, following a decade of comparative religious study. My epiphany came upon reading an article in THE AMERICAN ATHEIST titled The Agnostic's Dilemma. I was only partially in the closet about being an atheist as far as my family was concerned. Most of my friends and co-workers knew I was a non-believer. My family found out in 1985 when I attended my first American Atheist convention in Austin, TX. Much to my surprise, only my mom, a staunch Roman Catholic, threw a fit. She's been performing novenas for me ever since then, hoping for my reconversion.

I was very much open about my atheism between 1984 until the late 1990's. I served as Vice-Director of the Conn. Chapter of American Atheists for three years and gave a number of public addresses at our regional meetings. I was also a prolific letter-writer and managed to get dozens of letters-to-the-editor published in local newspapers. I've lost interest in atheist activism since the late 1990's, although I'm not afraid to express my views on religion and church/state separation if the subjects come up in everyday conversation.

Gwaithmir,

I'm curious about a few things. Please feel free to ignore my questions as the answers may be personal and none of my business.

What were you attempting to accomplish with the activism you engaged in?

Was your disengagement for personal reasons or did you feel you'd done enough, passing the baton so to speak?

Has your thinking somehow changed regarding what you consider worthwhile goals for atheists?

Hi, Greg!

My activities were aimed at encouraging atheists to come out of the closet. I was also working with local members of American Atheists on various projects aimed at publically promoting atheism and church/state separation.

My disengagement was due to two reasons. Firstly, by the end of the 1980's American Atheists was being grossly mismanaged by Madalyn Murray-O'Hair and her son Jon. Membership was plummeting and entire chapters were seceding. Secondly, there was no other atheist group within reasonable traveling distance of my home after I had left American Atheists. It also became too expensive for me to attend national atheist conventions.

My thinking hasn't changed regarding what I would consider to be worthwhile goals for atheists, I simply no longer have the funds or the vigor of youth to personally pursue them.

Gwaithmir,

Thank you for sharing that. My interest is primarily the church/state issue so I certainly appreciate your efforts.

I guess I don't know many other openly atheist people. That's some surprise to talk with one involved going back to the the Madalyn Murray-O'Hair era. All I have is my own perceptions. No denying she made atheists visible but I can't say she did it in a way that made us popular. That might not have been all her fault though as I don't think anyone thought atheists were interesting, cool or trendy at that time. I think we're more popular than mass murderers these days so that's showing some improvement.
I hope you've found other interesting things to keep you interested.

I am out to very few people only because of my current employment situation. Sadly, my training, skills, and gifts do not translate easily into the "real" world, and because I do not have particular letters after my name, no one will look at my resume. So I'm trapped and stuck....not a very nice place to be in. It was, in retrospect, much easier to come out of the gay closet - at least there were supports in society-at-large, or more of them anyway.  

If people aren't in my face about religion, I don't go out of my way to confront them.  My whole family knows where I stand.  None of them has given their religion (Judaism lite) any thought at all, and they sure don't want to argue with me.  At a recent family gathering, many speakers thanked God for their good fortune. Yech.  I kept quiet.

I will soon be required to put my views into practice. Mom is 96. When she dies, I will attend her funeral but will not dress up (no skullcap or prayer shawl) or pray or -- and this is required -- say Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead, which endlessly glorifies God.  Even when God takes your loved one, you kiss his ass. Not gonna do that.  They may not want me in their little holy house.

Never let people get away with with the stupid idea that an atheist cannot be a good, moral person.  

Sounds like a well thought out decision, and for very rational reasons. We don't need to give believers the weapon with which to harm us. 

I am puzzled why people who believe in the Abrahamic god see only the principle of "love" in both old and new testament. Even Je-sus is reported to have killed a tree because it was not the season to give him a nice fresh snack; seems pretty sophomoric to me. Or killing someone else's pigs; that is downright brash. When you get to the walking on water stuff and turning water into wine, and feeding a crowd with just a little bit of food simply makes no sense. Except, they call it "miracles"; Balderdash! Just pure, unadulterated gibberish. 

Want to see real miracles? just find any science documentary, or the DNA Mysteries - Search For Adam - National Geographic,  Cosmos,  FIRST LIFE - Arrival - Full Documentary . These are actual miracles, no delusions here. 

i only tell things like that to people i can trust. which right now is a small amount of people

I am partially to mostly in the closet.  My wife knows and most of our closest friends know.  I certainly don't shy away from criticizing religion in most circumstances.  Even some coworkers know.  I have always been a man of science, and I dropped most of the religious charade over the last few years.

Most of the family does not know. (If they do, they say nothing... but my family is sort of known for denial so I doubt they'll put two and two together). My grandparents are getting up there in age, it is important to them, and they will not change.  It's important to my parents as well, and I have avoided telling them because it is easier.  I don't want to be the target of conversion attempts from my family.  Part of me fears that they'll be more pushy to my little boy and I don't want that for him.  Then again, my wife made the point this afternoon that if I am not open with them, our boy will start talking soon anyway and that we should be firm now about not indoctrinating him.

Beyond my family, I fear losing political power and economic opportunities.  Most of my friends either don't care or agree with me already so I guess that's fairly moot. I just don't want to deal with the general branding associated with atheism in the MidWest.

It's not a matter of if, but when everything comes out.  I'm not a big fan of lying, and I feel resentful that the way many religious people act strongly encourages that here. I think that there are more of us than we realize, but even so I am terrified to be completely open with everyone in my family about it.  Which, I recognize, is yet more religious tyranny.

I definitely hear you. It's a big thing for me to talk about. Reading the forums here and talking to my wife really help. She is very supportive of my views. She is more agnostic than atheist, but we're pretty close to the same page.

I sometimes envy the courage others have when talking about their views. I have become more bold politically in the last few years, and now I am working on the religious side. I don't care to be in-your-face or start arguments (I'm a product of the Midwest) but I resent the feeling of oppression just stating what I really think outside of closed doors.

Its a personal choice,and not really any reason to be fanatical about ones beliefs I think. Iwas about 5 yrs old when I had serious doubts and at about age 8 couldn't help asking "really believe there is a god?" To which to my shock horror people would run hide sustain nervous reaction as though there actually WAS someone in the room listening to this. I was a little bolder in my teens and younger days though not actually trying to sway judgement my way but feeling a deep seeded need (hey that's three words in a row with double ee,s) Let me try that again, "But feeling three reeling deep seeded needs (that's six ,I can do better but getting on with my point.....) to express my right to believe and speak freely. I occasionally felt some discriminatory predjudice but not ever really threatened in any way, which was funny because when differing religious groups start to collide it gets as we see in the world tragically brutal. Anyhow now in my 60s I meld quite well amongst all groups of theists and they seem to tolerate me well and accept for who I am. However Deep believers usually cut themselves off and find ways not to have anything to do with me. Long winded opinion reply but..........

So I'm coming out atheist to my parents tomorrow. We've invited then to come to a meeting at our local ethical society, where we have recently started to attend. I don't expect to be disowned or anything like that, but I do expect that it'll get emotional.

The biggest concern I have is that the relationship will change or that they'll go behind my back with my son. I guess we will know soon enough.

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