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 think families are the hardest hurdle to overcome. When you deviate from the normal family traditions, many of them get anxious because they have an underlying fear of the religious promises of retribution for those who do not submit, obey, and acquiesce. Many people have to leave the familiarity of family and develop their emotional strength. Some are able to reconnect with extended families later and some are not. 

Don't feel guilty about pulling away until you can sort out your feelings and thinking. It is part of growing up into a mentally healthy, mature, adult.  

I'm completely in the closet when it comes to my family. My grandparents are all devout christians. They're also getting into their 80s. To them, to be atheist is to denounce god and therefore not be saved/get into heaven. They would undoubtedly be very concerned in their last years that their grandson might not be saved. Their reaction would probably be shock and disbelief at first followed by them trying to convince me to go to church, etc. I just can't imagine putting them through that stress when they're that old. 

George, your story is so familiar to me, and many have to make decisions about whether it is the right thing to speak up about changing values. I can see no easy answer. Each person has to decide for him or herself, there is no easy answer. I wish you well in your journey on a different path than your grandparents. 

One thing we have to keep in mind, their generation experienced some very difficult times and the tradition was to hang on to beliefs and put their faith in ideas of the past. You may not want to break those old ways of comfort for them. You have your life ahead of you and new friends with whom you can build a new vision that is separate and apart from your grandparents. 

Trust your own instincts. Feeling compassion for your grandparents does not mean you give up on your vision for yourself. 

Thank you for the reply. 

You may not want to break those old ways of comfort for them. You have your life ahead of you and new friends with whom you can build a new vision that is separate and apart from your grandparents. 

That's basically how I feel right now. I hate to say it but I have to be realistic. They're old. They aren't gonna live forever. I hate it but that's life. Eventually they'll be gone and my beliefs will have no impact on them. Well, assuming I'm open about it. My beliefs already don't affect them but they don't know. It will be a moot point. Perhaps the main difference between my grandparents and my parents is that my parents are not nearly religious. Especially my dad. I might not ever tell them, but they likely won't care if I go to church or not. Over time they might figure it out but they likely won't care too much.

Still, I feel rather optimistic about the future. As science takes us farther and farther I have no doubt atheism will become more popular. Or at least more accepted. 

There is another aspect to take into consideration. Thinking there is no god, based on not having evidence to support my conclusion, many people near and dear to me know and do not agree with me.

I recently had cancer, the treatment was rough and I would not wish it on my worst enemy. My immediate family stuck with me through the whole ordeal and made my life so much more rewarding. Having my great-grandchildren visit me, even when I was the sickest, gave me great cheer. They would come and lay on the bed with me and the older ones told me of their events of the day while the younger ones brought me frogs and snakes they found near the well. We laughed a lot, and they made me feel so loved and cared for. One little tyke brought me a cucumber to eat because it was good for me. I get a bit of a thrill as I remember that precious moment. 

For those who told me or wrote me that they would pray for me, I thanked them for their care and urged them to get regular cancer check-ups themselves, and to put their efforts into volunteering at the local cancer care facility, or raise money for cancer research, or offer family or friends with cancer to take them to the many doctors appointments, or offer to get groceries, or take them a nice fresh piece of fruit or a plate of veggies, or a lovely bottle of mineral water, or a jar of homemade chicken soup. Encourage them to take some action.

Prayer is cheap. It is words of no value to me and to many others. In fact, when I hear those words, "I'll pray for you", I feel set on a chair as they go about their daily routine as if nothing was happening.  

So, I would say to visit your grandparents, or write notes to them, or call them. Remember them in the many sweet ways people who care for them do. There is no need to tell them. Just love them. Laugh with them. Remember with them. If they never know how you feel or what you think, they will know you cared for them. 

If they find out and give you a miserable time, just set the ground rules. You are responsible for what you think and why. You need not lie or pretend you think differently than they.  If they can't accept you as you are, then you have choices to make. Not easy choices, but it doesn't matter. If you chose one way you hurt, and if you chose another, they hurt. There may be pain and you have the responsibility to be true to yourself, while being kind to them. In the end, it really doesn't matter that you do not agree. It is being part of community that enriches our lives. 

I don't want to be misunderstood here. It is essential you be true to your own thinking. If anyone, spouse, siblings, family members, friends give you grief for your belief, it sets up a toxic environment for you and you have the right and responsibility to take care of your needs and think for yourself. 

I wish you well and hope that you can build a community of people who share and support your thinking and accept you as you are. 

Beautiful post.  I take it to mean, you don't need people who dig you just because you support their eccentric belief system. 

Prayer is cheap. It is words of no value to me and to many others. In fact, when I hear those words, "I'll pray for you",

When you hear that, tell 'em to do something tangibly good for somebody. 

Thank you for the reply and I'm very sorry to hear about your bout with cancer. I graduate college soon and after 4 years of only being home for 4 months out of a year I'm excited to see everyone more consistently. My grandmother is a breast cancer survivor and has had nearly every joint replaced with metal in the past 10-15 years. Her health hasn't been great but she's doing fine. I certainly want to see her and the rest of my family as much as possible. I remember seeing her after my freshman year after one of her surgeries and she looked like she was in very bad shape. That was a slap in the face and made me realize that my family isn't getting younger. Fortunately I have a good relationship with all my grandparents. They've done a lot for me and I wish I could repay them but with impending student loan debt I know the best I can do is just see them weekly, talk to them. Do small stuff for them at get togethers, etc. 

Good for you. My thoughts go with you. 

George, I think you're right. Just tactfully avoid the subject.

In the grand scheme of things these people will slowly die off to be replaced with a new more humanist belief system. Let's hope so anyway.

As much as I hate this "Christ died for you sins) nonsense, I abide with it realizing that as Dylan says, "The Times They Are Achanging" Once the God virus has taken over the nervous system of infected victims, there's no bringing them back, especially at that age. It's like trying to cure a bad case of small pox before the discovery of modern medicine.

Wisely spoken Richard. 

I’d say never compromise your personal integrity. In this country you’re free to believe (or disbelieve) anything you want. As Polonius in Hamlet said, “to thine own self be true.

Look at it this way, anyone who would judge you because of your religious beliefs isn't worth having as a friend. These are people who are so insecure they can only associate with people who support their delusional beliefs. How dumb is that?

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.




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