I've always been open about being an atheist. I'm the only atheist in my family, but none of my family members have ever been religious so it wasn't hard to be open about it. Still, being outnumbered I did sometimes remain quiet whenever sensitive topics would come up.
I don't try to conceal it when I'm around people outside of my family either. I don't mind much if Christians, new age people, or anyone else dislikes me for it. And if they ask me questions about it I answer them, and if they want to engage in a civil debate, I'm fine with it.
To my family (Midwestern Americans), I'm closeted as a means of keeping the peace. My aged grandmother doesn't need any additional sources of stress in her life; my father (who I'd call a deist) has only had uncomplimentary things to say about atheism on the few occasions he's spoken on the topic, and I don't want to do anything to damage our otherwise-excellent relationship; etc. On the other hand, since my becoming a more outspoken antitheist we all discuss religion exactly as much as we ever did: roughly, not at all. My family is otherwise a quite rational and skeptical bunch, and my disbelief doesn't really change that dynamic.
To anyone else in my life, I'm very much out. It's not even a thing, but it probably helps that I live in the Netherlands now, where atheism is much more usual.
I'm also semi-closeted. My own Irish Catholic family knows I'm not exactly a church-goer, except for ceremonies, but mom used to use the word "atheist" as an insult.
My Born Again fundie in-laws know I'm not religious, as I married the one guy in their family that wasn't joining in with their insanity! The kids seem aware as well, but I don't bring it up unless they ask questions. I'm honest with them, and keep it simple: They asked if I believe in evolution, and I said most definitely.
Also explained that if you're religious, you believe creationism, and if not, evolution. They're being raised fundamentalist, so that is true in their case. I know plenty of religious people who believe in both, and I sometimes remind them that they can't ;-]
My co-workers also know, not all but the ones I talk to the most. I've decided that the best way to go about it, is to let people get to know me first, see that I live a decent, hardworking, charitable life, lull them into thinking I'm some sort of "good catholic" girl, then WHAM-O!! What, she's a godless heathen?! I didn't know they could look like good catholics! Wait, I thought that atheists were devil worshippers?? heehee.
Christina, I share your chuckle! My neighbors were astounded when they learned I was atheist and the news spread very quickly. I am the one who hosts a yearly neighborhood potluck, they know they can count on me when they need help, we all laugh and sing and dance and celebrate life together at our Summer Solstices, and then WHAM! They find out I am an atheist. The first visible reaction was their reaction with painting black words on my light sand colored house and spreading toilet paper all over my property, with disgusting indications I was a baby eater, destroyer of good and decent people, and a devil.
I gathered a group of fellow atheists and we cleaned up all the messes, had a gigantic feast with music and dancing and singing. The next year I invited all the neighbors for our usual Summer Solstice, and they came. Never ever another word or act of hate. My lesbian neighbors came for the first time and they were treated with utmost courtesy. My 50' x 150' patch of earth is dedicated to life and living and sharing and caring and compassion.
Hate is not a part of my lifestyle, even as I feel disgust at hateful acts.
My mother and brother know, and i think? that's it. My other siblings don't know (2 sisters, and older brother). I still haven't created a facebook personal profile, because sooner or later, it will hit the fan, and all my cousins will want to talk to me and set me straight. That's not how i want to use my energy. I've struggled with mentioning it on my blog and twitter, but it's a big part of who i am, and how i see the world. I'm letting it get out in incremements, but not to family. I just keep it shut. There are so many good causes and arguments, it's hard to not talk about it. If family finds me, i'll deal with it. I have this urge to engage my cousin in the country in a debate on camera, but he might end up shooting me:)
Damien, I certainly understand your desire to not have a confrontation with your family, however, in my experience, it is the family and their values that got me into trouble in the first place, and it is the family values that I reject in order to be healthy.
So, it comes down to, do you want to be "normal" or do you want to be healthy?
I am quite open about it and don't have a problem with it.
12 January MMXIV
I wrote an article many years ago entitled You Can Bet Your Sweet *** We Are Not Closet Atheists.
I tried to upload it as a discussion on atheistnexus, but it was rejected because it was too long.
If you wish, you can send me your email at Anthony.email@example.com and I will forward you a copy.
It is also on my www.scribd.com/thewordwarrior
Anthony St. John
Andrea, IMHO you have it backwards.
It should be the believers in the closet and rational people unashamed of their disbeliefs. Let’s take their attitude and confront the pious with their belief system. Do you Mr/Ms Churchgoer actually believe that Moses gave the order to slaughter 3000 of his followers when he saw them worshiping the Golden Calf? Isn't this a bit of an overreaction for someone imbued with the Holy Spirit?
How about Christ and the fig tree? Christ saw the fig tree wasn't bearing fruit in the middle of winter and smote the poor plant withering it to its xylem and phloem. This is a pretty stupid response from the Son of God. Don’t you think He should have known better—being God?
How about saying, “God bless you” when somebody sneezes. The custom dates back to the Middle Ages because when someone sneezes there’s an opening in the head that a daemon can enter and then possess the individual. Do you say “God bless you” for that reason?
How about the story of Ham seeing his father Noah naked and God punished his entire progeny for such a lascivious act? Do you believe black people are inferior because of this?
I could go on and on about the peculiarities of the belief system. Contributors here can enter some more. How about the Patriarch Abraham hearing hallucinations and proceeding to scare the BeJesus out of his pathetic son Isaac? Abraham should have been institutionalized, not made the patriarch of the three modern religions.
There’s a lot more Biblical inconsistencies noted in the book to the right with the pot plant. Catch Barbara’s "Compilation of Biblical Quotes." It’s hard to believe so many people believe this nonsense.
It’s the believers who should be embarrassed and ashamed for being so gullible. If the tables were turned, they'd be in the closet if not the funny farm.
Your sweet atheist face is appealing, too.
You are the sweetest and fairest of all, Joan. ;-)