Is anyone still in the closet with their family because they are afraid that coming out will hurt those that they love? How do atheists overcome these issues?

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I'm not really close with my family. I have told my mother b/c I refuse to have her preaching to my children. Since I never see my aunts, uncles, or cousins very much I left it up to my mother if she wanted to tell them or not. I'm guessing she hasn't, so I'm most likely still closeted with my family. I find it's harder to tell "friends" than family. My Mom was angry for a long time and she blamed my husband, although I was atheist long before I met him, but she got over all that anger and now we just agree to disagree. On the other hand some "friends" haven't ever gotten over it. I can only take so many church invitations before I finally let them know where we stand on religion. I remember this one woman was like come to our church we're really laid back. I said we don't do religion. She said we're not uptight relgious people at my church we're laid back just about loving Jesus. I smiled and said We don't love Jesus either! Her jaw about hit the floor and she whispered to me you're atheist are you? I nodded. She said I thought you were a nice person. I am a nice person. I'm the same person you've been chatting with while our kids play at the park I just don't love Jesus.
I read some advice on another discussion that I thought I might take (at least for the time). The advice given to another blogger was to not really offer any details about your atheism unless directly asked. Your mom may ask, especially if she sees your library of atheist books, but it might be a non-confrontational way to get the conversation going. Then if you are open and honest without being on the defensive (I don't know if this would be possible for me) she may not take it so bad. Let us know how it works. Good luck!
I commend those of you who are "out" or who are in the process of. You make good role models for those of us still hiding. My situation is somewhat different. I was a doubter as a child but was scared into belief by my bible-beating grandma. As a young adult, I was drawn to the catholic church. I met and married my husband who is a practicing catholic but not very devout. Our son attends catholic schools and chooses to continue through high school. However, he is very freethinking and not very devout either. I came back to disbelief slowly and somewhat painfully. My husband and son know that I doubt and that I border between agnostic/atheistic. My problem is that I know my husband would be hurt if I came out because it would hurt his family tremendously. Currently, I attend mass but do not really participate. I feel like a hypocrite at times and often wish I had another person with my lack of belief to discuss issues with. I have become a Freethought Today member and CFI member and am becoming active in a local church/state separation group. In some ways, I feel that being completely open would cause too much trouble to those I love. What do you guys think?
I would say I am in the process of coming out. My wife (who is catholic, but not very devout), most of my friends, and a few family members know. I don't think it will be a really big deal for my family, since most of my family is only religious in the sense that they 'believe in god", but we never really went to church on a regular basis.

My wife's family on the other hand will have a huge problem with it, and so far they do not know. Although I think my father-in-law suspects... He has seen my bookshelf and started casual conversations about how he thinks Dawkins/Dennet/Harris et al don't know what they're talking about etc.... So far I have really avoided the topic, but i know its only a matter of time, and I'm a little nervous about that discussion.
I'm afraid to come out to my parents because I think that they will feel they failed God in raising me to be a "good Christian." They'll probably think I'm destined for hell and start to worry about my everlasting soul and go all crazy-bananas on me. Besides, my mom is already trying to push me out of the house, even though she knows that just isn't a feasible possibility right now. I'd hate to give her another reason to kick me out.
My outing was accidental.

My parents came to visit me in college when I was at the height of my exploration into atheism. I had all my Dawkins and Hitchens books laid out on my desk and that's how they found out.

It was rough for a little while. Having come from a deeply religious family it's a bit of an adjustment for them especially when they found that my brother and I are atheists and that my sister has doubts.

It became clear to them rather quickly that I have a fair rational filter that I apply to nearly every aspect of my life -- religion was just one of those that got filtered out. They've conceded that faith is irrational and that religion is that irrationality institutionalized but that in irrationality there is goodness -- I whole heartedly disagree.

Depending on the degree of religiosity you're surrounded by, I might stay in the closet. One must be utilitarian with revealing something that makes them generally reviled, as unjustified as it is.

I must say, however, that I'm glad that they know. I don't have to temper my words around them and they know to avoid talking about god around me.
My parents caught me reading The God Delusion last summer, but I think they're in denial. Their former missionary daughter could never be an atheist!
It really helps to read about others' experiences. I'm very thankful for finding this community.

I'm not so sure I'm afraid of what others think about me as much as I hate to see my husband, son and others I love deal with their fears of me going to hell or the bad influence I might have on my son. But maybe I'm hiding behind that.

My first atheist book was Dawkin's God Delusion. It made me realize I was applying critical thinking skills in most of my life (I'm a science teacher and life-long science nerd), except when it came to religion. I think I avoided applying reason to religion because I had been brain-washed that if you doubt you should continually strive to have faith and believe.

Anyway, keep sharing the "coming out" stories/struggles and suggestions. It has helped me and I hope it can help others as well.
I'm a new atheist and still mostly in the closet, too. I've doubted for years and years, but pushed the question aside because it felt too big to deal with. I've only recently been reading Dawkins, Hitchens, Barker, and others, and have just in the last few weeks begun calling myself atheist. So, I'm only out to a few people - my wonderful, loving husband who supports everything I do (he's agnostic), my sister who also would call herself an agnostic, and a friend from work who calls herself a Christian, but isn't devout and is, amazingly enough, actually open-minded. My parents aren't very religious themselves - they don't really attend church any more, although my mom is still the secretary at the church they belong to. But, they still say a prayer over every meal and I know they are still believers. At least, I'm sure my mom is. My dad, I'm not so sure. He's very smart and has always been interested in science. He'll go to the library and checkout 12 physics, astronomy, mathematics books and read them all in a week. So maybe he's in the closet, too! One can never know.

Anyway, I've come to the conclusion that it's not something I have to share straight out. I haven't been a regular church-goer in over 10 years so I'm sure my parents wouldn't be surprised. I've decided that if it comes up, I'll deal with it then. That goes for friends, too. I have other friends who are very religious and it may destroy our friendship if they know I'm an atheist. So, I'm not going to broadcast it, but I'll be truthful if it is brought up directly.

I'm sure that, when it does come up and I come out to more people, I'll be writing about it here! For now, I'm not letting it bother me. I am who I am.
I'm out! My parents had known for a long time before I officially told them because I could never resolve issues between the God that was described for me and what I saw in the world. (Mom's last attempt to keep me inline was trying to get me interested in reading the Left Behind series of books... what a bunch of crap.)

My wife has come around too but not out to her parents. Whenever she discovers somebody else is an atheist at her work or school she tells me "So and so is in 'our group' too." ^_^ It is getting to be enough people that think we could form a group.

Her parents found out when I told them after our wedding (as they drove us to the airport for our honeymoon no less) when they asked why I was insistent on a godless ceremony when they are both Pastors. They both see to the religious needs of the elderly and disabled in care facilities - work I do not envy and have respect for them being able to do. I told them simply that I don't believe in god and my love for KeeYoun and her parents, sisters, my family and friends, etc is just that - mine. God is not only not required for it I am actively against it to show that people can be good without the fear of god shaming them inline. Also I told them I didn't think there were many people who would claim me to be anything but good. Maybe some other adjectives, but mostly an alright guy.

I think after reading many of the experiences people have on here I am lucky to live where I do and to have the family and friends I do. Those who are close to me are understanding and accepting of me and that really helped make it easier to accept who I am and to let it be known.


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