I am curious to hear everyone else's experience with "coming out". Did you have to work up to it and cut a few people from the herd to break the news to? Did you go straight for the family blabbermouth and let nature take its course? Social media? Or, did you just grab the megaphone and blurt it out?
A little back story:
I am a 39 year old, married, father of two young boys. A confused skeptic since about 10, a confident and confirmed non-believer for the last few years.
I live in a VERY Catholic part of Cincinnati, my wife's family is Catholic, as is mine, though mine tend to be skeptics, and there are a couple like me thrown in.
I sat my wife down a couple years ago, swallowed hard, and spit it out. i was completely honest about the way I felt, and apologized for not telling her sooner. To her credit, she handled it pretty well. She is a little disappointed that I wouldn't be attending church any more, but just between you and me I think she harbors a little skepticism of her own.
Friends and (wife's) family were much more difficult. I DID NOT want to have the same conversation over and over, and I really didn't want to have to justify my decision.
I just went for it.
I found posting on another site that really spoke to me and posted it to my Facebook page, followed by comments from me. I know this is definitely not the recommended course of action, but it was if nothing else, VERY effective in getting the initial word out. The problem is, there is no real way to know who has read the posting and who hasn't unless they say something to me. This has made some conversations a little hairy :-).
Friends turned out to be a non-issue. Even the ones I thought might be hurt or angered by my coming out were extremely supportive. I feel a little bad for doubting them, but it has definitely reaffirmed our friendships.
Family was as expected, the ones that have similar beliefs were right there with me, and the ones that do not throw an easily ignored comment my way on occasion, that really is about it. My wife tells me she has gotten lots of messages from her family telling her that they are praying for her as if she just found out I was an axe murderer. (why do I find that so funny!?)
If I take one thing from my experience it is this: coming out and being honest is absolutely and completely worth the initial headaches!! You may think that the world is going to fold in around you, but i'm here to tell you it won't. When you are ready, go for it.
If I may, below is a copy/paste of my exact post to FB a few months back, starting with the posting from another site and followed with my comments. (My words are in blue)
I'd love to hear your experiences!
Great story. Thanks for telling it.
Each of us has different family dynamic, different experience, different temperament. There is no right way to tell our families, friends, associates. There is often the metaphor with respect to being gay. Again, there is no 'right way'. In the "facebook era", maybe gay folks come out on facebook too.
I deal with thousands of people in a years' time. Because of that, and the issues of constant, anonymous evaluations that my employer sends out (medical), and the concept of needing to assure unbiased "therapeutic alliance", I keep myself as much a blank slate as possible. I don't pretend to any faith, but I stay off facebook because I know people search on me. I know that from experience.
When people bring up their faith, I re-orient the issue to what my role is, how I can address their concerns, and I emphasize that I treat everyone with the same concern and professionalism regardless of their personal beliefs, not discriminating for or against anyone. I would say the same about race or gender, but it's impossible to be a blank slate on those issues, given that those are there for all to see. Actually, people do ask about my ethnicity, but I'm mostly Euro-American and say "Heinz -57" and move on.
As for family (parents) experience, part of my journey passed through Unitarian Universalism. My fundamentalist Baptist family was sure that was the road to hell. They were not overbearing about it, just worried about the fate of my soul. Religion gradually became a nontopic, and peace was maintained. But I did not go further and go into the atheism aspect. They are dead now, and while there are some things I wish were said, I think I did the right thing by them.
I hope things go well with your family. In the end, you are the one who knows best.
Not wanting to derail, but things pop into my head sometimes that I don't know what to do with. I love Star Trek. But when you mentioned Picard in the hands of the Cardassians, all I could think of was he was being tortured by Kim Cardassian, and Cloe Cardassian, and Kourtney Cardassian. That is more torture than even Picard could bear. The horror!
I came-out to my Mormon family by writing a letter to all of them (mother, 4 siblings and son-in-law), explaining why I knew there were no gods.
I mailed them at different days, so they would all get them at the same time, hoping to reduce the misrepresenting of facts by the rumor-mill running amok. :)
I didn't want to talk to them about it because I'm not good at face to face discussions.
While in the heat of discussion, I don't remember many things I want to say, plus I don't think very fast, which would put my point of view at a disadvantage, especially if I were talking to more than one at a time. I also hate drama and would have expected crying and other unpleasant reactions.
I waited until my dad (who I loved) to pass-away, to avoid causing him the pain it would have, but couldn't wait until mom died.
The main reason is because my sister and her husband (who had mom living with them), kept harassing me to come visit. But, when I did, she talked about religion all the time, and it was very annoying keeping my mouth shut. My son-in-law also harassed me to visit.
I also got annoyed with the religious pictures on the walls of some of my family members. My son-in-law and his wife were religious fanatics and had religious pictures cheek-jowl on all the walls! I also couldn't stand to see them brainwash their 8 children. Poor buggers! Made me so sad.
One of my sisters replied by e-mail, repeating the standard answers and comments she had been programmed to parrot. I responded with counter-arguments, but basically indicated, that yes, I used to use those arguments also, but they no longer impressed me.
So far, in the ~3 years since, the rest of my family have remained silent on the matter for the most part. I keep thinking that I should make a final try at convincing them to stop wasting their time, intellect, and 11% or more of their income by pointing-out the many stupidities of Mormonism I've learned since that coming-out letter.
I didn't have any close friends. The only friend I had was just an acquaintance, and I gave-up the hopeless task of discussing it with him after he said he used to be scientific, but now knew there were better methods of learning the truth.
I am kind of semi-out. I have told a few people that i am an atheiest, but i have not said anything to my family. I even hide my Dawkins books like a teenage hides his playboys. Sometime i tell people things like, "i was raised Lutheran, but i don't attend church anymore." I am a bit of a coward, i guess. Sometimes it is easier to be honest with strangers than with the people you love. My husband knows, and he could care less, but church was not as big a deal in his family as it was in mine. I just don't want to have conflicts with my family. Is it really worth it to come out?
So funny! I hid Dawkins and Hitchens whenever family and friends came over! I still don't have the on the coffee table for the parents to see, because I am not out to them. I'm out to essentially everybody else.
Is it worth it? That depends on what you think you stand to lose. I was secure enough in my families love that it was defintley worth it. Had I not been I don't know if it would have been or not.
My daughter was a grown woman and my grand kids are young. I think I'm so open about it because I let religion,and the area we live in, dictate I at least deny being atheist during my daughters childhood. I want my grand kids to know there are people like me in the world and we're not evil or cruel Just people who do the best they can with life.
I just trickled out that I was a non believer...and the more blow back I got..the more I gave...to friends or family alike. I burned some bridges and some were burned with me. I am happier now for it. Good stories posted here. It is rough coming out, but well worth the trouble..I may not be as employable anymore...I work in healthcare and many of them are religiously based corporations.
David, I read that you live in a "VERY Catholic part of Cincinnati" and decided to read your post. I too grew up in Cincinnati and for a time lived in a suburb in which I saw only one non-Catholic church. (Mt. Wash.)
My dad sent his five kids to Catholic schools, and before he died in the late 1970s he knew all five of us had left the Church. We did not plan or even talk about revenge, but for the three oldest it might have been our revenge for his occasional violence.
I finally told my family. I've been atheist for over 15 years now. Agnostic 15 years prior to that. I would sometimes go to their churches for some special function and just fume. Till I stopped going to any churce activity and told them why. Of couse,at my age I'm secure in the fact that, no matter what, my family will always love me. And they do.
I couldn't listen to anymore hellfire and damnation and I certainly couldn't listen to any more hating on gays,Jews,Catholics,,etc...
Jaffo is a genius.