I've been a closeted atheist for...upwards of six years. I let it slip once in seventh grade -- none of my classmates believed it. One girl actually said she couldn't be my friend because of it.
Since then, I've been terribly afraid of losing potential friends, so I've had to lie and tell them I'm an agnostic. I'm tired of pretending, but the fear still exists. How can I get over it and show people my true self?
You could just say " I think that when we die, we die - just like all other life forms on the planet."
At your age and with the peer pressure factor, it is NOT going to be easy, and less so depending on how virulent the religious atmosphere is at your school and in your community. It's going to mean your being strong in yourself and your stance.
One good thing, though: those friends you keep despite your atheism will likely NOT be of the "fair-weather" variety.
Are you in college now? If so, look for a Secular Student Alliance group on your campus. If not, well...you don't have to tell everybody all at once. Figure out who you can trust (yeah, that is difficult), and wait for the subject to come up.
If the potential friend dumps you because of this, then they wouldn't have been much of a friend.
If you encounter a True Believer who tries to drag you into whatever their belief system is, tell them politely that it's impossible to force yourself to believe something that isn't true for you. If they persist, RUN!
I agree with Loren. Pick your battles. After you're emancipated, it gets easier to be your true self. If you're in college, it depends upon the institution's tolerance.
You can look for local atheist meet ups. Chicago surely has some.
Just as well that intolerant friend opted herself out. She would not have been good for you, creating social pressure to deny your true self. The real benefit of friends is validation of your worth. If you have to put on a front, real validation isn't possible.
You might consider borrowing Covering by Kenji Yoshino from the library. While it focuses on LGBT issues, it applies to all sorts of coming out.
Good question - I think that people are more concerned about your predictability and moral values then they are whether you are an atheist or theist. If you are consistent in your character and hold moral values - what should it matter to them if you an atheist?
How you come out really is up to you - depends on the type of relationship and your reasons for wanting it to be known. I told my husband, because I thought that important, especially as he was speaking to me regularly in terms of supernatural beliefs that I did not share - so I told him straight out - I'm an atheist, I don't believe there is any god.
But I have other friends who are Christian who I see no need to bring up the matter - they know that I am not a Christian - and that's enough for them - they seem to like me for who they know me as.
If others are preaching to you on a regular basis - I think it might be worth saying something about your beliefs and why you hold them - just briefly - not to justify, but to explain that your position is not up for debate with them.
You have joined AN and now everyone here will know the true yourself. You will make many friends here and for some time you can remain satisfied with this. It is very good that you have joined AN.
I have come to know several cases like you here and my amazement at how an educated society remains so intolerant never ceases.
Maia, as Kalikiano wrote, "...believe in yourself and gain internal strength from who and what you are."
I once worked on a phone line that heard from young people who'd been abused and I asked callers to repeat these words: "I love myself unconditionally." When callers had difficulty saying the fourth word, and many did, I stayed with them as long as they wished, encouraging them to call again on other days when they could talk with other people.
One way to gain internal strength is to build your self-respect: start a list of things you've done or said that you are proud of.
And know this: the girl who said she couldn't be your friend was protecting herself. By taking herself away from you, she weakened herself more.
People who want to improve their abilities (become runners, play a musical instrument, et cetera) practice the skills they want to develop. To start, put yourself where you will meet people you admire. You will meet some who inspire you.
The best advice I can give is that anyone who won't be your friend because you don't believe in their invisible sky father, wouldn't have been your friend regardless.
You will find your 'power' in knowledge of your enemy's position. Should a discussion arize you will have the knowledge to post your position in an artful way.
Make no mistake, Christianity is your enemy as you'll see along your pathway of life. Even the current GOP Presidential debates going on show this. They all calim they are 'called of God' to run for this high office. That's going to be a LOT to contend with over the years.
In 1987 - after I had served my country in the armed forces (AF) for 4 years - I was slapped right squarely in-the-face by a future United States President. This is how that went down....
When George H.W. Bush was a candidate for the 'presidency' in 1987 - he was in Chicago and a reporter asked him a question about how he planned to 'garner the atheist vote in America.'
When the 2nd part of the question was asked - 'Did he recognize the citizenship of U.S. Athesits his response was, - "No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God."
So there you go non-beleivers. Even a future president of the United States of America has disrespected you. When this happened, not a single CHRISTIAN disagreed. Not a single Christian voice was raised - yet some atheists think I'm to 'hard' on Christians, and Christianity. I'm telling everyone it just isn't so. Christianity deserves all the ridicule I can muster.
As one 'comes out' it will most likely be painful. It's also painful hiding isn't it? Either way - you'll eventually feel you've had enough and step forward and see exactly whom your so-called 'friends' really are.
I need some help on this topic also - I'm coming out with rational thought on facebook at the moment - and am now facing all my religious / spiritual / alternative healing friends - head on almost Hitchen's style - I fear that I won't have any friends left once I'm done - as pretty much all of my friends are into homeopathy, God, spiritual thinking, religions of some sort etc.... I wouldn't though have done this before when I was more involved with these friends - I still value these people as friends and people - but I am I suppose testing those friendships when I post this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMGIbOGu8q0 or this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kr1I3mBojc0 on my facebook page......
Alice, that you're doing it tells me you see in yourself both a need to do it and the strength to cope with the consequences you perhaps don't see, or don't see clearly.
Where are the people you want to be like? Can you put yourself close to them?
I ask that because, years ago as I was learning how to assert my values, I wanted my friends to come with me. They weren't ready and for a time I was unhappy.
I saw no alternative to making new friends. I did so and became happier than I'd been.
Tom - well I'm along way along - in that my husband when I met him believed in God, reincarnation, an eternal world cycle that repeated identically every 5,000 years and that he was a soul not a body - the meditation part of it was good - but he gave that up before we got involved, along with other religious practices.
It took 17 years, but the other day he announced to me that he was an atheist!!!!! Good God what happened man?!!!
So, we may all be going out to an atheist meeting tomorrow night....
It seems that my inane and insane rantings about rational thought, free thinking, a disbelief in God et al actually sank in and made an impression..... which was perhaps what gave me hope that it wasn't all a complete waste of time, and that inane and insane rantings do have an effect and are worth expressing.... if it means that others become more enlightened and subscribe increasingly to rational and free thought.