I was in the hospital recently for knee replacement surgery. I was getting along fine with my roommate, I'll call her Lucy. It turned out Lucy is Catholic, which I had overheard her mention during a phone conversation she received. I kept hoping I might have an opportunity to discuss my atheism with her but it didn’t come up. By the second day of our sharing a room, her priest, dressed in street clothes, stopped in to visit her and give her communion.

The priest was very friendly. He greeted us both with a smile and, as he talked with Lucy, he occasionally looked my way as if to include me in the conversation. My stomach was beginning to tighten, as it often does when I want so much to have an opportunity to talk to the religious about my life as an atheist and former Christian. As I listened politely, eventually the priest addressed me directly and asked if I was affiliated with any church. I said simply and with confidence, “No, I’m an atheist. I used to belong to the Methodist Church many years ago.”

How I wish I could have known what was going on in his mind. From the way his face suddenly looked, a look I would call totally expressionless, you would have thought I had just told him I was a terrorist or a satanist. At that moment, a medical staff person came in to tend to Lucy; so the priest excused himself and said he would be back.

My first thought was that I was sorry I hadn’t had a chance to say more; but then I gave myself kudos for speaking up and saying, with confidence, “I’m an atheist.” When the priest returned, he was very serious. He mostly ignored me, gave Lucy communion and left.

Lucy said nothing to me about my atheism but continued to treat me just as she had, with friendliness.

I am so proud of myself for standing up confidently as an atheist; and I am so glad I took that opportunity, though very brief, to demonstrate that atheists are “coming out of the closet.”

I would be interested to hear of experiences others have had announcing their atheism.

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Replies to This Discussion

Good job, Lois.  That took a lot of courage.  If that priest did not know how to take you, at least he did not say anything against you.  Your gentle challenge may have done him some good.

Thanks for the support Andrew. It was my feeling as well that just the fact that I announced my atheism without hesitation would be enough to give the priest and my roommate something to think about. Lois
Great story! Thanks for sharing.
All my pleasure Mikel. I hope I have further opportunities in the future. Actually, I'm sure I will. But I find it interesting that my xtian relatives never ask me why I reject xtianity after years of being active in the church. I agree with others who feel that xtians fear atheists. My feeling is, after being taught as a child a belief in the supernatural, continuing belief in the supernatural as an adult is more of a challenge. That is why the church has to keep such a tight community...safety in numbers! Peace. Lois

It is tough to 'come out'.  


You know we can focus on our own insecurities and in reality the problem wasn't you, it was the Priest - god only knows why he responded like that - LOL - pun totally intended...  but he may well have been feeling very doubtful himself about his faith - and you triggered some internal pain for him...  or any other such story we might imagine - but the bottom line is - that it was his problem - not yours. :)

Thanks for the kind response Alice. You're completely right. I will never know why the priest reacted the way he did. I was glad that my roommate and I still got along fine.  Lois (elcee305)

Your welcome :)

Good job promoting positive atheism. I recently had an opportunity, too. The barista at the local Starbucks stated that her good manners were a testament to god's grace. I told her that my good manners came from realizing that I have only one life and should spend it as well as possible.

Great response, Doris.



Sounds like awesome. The possibility of talking about my atheism came up a few days ago at work....and I couldn't. I knew I couldn't. We were discussing my degree in Anthropology and a random woman said "You need to look into becoming a follower of Kent Hovind(psycho, 20 years in high school biology apparently makes you a master of all sciences...), and he has the final word on things like this." I said my professors were plenty intelligent and had real field experience, so no thank you. She was upset that I rejected this, and then after that we didn't discuss my degree anymore.

The woman I work with a Seventh-Day Adventist--she believes human beings used to live to be 900 years old, and I know I could easily correct her, but...it's work, and I don't think it'd be worth the strain I'd create to correct her. That and she has the ability to release several more (work)hours to me....which I do want. My boss doesn't even know, and it hasn't come up with her yet. She knows I have a degree in Anthro, though.

But it's basically the same deal as with my family. As wrong as they are(Christmas was created by JEESUS!, You must not be beleiving in god any more because we haven't celebrated Christmas enough the past.....22 years), I can't correct them without causing extreme anger and problems for myself. I have to weigh the possibilities and outcomes and fully giving them such knowledge would only make them very upset--they probably wouldn't even fully listen, at "Well Mithra was actually before Jesus, and he was born on the 25th, and the first celebrations of Yule were about him---the catholic church co-opted Mithra's birthday to control the peasantry."---at about "before" they'd stop listening. I find this happens a lot, even when I ask a real question on someplace like twitter they stop listening when they realize I'm an atheist and don't take my seriously--one girl's answer was "duh, god can do anything he wants, you need to free your mind and realize the reality!"--when my question was "How can you have enough water on the surface of the earth to cover all the mountains and make an endless ocean...without emptying the oceans?" When I said that wasn't an answer they said "I pity you but asking questions shows that you're aching for God! Keep praying!"

There's often a logical disconnect and they stop listening when they find out you don't believe exactly as they do. It doesn't matter that I could pull out the exact scientific articles that substantiate my beliefs--they believe in jesus, I don't, they often don't rest until I "profess with my tongue the lord and bow at my knees to the one true god" which sounds vaguely bdsm-ic.

Jonel, your use of logic to address emotionally-held beliefs will not persuade people to change (or even examine) their beliefs. It may however sharpen your ability to use logic.



I know, but I'd rather not shove emotion against emotion. That's not exactly a fair assumption that my emotions are more important than theirs.



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