Given how obsessed people in Mississippi are with Christianity, being an atheist here is very isolating and difficult. Add to that the fact that I'm Black AND non-heterosexual, and we're talking SOCIAL SUICIDE. The Christian church is like a deadly drug to Black people here, yet being amidst believers-- for me-- is like being the only sober person in a room full of people who are stoned out their minds and thus delusional and convinced that the problem is ME. I work at one of the HBCUs here, and I'm closeted about my atheism because I know there would be hell to pay (pun intended) if people knew.
But for me, hiding it in the workplace is easy. It was keeping it from my mother that was torturous. She's an evangelical, radical-type Christian minister, so my worst fear was that she'd disown me. But I decided that, by not telling her, I wasn't actually in a real relationship with her; she was, in essence, talking to a stranger, and I got sick of that-- of being fake, just to satisfy her. So, I told her in November. She didn't disown me, but she's made it painfully clear that he HATES it, and our relationship hasn't been the same. Nevertheless, telling her was a load off and I'm very glad I did. I know she'll never listen to or understand my POV about it, but at least she didn't shut me out.
I'm certain that there are more atheists in Mississippi than what's represented on the Internet, but most of us are closeted because there are often negative consequences of being "out" about it. It makes me so angry that we can't be true to ourselves without risking our peace and relationships, and in some cases our jobs/livelihood. But what can we do considering how out-numbered we are?
Being an atheist in Mississippi is probably worse than being gay. And considering I'm not exactly straight myself, being an athiest for me... is a nightmare. If only I could get away...
I'm so sorry for responding so late to this. It's been a crazy few months!
Well, truth is, I'm NOT coping well with my mom. She went from being angry about it to now being in total denial-- almost to the point of blatant disregard for me. So my anger and resentment are growing. I'd almost rather she disowned me than to treat me as if I never said it-- 'cause at least by disowning me I'd know she actually HEARD me and BELIEVED me, rather than her acting like I never said it. It's like telling someone your name is John, but they insist on continually calling you Sam (and introducing you to others as Sam) even though you correct them each time. It makes me feel small and insignificant, and it's been a source of depression for me. I just want to move away so I won't have to feel obligated to have a close relationship with her. I know that sounds awful and it's weird and embarrassing to admit that considering how much I love her, but I think being so physically close by makes things MUCH harder. I keep expecting her to change and be the mom I desperately need, but she won't-- and I think I'll have a better chance of accepting that if we lived hundreds of miles apart instead of 40.
Hi Aly! Good to hear from you.
You are absolutely right that being an atheist in Mississippi can be isolating, and the statement about being the only sober person in a room full of stoned people is as good a description as I've ever heard about what it is like here. I'm White, but even from the outside, it is obvious to me that evangelical fundamentalist Christianity is a central part of the Black experience in our state. Being gay on top of that really does set you up for some serious exclusion.
I'm glad to hear that you weren't disowned by your mother. Hopefully, she will come to terms with who you are eventually. You are so right about how hard it is not being able to be ourselves. I imagine most of us have been struggling with that. I'm not sure what the answer is, or even if there is one. I like to think that finding each other and being able to talk about it is a valuable first step, but I'm not sure where to go next.
Thanks vjack! My mom is in serious denial about it. Today, in fact, she introduced me to a church friend as "Prophetess Aly" and told her-- right in my face-- that god told her that he called me to be a prophet, but I'm trying to run from it. It took everything in me not to tell her off, but I didn't want to disrespect her in front of her friend. It just kills me that she refuses to acknowledge it. I'd almost rather she DID disown me, because at least then I'd know she believed me when I said I'm an atheist. But as it stands, she's acting like I never said anything... which actually makes me feel worse for some reason. :-(
My mom has NO IDEA that I'm not straight, and after how she's handling the atheist thing, I just don't think I can bring myself to tell her about that. And you're right-- I definitely feel like a stranger to her without her knowing. But at the same time, I just don't think I can handle more criticism and rejection from her. She finds homosexuality "disgusting and sickening" (her exact words), so I know what teensy weensy bit of peace we have left would be out the window if she knew that truth.
It sucks to know that the person my mom sees as her daughter isn't me at all, rather the woman she wants me to be or the woman I present myself to be in order to win her love. It really, really hurts... that she doesn't know the real me at all.
Black & Gay & Atheist, wow. I seriously get stewed over the Father-God, white male-dominated, Christian-saturated culture of Mississippi...I bet you get angry about it too. Sometimes I just wanna shake the women I care about and make them wake up to the reality that they are following a religion that is designed to control and exploit them.
I wish you luck, Aly. It is hard enough just to be an atheist in the bible belt. I can't imagine what it is like to be a black woman in this state. And loving another woman openly is certainly not something that you won't get persecuted for either. Things are changing though. I just wish they would change in Mississippi as well.