I have been an atheist for about a year now. Before that I was very religious. I grew up in a Seventh Day Adventist home, and worked as a church musician every Sunday morning since age fifteen. This means I was usually in church both Saturday and Sunday of every week. After learning more about the history of the bible, religion, and that my fear of hell had been causing emotional and psychological problems in my life, I left it all behind and became an atheist. I made the mistake of "coming out" immediately to all my facebook friends. http://www.considerateatheist.com/?p=8
(There's the link). The response was not good. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised. I can remember how we all spoke about atheists in church and amongst believers. Atheists were the epitome of evil, doing the Devil's handiwork on earth. At least that is how we viewed them. I now I know that that is how my friends and family view me. They don't say it to my face (well, not all of them), but I know what they think of me, as I once held those same opinions in their company.
The problem I am facing now is I feel like I can't be myself in society. Our nation (and my part of the country especially) is so religious, I feel like I always have to sensor myself. I never can tell who is religious or not, and I can only guess what someone might think of me if they learned what I (didn't) believe.
Statistics only support my worries. Polls show that atheists are the most hated and feared minority in this country, beating out gays, Muslims, etc...
I guess I wish I was back in the closet, but I'm not sure if that is healthy either. I've always wanted to be respected in society, but I can't compromise my values and the freedom that atheism brings me. I long for the ability to stand strong and be proud of who I am, but my fear of rejection and judgment is keeping me silent.
I would love to hear if any of you have felt the same thing, and how you may have dealt with it. Thanks for taking the time to listen.