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.

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Replies to This Discussion

i know how you feel living in texas it's not something to talk about either, but lucky for me i found some people who were also atheist and agnostic , and they helped me. my parents wanted me never to tell anyone. they wanted me to deny apart of myself and i didn't listen i told my friends first they were accepting of me. then i told my parents and they didn't react well they were crying and screaming. "i was afaird they were going to hurt me or kick me out" but they didn't. then i did the same thing you did I came out on Facebook. then I lost eveything except the bare minimum of home. no communication with the outside world, except at school for months. at first I didn't understand why until I did some research and found that they were going thru the anger stage of the grieving cycle. after a few months it has been reduced to "something we don't talk about". it's not the best life but it works. I wish I could help more but as intolerance runs rampant their will be no peace.
I can't say it'll be the same for you but my family relaxed after a few months and it became just a taboo topic. They pretend I'm not an atheist, but they also don't try and force church attendance or anything like that. In time you'll find some atheists friends. We are social creatures who naturally look to others for validation. It might be little comfort but I'm glad more people are coming out. I also think their anger hints at their own insecurities.
I think the most beautiful thing about stepping away from the religious boundaries is the freedom to explore the world we live in. I too was raised in an sda home and was told to ignore any sciences that contradicted young earth beliefs. Since leaving the religion I have taken a critical look at the bible and am ashamed of the lies that I embraced.

As for rejection and judgement from our society I believe your uncompromised stand for your values will place you in a position where people will respect you, I respect you already for making a statement on facebook. I ended up leaving facebook altogether because I couldn't "come out," but couldn't take the continued comments like, "happy sabbath everyone!" Every Friggin' Friday.

Good-Luck and remember you are among friends!
I never formally "came out" to some of the older members of my family. It just wasn't worth it. I believe they think I'm "spiritual but not religious".
Well said. We are not a collective, though in some instances (like politics) it might be advantageous for us to work as a group.
Thanks for all the replies to my thoughts. Hearing your thoughts and experiences was encouraging. I have indeed found a Free Thought group here in town, and it's really great to be a part of the group, I just wish they met more often. It seems that a lot of us atheists are caught in a catch 22 of sorts. Stifle a part of ourselves to be accepted (which causes inner turmoil), or be ourselves and put up with the rejection (which also causes inner turmoil). I think in the long run the last option is better. I think honesty will always be the most fulfilling way to go, with ourselves and others. It is only ignorance and fear speaking in the form of others' bigotry. If we confront religion we confront ignorance and fear. I know I only found freedom because people in my life were willing to confront the problems in religion and be confident about it. I hope that I can help others find that same freedom.

Thanks for your thoughts and support,

I'm going on two and a half years now as a baby eater. I haven't fully came out on facebook, but all the clues are there. My religion is "pastafarian". My Christian friends and family have thought it was funny, they don't exactly realize that in addition to being a goofball, I'm directly making fun of religion. I "like" the scientific findings like origins of earth, and universe. There are other clues as well. I don't attack religion, only bad science, like I saw a video that read "6000 years later..." referring to the creation of earth until now. I couldn't let that slide. I do all I can to humanize myself online to let people relate with me. I don't advertise I am an atheist but usually tell people in a personal setting. They are usually shocked but still accept me completely. Good luck!
I have seriously considered putting "pastafarian" as my religion and wondered what people will do. I wonder what your religious friends think that means? It's easy enough to google it.
It sucks being a minority. As a rule of thumb, "good minorities" keep their mouths shut and "bad minorities" make waves.

It doesn't say much for our species that folks who don't believe in magical, invisible beings are a severe minority! When crazy is the norm, not crazy becomes crazy!
You're right, and good point...
I think others are correct. Right now, they are grieving for the loss of your faith. They may be angry because now they are questioning theirs and they may not like the answers they are finding. If they were secure in their beliefs, your lack of belief wouldn't matter. It's like the straight person who could care less if others are gay compared to those who are threatened by gays. In the end, you may find like I have, that you have become a curiosity. Like the white person who thinks they are sophisticated and cosmopolitan because they know one black person. People will try to impress others on their tolerance and sophistication because they know you. They may not know a single other atheist, but they know you so that gives them one up on the person who doesn't know any atheists. Strange what people will use to up their social status.
Trust me my friend, you are not alone and we can't unring the bell. I too was in church all the time and brought up in a very religious environment. I was a pentecostal minister who believed that everything that happened was god's will or some other nonsense. Its tough and agonizing to see our friends and family members turn their backs on us. I'm sure that we all share your pain and could all have stories to tell. You made the right decision as far as coming out of the proverbial closet. I thought long and hard before coming out because of the damage that I thought I would do and have done to me. It so liberating not to have to live a lie or pretend to believe and stand by something that you no longer believe. The mental freedom to me was worth it all. The more I learned about religion and Christianity in particular, the more I hated it. There is no way I would have been able to keep going to church and hearing the lies and endure the manipulation that is going on. I'm sure it would have been the same for you as well.
While I realize that everyone can't say this, I haven't really lost any friends and my wife has chosen to stay with me (for now). It will be tough for now, but I'm sure it will get better.




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