Author Topic: Coming out Atheist  (Read 5789 times)

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Offline Her3tiK

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Coming out Atheist
« on: June 03, 2012, 01:31:17 am »
Hey all, not sure how many of you follow Freethought Blogs, but one of the contributors, Greta Christina, is looking for coming out stories for her next book. She's basically compiling the experiences of nonbelievers to share their stories, and is asking for people to leave a comment describing their experiences or, if you'd like to share but prefer more privacy, send her an email. I thought it was a neat idea and decided to leave my story as a comment, and would love to know if anyone else shares their experiences for her next book as well. That, and I'd love to know y'alls coming out stories if you'd like to share them (there's probably been a thread for this before, but it was a while ago).
Quote
I kind of feel like I was tricked in to telling my family I'm an atheist. My parents knew I'd been teetering between atheist and agnostic throughout middle/high school and were fine with it, but I hadn't planned on telling the rest of my (rather Catholic) family for quite some time.
I came out at a family gathering in our home town of San Diego, where my dad and his siblings were planning my grandmother's 70th birthday. At one point, the discussion turned to my dad's girlfriend talking about how her son needed a teacher/sponsor so he could be Confirmed to the Catholic faith. It was at this point that my dad sarcastically (but playfully) said I should do it. I said "no", he asked why not and, without really thinking, I said "because I'm an atheist". All the conversation in the room stopped, and all of my aunts and uncles just stared at me. I distinctly remembered one of them saying "so you think life has no purpose?" and how much that stung.
For the most part, my family avoids the issue in person; I know they're a little uncomfortable with it, but it's not something we really discuss, and I'm fine with that. My grandmother is surprisingly supportive, though we share a lot of opinions on related topics. The uncle that asked if I thought life had no purpose, however, doesn't seem to be able to accept that I don't believe in gods. I've received several emails from him about how much of a shame it is that I apparently see no value in life (in response to my request to not be included in the exchange of Christmas gifts), and he's recently removed me from his Facebook. I know that it's stupid and petty, but he won't bring it up when we see each other, despite my repeated offers to discuss it. That, more than anything, has been especially hard to cope with.
I responded to most of this uncle's emails with explanations of the things I enjoy in life that give me purpose, including links to relevant information (music, science, etc.) where possible, and I've tried to not touch the specifics of why I don't believe, so as to not offend him, but it doesn't seem to have mattered.
Fortunately, I was somewhat involved in atheist communities online when I came out, and had a large circle of friends who were at least not religious by the time my uncle flipped out on me (The two events are about 5yrs apart). They both helped me sort through the issue to some degree, though I don't know that I'm going to be able to reconcile this without sitting down with my uncle/family and hashing this out.
I think that, if I could have gotten more control over coming out, I would have preferred to bring it up on my birthday. That way, I could've said that all I wanted was a discussion about it, and possibly a Q&A, to get as much awkwardness out of the way without taking up a holiday like Easter or Thanksgiving or something, and thus not ruining someone else's special day. I've never really been one to skirt issues like this, so it feels weird to be sort of forced to do it now, but I don't want to feel like other relatives have disowned me over what is, to me at least, a minor philosophical disagreement.
I don't regret coming out, it would've happened by now one way or another, but I am definitely not happy with how it happened. Overall, I'd say it was a good thing. I'm not very good at keeping quiet about sensitive issues like religion, so having it out in the open at least deadens the shock a little when I make some off-hand remark about the pope or something.
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Offline ThunderWulf

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Re: Coming out Atheist
« Reply #1 on: June 03, 2012, 11:45:52 am »
That's pretty interesting.  Might have to think about submitting my story.  I'll type it later though, because I'm like half awake right now. :P
« Last Edit: June 03, 2012, 11:59:02 am by TGRwulf »
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Offline TenfoldMaquette

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Re: Coming out Atheist
« Reply #2 on: June 03, 2012, 10:27:11 pm »
I "came out Atheist" to my family, who ignored it - the same way they ignore everything else about me that doesn't fit into their little pre-conceived idea of who and what I am. As far as they're concerned, I'm Episcopalian like they are, and that's that - my opinion doesn't matter because I don't get a say. One of the many, many reasons I don't speak to them anymore.

Offline The Right Honourable Mlle Antéchrist

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Re: Coming out Atheist
« Reply #3 on: June 03, 2012, 10:35:50 pm »
I feel like my "coming out" story is far too boring to be submitted. Raised Anglican, slowly expressed more and more skepticism about religion until I was finally just like, "Yeah, I'm an atheist, guys.", and never really faced much other than the standard, "But how can you handle believing that life is pointless?" crap, though my dad does still make some passive aggressive comments about it from time to time.
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Offline ThunderWulf

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Re: Coming out Atheist
« Reply #4 on: June 03, 2012, 11:54:12 pm »
Okay, so here's my story.

Quote
My "Coming Out Atheist" story happened when I was 16.

I first started doubting my faith when I was in my pre-teens, but my family, who are all Catholic, didn't know anything about this until I was more than halfway through high school.  By that point I was rather involved with a lot of the online community.  I had even started making some videos on the subject on my first YouTube channel.  A now former friend of mine happened to stumble upon a video I made for an "Atheist Challenge" about why I didn't believe anymore.  What I didn't know about that person before then was that he was extremely bigoted against atheism and non-religious people.

Instead of talking to me about it or even just telling me the video made him feel uncomfortable, he passive aggressively sends my little sister a link to the video.  My sister of course ran and told my parents, who watched the whole video before I even got home from work that day.  They apparently thought that the contents of the video were pretty blasphemous, and were pissed off when I got home.  I knew I was in trouble, but I hadn't anticipated what happened next.

Before I could even wrap my head around what was going on, my family (excluding my brother who was away) had started LITERALLY exorcising my room.  My sister cut out a cross from a sheet of construction paper, and she and my mom wrote prayers on it and taped it to my bedroom door.  Meanwhile, my dad  lit a candle from when they saw the pope in NY and sprinkle absolutely everything I owned with holy water supposedly from my baptism.  My father then had me sit down at my computer with him behind me, and forced me to full out delete my YouTube account while he was there watching.

A few months after the incident, things had cooled down a bit.  It was at this point I definitely noticed a trend between my family members.  My dad and my sister were still pretty much in denial, while my mom and my brother were seeming to start being somewhat more accepting about it.  I still remember that my mom was disappointed that I didn't believe in a "higher power" anymore, while my dad more concerned that I "wasn't Christian".  Overall, my family basically swept the whole thing under the rug, and still act like I'm Christian in front of relatives who don't know I don't believe yet.

Ironically, people outside my family were a lot more supportive about this revelation than my family were.  My coworkers mostly have very similar beliefs and were behind me 100% through everything, as were some of my good friends.  If I were to redo the events that unfolded back then, I probably would have told my parents myself, as I belief that would have gotten a less drastic response.  However, I still feel that holding my head high through it all and refusing to cave in and believe what people want me to has made me a stronger person in the long run.
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Offline RavynousHunter

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Re: Coming out Atheist
« Reply #5 on: June 04, 2012, 12:34:27 am »
Man, my coming out story's boring...damn my parents and their "salvation by acts" stance.
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Offline czechmate

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Re: Coming out Atheist
« Reply #6 on: June 04, 2012, 05:36:50 am »
I am DSc in Theology (attained 1947) and became atheist in 1986.
My only regret is that I did not become atheist before that, but on the other hand I understand better the utter bullshit that is organised religion with Christianity being the worst of all.
There are religions/philosophies out there that are worthy of the highest respect in that they are more focused on humanity, and not sacrificing oneself or family to please some imaginary non-entity.
At the moment, the RCC is embarking on a bitter campaign to destroy "aggressive" secularism whilst covering the tracks of their own bloody and corrupt history.

Offline rookie

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Re: Coming out Atheist
« Reply #7 on: June 04, 2012, 11:13:26 am »
OK, let's see. After 8 years of Catholic school, I was about done with Catholicism. I went to a few other churches once I turned 16 and had a car. None really felt right. When I was 18, I enlisted. All I was allowed for reading material was army books and "religious texts" (here religious texts are supposed to be the bible, but they can't really say anything about the Koran (pre 9-11) or any others). So I read the bible cover to cover. Twice. (Mostly the second time was because I felt I had missed some things to tie everything together. If I did the first time, I must have the second time as well.) And then I started going on "company trips" and seeing the crap done in the name of personal deities, often the same deity. I pretty much faded into what Dawkins calls agnostic atheism.
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Offline VirtualStranger

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Re: Coming out Atheist
« Reply #8 on: June 04, 2012, 04:20:03 pm »
I'm not fond of using the term "coming out" in the context of atheism because it feels like it's appropriating the struggle of a group that is far more heavily stigmatized and faces much more hardship than your own.

Offline RavynousHunter

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Re: Coming out Atheist
« Reply #9 on: June 04, 2012, 04:37:12 pm »
I'm not fond of using the term "coming out" in the context of atheism because it feels like it's appropriating the struggle of a group that is far more heavily stigmatized and faces much more hardship than your own.
Umm...what?  Excuse me while I call bullshit.  You ever read the mainpage?  You've got people calling for the deaths of atheists just like they call for the deaths of LGBT folks.  Kids are ostracized, bullied, and beaten for lacking religion just like they would be for being homosexual.  Also, if I remember correctly, there was a study, somewhere, stating that, of all minority groups, atheists are the least trusted of them all.  We've got a struggle, too.  Its not greater than the LGBT struggle, but it is equal in importance and atheists face much the same torment that LGBT people do.  We're not "appropriating" their terms, we're sharing them, because our struggles are shared.  We can only fight bigotry if we fight it as a united front.
« Last Edit: June 04, 2012, 04:38:43 pm by RavynousHunter »
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Offline Saturn500

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Re: Coming out Atheist
« Reply #10 on: June 04, 2012, 04:38:19 pm »
I'm not fond of using the term "coming out" in the context of atheism because it feels like it's appropriating the struggle of a group that is far more heavily stigmatized and faces much more hardship than your own.
Umm...what?  Excuse me while I call bullshit.  You ever read the mainpage?  You've got people calling for the deaths of atheists just like they call for the deaths of LGBT folks.  Kids are ostracized, bullied, and beaten for lacking religion just like they would be for being homosexual.  Also, if I remember correctly, there was a study, somewhere, stating that, of all minority groups, atheists are the least trusted of them all.  We've got a struggle, too.  Its not greater than the LGBT struggle, but it is equal in importance and atheists face much the same torment that LGBT people do.

This.


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Offline Osama bin Bambi

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Re: Coming out Atheist
« Reply #11 on: June 04, 2012, 07:37:11 pm »
I think it was in a car ride and my mom was talking on the phone to someone.

Mom: "Yeah, I'm a secular Jew, my husband's a lapsed Catholic, the boy's too young to decide, and I have no idea what my daughter is."

Me: "I'm an atheist."

Mom: "That's nice honey, but don't interrupt."

Now the only people who make fun of my atheism is my dad ("Where do you think you got your smarts from? God?") and my grandmother ("When I was your age I was an atheist too. You'll grow out of it.").
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Re: Coming out Atheist
« Reply #12 on: June 04, 2012, 07:42:44 pm »
I think it was in a car ride and my mom was talking on the phone to someone.

Mom: "Yeah, I'm a secular Jew, my husband's a lapsed Catholic, the boy's too young to decide, and I have no idea what my daughter is."

Me: "I'm an atheist."

Mom: "That's nice honey, but don't interrupt."

Now the only people who make fun of my atheism is my dad ("Where do you think you got your smarts from? God?") and my grandmother ("When I was your age I was an atheist too. You'll grow out of it.").

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Re: Coming out Atheist
« Reply #13 on: June 04, 2012, 07:48:53 pm »
I'm not fond of using the term "coming out" in the context of atheism because it feels like it's appropriating the struggle of a group that is far more heavily stigmatized and faces much more hardship than your own.
Umm...what?  Excuse me while I call bullshit.  You ever read the mainpage?  You've got people calling for the deaths of atheists just like they call for the deaths of LGBT folks.  Kids are ostracized, bullied, and beaten for lacking religion just like they would be for being homosexual.  Also, if I remember correctly, there was a study, somewhere, stating that, of all minority groups, atheists are the least trusted of them all.  We've got a struggle, too.  Its not greater than the LGBT struggle, but it is equal in importance and atheists face much the same torment that LGBT people do.

This.

This.

I would even go so far as to say that atheism may face worse prejudice than lesbians, gays, and bisexuals do.
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Re: Coming out Atheist
« Reply #14 on: June 05, 2012, 06:27:03 am »
This.

I would even go so far as to say that atheism may face worse prejudice than lesbians, gays, and bisexuals do.
It's all punishable by death in the wrong areas of the world, so worse is a hard thing to quantify.

My own story has very little to do with coming out, more personal realization. But when I did, my mother asked why and I started rattling off various things that bothered me. She pretty much nodded her head, agreed, and we do the odd coversation on religious topics to cover whatever bits are interesting ever since. No one else really cares, assuming they know.