Friday, August 12, 2011

I'm Out. Now what?

As I mentioned when I came out as an atheist, I hesitated for a long time to announce my lack of religious faith because I fear being shunned and judged. Today that fear was justified when I noticed that one of my uncles deleted me from his "friends" list on Facebook after a couple of back and forth comments that started with him wishing God's blessing on me. This is an uncle that I see only a few times a year because of distance, and Facebook was our primary means of communication. Since my dad passed away nearly five years ago, I've felt a special (though now I suspect one-sided) connection with this particular uncle who reminds me so much of my dad with his appearance and mannerisms. You know what? I understand not wanting to be confronted with an idea one finds offensive, as apparently my atheism is to him. But I don't think that's why he deleted me. I believe that he, like many other conservative Christians, likes to lump all atheists into a group of "immoral" or even "evil" people, and when he reads little status updates with snippets from our very normal lives, it interferes with his conservative ideas about atheism. It's much easier for him to keep all of his ideas if he simply dismisses me altogether. It sure doesn't feel good to be dismissed though.

My uncle's response to my atheism makes me wonder how my parents would have responded, had I revealed my views to them while they were living. That sounds suspiciously like something to explore in another blog post, another day...

Other than the above mentioned uncle's response and a couple expected "I'll pray for you" comments on Facebook, I've received such a warm outpouring of support since I came out. And while I greatly appreciated the warmth from my atheist friends and family, it really meant the world to me to read positive and reaffirming messages from many of the Christians in my life. They are good ambassadors of their faith.

I'm also moved almost beyond words by the messages I've been flooded with from the online atheist community, thanks to Hemant Mehta and the Secular Homeschool community. Knowing that others have felt and experienced what I have is very empowering, and very easy to forget in the day to day life of this small town.  Dale McGowan encourages us to "be out and be normal." This does not mean I want to dwell on my atheism ad nauseum, but it does mean I won't be pretending or trying to hide it anymore, especially in front of my kids.


  1. I think coming out is, in several ways, similar to having a baby. You think about the "event" for quite some time, you even plan for it, but then the day comes and you realize you had spent a great deal of time planning for the event, and not life afterward. And just like becoming a parent, some of your friends will change. You single/friends without kids may not come around as much, but you will meet new people at the park, zoo or playgroup.

    This is something that has been growing in you for some time now, so I guess the most appropriate thing to say is, Congratulations!

  2. I know, I know. It happened to me too...friends disappearing, a cold shoulder I had never noticed in people before, weird prayer comments.
    In the end, it comes down to knowing yourself and being true to yourself!
    Good for your integrity!

  3. How VERY Christian of Uncle Jesus.

    But hey, wait til he finds about your Satanic Cult Membership for Special Heathens.

  4. Hi. I just read your blog post from a link posted by Secular Homeschool on facebook. I joined that community, but I haven't had much time to go there and interact so I can get to know people. I grew up as a believer, and spent a good bit of my life in Christian fundamentalism. Though I wouldn't say I'm an athiest, my faith has been severely shaken, and I relate to the rejection on a certain level, just from leaving a church. My 17 yo son is already an avowed athiest, and our relationship is much more important to me than any dogma.
    I respect your courage in telling the truth and being yourself. Your uncle's response is really sad. I am going through rejection by two family members simply for not sending my daughter to their favorite Christian university. After going there myself, not by choice, but because that was the only option I saw at that time, there is no way in, well, you know. =)
    Just wanted to say I'm glad for the chance to get to know you through your blog. Have a great school year. (I also homeschool--year 15--though no longer for religious reasons.)

  5. Hi, I found your blog through the secular homeschooling forums. I am so glad to find more secular homeschoolers these days through the forums and google+.

    When I first started using Facebook a couple of years ago, I was very afraid to be me in front of old classmates and distant relations who I haven't seen in years. Eventually, I decided that if they couldn't like the actual me that was their problem, not mine. Some people have unfriended me, but in the long run my online life is enriched more by being true to myself than it ever was by being quiet and not saying or being anything that might upset people.

    As a friend often points out to me-- people in our country have the right to free speech. They do not have the right to not be offended. I don't want to purposely be offensive, but it's not my job to tiptoe around other's worldviews so that they never see anything that they don't like.

  6. I agree that the fear is a founded one. It's why most of us take our time with coming out - if we ever do.

    I first started researching homeschooling a few months ago and met with a very nice woman who has been homeschooling for many years. She gave me a great jumping off point and I was so thankful. She was also Christian and made a comment during out meeting about creation having more evidence than evolution (when she was showing me a science textbook). I didn't comment because it wasn't the time or place. I was on a fact-finding path and she had given me a great deal of info already.

    After the meeting, we became Facebook friends. I found out recently that she seems to have deleted me. I assume because she realized that not only was I an atheist, I was outspoken about it.

    When I do have "debates" with theists, more often than not I get, "I'll pray for you," or "You are misinterpreting the scripture," or something along those lines.

    It's tough. All too often, theists believe we "lack" something or are "deficient" in some way. It's disheartening, illogical, and well... rude.

    My father is passed and I don't know if my mother knows. But other family members make their comments on Facebook. Oh well. Like you said, it's hard for them to come to terms with atheism not being synonymous with evil.

    Still... it's not an excuse. But, if the Pope and other religious leaders are still maligning atheism and secularism and blaming the two for the atrocities of the world... it may be a long up-hill battle to prove that being good without god is possible... and necessary.

    Kudos to you :)