We're coming out!
We're coming out of the closet like never before. We are rapidly becoming an organized movement that will have to be contended with.
The new OUT campaign: http://outcampaign.org
"Let the world know that we are not about to go away and that we are not going to allow those that would condemn us to push us into the shadows."
Why come out? by Robby Berry
Should ex-Christians who become atheists "come out of the closet"? That is, should they tell their friends, family and loved ones about their newfound atheism, or should they keep it to themselves and pretend to be Christians? I believe that coming out is far better than staying in, for the following reasons:
1. Staying in the closet is an emotionally draining experience. Most of us feel bad about deliberately lying, and really bad about deliberately lying to our close friends, family and loved ones. But staying in the closet requires precisely that. This generates loads of guilt, and carrying around that kind of guilt is pretty unhealthy from an emotional point of view. Making matters worse, you have to expend a great deal of mental effort to maintain the facade, a task made even more complicated by the fact that you are attempting to fool those who know you best, and thus are the most difficult to fool.
2. Staying in the closet tends to isolate you from the atheist community, and get you more involved with the Christian community than you might want to be. People naturally gravitate towards people who are like themselves. We tend to choose friends who share our interests, our values, and our beliefs. But if everybody thinks you are a Christian, then atheists will tend to stay away, while Christians will want to get closer to you. This is the exact opposite of what you want. By coming out, those around you who are atheists will be more likely to befriend you, providing you with much-needed emotional support. And in a society that is 90% Christian, we need all the emotional support we can get.
3. Staying in the closet steals away time. When you pretend to be a Christian, it is inevitable that you will have to participate in Christian events such as going to church, attending prayer meetings and kinship groups, and the like. This sucks away time that you could be using for working, studying, playing or just sleeping in. Atheists know better than anybody that our time is finite, so why waste it practicing primitive superstitious rituals?
4. You run the risk of being found out. If this happens, the people you are trying to fool will be far less likely to give you the benefit of the doubt. If your spouse confessed to having an affair, you would be more likely to forgive your spouse than if you found out about it second-hand. By the same token, your friends and loved ones are far more likely to tolerate your atheism if you admit to it than if they happen to find your copy of "The Case Against Christianity" when you're not around.
Try this simple thought experiment. Imagine confessing your atheism to your friends and loved ones. Picture their reactions. Make it a worst case scenario. It's probably a scary scenario, isn't it? But if you are found out, their reactions will be even worse than what you've just imagined! Not only will they be angry at you for becoming an atheist, but they'll be angry at you for lying as well. (And unlike atheism, lying is a legitimate thing to be angry at.)
One other thing to keep in mind is that unless you only have a year or two left to live, you will be found out. Nobody can keep up that kind of facade for very long. In the long run, coming out will be significantly less straining than staying in.
5. Coming out is a powerful way of promoting tolerance for atheists. Remember that your Christian friends and family have had their heads filled with stereotypes about atheists by their pastors and fellow Christians. By coming out, you can show that these stereotypes are bull. Indeed, you may be the only atheist they know, and thus the only person capable of dispelling the stereotypes. And if they ever become interested in atheism themselves, they'll know who to turn to when it comes time to ask questions.
There are some people who stay in the closet because coming out could mean losing a job, or being kicked out of the house, or even being beaten or killed. Such people should probably stay in the closet, at least until they can get a new job, or find a home of their own, or move to a locale that isn't socially retarded. But even these people should come out eventually, after they have arranged things so that it is safe to do so. And those who stay in solely to avoid offending friends and family would be better served by coming out now. In the short run, it will be hell, but in the long run, it's the only way to go. The only real alternative is a lifetime of hypocrisy, self-loathing and fear.
I myself came out shortly after my deconversion. I haven't lost a single friend because of it. I am on excellent terms with my family and in-laws, most of whom are Christians, and many of whom are fundamentalists. In fact, in the case of my parents, I've actually noticed their Christianity mellowing out over the last few years, and I think my atheism may have had something to do with this. (Then again, maybe they just wised up on their own.) My then-girlfriend actually thought the atheist me was a big improvement, and went on to become my wife. I've never lost a job or been publicly humiliated because of my atheism, and I commonly drop casual mentions of my atheism in conversations with friends and coworkers without fear of trouble. Coming out has had tremendous benefits for me, and very few disadvantages.
The American public (and pretty much everyone else, for that matter) has a long way to go, but there has nonetheless been a great deal of progress for atheists. There was a time when coming out of the closet meant social and financial ruin, and shortly before that there was a time when coming out meant being executed. We have an incredible amount of freedom compared to atheists of the past, and I think we owe it to their memory to take advantage of it."
- Robby Berry
Atheists hate mail:
When I read your site I am sickened by your bitterness and unsensored hatred. All you damned atheist think you know it all don't you? Well I got news for you: you don't!
If you don't accept Jesus in your heart now/today/this minute you'll be facing eternal punishment. You know in your heart God and Jesus are real. We all feel it deep inside and cant deny it unless we tell a lie. That's right you're lying and sinning each time you say there isn't a God. I can't help wondering how good life would be in our wonderful country if you atheists didn't infultrate the government and take away the great Christian nation that our founding fathers gave us. You people have killed this country you know that! Do you think God let 9/11 happen because of all the good Christians? My friend, you and I both know deep down why 9/11 happened. Atheists and queers and witches are turning this whole country against God, and God tried to show you some of the things to come. 9/11 was a glimpse into the future. Think! It is so obvious! What is life like over there in Iraq and all those other countries over there? Terrible that's what it's like! Know why? Because they reject Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior! You KNOW this and I know you know it. We all know it but we can't say it because it isn't politically correct--one of the worst atheist liberal inventions ever. Politically correct.
What about God and morals and the Ten Commandments? Do you want to live a life like those lost souls in those other countries? Find Jesus, if you don't youll suffer and always regret it.
I don't even want to know how much you hate yourself and your life because you're an atheist. Life must be so pointless to you. I bet you make your family miserible. That's another thing. I read your rant diary thing and I'll tell you what: that premature baby you got? I want you to know you did it. You almost killed your own baby because you reject the One True God! The sins of the father will fall unto his flower I tell you that much! How does that make you feel to know that because you hate God that you caused this tragedy in your family? If you still have a little spark of Jesus you should feel bad right now. If not it might be too late for you becaue the Devil has eaten your heart to peaces.
"I don't think that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots."
-George W. Bush 2002
This is insane. It's sad that some Christians/Other religious people refuse to accept that some people choose other religions and/or lifestyles. That is the atheist's/person's choice...nobody else's.
As I've posted, I was raised Christian/in church. When I was 17, I started seeing my first serious boyfriend (now my husband.) He was/is the coolest person I've ever met. He's respectful, kind, hilarious, and has good morals. My dad and stepmom didn't approve. Why? He's an atheist. Ridiculous.
That Dawkins has benefitted from the gay rights movement insofar that he is tailoring his message in the way that he is, using the word out. He even takes pains to say that no one will be outed.
Not only that, he is also using imagery from The Scarlet Letter- a big A.
It's kinda like gay people taking back the word queer. However, in this case, its not a word being reimagined, but a symbol.
Dawkins is appealing to those with intellect. After all, the Scarlet Letter is a literary work. If you haven't read the book- and only see the world through TV- you might not understand the reference.
Everybody who knows me knows that I'm gay. But the only ones who know that I'm an atheist are the people on this forum who read my entries, my brother, my best friend, and another friend of mine who is also an atheist. That's it. Everybody else just assumes that I'm a Christian and I never correct them.
So when I say "we're coming out," what I really mean is that hopefully someday I'll feel comfortable to speak openly about my beliefs without fear of being rejected by family and friends.
I open up on an atheist forum called the Rational Response Squad but the Soulforce forum is the only non-atheist place that I talk about my beliefs openly.
The fact that I'm in the closet about my atheism is something I try not to think about much because I feel like such a hypocrite. I ask myself how I can tell LGBT people to have the courage to live their lives openly when I'm afraid to express my life beliefs to anyone but a handful of people?
I have family members that I know would never associate with me again if I told them how I really feel about the world. That's why I speak out about it so much on this forum. It just feels good to be able to talk about what I think to others.
I know that it offends a lot of theists. I know what that feels like. When I was a Christian I thought atheists were lost, disturbed people who were empty inside. I hated their opinions. Sometimes I even hated them.
I remember in the spring of 2006 when I began to question my Christian beliefs; I went to the supermarket one afternoon and a thunderstorm was coming up. I walked across that store parking lot terrified that a lightning bolt was going to kill me.
My best friend is a Christian. He and I talk about politics, family, work, and life in general. But we never talk about religion because it's too touchy of a subject for the both of us.
When my atheist friend comes to town he usually drops by and we sometimes talk about religion. But he's in the closet too and I think it's very difficult sometimes for him to talk about it.
I'd really like to tell my niece. She and I talk on the phone every week. She deals with my being gay just fine but not believing in Jesus is another thing entirely.
I live in the South so being openly homosexual has been a difficult struggle in a world of Southern Baptists. To many Southern Baptists, being an atheist homosexual would be like being Satan himself.
I can't believe I'm actually writing these words. I've always tried to be a man of courage and conviction. How do I dare talk about courage anymore?
More hate mail examples. These are a tiny fraction of the mail sent to the atheists group the Rational Response Squad.
You're a bunch of dufuses.* I don't believe in you jerks.* Only stupid
people can't see God in the complexity of creation. The second law of
thermodynamics says things deteriorate, not appreciate, over time.* In
other words, you are an idiot if you believe that evolution turns shit into
shinola (a brand of shoe polish) over time.* Just jerk yourselves around
without pissing on God.* You're going to live your unhappy lives in
depression and sorrow anyway, so leave the only God, the God of the Bible,
alone.* Silly vamps. Do your dirt without calling God's name.* More fire.
You are another ignorant atheistic, clueless group.* Just don't make the
mistake of spreading your filth within my visual/physical vicinity.
i cant wait to see when u are all rotting in hell... i do not understand you people... you think that you have this power of conversion... such as saying "believe in God, We can fix that"... wtf is wrong with you you scum bags... your most likely thinking that im stupid for believing in Christ, but* if u* only saw what us catholics do for this world, compared to you atheists, who sit around on your* lazy fat asses* and run this site... look into the miracles that still happen to those who are faithful to GOD... and when the day comes, i will have no mercy for you
This webiste is nothing but a handfull of uninformed idiots who have
nothing better to do than degrade what God made for them.* All of your
answers and responses to peoples questions and comments are just turning
around their question and giving them a not coorect answer.* I am a stront
full beliver in Jesus Christ, and I believe he died for my sins and rose
again from the dead.* I came on here looking to see what you believe and
why, and you have nothing of the such.* Just bull saying christians are bad
people.* You are brainwashing people who have no other form of knowledge on
this matter.* It is wrong and just plain decietful.
You say evolution is never proved wrong but then why do they keep saying we
evolved from something different? You are so dumb!!!!!! Evolution has been
proved wrong so many times and has never been proved right. That is the
truth and if you don't believe in God then you are retarded!!!! God
created the universe so just get over it already... You lost the debate
before it even started. You dumb atheists are just to prideful to admit
that you have been proven wrong.
ur a freaking retard man God is real and hes there ur jsut a mentally retarded fag that need s a freaking life u dumb ass fuk nut get a freaking life and go back to sea world bitch
You guys are retarded emo pricks, get a life. If you really believe in atheism thats fine. I don't care thats your choice. For you to take the beliefs of others and compare them to Santa, is just childish. You might want to read up on near death experience research. Its scientific and clearly establishes fact that would lead intelligent people to believe in life after death or at least the strong probability thereof . All I see is a bunch of irrational pricks trying to gain a little power and a flicker of fame. You'll
be forgotten or considered idiots. Not because your Atheist but because your group is retarded as a whole.
bottom line fuck your little self righteous club.
Why do you think you have the right to tell people that they are irrational for having faith?
Why do you think you all have the right to try to end something that might be going well for young teens?
Why do you think you have the right to try to convince us that our hopes are false hopes?
Why do you think you have right to critisize and make fun of a religion just because you don't share the same beliefs as Christians?
It's wrong to try to crush some one's faith just because YOU think its false hope.
This whole thing is stupid, and you need to get a real life
I will not address those quotes. They are sick. I cannot even speak about them without saying sick things myself.
Rick, when you tell of the thunderstorm approaching as you walked to the supermarket, of your fear of lightning, do you mean to say your fear of lightning was causal? Fear that if you questioned the form of religion you had believed, your questioning would result in a punishment via lightning?
That's huge stuff, and I see how new this is for you. 2006 is like yesterday. For you to come out from the mental box it sounds like you were in is a huge victory and I'm glad for the process. I also think it's perfectly okay to be angry at christianity, generally speaking.
For what it's worth, and I'm not sure you want to hear this right now - I know I would like it if you could disentangle the religious persons who post here from the 'christians' who write the vicious, violent, and non-sensical diatribes such as you quoted above. They are a completely different brand of person. I'd bet (IF I were a betting type) that one could even find functional brain differences between the folks who wrote those nasty things and the religious folks who post on here. They are two very different types of person.
I am glad this is being a safe place for you to voice your anger at christianity, and religious traditions in general. There is a lot of reason for anger. ( We could spend days discussing how ironic that is.) I had no idea that you were mostly keeping your worldview to yourself in 3D. To play devil's advocate though, beliefs being personal do not HAVE to be publicly stated. You're under no obligation to share your personal views with anyone. Why should one be?
You and I are marching along the same path in precisely the opposite direction. I spent most of my life strongly professing atheism, and unlike you I had no difficulty whatsoever in expressing that openly anywhere and everywhere. I thought it was the christians who were (definitely and without exception) lost. What I'm finding now is that there are all types in both categories, theist and non. It's how one lives, not what one says one believes, that reveals where the heart is. Ie, you will know what path someone is on by the fruit of their actions. . . is it good? Does it heal? Educate? Encourage? Inspire? Or is it negative? For my part, that's all I'm interested to know.
Glad you're finding a safe space. Don't let the ugliness get into you; there will always be someone ready with a negative word.
The God Factor
You are concerned about your family and how they would react if they knew you didn't believe in God. That seems to be a real concern, given your environment and history.
Just a thought here: how do you think your family would react if you were straight and didn't believe in God? Would anything be different?
I guess I am wondering if there is a piling up of issues here. Is the matter really just about God?
I'm glad that you can be open about this here. You aren't alone you know.
I don't exactly believe in God myself. However, I'm not predisposed to calling myself an aetheist, but rather, an agnostic- one who doesn't know. Of course, this may not be much of a distinction. That said, the more I meditate, the more I don't see a need for a God. It's so easy to say God this and God that when in the end, it comes down to what each of us is going to do to make this world a better place.
And you are doing that.
Rick, you shouldn't feel bad for not believing in God. I wouldn't call myself atheist, but I don't really believe in God either.
I actually just found out I'm agnostic, or at least this week.
Thank you Rick for posting this. Last night I read it and blew it off because I didn't understand. I was too quick to judge, just like so many people out there. Today, I came back and read what everyone said and some of the hate letters that have been written (not many though, I can't stomach it). It took reading all of it to realize that it's just like any other kind of discrimination.
I don't think I ever discriminated again atheists, but I have been discriminated against for it.
I thank you for sharing your heartfelt feelings about this topic and being part of Soulforce. I am grateful for the diversity of out discussions.
Love you Rick! Just the way you are! :love:
I snipped out an excerpt so that my reply wouldn't seem to be larger than your original post. I think this whole message is one of the most courageous expressions of self that I have ever read, and I feel honored to come to know more of the "real" you.
My mantra for years was "Coming out is a process, not an event." I needed to remind myself of that because fear of rejection kept me from emerging from my closet. Every little bit counts toward the end of full disclosure.
I am a Christian, and I embrace you and your atheism. Thank you for sharing your struggle with us. Love is what counts, and I see that you of are full of love. I don't often respond to your posts but I learn so much from them. Thanks for all your contributions to Soulforce.
I know that there are many good things that come from religion today. Soulforce is a good example of this. If it wasn't for Christianity, Soulforce probably would not exist. Mel White would have never written his books. There would be no Equality Ride or American Family Outing. And more than anything, there would not be you guys on this forum and the humor, friendliness, and support that comes from so many who reach out to others in need.
Also, if it wasn't for Christianity, there wouldn't be the many charitable organizations like The Salvation Army or the Christian Children's Fund.
And then there's Christmas. Christmas started out as a Pagan holiday but it was Christianity that transformed it into the beautiful holiday it is today.
But most of the time when I think of Christianity today, James Dobson comes to mind, or Fred Phelps or Rick Warren or the viciousness coming from groups like the American Family Association, the Traditional Values Coalition, or the Southern Baptist Convention. The cross has changed from a symbol of love to one of hate, hypocrisy, viciousness, intolerance, bitterness, and exclusion.
That contributed to, but is not the soul reason, why I no longer believe. Even though many years ago I left my Christian fundamentalist beliefs behind, I clung to the belief that a loving creator of the universe listened to my prayers.
In 2006 shortly after I joined this forum, I visited a Christian friend of mine one weekend and he encouraged me to read the Bible. So I went home that Sunday night and began to read the Bible. What I found in it astounded me. The stories were full of violence, blood, murder, execution of babies and animals, the destruction of families and whole villages. The books of the Bible preached hate and intolerance and were full of contradictions, illusions, and scientific impossibilities. It was the most absurd piece of literature I had ever put my eyes on.
It was at that point that I began to examine my own personal beliefs. I began doing research on religion and studies on prayer and the possibility of God. Now, three years later, I'm still asking questions. But so far, I have found no convincing evidence for a superior being that is in control of everything and answers prayers. I have found no convincing evidence that miracles, magic, or the supernatural exists anywhere in the real world. None.
Until I do find that evidence, or rational answers to my questions, I will remain a non-believer.
My beliefs about science and life are a part of who I am just like being gay is. To not express them keeps an important part of me hidden. It's the same as lying about who I am. Part of living a healthy life is expressing who you are what your thoughts and emotions are about the world around you. This is exactly why I'm openly gay.
This is a good question. It has taken me decades to get to the point where my family, friends, neighbors, and relatives treat me with dignity and respect as an openly gay man. It has not been easy.
So now to say, "Oh by the way, I also don't believe in God," is like going all the way back to square one. I will have to go through the whole "coming out" process all over again.
I'm 57. I'm not sure I'm up for another fight. But at the same time, my brain tells me that I'm not being an honest person. Living an honest life is important to my happiness.
Maybe it would be much easier if I just believed in God. But until I have some convincing evidence, the part of my brain that controls reason will no longer allow that.
Besides, believing that this is probably the only party we get and there's not another party after this one helps me to enjoy the party even more.
Christa, Ben, Jennifer, Daniel, and Zerbie,
Thank you for your kind words and support. :love: I appreciate you guys.
I do want to acknowledge to anybody reading this that sometimes we new non-believers can come across as arrogant. When we first "see the light", we have lots of questions for theists like, "Why would God do that?" and sometimes that is interpreted as, "You're stupid for believing that."
The art of tactfulness is something that has to be cultivated and we don't always get it right. I do not believe however, that how I personally view the world gives me more value as a human being than those who view it differently.
To all the athesits and christians in this forum..I am a christian who tries to live by the teachings of Jesus Christ and I try to grow closer to him day by day..from the little bit i have read I can tell this message is out of control!..Athesits something you would expect me or a "christian" would say is your going to hell for the way you think you are sick and wrong and should not think that way. but guess what I dont think that about you because you have you opinion and I have mine..to all the christians in the room if u dont know this you know now that God loves the athesits just as much as he does me and you...its HATE the sin, LOVE the sinner...they sin just like you do. Christians do you understand why you cant help athesits because most of you are to closed minded to help them you just want to condemn them..and you can get mad at me if you want but this is the truth....I am sorry athesits for what racial things has been said
"God loves you, God loves me, He loves the drunkard down the street. He loves the woman who divorced her man and left her family. He loves prisoners and theives and those filled with greed. BUT MOST OF ALL HE LOVES THEM JUST AS MUCH AS YOU AND ME!!!!."(lyrics written by a christian brother of mine).
I had an episode of road rage in 2004 that I regret to this day. It came on spontaneously without time for me to even think about it. My point here is, getting angry does not make somebody is a bad person or a bad Christian. It just makes us human.
I just wanted to make that clear.
Rick, I like where you are. Don't change it. Just live with it and go with it. If it's supposed to change, it will change when it must.
Now, can I be allowed to encourage you, Rick? You say you're 57 and don't want to feel like you're starting over back at square 1 again. But, consider all that you've learned and all the strengths and skills you've developed in 57 years. I see every reason for you to have confidence to just present yourself as you are, beliefs and all. If other people have difficulty with it, their thoughts are THEIRS, not yours, and the problem is likewise theirs.
It's up to you to gauge whether some surface amiability with your family is more important to you than openly discussing your non-theological views, or whether openly expressing your views is more important to you than having amiable terms with certain members of your family.
Decide which is more important to you. Then go with that choice, recognizing that it was a choice having to do with priority, and accept what goes along with that choice. You can't do more. You can't BOTH express a belief that will make your family go ballistic AND have an amiable surface relationship with them while they are going ballistic. It's one or the other, whether or not you choose to go through a gradual process of letting them come to terms with your belief system, well. . . you'll be 57 either way. You can either be 57 and speak openly with your family (fights, tears, and all) or you can be 57 and keep your views to yourself. You don't have to live up to a perfect example. Just choose your priority.
I'm glad you're here and talking about the future. If things are changing, then we must still be truly alive, right? :p
I would rather have more atheists in this world than immature nominal Christians. You are doing just fine, and your posts make perfect sense to me. There is so much to learned from science, but also, science has so much still unknown. All the unanswered questions of modern physics and cosmology, for example. Heck, go explore all that stuff. After a while, the science will start to sound as whacky as religion. Isn't that great?
Of course God loves atheists. :love:
God even loves the religious people. :eek:
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