Recently there has been a lot of talk about “coming out as an Atheist”. To me, this is actually a negative stance to take on Atheism. Rather than say ” I had the courage to come out as an Atheist” perhaps try looking at it as “I had the strength to not succumb to religion.”. We are not born with knowledge of God… and that is not just a christian God, it goes for all of them. We are taught to believe, we learn what church is, what function a mosque serves, why Jews worship in a Synagogue… some people choose to go with the flow of those around them and some of us, take a natural approach and keep our minds free from religious pollution.
Example: technically I was “born into the Catholic church”. My mother was a Catholic and my father, an Atheist with a laid back attitude towards organized service. I was baptized , I made my first communion, I made my confirmation and yet never did I believe in God. I saw CCD as just another school that I went to… sure I didn’t like it, but I also didn’t like algebra… so I just put in my time and got out of there. When I look at my personal history with religion, I don’t see it as me leaving the church and becoming an Atheist… I see it as simply something I learned and chose to dismiss- then I moved on with my life.
When we claim to “come out” as Atheists we are making it sound like something people should feel ashamed of, something people should brace themselves for judgement from… but really, it is only a big deal if you make it a big deal. For instance, you could say “mom, we need to talk, this is serious business and if effects EVERYONE.”… to me this sounds like you are about to give the news that you have 6 months to live. Now let’s try it a different way…
Mom: Will you be going to church this Sunday?
You: No, I have decided to not participate in the church.
You: I am just not interested anymore, my views have changed.
The term “Atheist” doesn’t even have to come up, unless you want it to. If the person you are addressing wants to continue the discussion you then have an opportunity to set boundaries and always, always stick with the positive. If you come at it with negative connotations then you are setting yourself up to be attacked.
Remember that this doesn’t just pertain to our theistic and deistic friends… those with no faith what-so-ever can also be put of by this “coming out” movement. If there is pressure to “come out” as Atheist- it is almost like you are asking someone to confess a sin. As a group, we want to continue to grow and by stressing this need for everyone to “come out” we are making it an “are you in or out” system.
When I meet someone who is unsure about how they feel I always try to stress that there is no pressure to label yourself, seems that maybe I am more alone than I thought on that one. Put it this way, right now we are a minority- we want to be a majority- so let’s act like one. Stop saying “yeah, i am um… uh… an Atheist, please accept me”. Stand strong, let people know that going towards religion is the chosen path and that Atheists are what we are born to be. “yeah, i am an Atheist… I’ve never been easily influenced by others.” .
It is about confidence in ourselves as individuals as well as a group. I have never “come out” as anything- I am Allison Reed, I am bi-sexual, I am an atheist and I am a whole lot of other things that just came naturally and i’ll be damned if I need to “come out” and get acceptance from anyone. To be clear, I am not saying that you shouldn’t “come out” if you think it is a necessary part of your life… to each his own. Just don’t do it because you think that you owe it to someone to explain yourself.
4 thoughts on “I will never ask you to “come out” as an Atheist…”
I think the whole “coming out” movement (or whatever you want to call it) is more of a release from the shackles of religion. Personally, you never really believed in god and had one parent who did either. However, for a great many atheists both parents were/are religious and they did believe in god and religion. So, it really does feel like “coming out” to them.
I understand your sentiment, especially when it comes to gaining acceptance, but some people need to feel accepted because if they don’t they may feel rejected and become angry or depressed.
I see your point, but I don’t think coming out necessarily implies anything shameful, more that this is something that had previously gone unspoken, or even been actively concealed. If I were gay, talking of coming out wouldn’t make me self-hating, just a recognition that people can behave differently towards you. And it depends on your situation – some atheists coming out will be met with a shrug, others have to contend with friends and family who’ll be disappointed at best. At worst, they could consider you completely evil.
A huge number of my friends are evangelical Christians from back when I was different. I know how they feel about it, because I know what I thought back then. But the worst part was telling my very conservative Christian in-laws that I’m not the good little Christian they thought their daughter was marrying. I didn’t use the “a” word, but it was still a pretty tricky conversation, and very daunting in advance.
I like your attitude, Allison.