My situation is a little strange in that I didn't believe in God even as a kid, and not understanding that it was a big deal, I was perfectly happy telling everyone I knew that God was made up. Only much later did I find out that my parents took a lot of criticism from the rest of the family about how they were raising me. I was completely sheltered from that.
My "coming out" has been less about people finding out that I'm an atheist, and more about people finding out that I'm a serious, argumentative atheist. As Douglas Adams said, "I am a radical atheist." This has been a gradual process, in that I do my best to not start arguments, but am more than willing to jump in if someone else brings the topic up.
As my radical atheism has gradually become more known, I have also learned more about the religious leanings of those around me, and found two things that I didn't honestly expect:
First, that there are a LOT of extremely ignorant Christians. There was a time in which I thought that the ridiculously bad Youtube Christian arguments were a small, tiny fraction of what most Christians believe. I honestly thought that the argument "if people came from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?" was a joke made by atheists to make fun of Christians. It's not. There are a large number of people who seriously think that is a killer argument.
Second, that there are quite a few atheists (or agnostics, or whatever) out there. You might be surprised how many people are just like you and also haven't spoken up. I've met similarly-minded people at work, in school, in my family, you name it. Just about a month ago I found out my cousin was an atheist, which completely surprised me since her father is an evangelical minister.
This felt very familiar to me. My parents raised us without religion, nor positive nor negative input. It was a religion-free house, simply. But I come from a previous generation where schooling was still managed by the church, and so I was exposed to Catholicism and its catechism in school. It always annoyed me, I was a precocious kid, and an argumentative one. But oddly enough, religions and faith had such a lack of rational foundation, that I could not even imagine there was anything to argue about, which made me appear quiet about religion, when in fact I just thought it was so stupid, it was simply not worth wasting any brain time on, and I was a brainy kid too. By age 13-14, my political self started to develop, and I started being more and more annoyed by my religious classes, so I took legal action against the school (with my parents) to be exempt from religious classes on the basis I was atheistic... so I became a radical atheist at 14. My fight against the school system was a tough one, I was THE ONLY atheist in my small village. There was a protestant girl who was exempt from religious (catholic) classes, but declaring oneself atheist did not even register on these people's radar, they could not understand someone who lived entirely in reality, vs imaginary (I don't remember any belief in childhood imaginary beings either). So in the end, I finally won my exemption for the last two years of highschool, which was replaced by self-directed morality classes, which I was supposed to spend time at the library for... ha ha ha. :)
But after that, the mere thought of faith/religion completely fell away my frontal lobe for the next two decades. Oh there was the occasional conversation where I'd cautiously state I had no beliefs, whatsoever, but I always pitied the people I had to state that to, and society coerced me into dishonest "respect for diversity". What's the point of showing false respect, I really never got that.
My desire to live in reality only became an issue again when I lived several years in Florida, and all my friends attended church on a semi regular basis. These were fun friends, who partook in life's decadence to the fullest, but our Sundays were my time away from them. I eventually came to be really annoyed by the constant duality in their lives regarding their failure to live up to their own self proclaimed morals.
After a couple of years of this, the atheist in me was getting more and more annoyed, which is when I found Florida Atheists and for the first time in my life felt the complete and utter joy of being able to converse with people without being forced into dishonest false respect. Oh what a joy those Tuesday evenings were.
Since then, I've moved back North, and I now wear my reality driven world on my sleeve in almost all circumstances. I exclude job hunting from this, since it impacts my earning potential, but otherwise I'm pretty open.
In Canada, our polls on religion study 'religious affiliation' and not faith per se (as opposed to USA polls which study faith), which gives atheist organisations an erroneous perspective of atheists in Canada. A majority of these Canadians who don't attend church or don't consider themselves religious actually do have faith, they are believers, they just aren't actively religious... but that religious value system underlies everything they do socially.
It's weird how my home was exempt from beliefs, and my teen years oosed political atheist, yet I spent two decades as an apatheist. I'm glad to be back to real honest self again.
If somebody asks me I don't have a problem with telling them, but even though alot of my friends are religious, somehow religion never seems to come up in conversation and I don't usually bring it up myself unless they say something really blatantly ignorant or false that I just can't let go. I don't discuss being atheist a whole lot, but I'm not trying to hide it either, so anyone who doesn't already know probably suspects or assumes. There aren't many theists who subscribe to the FFRF newsletter and put FSM decals on their cars.
Quite a few people relate that studying the Bible is exactly what brought them to atheism.
I recommend to people the website Skeptic's Annotated Bible http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/
It's dedicated to highlighting the absurdities, atrocities, immoralities, and contradictions -- as well as some moral "good stuff" -- in the KJV Bible text. (They also have Skeptic's Annotated Quran and Skeptic's Annotated Book of Mormon.)
One of their rotating quotes about the Bible:
It is full of interest. It has noble poetry in it; and some clever fables; and some blood-drenched history; and some good morals; and a wealth of obscenity; and upwards of a thousand lies. -- Mark Twain, Letters from the Earth
Every Atheist should read the bible. It is full of ammunition against itself.
Terry, you are my man. In fact if every religionist read the bible without his mind already made up,( praying to God to help him understand) then we'll all be atheists. Now how do you get this through to Moslem's? They are just as important and need desperately to break through.
I've always said that, "There's nothing in the bible that I can't learn form Aseop."
I'm like 95% in the closet. A few close friends know...that's it. Before I fully come out I want to be the one to tell my close family. And that isn't exactly happening too soon.