I'm becoming more open now.
Steph, how do you feel when you do reveal your status? Are you OK?
I can't say I understand this "being in the closet" completely, however one must be carefull not to bring your status into the conversation prematurely as you may lose ground and start looking like an attraction seeker. Maybe my view differs slightly because I come from a country with a secular based constitution. The topic has been debated in government concerning religious public holidays (easter and christmas) and its legitimacy/ fairness. The christian faith is by far the majority, however this is a country of multiple significant religious groups. On the topic of GOD I would just like to add my latest thoughts. The GOD personality that has been created by this collection of "byble" books depicts god as black and white. There are no mitigating circumstances, you are guilty, even for the apparent wrongs of your parents, you will burn. It sounds somewhat like the whims and wishes of emperors and the likes of those days. The creators of this god knew no better, yet religionists today still buy into it believing the character of god was revealed through god himself to them. It boggles my mind.
Many of my loved ones and friends dislike the militant attitude I take about religion in the public sphere and I understand they feel strongly about their beliefs. I feel strongly about mine, too. When someone interferes with health decisions, whether use of contraceptives or abortion, I cannot remain quiet. A woman's health is her business and responsibility and not religion or political ideologue has a right to interfere. I have no objection at all of people not using contraception devices or choosing not to have abortions and I have no right to object. Nor do others have the right to interfere.
When it comes to writing laws about women's control over their own bodies, they are just plain in error on this issue. Family planning and choosing not to have children is a right, not to be intruded upon. It is insanity to bring an unwanted child into the world or to interfere with family planning in those cases where the mother doesn't want the pregnancy or can't afford to raise a child. That is a personal, private matter.
I am not only open but I am also outspoken. If the religious assert their position all the time, I don't see why we atheists shouldn't do the same. That being said, I do understand that many atheists are not coming out because they face dire consequences for doing so, and I do sympathize with that. But I think those of us who are fortunate enough to be on the open, have to be outspoken so we can do our little part to help those still in the closet to come out.
Yes I equally think that is important. We must take advantage of every opportunity to talk about it, as it will ease the way for those who are in challenging circumstances. The initial coming out decades were hard for gays too, but now that "everyone knows a gay person", the stigma is nearing its last years. We still have a long way before this can be said of atheists. In addition gays were never really a direct insult to heteros, whereas being atheist is pretty much a direct insult to a faither, so I think it will take much longer.
Well I do not usually bring the topic up in my everyday life and sometimes avoid it. However, if the topic is brought up I will be honest. I also have a lot of online atheist friends. Because of this the topic comes up on my Facebook pretty often and in my info I am labeled as an atheist. So while most people know they do not discuss it with me. I have had a lot of friends (many from high school delete me from their Facebook and make it a point to tell me that they did so because of my atheism. I happily remind them that they are certainly welcome to do so and that if they think less of me because I don't believe as they do then they have no business being called "my friend" anyway :) So yes, I don't go out of my way to proclaim it or hide it.
I too have dealt with this on facebook as well as in person. I have found several "friends" I knew long ago who, back then, were very open minded. Since then, they have found jesus and have "unfriended" me because I have not followed suite. I have been an atheist since I was 12 years old. I never thought about my beliefs until just recently--political BS. I do not push my atheism to any extent. For me, it is just there. My "born again Rambo" friends bring it up and then get upset at the way I have been for so many years. They make me think of it and then fault me for being who I have been for so many years. This pisses me off.
I feel like the friends who'd rather unfriend me never really knew me, so the loss is only superficial... though it still may hurt. I've come to a point in my life where I'd rather be liked for the real me rather than the perceived me. If that means fewer friends then so be it. But I'm past middle age now, and this may simply be a common feeling when one ages...