Well I have to make sure I restrain myself sometimes -- isn't always easy to do.
I'm very much in the closet. My wife has no idea. The only people who know are a couple of people I work with that are of similar belief. We all work in this small southern town where there are 7 churches and no stoplights. I quit believig about 2 years ago (I think I disbelieved longer than that but didn't really come to grips with it until then) My wife has been a believer since childhood and is actually a very strong rational thinker but refuses to apply it to her beliefs as that might "lead me down Satan's path" (her words). We live with her mother who is 80 years old and has the logical reasoning skills of a 3 year old. (Anything she doesn't understand is "stupid!") THis woman sends a total of about $100 a month to various televangelists. I know i'm being dishonest and living a lie but at the same time.......it's just hard. I feel like that if I came out to my wife she'd divorce me and keep my son away. The first part would hurt, but I could live with it. That boy of mine, however, is my universe....I guess as a parent you have to make a lot of decisions and do things that don't make a whole lot of sense. I guess I'd rather be here to protect him from the full force of the crazy than to let him get it undiluted. But at least somebody in my real life knows what i'm going through and can sympathize.
Born and raised an atheist, I am quite open about my stance - and proud. Considering I live in the 'Bible belt' in the US I am fortunate to live in a town that is not really overtly religious.
I love the little widening of the eyes of people who have known me for a while and then find out I am an atheist. You can see the thoughts cross their minds: They already consider me a sane, nice person and then to find out I have this horrible affliction truly astounds them but are unsure of what their reaction should be.
Like you, I feel lucky that I can come to a forum like this and find so many like minded people. What a blessing (pun intended!).
I am pretty open about my being atheist. Of course I don't make it known right off the bat to someone that I just met, and I tend to stay away from religious conversations. Now that I think about it, I don't think that I have really told either one of my parents that I am atheist though. The reason being, my parents are not very religious at all, and the topic never really came up, never seriously discussed it. I know that neither one of my parents would really make a big deal about it or even care for that matter. My ex's mother on the other hand, she was one of those crazy bible thumper types, who didn't hesitate to try and shove everything down my throat, and I think that she hated me from the beginning, simply because I am atheist. She always went out of her way to try and sabotage our relationship, and of course she denied it when confronted. So I guess it really depends on who you come out to. But I think that my ex mother in-law would have looked for some other reason to hate me anyways. Sorry, not trying to deter you from being open with people, just got to be careful with who you share with.
I am openly atheist, but it's easier to be in Europe, the UK in particular. I don't know anyone who would even think they had to 'hide in the closet'. It's such a non-religious society that until I was in my late teens I didn't even know people actually still believed in god/jesus. Religion was thought to be a fringe issue that was only observed by reactionary old people or wackos.
When my friend suddenly became born again, it really made me readdress this issue. Since I was kid, American style Christianity (as opposed to stuffy traditional English CofE or Catholicism) has become more predominant in the UK but it's still very fringe/wacko.
When I lived in America I found it to be mostly oppressive in terms of religion - it's much more predominant in society and there is pressure to be religious and to automatically respect it. Which is something I can't and won't do. I was openly dismissive of the religious, and that ruffled a few feathers. I'm not pointedly aggressive - Indeed, I will try to be compassionate - but I have no problem speaking my mind. It makes for sometimes uncomfortable interactions, but that's ok.
I now live in southern Germany, which is traditionally very Catholic. Again I am openly anti-religion (if indeed the situation arises in which I must make a comment) and it also ruffles feathers. But, in my experience, it's more about the cultural traditions in Germany than actual genuine belief. One guy I recently spoke doesn't believe and he thinks the priests are spouting rubbish, but he still goes to church because it's part of his environment, part of his culture, the same way I celebrate Christmas while equally opposing christianity. It seems many German catholics are like this.
I have openly, at numerous occasions during the past couple of months, expressed my opinion about religion and its atrocious stupidity. I have in the face of creationists said that I'm an atheist and also an anti-theist. I don't give a damn about other peoples opinions where factual matters are concerned. The same goes for every non religious subject there is. I have also spoken very openly about Cannabis and my opinion of it, which is pro. People deserves to know the truth, no matter how insulting they may find it. But I live in Sweden, one of the most secular countries in the world. I will also express my support for objective Scientific thinking, reason and most importantly, the truth, no matter what the situation at hand may be.
I'm usually open about being an atheist if it comes-up, but I'm very tired of the stupidity of religion. Wish I lived where you do Jimmy. If I had the money, I'd visit Sweden and other secular countries, and probably change my citizenship.
I am 100% open about my atheism. I even have atheist dogtags (I'm in the military, so I'm "officially" atheist too). Even so, I tend to be sensitive to context, and seldom look for opportunities to share my views on religion. If the subject comes up (and it does, from time to time), I express myself firmly & fairly, but also try to stay focused on material issues rather than the labels we apply to ourselves.
It can be difficult, though, so I see where you're coming from.For me, it took some time but I finally realized that my fears were unjustified. As the saying goes, if they can't accept you for who you are, they're not really your friends. Of course, it would be harder with family. Plus, I have it easy, living here in the U.S.. There are places in the world where it's downright deadly to confess non-belief.
One thing, though: I never thought of myself as "bad" for not believing, so your statement about not wanting people to think you're a "bad" person strikes me as a little odd. Probably something to do with our different experiences.
I'm open about it- lots of people (family and former friends) don't like me now, but I'm okay with that. I figure if they only liked me because they thought I was a Christian just like them, then I'm better off without them.
Loud and proud......fuck the faith heads!!!:)