I am curious to hear everyone else's experience with "coming out". Did you have to work up to it and cut a few people from the herd to break the news to? Did you go straight for the family blabbermouth and let nature take its course? Social media? Or, did you just grab the megaphone and blurt it out? 

A little back story: 

I am a 39 year old, married, father of two young boys. A confused skeptic since about 10, a confident and confirmed non-believer for the last few years. 

I live in a VERY Catholic part of Cincinnati, my wife's family is Catholic, as is mine, though mine tend to be skeptics, and there are a couple like me thrown in. 

I sat my wife down a couple years ago, swallowed hard, and spit it out. i was completely honest about the way I felt, and apologized for not telling her sooner. To her credit, she handled it pretty well. She is a little disappointed that I wouldn't be attending church any more, but just between you and me I think she harbors a little skepticism of her own. 

Friends and (wife's) family were much more difficult. I DID NOT want to have the same conversation over and over, and I really didn't want to have to justify my decision. 

I just went for it.

I found posting on another site that really spoke to me and posted it to my Facebook page, followed by comments from me. I know this is definitely not the recommended course of action, but it was if nothing else, VERY effective in getting the initial word out. The problem is, there is no real way to know who has read the posting and who hasn't unless they say something to me. This has made some conversations a little hairy :-). 

Friends turned out to be a non-issue. Even the ones I thought might be hurt or angered by my coming out were extremely supportive. I feel a little bad for doubting them, but it has definitely reaffirmed our friendships. 

Family was as expected, the ones that have similar beliefs were right there with me, and the ones that do not throw an easily ignored comment my way on occasion, that really is about it. My wife tells me she has gotten lots of messages from her family telling her that they are praying for her as if she just found out I was an axe murderer. (why do I find that so funny!?)

If I take one thing from my experience it is this: coming out and being honest is absolutely and completely worth the initial headaches!! You may think that the world is going to fold in around you, but i'm here to tell you it won't. When you are ready, go for it. 

If I may, below is a copy/paste of my exact post to FB a few months back, starting with the posting from another site and followed with my comments. (My words are in blue

I'd love to hear your experiences! 

Alright, stuff is digging at me, forgive the LONG post.

Below is one of the best (and nerd friendliest) ways I have ever read to explain how individuals feel when facing the ever present fear that personal beliefs (or lack thereof) will alienate the people that they love and cause them to think less of them. 

(Additional comments at the end)

*******Shared from an outside discussion********
Jaffo wrote:

I'm about to do something I swore I would never do. I'm about to write a philosophical post based on a Star Trek episode.

You remember that episode where Picard was captured by the Cardassians?

They didn't ask him any questions about Federation security or technology or anything like that. The interrogator sat him down in front of this bank of lights and asked him how many there were.

There were four lights.

Picard answered correctly. "I see four lights."

The interrogator shocked him with this torture device and corrected his mistake. "There are FIVE lights. Now, how many lights are there."

Picard paused, recognizing the game. He answered again, "I see four lights."

The interrogator shocked him again and repeated his question, "How many lights do you see?"

Picard stuck to his guns. Louder this time. "I SEE FOUR LIGHTS!"

The interrogator stormed out of the room. Picard would not get any food or water until he agreed that there were FIVE lights.

I believe our country, our culture, our whole bloody WORLD is like this interrogation room.

Consider my perspective.

I'm living in a highly Christian town, in a highly Christian state, in a very mystical world.

I have intelligence, ability, charm, and ambition. I could wrap this town around my finger if I wanted to. But first, I have to answer the question, "How many lights do you see?"

I feel like Jesus, brought high on the mountain to look down upon the Earth. The powerful men, the string-pullers, are making me an offer. "You can have whatever you want. We'll give you fame and power and money and love and everything else men crave. All you have to do is tell us how many lights you see."

I know what answer they want. But I can't give it to them. The answer they want is the WRONG answer.

But who am I to decide what the right answer is? I'm just one man. Fragile and scared and alone. Besides, these guys have been counting lights for 40 years. I just started counting three years ago.

Maybe there really ARE five lights. Maybe I'm just being stubborn. Maybe my dad is right. I've been told there are five lights all my life. Maybe I'm just REBELLING. Maybe I'll "grow out of it."

I hear the old ones talk sometimes. I tell them how many lights I see and they look down on me and they pat my head. They say, "When I was your age, I only saw four lights. But when you get to be MY age -- when you get a little more EXPERIENCE, you'll realize that there were five lights, all along."

I met a pretty girl yesterday. She was smart and funny and talking to her made me feel happy inside. I didn't want to ask the question. I tried not to ask. I tried to forget there even WAS a question. I tried to stop caring about the answer.

But finally, I couldn't stand it anymore. I asked her, "How many lights do you see?"

She smiled at me in that familiar way and said, "There are five lights, of course. What a silly question!"

I asked my Grandmother about it. Tactfully, of course. I asked her, "Grandma, have you ever considered the possibility, just the POSSIBILITY, that there are only four lights?"

Grandma got very angry. She said it was evil to say things like that. She said bad things happen to people who don't see five lights. She told me about Uncle Charlie and Aunt Sue. Uncle Charlie and Aunt Sue said there were only four lights, but they did lots of drugs and they beat their kids and they didn't even celebrate CHRISTMAS, for God's sake!

She said my mother saw five lights and she wanted me to see five lights, and if she wasn't dead already, hearing that I only saw four lights would kill her.

She said I might as well go to my mother's grave and spit on it, talking about four lights that way.

I loved my mother, and I miss her, and I wouldn't want to make her angry or sad. But no matter how hard I squint and stare and rub my eyes, all I ever see is four lights.

When I was really little they took me to this pretty house and asked me how many lights I saw. I was very young, and I wanted to make my parents happy, so I said I saw five lights. They held me under the water for a little while and when I came up, they said I could be in the five-lights club.

At first, it was fun being in the five-lights club. Talking about the five lights made my parents very happy. I got to play with the other children and sing songs and once I made a little house out of popsicle sticks.

But as I got older, I started to worry. Everybody around me got so happy when I talked about the five lights, I started to feel guilty about it. I felt guilty about lying.

I was a good speaker, and I knew lots of big words. My parents said I should devote my life to talking about the five lights. I didn't really say anything when the subject came up. I just smiled and changed the subject.

Finally, after I was all grown up, I decided to stop lying. I decided to tell everyone that I only saw four lights -- to apologize for lying all this time.

Some of the people I told got angry. Some of them got sad. And some of them said it was "just a phase" I was going through.

I told my friends about it. Friends so close they were like brothers. Closer than any real family I ever had. We all agreed on the number of lights while we were growing up, but we never really talked about it.

It wasn't something you really talked about, when you were a kid. You just accepted it as fact. There were five lights. Everybody around you saw five lights and they taught you to see five lights, and that's how many there were, until the day you died.

You could talk about what color they were or how bright they were, but the number never changed. There were FIVE lights, dammit, and bad things happen to people who only see four!

I told my friends how many lights I saw. I knew it would shock them but I knew they loved me. I knew they would accept my belief, even if they didn't share it.

I was surprised when they started asking me questions:

"How do you KNOW how many lights there are?" "Are you SURE there are only four lights?" "Millions of people see five lights, who are YOU to only see four?" "The fifth light is invisible, but you're supposed to see it anyway!" "We're not wrong, your eyes are wrong!"

They were still my friends. They still loved me. But now there was something wrong. Even when we're not talking about the lights, I can tell they're thinking about them.

They don't just see ME when they look at me anymore. They see the guy who only sees four lights.

They keep their distance sometimes. They were told that bad things happen to people like me. They're afraid that if they get too close, bad things will happen to them, too.

I haven't told my Grandma yet. I haven't talked to her in a long time. I'm afraid to talk to her, because I know that if we talk, she's going to ask me the question.

I've lied to her for 20 years, but I'm not going to lie anymore. If she asks me how many lights I see, I'm going to tell her the truth.

After I tell her the truth, a lot of people are going to be worried about me. Some of them are going to hate me. I don't know which part bothers me more -- the hate or the worry.

I'd rather have people hate me than worry about me. I'm funny that way.

Before I go, I want to ask you a question.

You don't have to answer right away. You don't even have to say it out loud. Later tonight, when the doors are all locked and the lights are out and there's no one around to hear you or hate you or worry about you, take a moment and ask yourself
-- honestly --

How many lights do you see?

Jaffo

****End of post****

Facebook may not be the best forum for this, but since 99% of the people I care about are accessible this way..... here goes. 

I separated myself from the church a couple of years ago and am overwhelmingly satisfied with my choice. I tried for years to pray on it, ignore it, even fake it, but the truth remains: I do not believe in God. I respect the beliefs of those that do, and am glad that you find peace and meaning in that belief. I never have, and no longer feel the need to "force it". I can't help but think that if you are completely honest with yourselves, a few of you are feeling the same way but are afraid, as I was, to speak honestly about it. Even if you decide differently, IT IS PERFECTLY OK TO QUESTION IT!! I am a good person, a good father, a good husband, and a good friend. I will no longer be dishonest with myself or those that I care about simply to comply with the "norm" or traditional expectations. 

As i write this, I am literally sick to my stomach with worry about the response it will bring. I feel as though I have been dishonest with many of you, and am truly sorry for that. Those that I have already confided in have pointed out that I have at times been "aggressively defensive" of the validity of my choice, especially to those who would try to lecture or otherwise talk down to me, my apologies if you were on the receiving end of that. 

My heartfelt thanks to my wife Kelly Henry- Stephens, who was as surprised as anyone (and may be less than thrilled about this), thank you for accepting and respecting my viewpoint, and to my cousin Kelly Glancy-Milligan, just for listening when I needed an ear to bend. 

For those that feel the need to judge me, life really is to precious and short for all of that nonsense (especially if you believe, as I do, that "this is it") so save it. Do you think I haven't heard it all already? 

Dave

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Replies to This Discussion

Do you see a light at the end of the tunnel?

Is it a metaphorical or a literal light -

or would you not care to ask yourself that question?

Dear Dave,

I came out about seven years ago after I had open heart surgery to replace my aortic valve. I told my family first. They all say they believe in god and I'm wrong. Some have stopped talking to me unless it's absolutely necessary. I really don't care about whether or not anyone else agrees with me, it feels great to be honest about my belief that there is no god or devil. I could easily point out the many reasons god isn't real but I leave it up to each person to decide one way or another for themselves. I'm fine with being ignored by the people that are really  dumb enough to believe in supernatural beings. What hurts is that they think they are smarter than I am. Oh well, I can't let that bother me either.

As for the rest of the world, I don't discuss it unless someone asks me directly. If they have the nerve to ask, I have the nerve to answer. Otherwise they just assume that because I live in the south I must believe in god, jesus, and the devil.
I know I haven't met any atheist around here.

Sincerely

Linda

Linda,

I had heard similar stories from friends that moved to Nashville, TN for the summer one year. They were actually Catholic but when Halloween rolled around they were the ONLY family in the apartment complex sending kids out trick or treating. The explanation was that it was "satan's holiday :-)   I am fortunate to have a few like minded people here locally to talk to. Have you checked to see if there are any Atheist or Recovering from Religion groups in your area? 

Dave

P.S. I am glad that you recovered from your surgery! 

Dave,

Where would I find any atheist groups in my area? Churches are a dime a dozen around here.

Linda

I hear you Linda.  Hope you're feeling better.

I was raised catholic but it was always hard for me to take it seriously so I was an agnostic for a while up until I read Harris, Dawkins, Hitchens, when all started to make sense. I had many talks with my wife and my brother and they know where I stand for a while but social media made all the difference to spread the word.

I know I have lost some friends over this but like they say " I rather hang around with people that accept me for who I am than for who I can pretend to be"

I was raised Baptist and started to doubt at age 14 when I was told that I had to stop asking questions and just believe.  I have been an atheist for over thirty years and have always been open about it if asked.

I don't know of a specific time when I came out.  I do know that for as long as I can remember I refused to say "under god" as part of the Pledge of Allegiance".  I believe other students noticed but they did not ask.  I used to hide it or not discuss it at all.  For myself, it has always been normal.  My family has never been religious.

While I don't meet people and say "Hi, I'm Wendy and I'm an athiest!" I do tell people if asked.  It is on my facebook profile, but how many people actually look at profiles?  My closest friends know, as they have known for a long time.  My 12 year old daughter also does not believe in god.  She has been harrassed at school for it and I believe it is one of the reasons she is treated differently by other students.

But I won't lie about it.  I will tell the truth because it's a good way to find out who you can trust.

I have never imagined that it is so difficult to come out of religion, I admire your courage

As an born atheist, I have never gone throught that difficulty that confusion, which are so important for this

forum

I am a member of a couple of atheist sites and I find that the stories about 'coming out' are frequent and most stories follow some similar patters. I did not have such experiences but I feel extremely sorry, sometimes even concerned and helpless too. I belong to an orthodox, less educated and a developing country and I can't expect better that what I got but I am surprised how the same kind of experiences are repeated in so called advanced countries among well educated people.  

That is a very interesting observation, Madhukar. I guess people really are the same everywhere you go. Scary the power religious dogma wields even in, as you say, "so called advanced countries". 

I "came out" on my blog, which was at the time automatically posted to my Facebook page for friends and family to see. I'm guessing my sister saw it first, since she's the most active online, and she then showed it to everyone else. I titled it, "The God question: My testimony," which I thought was clever at the time, but it probably only made the blow more shocking because when believers mention the word, "testimony," they are usually about say something positive about their faith, which may have been what my evangelical family thought I was going to do when they saw it. So in that sense, I kind of regret the title. I came out in July 2009, and it was rough facing my family for the first time in person after that post. They will occasionally mention something to me - my dad tried the Pascal's wager bit on me a couple months ago - but I try to steer clear of the topic if at all possible, although prayers before meals are sometimes awkward.

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