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!
I really liked your post.
I am wondering how you and your wife handled your children.
I am Jewish, come from a religious family, I am married for over 10 years to a religious Jewish woman, and we have children. After being a skeptic for the past 2 years, I finally came out to my wife recently, and to some of my family/friends, but not all.
My wife wasn't happy about it, but accepts that I will not change. However, she made some "ground rules", such as I must attend synagogue (even if I sit and fake it or don't pray), and I must not tell our children. She does not want our children to think that they have the option of becoming irreligious.
I wish I could speak honestly with my kids about it, and skip synagogue on the Sabbath, but I don't want to lose my wife and kids.
So again, how did you handle your kids? Does you wife let them know about your disbelief?
(By the way, any advice to me would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!)
I was very lucky in that though my wife was not happy about my lack of religion, she understood that attending church is pointless for someone who did not believe in the deity that everyone was praying to. I was ready to fight the good fight if necessary, but as it turned out (after a few tense Sunday mornings) she relented. I haven't attended church in almost two years now.
The kids are a tough one too. You know in your mind that your kids should have a choice and someday they will whether anyone else likes it or not. My kids are completely aware of my choice. I made a deal with my wife that the boys would continue to attend church with her on Sundays until they are confirmed in the church (8th grade) and therefore considered adults in the church and able to make up their own minds about whether or not they will continue to attend. My guess is if they choose not to, there may be a new round of ruffled feathers but we'll deal with that when the time comes. I have absolutely no issue if they choose to continue to attend, I just want them to know that they have a choice.
If I can offer any advice at all, it is this: Never let anyone make you feel as though you have done something wrong! You are absolutely just as entitled to your viewpoint as anyone else. The only thing you are guilty of is being honest about your beliefs. It is unfair for anyone (our beloved spouses included) to pressure you to "fake it" just to make themselves feel better about it and keep up appearances to peers. I understand that it can be a little uncomfortable for our loved ones, but it really isn't about them this time.
Hang in there my friend!
Pretty good, Dave. I came to a realization in 2012 that I'm really an atheist. Trained for the Pentecostal ministry, but never going all the way with it, I woke up one day listening to Jerry DeWitt lectures on You Tube. I identified with him and everything he said. It all made sense and just fell in line for me. Many years of guilt burdening has simply flown out the window now.
My grown daughters know, but one of them does not agree. Lots of my friends know, and a few of them have atheist leanings also. I never knew it until I told them of my experience. Any time you have to make apologies for scripture or what God said, you have to realize that you are lying. So many people cannot be honest with themselves.
My step father is an old man and it would kill him to know. I'm multi married and my wife is African, so she cannot know either, but very often she agrees with what I say on things. Christians want to plant the seed of faith, but my new thinking cause me to plant seeds of doubt everywhere I go. This is how it should be.
God is imaginary regardless of what belief system you are from.
I admire how you went about this. The Star Trek analogy is very clever and explains your point well.
I have not yet come out to my entire family. My wife has known from the start my doubts about god and religion. My mother, like me, is also a Catholic-turned-atheist (before I was), and knows as well. My dad, who is not really all that religious but still believes in god, does not yet know, as does no one on his side of the family.
As a child, it was my Mom's parents that brought me to mass every Sunday, and would be by far the most disappointed in my atheism. They are gone now, and as much as I loved and admired them, it was their passing 15 years ago that led to my being able to think clearer and more freely than ever before. My doubts started well before that though, at the moment I realized Santa Claus was not real. I was shattered, and upset that I was lied to by people I trusted completely. It was then I started to ask "Well, if Santa isn't real, what are other things they said were real that really aren't?" My belief in the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy quickly followed. God took a little longer, though, since my soul and eternity were much more important to consider than once-a-year gifts, baskets full of candy and the occasional quarter under my pillow.
I know that I have to tell the rest of my family sometime soon. Isn't it ironic, though, that we want so much not to disappoint the very people who have disappointed us - the ones who put us in this predicament in the first place?
"Isn't it ironic, though, that we want so much not to disappoint the very people who have disappointed us - the ones who put us in this predicament in the first place?"
Wow, what a great quote!
I like your metaphor ... and one of the best feelings I know is to be able to say that there are, indeed, only four lights, to be willing to say so, regardless of the audience, and to not give a rotten damn what their reaction is to that statement.
I truly "came out to myself" as an atheist in 2006 or 2007. After many years of doubting, I woke up one Sunday morning and decided that rather than arguing with myself about whether or not I was going to church, I would actively choose that I would no longer attend church. My husband (at the time) and I actually came to that on the same day. He was a pastor's kid, I had been a missionary's kid (or PK and MK if you come from that history). It was a huge relief, although neither of us felt the need to tell anybody else.
Our daughter was 7 at the time, and had already gone to church and participated in evangelical camp. She liked church (mostly for the social aspect) and asked us why we weren't going. Soon she began to see our developing atheist library, with Hitchens and Dawkins along with the Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. She asked me in the car, sounding horrified, "mommy, you still believe in god, don't you?" And I failed miserably. Instead of saying, "no sweetie," I said, "of course, I'm just trying to learn about all of the different ways people think..." This luckily never came back to bite me. However, in a couple of years, she being brilliant, re-opened the conversation by informing me that she didn't see the point of religion. I had remained silent on the point for several years. She had the courage I didn't, and we have had wonderful dinner table conversations about the beauty and wonder of nature. I love her innocence. She didn't even know that people existed who thought there was something wrong with loving someone of the same gender. She had no idea that anyone had ever killed another person for believing something different. She wondered why I had never told her. And I apologized. I was so glad that I hadn't victimized her with the ongoing childhood indoctrination that had created fear in me.
I am not out to my parents or my professional community (I am a psychologist.) My parents suspect and have never asked me directly. My professional community is another story that I will save for another post.
I am a frequently listener of The Atheist Experience and they have mentioned a growing group of secular therapists that people can turn to for therapy. Perhaps you would consider joining? I can give you more information if you would like.
Thanks! I actually sent them info yesterday. I was really glad to hear this was happening because I know for a fact that many religious counselors or therapists weave in their beliefs regardless of the client's stance. I'm very excited to support the secular therapist project.
Wonderful! I would love to see it grow to be so widespread that it is a viable and convenient choice for anyone seeking help.
I'm still not completely out. A brother and a cousin know. My wife does not, although she and I have had some recent discussions about how Adam and Eve is a myth, Noah's ark is a myth, and in all likelihood, Exodus is a myth. We attend a Catholic church, and I've decided to take it slow. We already believe in abortion rights and we agree on gay rights (pro-marriage-equality). At some point we'll get to the discussion about the unreliability of the gospels and the implications of their mythic nature. But I think if I sprung it on her right now, she would not be completely surprised. My hope is that by the time I'll get there, she'll be thisclose to the same place anyway.