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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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.

Great story.  Thanks for telling it.

Each of us has different family dynamic, different experience, different temperament.  There is no right way to tell our families, friends, associates.  There is often the metaphor with respect to being gay.  Again, there is no 'right way'.  In the "facebook era", maybe gay folks come out on facebook too.

I deal with thousands of people in a years' time.  Because of that, and the issues of constant, anonymous evaluations that my employer sends out (medical), and the concept of needing to assure unbiased "therapeutic alliance",  I keep myself as much a blank slate as possible.  I don't pretend to any faith, but I stay off facebook because I know people search on me.  I know that from experience.

When people bring up their faith, I re-orient the issue to what my role is, how I can address their concerns, and I emphasize that I treat everyone with the same concern and professionalism regardless of their personal beliefs, not discriminating for or against anyone.   I would say the same about race or gender, but it's impossible to be a blank slate on those issues, given that those are there for all to see.  Actually, people do ask about my ethnicity, but I'm mostly Euro-American and say "Heinz -57" and move on.

As for family (parents) experience, part of my journey passed through Unitarian Universalism.  My fundamentalist Baptist family was sure that was the road to hell.  They were not overbearing about it, just worried about the fate of my soul. Religion gradually became a nontopic, and peace was maintained.   But I did not go further and go into the atheism aspect.  They are dead now, and while there are some things I wish were said, I think I did the right thing by them.

I hope things go well with your family. In the end, you are the one who knows best.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Not wanting to derail, but things pop into my head sometimes that I don't know what to do with.  I love Star Trek.  But when you mentioned Picard in the hands of the Cardassians, all I could think of was he was being tortured by Kim Cardassian, and Cloe Cardassian, and Kourtney Cardassian.  That is more torture than even Picard could bear.   The horror!

I came-out to my Mormon family by writing a letter to all of them (mother, 4 siblings and son-in-law), explaining why I knew there were no gods.

I mailed them at different days, so they would all get them at the same time, hoping to reduce the misrepresenting of facts by the rumor-mill running amok. :)

I didn't want to talk to them about it because I'm not good at face to face discussions.

While in the heat of discussion, I don't remember many things I want to say, plus I don't think very fast, which would put my point of view at a disadvantage, especially if I were talking to more than one at a time.  I also hate drama and would have expected crying and other unpleasant reactions.

I waited until my dad (who I loved) to pass-away, to avoid causing him the pain it would have, but couldn't wait until mom died.

The main reason is because my sister and her husband (who had mom living with them), kept harassing me to come visit.  But, when I did, she talked about religion all the time, and it was very annoying keeping my mouth shut.  My son-in-law also harassed me to visit.

I also got annoyed with the religious pictures on the walls of some of my family members.  My son-in-law and his wife were religious fanatics and had religious pictures cheek-jowl on all the walls!  I also couldn't stand to see them brainwash their 8 children.  Poor buggers!  Made me so sad.

One of my sisters replied by e-mail, repeating the standard answers and comments she had been programmed to parrot.  I responded with counter-arguments, but basically indicated, that yes, I used to use those arguments also, but they no longer impressed me.

So far, in the ~3 years since, the rest of my family have remained silent on the matter for the most part.  I keep thinking that I should make a final try at convincing them to stop wasting their time, intellect, and 11% or more of their income by pointing-out the many stupidities of Mormonism I've learned since that coming-out letter.  

I didn't have any close friends.  The only friend I had was just an acquaintance, and I gave-up the hopeless task of discussing it with him after he said he used to be scientific, but now knew there were better methods of learning the truth.

I am kind of semi-out. I have told a few people that i am an atheiest, but i have not said anything to my family. I even hide my Dawkins books like a teenage hides his playboys. Sometime i tell people things like, "i was raised Lutheran, but i don't attend church anymore." I am a bit of a coward, i guess. Sometimes it is easier to be honest with strangers than with the people you love. My husband knows, and he could care less, but church was not as big a deal in his family as it was in mine. I just don't want to have conflicts with my family. Is it really worth it to come out?

So funny!  I hid Dawkins and Hitchens whenever family and friends came over!  I still don't have the on the coffee table for the parents to see, because I am not out to them.  I'm out to essentially everybody else.

Is it worth it?  That depends on what you think you stand to lose.  I was secure enough in my families love that it was defintley worth it.  Had I not been I don't know if it would have been or not.

My daughter was a grown woman and my grand kids are young.  I think I'm so open about it because I let religion,and the area we live in, dictate I at least deny being atheist during my daughters childhood.  I want my grand kids to know there are people like me in the world and we're not evil or cruel  Just people who do the best they can with life.

I just trickled out that I was a non believer...and the more blow back I got..the more I gave...to friends or family alike.  I burned some bridges and some were burned with me. I am happier now for it.  Good stories posted here. It is rough coming out, but well worth the trouble..I may not be as employable anymore...I work in healthcare and many of them are religiously based corporations.

David, I read that you live in a "VERY Catholic part of Cincinnati" and decided to read your post. I too grew up in Cincinnati and for a time lived in a suburb in which I saw only one non-Catholic church. (Mt. Wash.)

My dad sent his five kids to Catholic schools, and before he died in the late 1970s he knew all five of us had left the Church. We did not plan or even talk about revenge, but for the three oldest it might have been our revenge for his occasional violence.

I finally told my family.  I've been atheist for over 15 years now.  Agnostic 15 years prior to that. I would sometimes go to their churches for some special function and just fume. Till I stopped going to any churce activity and told them why.  Of couse,at my age I'm secure in the fact that, no matter what, my family will always love me.  And they do. 

I couldn't listen to anymore hellfire and damnation and I certainly couldn't listen to any more hating on gays,Jews,Catholics,,etc...

Jaffo is a genius.

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