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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Dave,

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!)

Mordie,

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!

Dave

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 was never in, so I didn't have to come out. :)  I admire what you did!

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.

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