I'm new to this sight, but am already feeling right at home. This thread is striking a cord with me I'm afraid. I hope it's OK to jump in?
A little about me: A lifetime atheist, I've lived amoung Christians from the very start. Married one.
She came out of the closet, two years ago (now she knows she's a lesbian, always has been, just didn't realize it - and no I didn't abandon her, she's my friend) But now she's back in the closet.
Here's why, and here's what I believe. Most people are incapable of breaking out of their early childhood programming. Whoever they were, and whatever they believed, as of about six is who they will be for the duration. They will gain knowledge and experience (or not) but who they are will not change.
Reasoning with them will only make them angry.
When asked, "Isn't it funny how God hates the same people you do?" They will not see the humor, they will not have a apiphany. They can't.
It's just the way most humans are wired. I think it's likely we are in the minority for basically genetic reasons. Our brains demand something different than the average neurotypical. On some level, we can't help it, and they can't either. Think about how useless it would be to try to convince Kelli not to be lesbian, or myself not to be hetero. You might as well try to talk a carnivore into becoming a vegan.
Let's set aside for the moment that it's not really that simple (I know, believe me I know).
I'm fond of saying that "You can not reason someone out of something they were never reasoned into."
It is true, but here is my point, (and I do have one): Do the social and economic calculus before you out yourself to too many people. In my experience any rational cost benifit analysis shows it only pays to tell close friends that you trust, (think what you would do as a Jew in Nazi Germany) and my personal view is to not care too much about the other folks.
And if you do have one, or two, true friends that will stand beside you through anything (and vice versa I hope) then count your blessings, and smile. You're richer than you think.
One man's view.
Thanks for your thoughtful input, Steven. And welcome.
You said, "You can not reason someone out of something they were never reasoned into."--I couldn't find an attribution for that quote, but I like it too. Not certain it's entirely true, but all indicators seem to point to its veracity. We've all come up against those who simply don't understand what we're trying to say. Their brain does not work that way, and it feels like there is little you can do. They NEED to believe what they believe.
The only pertinent insight i have on that is that i was a Christian in my younger years, and even went to a Nazarene college. I believed in God, and went through all the motions. It made me feel safe and accepted, because there was a group of people--a tribe, if you will--who was on my side. (Ironically, we know that this is the very essence of the evolution of human beings...they are naturally social animals who thrive when in groups). But this tribal aspect of Christianity/religion was especially attractive to someone like me, who had no family bonds to fill that void. Now, I'm a card-carrying atheist because i discovered that bond could be had elsewhere, and those beliefs in supernatural beings could be replaced by the wonders of nature and science...and when i look back and consider that journey, it began with EDUCATION and was accomplished through TIME. The more often you are exposed to a new idea, the more acceptable it becomes, so in that sense, yes, it is important for us, as nonbelievers, to spread the word of our own "gospel." But in order to understand all of it, I had to acquire information. Most notably, i studied under a Bible scholar, and the list of questions and confusions only got bigger. This led to cognitive dissonance, and ultimately, my search for the truth. This is why i started working on the 6-VOlume book, Supernatural Hypocrisy: The Cognitive Dissonance of a God Cosmology (took three years to write it and it should be available from Amazon by mid-March). I cover all this territory in those books....But by recording the details of that intellectual journey, I saw clearly what the facts were. The more I learned about reason and science and logic, the more absurd those Christian beliefs became. Perhaps, then, there are those who can experience that cognitive dissonance, and some who cannot. And that means there will always be some who can't be reached, because they NEED to believe in a god. They would otherwise fall apart if they didn't. That, to me, is more about a weakness in the human being, than a strength that is inherently needed.
I do understand those who wish to scream it from the rooftops that they are atheists. There's a certain pride of ownership, if you will, when you know who you are and what you believe. But to let someone know upfront about your beliefs, i think is not necessary. Would you say,
"Hi, I'm Dave, and prefer sex standing up."? or
"Hello, I'm Tina, and I believe in gun ownership."?
That's like, TMI...If we did that, life would be like an AA meeting all the time. Thus, there are, i believe, appropriate times to bring that up, and perhaps that's what you meant, SteveT, perhaps not. But I do think that it is on a need-to-know basis--personal things like beliefs and sexual orientation, politics. If it comes up, and someone asks, then sure, speak your truth. Or if you are in a gathering that is ABOUT that subject, yes, say it. But there is discernment to be had here, and frankly, it's not always another person's business what i believe, who I sleep with, or what party i vote for.
Thanks to all of you for your thoughtful remarks...I welcome any others.
Kelli Jae Baeli