I was talking to my therapist, trying to explain what it's like for me, an atheist, to make connections in a meaningful way with most of the people I know. It's not that I don't relate to them in many ways, I just can't seem to get past a superficial level for fear that I might offend, or alienate them. Things are further complicated by the fact that for years I'd tried to fit into the religious and conservative mold of the majority of my family and friends. Yup, I'd hoped and tried to be a good christian.
It was during my struggle to recover from addiction that I finally accepted that there probably wasn't a Higher Power, and that I'd better figure out how to cope with reality if I wanted to have a sober, productive life. I started to notice how self-deceptive and dishonest my life had been, and I began to discard the rigid and unrealistic morality I'd tried, and failed to live by. For months I attended regular 12 step meetings and I learned some important lessons in the process. I'm grateful for the things I learned in NA and I'm glad there was someplace for a sick, hopeless addict to go for some comfort, understanding and direction. While it's possible to self-identify as an atheist in a 12 step group, in my experience it prompted some very vocal and dogmatic defenses of God and I turned to other resources to maintain my sanity and sobriety.
I know the feeling of isolation that comes from being an addict. Oddly the way I feel now isn't much different. I couldn't be up front and open about my using, and I don't feel comfortable about being openly atheist. This may be a misinterpretation on my part, and sometimes I feel just as dishonest now, as I did then. I do know that when I encounter someone whose beliefs, or opinions differ from mine, I don't assume that they're in thrall to some demonic being, and I rarely have a burning desire to convert them to my point of view.