Though I am an everyday reader here, I only post occasionally. I've mainly posted with family stories and other minor matters, but more importantly I've posted when I want advice from the Kos community. I've been able to rely on good, thoughtful advice with only a minimum of flaming.
So here I go again!
I've been on a long personal journey, which has recently culminated in my acknowledgment that I am an atheist. Specifically, I'm not anti-religious or anti-spiritual, though I despise and detest (and occasionally hate) anything in any religion that causes fear or guilt or anxiety, or damages people. And that's a lot to despise!
No, I come to atheism mainly from the scientific end. I'm a scientist myself, and the more we (collectively) know, the more I am convinced that there's only one existence: the physical world. Naturalistic explanations get better all the time, and therefore there's nothing required like spirit or soul to explain how things work. Religion and spirituality can be really valuable to us as humans - but there's no extra reality out there, no supernatural world. God herself and all sorts of religious images and spiritual concepts can be good and helpful, but they are metaphors and nothing more. Good and evil exist, but it's up to us humans to cultivate the good and root out the evil in the world.
I have a lot of friends who are religious, ranging from vague deistic spirituality to arch-conservative Catholics. I have a lot of friends who are scientists, and most of them are not religious though some go to church for old-times sake or because it is part of their culture and upbringing.
I have a lot of gay friends, some of my closest friends of all. I also have a number of gay family members. Their stories of coming out are sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreaking. From them I have learned the pain that coming out can cause people.
What fascinates me is the experiences I read of people coming out as atheists. Sometimes the pain caused by that coming out seems worse, in that family and friends will say that one can't help being gay but it's TERRIBLE to turn away from the Truth.
While I am out at home, I'm not out at my workplaces (major midwestern university and Federal funding agency). I've been floating a few trial balloons lately, and I can see that if I come out openly I am in for quite a ride. Along the lines in the paragraph above, I recently posted a Facebook question about whether people would be inclined to react differently if a loved one came out as gay versus coming out as an atheist. What I got for my question was severe warning about eternal punishment, two people un-friending each other because they hated each other's answers to my question. In some posts, all atheists are assumed to be angry or arrogant and were called douchebags. I can now see why some of my gay friends don't mind if people know (or guess), but they never actually come out in conversation.
So I'm asking if some of you could take a few minutes and share your experiences about coming out as atheist or gay or whatever. Yes, there are thousand atheist blogs out there, and I am very aware of the Out Campaign, so I don't need resources. What I am hoping for is perspective that I can carry on my journey - and maybe some extra courage since I am that kind of person who can't help but worry that I am confusing or hurting people.