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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.


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Comment Preferences

  •  Some atheists ARE angry and arrogant. (7+ / 0-)

    Some theists are angry and arrogant. Neither need be so.

    Welcome out of the closet. It's always good when someone "comes out" and tells their story. Thanks.

    Santorum: Man on Dog; Romney: Dog on Car. Ren and Stimpy: Dog on Cat

    by commonmass on Tue Jun 26, 2012 at 01:07:46 PM PDT

  •  I just say "I don't subscribe to any "mainstream" (4+ / 0-)

    forms of spirituality and prefer not to discuss it with anyone."

    Let them try to decode this gobbledygook on their own time.


    An election is coming. Universal peace is declared and the foxes have a sincere interest in prolonging the lives of the poultry. ~ T.S. Eliot

    by furriner on Tue Jun 26, 2012 at 01:42:05 PM PDT

  •  I'm an atheist and I understand your (5+ / 0-)

    question.  Personally, I only mention it if someone asks.  But I don't even hesitate.  I find that most people may be surprised but don't really care.  I know it bugs my religious fundie relatives, but they probably just pity me.  (These same relatives went to the Glenn Beck rally in Washington from Dallas, btw.)  

    It's really no one's business what your personal spiritual beliefs are, but if they are so curious as to ask, I'd tell them.  And don't be apologetic or shy.  That just feeds their feelings of superiority they get from believing tales that couldn't have possibly happened.  

    If they probe further ("How can you not believe xyz"), I usually just respond that science has answered a lot of questions and I'm quite comfortable not knowing all the answers to the universe.  Which is true.

    But for the most part, I wouldn't make it a topic of conversation.  Money, politics and religion - the trifecta of social third rails.  :)

  •  Interesting (4+ / 0-)

    I recently heard this story on NPR

    "I'm currently an active pastor and I'm also an atheist," she says. "I live a double life. I feel pretty good on Monday, but by Thursday — when Sunday's right around the corner — I start having stomachaches, headaches, just knowing that I got to stand up and say things that I no longer believe in and portray myself in a way that's totally false."

    MacBain glances nervously around the room. It's a Sunday, and normally she would be preaching at her church in Tallahassee, Fla. But here she is, sneaking away to the American Atheists' convention in Bethesda, Md.

    I thought of that story when I heard this one over the week-end:

    Leah Libresco, who’d been a prominent atheist blogger for the religion website Patheos, announced on her blog this week that after years of debating many “smart Christians,” she has decided to become one herself, and that she has begun the process of converting to Catholicism.

    For myself, I think spirituality is pretty personal; and what anybody knows about mine presumably leaks out in my words and actions and associations. I am not interested in getting into the finer points of dogma, and the use of crystals vs crosses, sprinkling vs dunking, etc.

    from a bright young conservative: “I’m watching my first GOP debate…and WE SOUND LIKE CRAZY PEOPLE!!!!”

    by Catte Nappe on Tue Jun 26, 2012 at 02:00:07 PM PDT

  •  Welcome! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Joy of Fishes, Crabby Abbey

    We have cookies. :)

    "You're on your own" within the context of a society IS sociopathic. - kovie

    by Killer of Sacred Cows on Tue Jun 26, 2012 at 02:30:00 PM PDT

    •  As to your question (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Crabby Abbey, JesterDel

      Sometimes people are going to get hurt if you don't believe what they believe. Some people just wrap themselves up in a religion and make it their identity. Those folks, you can't help hurting. So then, the question becomes whether being honest with them or avoiding the question in order to keep the peace is more important. You may need to do this on a person-by-person basis.

      "You're on your own" within the context of a society IS sociopathic. - kovie

      by Killer of Sacred Cows on Tue Jun 26, 2012 at 02:31:12 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  you might want to check out Julia Sweeney, (3+ / 0-)

    She has a series 'Letting go of god". You may recall her from Saturday Night Live.  She also has an ad running to support a separation of church and state organization.  The humor may help; she was raised catholic, but no longer believes; but her pursuasion is gentle and sincere.

    If love could have saved you, you would have lived forever.

    by weck on Tue Jun 26, 2012 at 05:58:13 PM PDT

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