Any ideas on how to "come out" as an atheist . . .
Posted: 29 August 2006 02:40 PM   [ Ignore ]
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I was born into a Catholic family, baptized into the Catholic church and followed all religious teachings to the best of my ability.  That is, up until about 5+ years ago when I started to question things, one by one, and saw that there is NO WAY that religion could be for real.

I am now a very liberated woman—I am an atheist and so proud of it!

However, all of my friends and family (except for my husband and 2 adult children) would not welcome the idea of my being an atheist.  They would think I was crazy and feel sorry for me.  And they would honestly mean well . . . I’ve been where they are and I would feel the same, in fact, I would probably not want to have anything to do with an atheist!  Stay clear of that heathen!!

Is there some book, some video, SOMETHING!! OR SOME WAY!  to slowly get the people I care about to see things the way I do or at least to understand why I feel and think the way I do now.  For me, personally, it was a matter of questioning things, little things, one at a time and it took YEARS before I finally knew I was right! 

But most of the peope I know are so "locked into" religion that I can’t see any way out for them and, thus, I know they would frown on me now.  Gosh, I feel like a homosexual in the closet!!

I’m a good person - a kind person - and I hope that’s enough.  But I want to scream out to every Christian-like person I know that I AM AN ATHEIST!!

Any suggestions?

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Mary Ann

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Posted: 29 August 2006 03:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Oof, that’s a very difficult question, Mary Ann. It’s not one I’ve had to face. Perhaps some other people here can give sage advice. All I’d say is to trust your instincts and do what you feel is right. Don’t second-guess. It may be that some reject you for your beliefs, but you have to have the internal fortitude to be aware that that is their problem and not yours.

And of course you will probably want to link up with some sort of a local organization (or internet organization!) that provides some support.

Good that at least you have your husband and children with you on this one. That should make it easier.

Best to you.

And welcome!

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Doug

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Posted: 29 August 2006 07:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I’m in the same situation… Stuck in the atheist closet!

I’ve started outing myself in certain circles. On my website, for example, I have ‘atheist’ in my list of personal attributes. The week after I added that, I started getting hate mail for it.

I worry most about my grandparents, all of whom are super Christians. They’re also incredibly healthy for their age, which means I have a long time to wait before they’re out of the picture—not that I want them out of the picture smile I like them, but I’m certain my relationship with them will suffer if they find out I’m not one of their sheep.

I think for now, if I have no choice but to out myself with them, I’m going to avoid the A word. I’ll start small, tell them I don’t believe the Bible is the word of god, and see where it goes from there…

Good luck to you wink

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"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the Universe."
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Posted: 01 September 2006 03:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Just like that other discussion we were having, I think the main thing is to let them see that you’re still the same kind, thoughtful, moral person you always were.  You might start by saying you’re a Secular Humanist or something, and then gradually come around to the notion that, “well, maybe the Bible isn’t totally inerrant…”

My family used to try and bring me back into the fold, too, but when they realized that I hadn’t suddenly become a red-eyed, drunken, murdering, theiving rapist, they stopped bothering.

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Posted: 01 September 2006 04:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Good advice, advocatus, but it always seems that you have to twice as good as an athiest to get half the respect of a theist. Atheists are so absolutely perceived as immoral, it is hard to declare you are one.

But, my advice would be to always remember that, as an atheist, you are the one with the rational and reasonable view of the world. You know that you are not immoral. Always remember who you are, and that there is nothing wrong with you. If people don’t like it, it is their screwed-up worldview that is the problem. It has nothing to do with you as a human being. YOU ARE THE SANE ONE.

When they can actually present some compelling evidence for their views, then we can consider them. But, so far, the only reasonable and rational path is towards atheism.

And also remember, there’s more of us out there every day. We are growing in numbers every day. If possible, find a supportive group nearby. Or, if nothing else, keep in touch with others who think like you by visiting internet forums like this. They do offer some form of support, in their own way.

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"Always minimize both actual and potential suffering; always maximize both actual and potential happiness."
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Posted: 18 September 2006 02:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Hey, Mary Ann, keep us posted on how it works out for you.

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Posted: 18 September 2006 09:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Mary Ann, I am in the same boat.  Like you, I was raised Catholic.  I graduated from Catholic grade school, Catholic high school, and Catholic college (and received, I think, a great education.)  It is not my grandparents that concern me in “coming out”;  it’s my grandchildren (as well as wife).  My approach has been to ask questions so that others gradually see my “doubt” while at the same time I can perhaps get them thinking.

Recently my son-in-law asked me if I believed in guardian angels!!!  (I don’t think that the Catholic Church talks of them any more.)  Then we proceeded to the question of whether the devil exists and is active in the world.

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Posted: 18 September 2006 09:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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The best path is not always the easiest path.

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Fighting the evil belief that there is a god(s).

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Posted: 21 September 2006 07:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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I think the best way to affirm one’s atheism is to never hesitate to counter someone else’s religious sentiments or assertions with atheistic/humanistic ones.  Don’t dilute or apologize for an anti-religious statement when one seems called for; most fundamentalist or even casually religious people don’t usually dilute or apologize for those religious assumptions they comfortably air to all about them in the manner of, say, cigarette smoke or car exhaust.

Comfort level, of course, is the issue.  Unless one has a forceful personality, little self-consciousness and no concern for compromising one’s comfort level, this kind of affirmation can be difficult.  You either toughen your personality to take derision and criticism when you let your atheism hang out; or you learn to satisfy your atheistic principles with little gestures instead of grand statements:  donating to secular/atheist/humanist causes or organizations; reading non-believer apologetics; making the casual, occasional rhetorical jab against some believer’s smug assumption; or just disregarding the importance of religion in your everyday life.  Cumulatively, this can send a powerful message to all your relatives, friends, etc.

Personally, I think this more low-key approach is the better one for day-to-day life.  The “I am an atheist and proud of it” soundbite suits the podium or dinner party conversation; at work or at home it tends to sound shrill, hysterical.  Ideally, you reach the point where you are as casually an unbeliever as others are believers.  Here’s Norman Mailer from Mailer on Mailer, 2000:

“When someone is great, someone’s marvelous, they don’t have to keep saying, every minute:  ‘We are the greatest.’”

Which is to say, if you are an atheist, then it should become clear to all around you eventually.

Now, getting believers to understand or sympathize with atheism is a feat that’s defeated even the most eloquent down through the centuries; if Ingersoll’s brilliant, thrilling orations couldn’t do more than make a dent in the thick skulls of the fundamentalists of his time, there’s little hope for us lesser folk in our own time, where being intolerantly religious is de rigueur, a virtue; and the notion that atheism is wrong, intellectually dubious, is an axiom, not to be questioned by decent people.

To show that one is happy/wise/sensible/loving/responsible/tolerant/honest/constructive/successful/etc. and an atheist will say a lot more for atheism than any number of orations, essays, interviews or op-eds in the long run.—And, of course, if one isn’t always any one of these wonderful things, it’s good to remember that most believers—just as human as we unbelievers are—usually aren’t always so wonderfully off either; that’s why they need to believe! :wink:

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“God. . . is the name of our ignorance.”—A.C. Grayling

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Posted: 22 September 2006 10:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Well said. *clap* *clap*

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Posted: 25 September 2006 03:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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After 16 years of Catholic education I slowly became an atheist and recently - much later - a secular humanist.
My family (divorced long ago - 4 grown well educated very bright children) always respected my intellect and recently they all are coming around to my point of view.
Now to the question - I never avoided answering a question about my religious views. Early on my answers were short - something like “I no longer believe in god” and if the questioner wanted more I would respond.

We know so much more now than we did when i went over to the “dark” :wink: side that it should be much easier to plan intelligent answers for those who want to pry more deeply into our philosophy of life.
I came out in the 60’s when we didn’t have the understanding of the universe we have now, when the vacuum tube was still the basis of most radios and they still had a place in the home.

I worked out a series of responses involving things such as the known age of the earth, 3.5 billion years or so, the distances we deal with in the universe, and several of the other more obvious facts we have at our disposal now to explain and quiet any one who asks me why I gave up belief in a religion that is finding it more and more difficult to accommodate those facts within it’s scheme of metaphysics.

I don’t think your family will challenge you and you may find they will come over after a reasonable amount of time passes. In the case of the very old I still avoid any upset by keeping silent.

The ability you have in this business is the same as mine. You can discuss the difficulty with religious beliefs point by point, angel by guardian angel because you have the background in theology and metaphysics to do it.
Many atheists, Jews in particular don’t know enough about the christian religion to discuss it intelligently and are forced to discuss just the science and reason issues. Those just put believers to sleep and don’t affect their religious beliefs at all. (Or if they do its a drip drip drip water on a rock process)
Recently in a Free Inquiry the CFI director/board member for religion wrote an essay answering the question - Do arguments from science and reason change the minds of radical right believers? Those who believe in an inerrant bible for example? He said and I agree that just using the science and reason arguments won’t have any effect.
His point was that those who can should discuss the religious beliefs themselves, showing the errant nature of all of them. I have done that not realizing why. It certainly quiets anyone who has a modicum of knowledge of theology and science.
People with your background and mine and kfkolonel’s should probably begin to think about trying to find one another. We might be able to gain some attention as counterweights to the creeping theocracy in this country. (I can dream can’t I)

But in any event all of us should do as trantorsky suggests, keep the day to day stuff low key and prove to all around you by our example that it does not take belief in a deity to live a moral and happy life.
I only add when the opportunity arises speak, but about religion’s inadequacy how it just doesn’t fit in the real world. (Not about how the eye really evolved from a light sensitive strip in a worm. raspberry )
One child still resists my blandishments.:shock:
Jim

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Jimmie Keyes
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Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. (MLK Jr.)

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Posted: 26 September 2006 10:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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I have sometimes wondered which life I would want to live: Being in the spotlight as an atheist? or Living my life staying quiet and live a normal life?  What a shame that normality isn’t in my way of thinking.

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Fighting the evil belief that there is a god(s).

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Posted: 04 November 2006 12:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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heretic—I think the best approach to that dilemma is: “pick your battles”.
If you happen to get another life later, all power to you—atheism needn’t be the pillar around which you build your life, unless you have reason to believe that that would make you most fully human.

Research the history of social movements, and how social consciousness builds, is developed, marketed and the like—and that might give you a more stable foundation for action [and keeping active, and not knuckling under to uncertainty] than “fighting the good fight” alone.

jim—have you written down -your- history of tackling the task, at the very least from the standpoint of theological rationalism and deism? It should be much easier to plan intelligent answers—but where even those not trapped in an emotional bond to inerrancy mayn’t have the time, learning/study skills or perseverance/mindfulness/coping skills to apply themselves to the task, in high school and university… how can we make sure that our initial political appearances are effective?

I’m a firm believer in growing our own native capacities to teach, at the very least as a method and impetus for critical thinking. I’d definitely take the “toughen your personality” approach when I can—there’s reason enough to believe that advocacy and social involvement are ways to make for more fulfilling lives—and toughening your personality takes one further in the power structure.

Which is why I’ll go looking for a thread about toughening our personalities right now…

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Posted: 05 November 2006 10:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Welcome meliorist!

Bob Reasoner

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Posted: 05 November 2006 11:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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I understand Sam Harris is in this weeks Newsweek responding as the resident atheist to the positions of the religious right.
I’m looking forward to reading that. It should give me a start on the idea meliorist suggested, writing a sort of playbook using the things I’ve learned about religion over the years.
Jim

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Jimmie Keyes
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http://secularhumanism.meetup.com/1/
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. (MLK Jr.)

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Posted: 02 January 2007 12:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Re: Any ideas on how to "come out" as an atheist .

[quote author=“Mary Ann”]

Is there some book, some video, SOMETHING!! OR SOME WAY!  to slowly get the people I care about to see things the way I do or at least to understand why I feel and think the way I do now.  For me, personally, it was a matter of questioning things, little things, one at a time and it took YEARS before I finally knew I was right! 

<SNIP>

I’m a good person - a kind person - and I hope that’s enough.  But I want to scream out to every Christian-like person I know that I AM AN ATHEIST!!

Any suggestions?

I hope I’m not picking to stale a thread to make my first real post.

I think I can see where you are coming from, but I’d also like to suggest that you consider what you’re trying to do. I’m sure you can imagine that aggressively pushing your beliefs probably won’t help keeping your existing friends.

I normally have to deal with this more from a pseudo science point of view, but I assume its a bit similar. When something comes up in discussion I’ll happily state my point of view and debate the details in a friendly manner. If people don’t want to discuss further, I leave off. If they want to push their points of view and don’t want to take part in a reasoned debate then I don’t spend time with them.

Perhaps show who you are by what you do, not what you say. Don’t be afraid to have your copy of the God Delusion on the coffee table, but don’t beat people with it unless they beat you with the bible first.

If its the sense of Freedom that you are after, perhaps go to meetings like the CFI ones, if there is a Skeptics organisation near you, or if you have the money something like The Amazing Meeting would be a great place to get that feeling.

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