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Coming Out Is Fun - Comments

UGAtheist's Avatar Comment 1 by UGAtheist

Coming out in many situations is fun, exciting, and allows one to breath a heavy sigh of relief. I had that experience coming out to my family, friends, wife, etc.

It is also, for all practical purposes, damned near impossible to do when you -know- the company you work for is full of religious zealots. I've been in the employ of such people (in a small logistics firm) for half a decade and with work being so difficut to come by, there's no way i'm broaching that subject.

If I were not fired out-right (which would probably work to my legal advantage) I would certainly loose any chance at promotion and loose their refrence when I decided to move on. While I don't plan to work here forever, it's still a black mark that would make an already hard existence even worse.

So while coming out is fun, it can still be dangerous. If you happen to live and work in the bible belt, as I am, it's "don't ask, don't tell." -And if they do ask, pick a protestant denomination at random and be ready to name a church they don't attend.-

Sun, 25 Sep 2011 14:26:12 UTC | #874986

Flapjack's Avatar Comment 2 by Flapjack

To be honest, in my experience within the UK overall it hardly matters. Only within deeply devout families or communities is it even an issue. I'm atheist and gay and out of the two being gay is by far the most nerve-wracking gut-wrenching outing experience. I can tell practically everyone I know I'm atheist and the only person who wouldn't let it lie would be my bible thumping evangelist aunt who I rarely ever see. Barring the occasional standoff with door to door preachers, atheism is just another topic of conversation where you can agree to disagree when compared to telling your parents you have a same-gender boyfriend.

If you live in the USA bible belt or the Middle east for example, it's probably much more of a bone of contention to be atheist. Personally I find it hard to relate to outing yourself as atheist as anything other than a walk in the park.

Sun, 25 Sep 2011 14:48:38 UTC | #874993

SoHelpMeReason's Avatar Comment 3 by SoHelpMeReason

I lost my best friend in the world after coming out. I felt like I had discovered something new and profound, naturally wanted to tell her, and thought she'd like to know. I thought she'd find it interesting. Oh man. I was dead wrong. It still upsets me to think about it now. I'd almost go back in the closet to reverse it.

Sorry for the downer.

Sun, 25 Sep 2011 14:59:48 UTC | #874997

Richard Dawkins's Avatar Comment 4 by Richard Dawkins

Comment 3 by SoHelpMeReason :

I lost my best friend in the world after coming out. I felt like I had discovered something new and profound, naturally wanted to tell her, and thought she'd like to know and find it interesting. Oh man. I was dead wrong. It still upsets me to think about it now. I'd almost go back in the closet to reverse it.

Sorry for the downer.

I'm sorry you lost your friend. But I can't imagine a really true friend giving you up for such a reason.

How nice to see the OUT Campaign t-shirt, by the way.

Richard

Sun, 25 Sep 2011 15:06:36 UTC | #874999

UGAtheist's Avatar Comment 5 by UGAtheist

I would say, without a shadow of doubt, outing yourself as an atheist is more damning here in the southern US. I work with two gay men on a semi-regular basis who are contractors for our firm (they are both quite christian aswell, although the non-denominational god-is-love type) and nobody bats an eyelash or even has an off-color remark when they leave the room. Non-christians, on the other hand, draw quite a bit of criticism and I shudder to think of the atheist reaction.

When I read the poll saying that Atheists were the least liked/trusted group in the US I certainly didn't think it was an exaggeration. While the gay community may well be marginalized, they have a much longer standing and widely accepted support network. If you are fired because you are gay, someone will take your case immidiately. If you are fired because you are an atheist... well, I don't intend on finding out what happens there.

Sun, 25 Sep 2011 15:10:13 UTC | #875000

Byrneo's Avatar Comment 6 by Byrneo

I've pretty much always been an atheist, so there was no real "coming out" moment for me. But what annoys me is when people give you the "you're an atheist, so you don't believe in anything" comment.

Don't believe in anything? ANYTHING?

Sigh - walk away.

Sun, 25 Sep 2011 15:45:55 UTC | #875010

sbrogdon's Avatar Comment 7 by sbrogdon

I live in North Florida and am originally from South Georgia. Here, being an Atheist is akin to being a child molester or murderer. My coming out was scary as hell and not really fun at all. I lost several "friends" who I had 20+ years relationships with. I still catch myself having to be careful about what I say about religion in certain company.

It is much easier now the older I get. But it is still a struggle to live day to day as an Atheist in the heart of the bible belt.

Sun, 25 Sep 2011 15:46:21 UTC | #875011

paulmcuk's Avatar Comment 8 by paulmcuk

My mind never fails to boggle at the attitudes to atheists in parts of the US. The notion of having to "come out" as atheist is much the same in my mind as having to come out as heterosexual. I can only imagine what it must be like to live in genuine fear for your job and relationships if you fail to subscribe to a 2000 year old fairytale.

Sun, 25 Sep 2011 15:58:46 UTC | #875014

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 9 by Schrodinger's Cat

Comment 2 by Flapjack

To be honest, in my experience within the UK overall it hardly matters. Only within deeply devout families or communities is it even an issue.

My own experience too. The vast majority of people simply don't care what I believe in or not. I simply can't imagine, certainly in England, losing a job because anyone cared what religion I might or might not have. And I'm quite sure if I'd ever jumped up in the middle of the office and announced ' Hey guys....I don't believe in God !' it would be met with the resounding indifference of people who couldn't care less.

All the more reason why I find it incomprehensible that a nation exists that proclaims itself land of the brave and home of the free....the bulwark of freedom, democracy, etc etc......where people do have to care what others think of their beliefs.

I begin to wonder if UK troops are in the wrong nation.....and would not be better deployed against fundamentalists in America.

Sun, 25 Sep 2011 16:00:17 UTC | #875016

Stevehill's Avatar Comment 10 by Stevehill

I have huge respect for Greta Christina, so I don't say this in any way to belittle her piece.

But I find it profoundly depressing that she even finds it necessary to write it, in 2011, in the "land of the free".

I'm British and 58 next birthday. I've been "out" for half a century. I told my parents when I was 8 that I did not believe in god (they took me to church for a few years every Sunday so I could find out); they breathed a sigh of relief that they would not have to take me again, and that was that.

Since then I have never had the slightest problem about telling anyone I am an atheist, nor have I remotely feared it might have some adverse career or social impact. It's just a non-issue. If I wanted a political career it would still be a non-issue (we may have three atheist leaders in the three main parties).

Britain, and indeed pretty much all of northern Europe, may not have got everything right on the question of freedom of speech/belief, but this really is old hat over here.

Sun, 25 Sep 2011 16:04:14 UTC | #875018

green and dying's Avatar Comment 11 by green and dying

Comment 2 by Flapjack :

To be honest, in my experience within the UK overall it hardly matters. Only within deeply devout families or communities is it even an issue. I'm atheist and gay and out of the two being gay is by far the most nerve-wracking gut-wrenching outing experience. I can tell practically everyone I know I'm atheist and the only person who wouldn't let it lie would be my bible thumping evangelist aunt who I rarely ever see. Barring the occasional standoff with door to door preachers, atheism is just another topic of conversation where you can agree to disagree when compared to telling your parents you have a same-gender boyfriend.

If you live in the USA bible belt or the Middle east for example, it's probably much more of a bone of contention to be atheist. Personally I find it hard to relate to outing yourself as atheist as anything other than a walk in the park.

Yeah, I can't relate at all either and I'm grateful for that. I wouldn't want to live somewhere where not being religious would even really be a part of my identity let alone one I'd be worried about anyone knowing about.

Comment 3 by SoHelpMeReason :

I lost my best friend in the world after coming out. I felt like I had discovered something new and profound, naturally wanted to tell her, and thought she'd like to know. I thought she'd find it interesting. Oh man. I was dead wrong. It still upsets me to think about it now. I'd almost go back in the closet to reverse it.

Sorry for the downer.

She sounds like a crappy best friend in the whole world and you'll find a better one. I really can't imagine disowning someone over something so silly. I can imagine doing it over a belief that actually had consequences (e.g. if they were a racist), but unless you told her "I don't believe in God, and this means I want to do immoral things because there's no Hell" then whether or not you believe isn't some huge important thing worth losing a friend over. She can't really think it makes you a completely different person, can she? Or does she believe she'd be sinning by associating with you?

Sun, 25 Sep 2011 16:08:47 UTC | #875021

Ignorant Amos's Avatar Comment 12 by Ignorant Amos

Comment 7 by sbrogdon

Having lived in Jacksonville I know exactly what you are saying. Bloody nightmare.

Sun, 25 Sep 2011 16:10:59 UTC | #875022

Drosera's Avatar Comment 13 by Drosera

Here in the UK I would consider wearing this t-shirt as tasteless as carrying a big shiny crucifix. In parts of the US and similarly backward countries like Iran and Pakistan it would be a brave thing indeed to do.

Sun, 25 Sep 2011 16:17:54 UTC | #875026

tembuki's Avatar Comment 14 by tembuki

It's hard to see this as something to "come out" about. Sure, I tell people if they ask me but I try to define myself by other traits. I guess I can understand it if it's more about attempting to change the image, however, I still like to view atheism itself as more of a symptom of rationalism than something that exists separately.

Sun, 25 Sep 2011 16:21:12 UTC | #875027

Cartomancer's Avatar Comment 15 by Cartomancer

I never had to "come out" as an atheist. I don't actually know any religious people - atheist is as default a position in my circles as heterosexual is in the world at large. More so, in fact. So I can't really contribute anything there. Indeed, I generally assume everyone I meet is an atheist, and the fact I almost never meet anyone new has so far meant that I have never needed to revise this heuristic.

On the other hand I did come out as gay when I was 22, and have a fair bit to say on that score. But I am wary of derailing the thread by hijacking it for the gays, so I shall stick to articulating my experiences with an eye to how and whether they apply in the context of coming out as an atheist. I am genuinely interested to see how far the comparison can be drawn.

First of all, I like to point out that the first stage of coming out isn't telling other people, it's admitting it to yourself. I found the hardest part coming to terms with my sexuality in my own head. Once I had that tacked down I told all my friends the day after. Sure, I had sexual feelings, but I found them so difficult to reconcile with my personality and self-image that I locked them away and ignored them for six years, avoiding anything sexuality-related like the plague. Is this something certain atheists go through? Are there people who just can't accept that they don't believe in the religion, and seek to distance themselves from anything religious or overtly non-reliigous at all?

Secondly, I note that "coming out" is not just one discrete event. It has to be done afresh with every new person you encounter, and there has to be a decision as to whether, when and how you tell them. Well, every new person you encounter outside a context where the default assumption is that you belong - like a gay bar for sexuality, or the RD.net comment threads for atheism.

Finally, and most interesting to me personally, I wonder whether some people have found coming out as an atheist to have brought with it problems, anxieties and self-image issues that simply were not a concern when they were still "closeted". By this I don't mean simply the adverse reactions of other people, I mean inner, psychological turmoil. When I came out as gay I stopped being insulated from the sexless, uncomplicated world I had got used to, and started having to think about the whole complex, difficult, frustrating and angst-ridden world of sex and relationships. I had to admit the love I felt for my best friend, which has made the last ten years of my life rather strained and miserable. I had to cope with the feelings of inadequacy that come from being unable to secure a relationship or sex or any of that, while my friends and peers got on with it effortlessly. I had to wrestle with how to incorporate and reconcile my sexuality with the rest of my personality. I felt the urge to do things to express that part of me, to share it with friends who were in the same boat, and then I began to feel the frustration that came from having first very few and then no avenues at all through which to do so. It's kind of like having read a book that you absolutely must tell someone about, but having nobody to tell who is in the least bit interested in that kind of book. Have any atheists who have had to "come out" felt anything like this? Any yearning to express and validate and share their atheism that has been stifled and muffled by a lack of outlets and a lack of close atheist friends to share it with?

So I can't really say I've ever had any kind of fun or relief or enjoyment from having come out. If anything it just made the world more complicated.

Sun, 25 Sep 2011 16:22:19 UTC | #875028

sundiver's Avatar Comment 16 by sundiver

Byrneo: I've always shot back " I don't believe in anything. I think." Sometimes, when in a pissy mood, I'll add something about not particularly caring to base my life on a bronze-age fairy tale dreamed up by cattle-sacrificing primitives. Then again, in Wisconsin, it's not too dangerous to do stuff like this. Yet. Lately it seems as though the cheeseheads are determined to turn this place into an Arctic Alabama. I work with people around here who seem to believe that demons causes disease and that witches and warlocks control the bank of England. Really bizarre, batshit insane stuff. Fortunately I work for a large hospital that really stresses "diversity" and attempts to dismiss me for my lack of belief, or my co-workers for their whackaloon beliefs, would not get too far. At least for now.

Sun, 25 Sep 2011 16:30:41 UTC | #875030

Flapjack's Avatar Comment 17 by Flapjack

@ Carto - you make a lot of valid points... the one part I can relate to coming out as atheist is challenging everything I'd been brought up to believe and rejecting the carrot/ stick concepts of eternal life and Hell. Simply not existing after you die in any other tangable form than wormfood takes some getting used to if you've been weaned on promises of heaven since year dot, but that was probably the biggest hump. My secondary school ceramics teacher weaned me off Pascal's wager by pointing out the obvious "If your neurones have stopped firing how would you be concious of death, and why would that concern you?"

But it makes me realise how lucky I am to live in a part of the world where for the most part no-one could care less if you believe or not when I read the accounts of UGAtheist and sbrogon.

Sun, 25 Sep 2011 16:46:20 UTC | #875033

HappyPrimate's Avatar Comment 18 by HappyPrimate

Living in the deep south bible belt of the USA makes "coming out" really frightening and dangerous. I did come out to my family a few years ago and they really just blew it off as me being in a bad mood. I've lived a solitary life as an atheist for over 30 years. I would not dare come out to people at work because they would most definitely do their best to make life miserable there for me. I do make small comments back that I do not agree with statements on the rapture and usually get incredulous stares back. Only 6 more yrs to work and then I can come out without fear of being able to feed and house myself. I did recently find a local atheist group and I am excited about meeting up with them today for the first time. It will be great to know people in my area who can provide a comfortable social life. As for the article, I too like Greta and her talk was terrific, but it really isn't fun where I live and work.

Sun, 25 Sep 2011 17:08:19 UTC | #875039

Steven Mading's Avatar Comment 19 by Steven Mading

Comment 15 by Cartomancer :

First of all, I like to point out that the first stage of coming out isn't telling other people, it's admitting it to yourself. I found the hardest part coming to terms with my sexuality in my own head. Once I had that tacked down I told all my friends the day after. Sure, I had sexual feelings, but I found them so difficult to reconcile with my personality and self-image that I locked them away and ignored them for six years, avoiding anything sexuality-related like the plague.

(First, thanks for sharing your story.)

I sometimes wonder about the official figures for atheism in the USA because of this very phenomenon. Similar to being gay, there is a large unfair stigma associated with being an unbeliever, a heretic, a blasphemer, etc. It is associated with evilness in so many people's heads that I wonder how many people there are (especially in areas of the US where the stigma is strongest) who are in this sort of "won't admit to themselves that they are" sort of stage. Someone who thinks, "Obviously I must be a believer because I'm not a horrible person, therefore I believe in god... right? I do, right?...I must be. This must be Satan trying to influence my thoughts. Go away Satan!"

Consider the ubiquitousness of the argument tactic, when the question of god existing or not comes up, of immediately switching gears to talk about whether or not people would be moral without belief in god. I don't think people are consciously switching topics when they defend theism this way - I think this is really the thought process going on in their heads. I suspect they don't count themselves as believers because they really believe it. They count themselves as believers because they think they'd have to admit (to themselves) that they are bad people if they admitted unbelief. (Similar to the position of the closeted gay man brought up in a homophobic religious belief system who, upon feeling sensations of gay attraction, attribute those sensations to demonic trickery trying to "tempt the righteous".)

We often talk about how many atheists there might be who are afraid to admit it because of external consequences, but I wonder how many there are who are at the prior stage, of fearing their own "internal" condemnation, to the point where they keep shoving their doubts down whenever they surface, and falsely attributing those doubts to outside influences. "I am a believer - I must be - because if I wasn't I'd be a bad person." <-- this is, when you think of it, not really belief.

Sun, 25 Sep 2011 17:37:00 UTC | #875045

God fearing Atheist's Avatar Comment 20 by God fearing Atheist

As the other Limeys have said, non-religious would appear to be the default position in the UK. I also get the impression it is not a topic for normal chit chat between strangers or acquaintances, so I suspect someone announcing to the world they were an atheist would be considered as boorish as announcing they were a Christian. It just isn't talked about. Having said that, of the twenty odd friends whose religious affiliation I do know, only two are Christian, the rest are agnostic/atheist in a variety of strengths. There is also an Iraqi Muslim in our office who I know about because he kisses the carpet multiple times a day. One of my atheist friends is more inquisitive of peoples' religious affiliation and she says that while most people are not religious on the surface, a surprising number still have hidden hopes of an afterlife, or other "spiritual" leanings. So, people are openly disinterested, organised religion in the UK is a big failure, but many still cherish silly secret hopes.

The term "coming out" seems rather dramatic for the UK situation, or at least for mine. In my experience, someone will make a joke, or a snide comment, about religion in the course of everyday conversation, and mutual knowledge of position will naturally flow as the friendship progresses over the years. I'm not sure how far knowledge of my atheism extends from my circle of friends into my circle of acquaintances, but to misquote an English King - "Those who know, don't mind, and those who don't know, don't matter".

I'm not sure what I'd do if I was living in Jesus Land, USA. I'm just glad I'm not!

Sun, 25 Sep 2011 17:39:30 UTC | #875047

God fearing Atheist's Avatar Comment 21 by God fearing Atheist

EDIT: (missed the edit window! D'oh)

If office worker (person A) in the UK said to their colleague (person B):-

1) I'm going to a gay bar this weekend.

2) I'm going to a strip club ...

3) I'm going to church ...

4) I'm going to a Humanist meeting ...

5) I'm going to a talk by Richard Dawkins ...

Only 1) would get a reaction if B didn't know A was gay, or 2) depending on the sexual politics of the office. The others would probably get "Oh that's nice, I'm playing golf ...".

I think this "coming out" is a personal non-issue in the UK. However, there is still a political position to take, because the religious/Christians still think they represent the population.

Sun, 25 Sep 2011 17:56:26 UTC | #875051

Zeuglodon's Avatar Comment 22 by Zeuglodon

I'm pretty much in the same boat as Flapjack, Schrodinger's Cat, Stevehill, Drosera, and God fearing Atheist; it's not much to talk about in the UK. Religious ideas and things were just there on the periphery, like celebrities, other cultures, and sports - there if you wanted them or were interested, but hardly your concern.

Comment 3 by SoHelpMeReason

Though I'm just an anonymous stranger to you, I offer you my deepest condolences. Disagreeing with a friend is one thing, but losing a friend because of it is something else. Stay out of the closet, though. Your feelings for your friend should not be construed as a sign that something is wrong with your position on religious matters.

Comment 13 by Drosera

Well, I wouldn't do it ordinarily, but at a rally it might have a place.

Comment 14 by tembuki

Yeah, pretty much, but given the public debates and issues that are reported so often these days, and the number of times you notice misconceptions creeping in, it helps to know what points you agree with, or remain open on.

Sun, 25 Sep 2011 17:59:56 UTC | #875052

Sean_W's Avatar Comment 23 by Sean_W

I felt bad for atheism when I came out. I didn't want to, I didn't want to give them that much more ammunition. But oh well, it's their hang ups, not mine. I will say that nowadays I think it's Christians that should have to feel like they're coming out. For example, someone close to me recently “came out” as a believer in the story of Noah. Ha, I had to bite my lip, really. I mentioned it was absurd but nothing more, how could I argue? I mean hell, there's coming out with being an atheist, and there's admitting you think Noah loaded an ark with two of every animal! -lol- poor bastards

Sadly though, over here some of us have to remain religious to remain in good standing with our families. For example, I have a cousin who recently served some time. I attempted to get her information so that I could send her letters and maybe put some money on her books, but I never got it. Her father and I had a huge falling out over religion not too long ago. Anyway, I recently asked how she was doing. “Good, I know she's teaching a bible study.” -christ- I mean, I don't doubt her sincerity, but I just want to tell her, you know, I respect you whether god does or not, and whether the family has accepted your repentance to him or not.

God damn religious badges.

Sun, 25 Sep 2011 18:38:25 UTC | #875060

SheerReason's Avatar Comment 24 by SheerReason

Ah. Yes. Coming out is fun... To which you're almost guaranteed the reply... "So, you're an atheist? So, like you don't believe in anything? You don't even believe we're here? right?"

And of course they're sure to bring up people like Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin.

At least that's been some of my experiences when informing people that I don't believe in any particular deity.

Sun, 25 Sep 2011 19:24:38 UTC | #875068

Zeuglodon's Avatar Comment 25 by Zeuglodon

Comment 15 by Cartomancer

Any yearning to express and validate and share their atheism that has been stifled and muffled by a lack of outlets and a lack of close atheist friends to share it with?

So I can't really say I've ever had any kind of fun or relief or enjoyment from having come out. If anything it just made the world more complicated.

My situation is only slightly like yours, if at all. Mostly, I was simply ignorant of things, and it was only gradually in recent years that I've consciously converged upon atheism, agnosticism, et al. at all. Though I'm still wary of bringing it up in conversation because I can't think of a way of introducing it that doesn't sound forced or boorish, and most people I know don't care much either way. I don't feel stifled, but being surrounded by apatheists is mixed luck.

The stranger part is that at times I feel an urge to tell people or prod them into discussing it or arguing about it. Not doing so feels a bit boring, as if nobody cares what you think. Even worse when you want to test how well your ideas stand up to rigorous scrutiny - goody-goody masochistic as it sounds, I like running the risk of being wrong or of supporting an underdog. It's kind of funny to see a logical flaw in my own arguments and seeing a chance of improving it. And I like being around intelligent people who make me think.

Finally, and most interesting to me personally, I wonder whether some people have found coming out as an atheist to have brought with it problems, anxieties and self-image issues that simply were not a concern when they were still "closeted". By this I don't mean simply the adverse reactions of other people, I mean inner, psychological turmoil.

Since I wasn't even in a closet, so to speak, I can't speak with authority, but as for the self-image, I kind of enjoyed it, and still do sometimes. Probably partly because I like being different and it was an exciting new way of thinking, partly because I like open-mindedness, secular humanism and science as well, partly because I tend to think of religion as a kind of culture done by other people, and partly because I like being in good company. The closest I've come to inner turmoil was when I was wondering whether to join a local atheist/agnostic/secular humanist society for the first time. At the time, it was like publicly declaring my allegiance to a secret rebel society - absolutely frightening, but kind of awesome, too. The meeting itself was actually a bit of an anticlimax.

Sun, 25 Sep 2011 19:40:14 UTC | #875069

Ignorant Amos's Avatar Comment 26 by Ignorant Amos

Comment 22 by Zeuglodon

I'm pretty much in the same boat as Flapjack, Schrodinger's Cat, Stevehill, Drosera, and God fearing Atheist; it's not much to talk about in the UK. Religious ideas and things were just there on the periphery, like celebrities, other cultures, and sports - there if you wanted them or were interested, but hardly your concern.

That all depends on what part of the U.K. you hail from though.

Sun, 25 Sep 2011 19:55:22 UTC | #875072

Zeuglodon's Avatar Comment 27 by Zeuglodon

Comment 26 by Ignorant Amos

That all depends on what part of the U.K. you hail from though.

The West Midlands in England, in my case. It wouldn't surprise me if there were differences from region to region. On average, in England at least, it tends to be the middle ground. We had a discussion about this on another thread.

Sun, 25 Sep 2011 20:14:29 UTC | #875077

peanutsplatters's Avatar Comment 28 by peanutsplatters

Gotta admit Australia is in the same boat as the UK by the sounds of it. I reckon it's become more embarrassing to come out as religious.

Sun, 25 Sep 2011 20:36:57 UTC | #875083

Sjoerd Westenborg's Avatar Comment 29 by Sjoerd Westenborg

Comment 13 by Drosera :

...US and similarly backward countries like Iran and Pakistan...

Hehe, now that's bravery.

Sun, 25 Sep 2011 20:52:21 UTC | #875087

Stevehill's Avatar Comment 30 by Stevehill

That all depends on what part of the U.K. you hail from though.

Yup. Norn Iron is different. Also parts of Scotland. And hilly bits of Wales.

Sun, 25 Sep 2011 20:56:28 UTC | #875090