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My 15 year old goddaughter is now on Facebook. The tricky part is I don’t know whether or not she knows of my apostasy, and last time I talked to her mom (my sister) about it, she didn’t know either. But I do not hide my atheism on Facebook, so if my goddaughter hasn’t figured it out by now, she will soon. Her mom doesn’t seem concerned about the situation. In fact, she seriously considered having her meet me in South Carolina for the solar eclipse—where I was attending the American Atheists national convention. So my nervousness is probably all for nothing.
I became a godfather to my niece 2003, while convinced it would spur me to strengthen my faith. You all know how that turned out. My sister knows about my apostasy. I do not consider myself released from that vow, and neither does my sister (that debate is closed, BTW), so I walk the tightrope as best I can. One thing I decided to do was take my niece on an eclipse trip this year. I had originally planned to go to Wyoming, where skies are likely to be clear, but those plans fell through. I had a backup plan, but I was pretty certain my sister would not approve of the venue: it is the American Atheist convention in North Charleston, South Carolina. My wonderful sister continues to surprise me! She said it would be no problem meeting me in South Carolina, although of course my niece would not attend the convention itself. Here’s the tricky part: my sister doesn’t know whether or not her daughter knows about me. I made a point to tell my sister because I had made a vow, and didn’t want her to find out through the grape vine. However, I don’t know how to approach the topic with my niece, or whether I even should. My sister actually questioned whether I should make it a big deal, which got me thinking. One bit of advice I’ve heard often is not to make a big deal about coming out; however that advice is usually given in the context of coming out to one’s parents. I did mention that there were two occasions over the years when I wore an atheist T-shirt in my niece’s presence. My sister said then she probably already knows, because she’s very observant. She did say that she’s nonchalant about other people’s faiths, which I thought made sense, considering that she’s a post-millennial Western child who is not being raised fundamentalist. They just arrived in town today. By coincidence, so did my confirmation gift to my niece. (Damn 4th class postal shipping. It was the only shipping option the vendor gave me. Her confirmation was in May.) It’s a Buybull, of course—a Catholic youth study Buybull to be specific. It’s a grownup translation (NRSV): I will not tolerate my goddaughter’s mind being polluted by some bowdlerized children’s edition, and you all are free to speculate on what ulterior motives I might have. But it has study notes throughout, which I think is important if you’re going to take that piece of shit seriously.