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Closet Atheist


KT45
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Well presently only my parents (non denominational christians/dad pastor) know that I am indeed an atheist. I believe I have written a few post concerning coming out to everyone I know as an atheist but I never did to avoid discussion. I usually just avoid conversations about god and change the subject. One day, at college, I was at the food stand and the cook (who was black) and I started talking. Just to let you know I am black and I live in GA. She asked me what my major was. I answered industrial engineering. This is where the conversation got weird for me. She said something like "good job the lord is going to be taking you places!". I quickly said thanks and hoped that would be the end of that. Then she asked "you do believe in god don't you." I paused for a second. I knew that it was coming and I already had a pre-packaged response for such a question but it did throw me off. I said "Well I'm not that religious anymore". She smiled and the conversation kinda ended there.

 

After that I didn't know if that was the best answer to give. I kinda felt dishonest about myself for giving that answer. Should I have been more straight forward? Was that the best answer to avoid confrontation? I wasn't sure so I went and told my dad what happened. I don't know if this was a mistake so I'll let you guys decide. Well my dad is a pretty cool guy. He's very understanding of me and wishes me well (he didn't even kick me out when I told him I was an atheist :phew: ). Well his advice was as follows.

 

"Oh if they ask you that just say 'Well I already confessed that jesus christ is my lord and savior'."

 

This idea is kinda clever since it's true. My response is basically telling her my past while not addressing the present. In the past I did confess jesus as lord and savior even though presently my views have drastically changed. So to him relying on the past tense of the word confess is a little loophole. But this answer to me feels so much like a cop out. I felt 'fake' with my original response I would feel like I'm lying to myself with that one. So I'm thinking about just keeping my first response for now unless someone can think of a better one.

 

But anyway this has got me thinking. I'm scared to come out as an atheist in GA because of the social stigma involved. People think that we are evil because we threaten their worldview. So I was thinking of openning a few eyes. I was actually thinking of going out and doing community service wearing this....

ath03.jpg

Well maybe not that exact shirt but something that is non-offensive and says that I'm an atheist. Showing that an atheist is doing good might change people's impressions of atheist. I also really want to do community service now since in the past it didn't interest me as much! Yeah I know its not an altruistic reason to do community service. My goal is to make it easier for me to walk around as an atheist (and people like me) but not really to help others. Well I don't care, as my title says I'm "selfishly altruistic" anyways. If it makes me want to help I see nothing wrong with it. Of course I'm being honest with myself. I'll say that I'll do it and I'll buy an atheist t-shirt but it might take me a while to actually develop the balls to do it. I mean I'm still scared to show I'm an atheist to the people that know me but showing everyone would be a big step. Maybe buying the t-shirt and staring at it might inspire me to wear it one day. I guess I'm also worried that it might come across as a cry for attention which is why I want to do it only for community service (which is when it is best to get noticed). It would probably be easier if I actually knew other atheist which I don't (well I do know an agnostic person so I might tell him). It's also difficult to deal with black christians because they are very emotional (and aggressive) when it comes to christianity. Maybe I should come out agnostic, since it might be easier..... :scratch: I would be a lie but I'd feel comfortable calling myself that while in Georgia more than addressing myself as atheist. I don't know. Kinda confused.

 

So anyway what are your thoughts about the first conversation I brought up with the cook? What about my dad's advice? What are your thoughts going public (not just to friends but to everyone)? What about the community service idea? Are there any downsides to it (getting jobs, getting preached too)?

 

Oh and if possible, can anyone tell me of some freethinker, atheist, or agnostic organizations in Georgia?

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Maybe you could have just told her that you don't like to talk about religion or something like that? It wasn't any of her business after all. Maybe if someone asks you if you do believe in a god you can just pause then turn it around and ask them (in a condescending manner) "You don't believe in any sort of god, do you?" Then act shocked, as if they're mentally defective, if they respond in a positive way.

 

I don't know if the shirt's a good idea if you can't simply vocalize your position to a single stranger. :shrug: In a way, to me at least, that shirt could be about as insulting as wearing a huge cross on your chest.

 

mwc

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I don't know if the shirt's a good idea if you can't simply vocalize your position to a single stranger. :shrug:

True. I see your point. I was wondering if it might be easier to show I'm an atheist around people I don't know. The cook works on our campus which is small and is majority christian. I don't know if I want everyone here to know what I am because it might make my frat look bad if everyone knows I'm atheist. There is already some controversy with some religious group agaisnt greek organizations because of their pagan roots. Basically it might hurt more people than me if word got around on campus. Showing I'm an atheist while doing community service shouldn't hurt people because no one on campus would know. It doesn't really matter though since I'm going to come out anyway. I feel like I'm not being true to myself so I want to take small steps by showing who I really am. The whole t-shirt idea was an idea for the future (like in 6 months or so). I don't see myself being here that much longer so I thought I would ask now.

 

In a way, to me at least, that shirt could be about as insulting as wearing a huge cross on your chest.

 

mwc

So I'm guessing you would think it would do more harm than good? What about shirts that say heathen or infidel? I don't know I'm just really tired of the negative stigma and want to help end it at least for my own sake and I believe the community service would be a good way. I believe that somebody posted before about a christian organization going to Katrina. The Pastor came back and said "Of course there weren't any atheist there." How would she have known? If there was an atheist just wearing normal clothes she wouldn't be able to know what religion they were! Making a statement at that point might have been a good idea.

 

It's reasons like these that I sometimes feel that atheist need to show that we are out there. Some of us aren't good spokesmen or writers like Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris so maybe we need to find other ways to speak out.

 

Well I think that I may just be worried about what people think about me. But I'm in a weird situation. Most of the time I take the I don't care what people think about me mindset. But this seems different. Should I care what people think about me? If I make a stand, I'm showing that I care what people say because I want to change their perception. If don't take a stand, then I'm showing I care what people say because I'm scared of what their perception might be. yeah I'm confused :Doh:

 

Do you feel atheist need to step out 'of the closet' so to speak?

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You are in my predicament...Black and from the south here too. It is almost like a sin in and of itself to be black, southern, and NOT be baptist.

 

I'm not sure if I'm an atheist or not, but I am leaning strongly in that direction(if I do become one it will be because I was THOROUGH). The only person that I have absolutely NO intention of telling my none belief to is my mother. She would probably have a heart attack and die...So I pretend to be a liberal christian for her. It makes me physically ill, but it is my mother...

 

Anywho, I have come out of the proverbial atheist closet a few times...

 

In one of my English classes we were having a discussion on Voltaire's "Candide." I attend an HBU, so the majority of class was African American. Long story short my professor asked the class if there was anyone who did not believe in God. I was one of two people(in a class of 30)that raised my hand. People were in total disbelief...

 

They started asking the obligatory, "Why don't you believe in god?"

 

and someone else said, "How can you be black and not believe in God? That is a part of our culture..." Yes, someone actually said that...

 

I calmly elucidated on WHY I didn't believe in Bible God, and every sat in stunned silence. The discussion dissented from Candide to my lack of belief. At first I was scared I was going to be jumped after class, because some people were hyper defensive...And the irony is that most of these people don't even know the goddamn Bible. I read it more than the socalled Christians in the class...

 

They are so ridiculous...

 

As it is I felt liberated after that. I am not ashamed of my unbelief. I think once you put it out there it becomes a non issue. It is not something they can hold over you.

I think some people keep believing because, "That is what you are supposed to do."

But I am better for my unbelief.

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My thoughts about coming out are that it makes me feel very vulnerable. Somehow, I don't think it's worth putting oneself into emotional and physical jeopardy. I think it's awsome how your dad responded. Maybe he thinks it's only a phase.

 

Should atheists come out of the closet? I don't know. Again, I'd rather all of us just live and not worry so much about religion. That's my ideal. Not sure I manage it in real life. In real life I find myself strategizing about how important a relationship is to me. If the relationship is terribly important I might not say it. On the other hand, do I want relationships that depend on "right belief"?

 

There's some practical issues, too. Like if the people I'm living with won't like me anymore then life would be hell. That would defeat practically everybody's purpose.

 

You keep saying you might not be here all that long so you want to solve the problems now that won't come up for another six months. Isn't that sort of crossing bridges before you get there? I mean, many a time I worry about something but when the time comes I just know what to do. There's stuff about the situation that I can't see ahead of time, and I can't control it, either. For me it works best to just take life one step at a time.

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Well maybe not that exact shirt but something that is non-offensive and says that I'm an atheist.

 

I think the T-shirt you displayed was just fine. If you have the courage, go for it!

 

Showing that an atheist is doing good might change people's impressions of atheist.

 

Excellent point. Many people believe this for years. How will we break this myth without folk like you.

 

There is already some controversy with some religious group against Greek organizations because of their pagan roots.

 

ROFLMAF That just kills me.

 

Do you feel atheist need to step out 'of the closet' so to speak?

 

Absolutely. If we don’t speak on behalf of what we believe, who will? **I will not** allow the Christian/religious voice be the **only** voice that is heard. Go for it.

 

*************

re. Your Dad (you're lucky to have a cool dad like that - make sure you tell him)

He may have been only responding to a perception that you don’t want to tell everyone what you believe. As a clever man, he was helpful but you may not have posed the correct question to him.

 

re. the cook

Assuming you are single, wouldn't you want to meet a woman that shares your value system? If you said, “I used to be a Christian but I left that and now I’m atheist” you might be shocked what comes next and one day, some fine woman will cough up the right answer.

 

Now that’s a hell of a lot better than makin’ out that you are a Christian and finding that the only women you meet are Christian so you might as well marry one. “To thine own self be true….”

 

From what you write... your instincts are leading you in the right direction. You are justified in trusting yourself. You have graduated to being a freethinker! I wish I could give you a sticker! (My age is showing)

 

Mongo

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I don't think it is any of her business whether you are or are not a Christian. It's only the Christians who feel that they have to let everyone know they are Christian.

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There is already some controversy with some religious group agaisnt greek organizations because of their pagan roots.

 

That's incredible! Do these imbeciles have any idea how OLD some of these fraternities are? They go back over a century! So what are the frats supposed to do? Go from Phi Gamma Delta to "Peter James and John"? Oh, now I know...the fraternities honored the Greeks for their achievements in science, mathematics and philosophy. All the "devil's work", of course, under the ultra-fundie bizarro world view. Cheez!

 

Well, to comment on your OP, Taylor...I think the soft-peddle approach when confronted by a fundy is just fine. It usually creates no controversy to say "I'm not religious." After all, that's not a lie, and it doesn't get the same gut reaction from a fundy as "I'm atheist", which usually puts you on the same level as a cannibal, in their minds.

 

Honestly, we need to start promoting ourselves in a positive way.

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I personally think it was a little bit inappropriate for the cook to ask you that question, almost like asking how much money you earn. A common question? Yes. A reality of life that you'll occasionally be asked that question? Sure, as you'll be the target of prosyletization efforts by the fishers of men. So I'd be neither shocked or offended being asked, but still I don't think it's quite right that it's such a casual question, probably because, you guessed it, of being told to "win souls for jesus" when I was a xtian and "witnessed to" when I wasn't.

 

And since you were asked such a question, I think your response was just fine. I probably would have given a similar response, but evasive, low key, direct and decisive... I'd say any of those types of responses that fit your personality and your comfort level are just fine.

 

The one thing that doesn't seem so great to me, I'm afraid, is your father's suggestion. It may be technically true, but it just seems disingenuous, and if you want to avoid confrontation I don't think it buys you more than a low key brush off does.

 

Besides, I don't know whether they're still saying this in the churches, but I remember hearing that in addition to cramming our religion down our victim's throats (although that wasn't the way they put it), that something special was supposed to shine through (jesus) such that the "truth" of god was supposed to be obvious to anyone who saw our lives (what a load of crap that turned out to be). But there may yet be something to be drawn from this: atheists, at least in American society and certainly in the South, bear a totally undeserved reputation for being evil, untrustworthy, and unscrupulous. The basis of this reputation is pure fantasy, and it totally contradicts the facts, but the image has successfully spread nonetheless.

 

So suppose someone gets to know you, and finds that you are a decent, ethical person, and then learns that you are an atheist. Maybe, just maybe that will go a little ways toward causing that person to question their "atheists are evil" fallacy. Besides, if you've left the impression that you're a christian by claiming to have already confessed jesus, it doesn't help your opportunity to show that atheists are not evil or to promote reason. And it seems to be the natural course of things for people to gradually figure our what sorts of beliefs or lack thereof you have if they get to know you well enough.

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Shit. I practically got kicked out because of a book written by a christian with the word atheist in it like twice. I'm pretty bold about my stance on religion. If you ask me, I'm liable to tell you straight up, but then, I live a good deal further north than you.

 

You're black, in the south, and you want to be honest about your atheism? I hope you're big.

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I calmly elucidated on WHY I didn't believe in Bible God, and every sat in stunned silence. The discussion dissented from Candide to my lack of belief. At first I was scared I was going to be jumped after class, because some people were hyper defensive...And the irony is that most of these people don't even know the goddamn Bible. I read it more than the socalled Christians in the class...

That is really not surprising to me. I would not be surprised if I got jumped by my people for saying I'm an atheist. It's amazing how overly emotional they get. I went to so many black churchs and it's clear that they don't know what they are talking about. Most of the messages are just sung to you (T.D. Jakes style). Even the good ones don't seem to know what they are talking about....But they teach to envoke emotion. Some emotions I don't know if I want to envoke. But it's not really worth it if I can't be myself...
I think once you put it out there it becomes a non issue. It is not something they can hold over you.
thanks that helps

 

The one thing that doesn't seem so great to me, I'm afraid, is your father's suggestion. It may be technically true, but it just seems disingenuous, and if you want to avoid confrontation I don't think it buys you more than a low key brush off does.
I agree totally. That response is just tricking people and lying to myself. I can't do it. I'd honestly hate myself.

 

Mongo, I'd quote you but you said so many good things. You were probably right about my dad. I probably did ask him the wrong question.

 

Before I do any community service stuff I think I'll go out and tell my friends that I'm an atheist. Question though, should I wait for it to pop up? I think I tell my agnostic friend first (gotta start somewhere :HaHa: ). Oh and I told one of my friends. She not really a christian but I guess she is a deist. She is still cool with me but I guessed that much. I'll slowly break it to my other friends later.

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True. I see your point. I was wondering if it might be easier to show I'm an atheist around people I don't know.

Is this an important issue? I mean it could be for all I know but in my everyday life broadcasting my belief system really isn't something that I have ever needed to do (xian or not). I suppose if you're questioned regularly about it then you might want to consider something more like (I think it's Taph's pic with the two evangelicals with the circle and line through them). I still find it strange that you want to make this bold statement to strangers but you still haven't even told your friends. Do you want the shirt to say the words that you can't seem to find the courage to say yourself?

 

So I'm guessing you would think it would do more harm than good? What about shirts that say heathen or infidel? I don't know I'm just really tired of the negative stigma and want to help end it at least for my own sake and I believe the community service would be a good way.

Well, no matter what you do we both know the xians will spin it negative if they choose to do so. If you do it boldly then you'll be accused of "recruiting" ala "the gays" and their parades and if you do it subtly you may not be noticed.

 

I personally think that it's coming to a point where bolder statements are needed. The church has never been one to pull punches and this is one reason they thrived. Looking on this board (and elsewhere) the "freethinkers" take a more laid back approach, and while that may be the "right" approach it is also the approach that won't change a damn thing. We all know as former xians that not a single xian looks at non-xians ("freethinkers") and their "live and let live" lifestyle and envies it. In fact it's the opposite. That whole worldview is abhorred. So our attitude of treating them how we'd like to be treating isn't sending any sort of message at all. We'd love to think it is but it's not. I'm not saying we should turn from it but I am saying that something else needs to be added to the mix and that just might be being a little more vocal. The civil rights movements of the past show that sometimes you need to make a little noise to get your message heard and if done the right way it can be effective (sadly a lot of movements splinter and it can work against itself...case in point the xians love to hate the gay rights parades since they can ignore the "normal" gays that sit next to them the rest of the year since they just know all gays are like the ones on the TV in those parades...take away the parades and take away their ammo but also take away media attention).

 

Sorry, I wandered a bit. Back on point.

 

Well I think that I may just be worried about what people think about me. But I'm in a weird situation. Most of the time I take the I don't care what people think about me mindset. But this seems different. Should I care what people think about me? If I make a stand, I'm showing that I care what people say because I want to change their perception. If don't take a stand, then I'm showing I care what people say because I'm scared of what their perception might be. yeah I'm confused :Doh:

 

Do you feel atheist need to step out 'of the closet' so to speak?

I think I answered your last question above.

 

As for the rest. I think if you're truly concerned then it depends on the type of person you are. Are you a "wade in a little at a time" or a "jump in all at once" type of person? If you're the former then come out to some friends and family. Maybe try some shirts that are more comical as opposed to "in your face" offensive (like something with the Flying Spaghetti Monster on them or something). Basically, just starting "trailing off" from xianity until you just basically say "I'm done" and it's no real surprise to anyone. If you're the latter type of person then just tell everyone you're atheist and be done with it. Wear the shirt and deal with the consequences. But being a black, baby-eating god hater in the south may not be too fun with no one to back you (I'm a white middle-aged man in CA and I can tell you that it doesn't sound fun from where I sit either...it took those around me a few months to stop looking at me funny when I told them and these are people that had known me for most of my life...they just assumed I had magically "changed").

 

So, I know I'm not being too much help even though I'm typing a lot. I have to admit I'm probably as confused as you are in a number of ways. It's a complicated issue in my mind. I'd love to have all atheists/agnostics/whatevers "come out" and get the respect that xians (and most other religions) get but I know that isn't going to happen overnight. I also know "being nice" in and of itself isn't going to do anything since it's just assumed you're xian and so you need to make others aware that being xian isn't a requirement for anything much less being a good person. I'm just not sure what all this entails since for each person the amount they are willing/able to give is different.

 

mwc

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It's to bad things are the way they are, that people even care concerning what myths you believe or don't believe concerning the nature of reality. It's particularly sad that people feel that if you reasonable, and just go by what you know from the world around you (the most obvious choice you'd think) that makes you particularly questionable. I'd say it's your call entirely. It can be tough to deal with pressure from others who want you to make your beliefs known, but you don't owe it to anyone, and you shouldn't feel guilty for maintaining whatever boundaries you feel appropriate to keep such private.

I hope this helps in relation to part of your question.

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Is this an important issue? I mean it could be for all I know but in my everyday life broadcasting my belief system really isn't something that I have ever needed to do (xian or not).

In my personal life only slightly. Since I used to be pretty religious people still ask me how god is treating me and stuff. It's not annoying but I would like to tell them just so they know where I'm coming from. As a issue in the south it is very important. I just went to vote today and some guy kept talking about liberals and how they are scared of the bible belt. Some of us nonchristians just need to stand up I feel.

 

I still find it strange that you want to make this bold statement to strangers but you still haven't even told your friends. Do you want the shirt to say the words that you can't seem to find the courage to say yourself?
I might have wrote my post poorly. I don't plan on wearing the shirt before I tell everyone. Telling my friends would be step one. Step 2 would be taking active steps to show the south that we are here in a non-aggressive manner. Thats was when i talked about wearing the shirt during community service.

 

Well, no matter what you do we both know the xians will spin it negative if they choose to do so. If you do it boldly then you'll be accused of "recruiting" ala "the gays" and their parades and if you do it subtly you may not be noticed.
Yeah I expect that. But as we know what christians think is irrevelant ;). But we gotta take a stand sometime. I want to find an atheist org in georgia so it will be easier.

 

I personally think that it's coming to a point where bolder statements are needed. The church has never been one to pull punches and this is one reason they thrived. Looking on this board (and elsewhere) the "freethinkers" take a more laid back approach, and while that may be the "right" approach it is also the approach that won't change a damn thing. We all know as former xians that not a single xian looks at non-xians ("freethinkers") and their "live and let live" lifestyle and envies it. In fact it's the opposite. That whole worldview is abhorred. So our attitude of treating them how we'd like to be treating isn't sending any sort of message at all. We'd love to think it is but it's not. I'm not saying we should turn from it but I am saying that something else needs to be added to the mix and that just might be being a little more vocal. The civil rights movements of the past show that sometimes you need to make a little noise to get your message heard and if done the right way it can be effective
I know and like the civil rights movement we have people leading the way like Dawkins and Harris. While we have speakers like them it might be a good chance for people like me (who aren't good speakers) to stand up with them. Of course like you most of us will take opposing view points. My goal is to get atheist and agnostics noticed in southern america and to END intelligent design in schools (Oh and if anyone knows anyway I can help with these please say so.) Other atheist might want to get rid of religion completely. That's not my goal but they have a right to do so as long as they do by persuasion and not by limiting their freedom.

 

As for the rest. I think if you're truly concerned then it depends on the type of person you are. Are you a "wade in a little at a time" or a "jump in all at once" type of person? If you're the former then come out to some friends and family. Maybe try some shirts that are more comical as opposed to "in your face" offensive (like something with the Flying Spaghetti Monster on them or something). Basically, just starting "trailing off" from xianity until you just basically say "I'm done" and it's no real surprise to anyone.
I'll probably take this route. Afterwards I'll take the more aggressive approach. But I should note as a black man I don't think I'm allowed to wear a flying spaghetti monster shirt on punishment of being clowned.

 

You're black, in the south, and you want to be honest about your atheism? I hope you're big.

I'm 5'10" and 160lbs. Yeah I'm dead.... :begood:
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