Sunday, November 18, 2007

Join Me in Welcoming ... (Name Withheld)

This is sort of apropos my last post, which talked about women atheist bloggers. Of course, everything at this joint is sort of apropos every post, because it’s an atheist blog, f’cryinoutloud. It’s kind of late to point this out now if you haven’t already noticed it, but there’s a theme here.

OK, so I’m reading my way around the Atheosphere late last night. There are thirty, maybe forty, blogs that I check on regularly, but I frequently try to look at one or two with which I’m not familiar. There are lots of ways to find these new-to-me sites, but my favorite method is to click on the names of previously unheard-of commenters at other blogs I like.

One of these clicks takes me to a post on a politico-legal subject of interest to me, although I’m not going to reveal the precise details. You’ll see why in a minute. I assume the female author is an atheist, both from her comments at the blog on which I found her link, and from the subject she's discussing. And I'm right. I have pretty good A-dar.

Without introducing myself, I proceed to tell her exactly why her post is wrong. Obviously, I’ve never read How to Win Friends and Influence People. As I’ve mentioned here before, tact is not my strong suit.

Today, I get an email from this woman. I recognize the first name – which is the name she goes by on her blog – and open her note. I expect something along the lines of, “You’re a fucking moron,” although maybe a bit more creative.

Instead, I have a rather pleasant thank you for visiting her site, and an explanation of why I was wrong in thinking she was wrong. And I was wrong, because she hadn’t really said everything she wanted to in her post. The reason? It’s a family site, and she’s a recent de-convert. Nobody in her family, and that means nobody, knows. She just wanted to clue me in.

Because I'm not totally insensitive, I understand the message without her having to spell it out: Please don’t refer to her as a fellow atheist. And don’t be too harsh on religionists just yet, because she's not quite ready to jump into the fray. I write back and assure her that I would never “out” anyone. I also say that I think she should pass the word around to her loved ones, not defiantly, not confrontationally, and certainly not out-of-the-blue. But if religion comes up in the conversation, I think she should state her feelings about it.

That’s easy for me to say because I’ve never de-converted; I’ve always been an atheist. But I do have a family story which relates to this. Many, many, years ago, my younger sister decided to “out” herself as a lesbian, just to me and my wife. The problem was: we already knew. Her sexual orientation had been blatantly clear for years. Over a restaurant dinner one night, my poor sister stammered across the table that she’d “like to have a talk with us.” I asked, “What about?” She shrugged. I offered help: “What, like lifestyles?” “Yeah,” she said, “lifestyles.” I looked at my wife, my wife looked at me, and we both burst out laughing. “Listen,” I told my sister, “we don’t need a long, drawn-out, pained 'true confession' from you. We both know you’re gay. We don’t care who you fuck, OK? If there’s somebody you’re seeing regularly that you want to bring around, do it. We'd love to meet her. If you have friends you want to introduce us to, feel free.” My sister’s smile was as wide as the table, and she was sitting on the long side.

So we got to talking, and my sister revealed that she’d carried that “secret” around with her for four years, dreading the day when she’d have to “reveal” herself. I urged her to tell Nanny, our stepmother (our father was dead), our stepsister, and every old friend she had. Nobody gave a shit. She’d agonized about who-knows-how-many imagined shocked reactions for four long years, and all her fears were phantoms. Only one asshole friend, out of probably two hundred people she told over the course of the next few weeks, refused to see my sister because – and get this! – her boyfriend was uncomfortable.

The anticipated conversation my sister tortured herself most about was the one with Nanny. They got together at Nanny's house for lunch. My sister steeled herself over Campbell's chicken soup, a baloney sandwich, and ginger ale. Afterwards, she made her announcement. Nanny, who truly had no idea beforehand, thought for a few seconds about what she'd been told. Then, this is how the dialogue ended. You’ll see why I can still quote it verbatim more than thirty years later:

Nanny: To me, a man and a woman is like bread and butter. A woman and a woman is like bread and ... bread.
My sister: I guess I like bread.
Nanny: I guess you do. (Pause) You want some more Jell-O?

No heartache, no weeping and gnashing of teeth, no accusations, no nothin’. “I guess you do” and a second helping of a dessert for which there’s always room.

Anyway, getting back to our recent de-convert, I returned to her “family” blog and looked over some of the stuff she’d written. She was careful in her phraseology, but the negative attitude toward religion, I felt, was loud and clear, if somewhat obscured. Still, I think, somebody, somewhere in that group of relatives, already knows she’s left the flock.

But she’s terrified that she’ll shock the ones she loves. I know that this is a common fear. But, as I wrote to her: It's amazing how many de-converts don't discuss their new worldview with their loved ones because they're trying to avoid emotional blackmail. That avoidance, though, is also a form of emotional blackmail and you're the one blackmailing yourself.

I told Ms. D-C that I was going to write a post about our email interchange. I invited her – actually strongly encouraged her – to comment here, and share her experiences with us. I know that quite a few of my friends in the Atheosphere have gone through de-conversions themselves, and I assured her that she’d find plenty of supportive pals, all kinds of advice, and lots of understanding, not only here at No More Hornets, but at any of their blogs, as well. She wasn’t sure she’d participate, but I hope she does.

I’ll say once again: I’ve never had to go through that experience. Everyone I’ve ever known, family, friends, casual acquaintances even, has been aware of my godlessness. But I can empathize and sympathize because my sister told me horror stories about the many nights when she couldn’t sleep, when she had the cold sweats, the midnight headaches, and the early-morning panic attacks.

I don’t think it’s worth putting yourself through that.

50 comments:

tina said...

Well, I have never been religious but when I got tired of reading e-mails about jesus saves and god forgives and whatever, I replied back to my sisters e-mail with, I just don't believe in gods. I'm an atheist. She said oh, I have known that for a couple of years now. Well just how she could know that I don't know. I was agnostic then. But good luck to the new atheist. :)

Spanish Inquisitor said...

Yea, I hope she pops in. As a deconverted person, I clearly have a different bit of insight than you, a life-long atheist, though we do have something in common. My younger sister is also gay, and I had a similar experience with her coming out, only she told my mother first, who then sat me down to tell me the horrible news. I shocked her, by telling her I, too, had known all along, and that it was no big deal.

My mother died before I figured out I was an atheist, so we never had to do the coming out thing, which I would have if i had figued it out earlier. My father's still around, and frankly I have no plan on telling him. Let him go to his grave thinking I may some day "come back to the church". Is that right? Not sure. It could change. I'm open to anything.

In the grand scheme of things, I'm not sure which I rather have to go through - coming out as an atheist, or a homosexual.

Interesting post, Ex.

John Evo said...

SI, I think the two (homosexual and atheist) have an awful lot in common, since the same people who are most likely to take it the hardest, do so on very similar religious grounds.

I'm kind of cross between you and Ext, having become an atheist in my late teens. Back then, as a kid, it was fairly easy to "come out" and I never really gave it much thought. I can see it being more difficult for those of you who do it after you are established as adults.

Hang in there, Ms. D-C.

Lady Monchhichi said...

In Julia Sweeney's Letting Go Of God her mother actually says, couldn't you just be a lesbian, at least they are accepted.

Babs said...

An absolutely brilliant post, and it's definitely made me start thinking. I'll have to write more later. When I'm through thinking it out.

But I hope that the newly de-converted does show up here and know that she's got a place to hang out and just be herself without fear of being judged.

Sarge said...

Excellent post. If you're changing how people identify you, it can be a bit bumpy. Sometimes when you expect static you get a lot of ho-hum, sometimes when you figure on a 'so what?' comes an explosion.

Most people have their own problems and it will probably color most relationships very little, at least in one on one relationships. Groups are what can be tricky.

ordinarygirl said...

I haven't "come out" to my family, but they know I'm not interested in church or religion. I don't stay up nights thinking about it though. In fact, I don't really care what they think about atheism or atheists, just as I don't care what they think about any stance on religion.

I really don't think my parents or other family members would stop loving me as an atheist. The main reason I don't say anything is actually selfish. They'd feel the need to try to convert me, constantly, because they do love me.

My grandmother completely alienated my uncle over 30 years by trying to get him to convert to being a Protestant. He is a Catholic.

My father spent years trying to convince me how wrong I was to live with a man I wasn't married to. As comical as some of those encounters were, it still wasn't a comfortable seeing him wasting his time on something so unimportant while he's ill.

I'd rather have a little untainted by religion before they're gone.

EnoNomi said...

I deconverted and had no problem coming out to my friends, but was a little nervous about my in-laws. They’re members of a Catholic Church Charity group and sing in the choir and I went through a last phase of trying to be more Catholic before giving up that I was actually deluding myself, so they knew me more as being very Catholic. I wasn’t going to bother until my husband outed me, only to find out that my Mother and Brother-in-law both said, “Oh we don’t really believe there’s anything either, we just go to keep Dad happy.” And Dad was pretty vague on whether he really believed in something or is just doing it for the cultural / social aspect.

I no longer speak to my father (for other reasons), but I think I’d be the most embarrassed about coming out to him since he’s been an atheist forever and put up with mine and my step-mother’s attempts to “save” him without once ever trying to undermine our beliefs.

ordinarygirl said...

Er, I left out a word there in the last sentence. That is, I'd rather have a little time untainted by religion before they're gone.

The Exterminator said...

OG:
I also find it embarrassing when I accidentally out a word.

Evie said...

Ext:
I'm much more comfortable with you outing a word than an undercover atheist.

Thanks for this post and for the thoughtful comments. If any of you happen to stop by my blog - which, being a family news sort of thing, is much less interesting than most of yours, so I'll understand if you don't come around much - please don't "out" me yet. As Ext. indicated, I've written a couple of posts that hint at my non-belief, but I don't know if any of my readers (other than ext.) have decoded them yet.

In the meantime, I'll continue visiting your blogs and perhaps begin dropping comments. I've already done so with a couple of you and will probably join the fray at others too.

The Exterminator said...

Evie:
Well, you start out with a joke and then you get to what you want to say. You're gonna fit in here perfectly.

Now, remember: Don't be shy about disagreeing with us. I don't want to push you too far too soon -- but we even allow foul language. Shit, who am I kidding? We encourage foul language.

And seriously, if and when you decide to unmask yourself to your family, do feel free to solicit support and/or advice. I'm comfortable, for once, speaking for everyone here: Just interrupt whatever comment thread is going on at any of our blogs, and ask for whatever you need.

John Evo said...

Way to go, Evie.

A. said...

Honestly? I have been deconverting since last year, and only since putting up my blog have I even realized that I am, in fact, an atheist.

I have only come out to two of my friends and my fiance who, although initially very skeptical and concerned about it (indeed we fought for a few days), has been pretty supportive since then.

I think my brothers suspect it, one of them I think is deconverting himself, but everyone else is in the dark.

It's very tough to "come out," especially with people who know and love you and may end up feeling you are no longer someone they know, and maybe not even someone they love anymore. So much anxiety, but, at the same time, you feel a kind of certainty and groundedness over the experience.

Things fortunately worked out, but I never felt so scared as when I thought my engagement would be broken off over this. But at the same time, I didn't feel like I could "pretend" to believe anymore if I didn't.

If She Who Will Remain Nameless is out there reading this... you are not alone. A lot of us understand and have been, or are, in the same boat.

Thanks for another great post, Exterminator.

The Exterminator said...

A:
I've teased you a few times recently—join the club—and I hope you understand that I was joking. Some of the regulars around here do seem to enjoy twitting one another, and you should probably see any ribbing from us as an indication of acceptance.

But today, I have a real criticism, which, in other circumstances I could level at all of us—including myself. So please don’t get pissed off, because I’m actually talking to everyone here, not least of whom is me. Take this constructively, which is how I mean it.

She Who Will Remain Nameless, as you refer to her, has a name—Evie—which she told us just three comments above yours. I think it may have been difficult for her to identify herself, so let's not ignore it, OK? The threads at this blog are not so long that we can't read, or at least skim, every comment before dropping our own into the mix. It's flattering when our posts excite one another enough that commenters just start typing away without checking what others have said. Normally, I wouldn't bring it up, even if you went totally off topic, not that there’s always a topic to go off of around here. But in this particular case, where I think it might have been a big step for Evie just to say "Hi" to everyone, let's not just go freewheelin' past her announcement.

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, I have to say that you may turn out to be a great resource for her, since you've very recently gone through some similar experiences yourself, and may actually have to go through others. How did you feel before you told your fiancee? And how did you feel when you actually told her? What exactly did you say? And what was her immediate response? And, how can anyone not know that you're an atheist after reading your blog? Not only is The Meme Pool crystal clear on where you stand, but you’ve plunged into the Atheosphere with great gusto, and have left welcome footprints in dozens of places. If your deconverting brother is hanging around the same blogs that you do, surely he must recognize something about A. that reminds him of you.

A. said...

Evie:
Hello. I'm the resident ass. Let me start by saying "Mea culpa," and I am so sorry for not even acknowledging your comment, much less greeting you to the forum.

You have tremendous guts to be as honest with yourself as you are being at this time in your life, and I want you to know, no matter what, that you deserve the love and respect of everyone in our life for no other reason than the guts and honesty it takes to do what you are doing. Everyone has the right to question their beliefs and change their mind whether they are a lifelong atheist converting or a christian deconverting. It's called being honest with yourself and being true to who you are, and everybody deserves respect for that. I, for one, apologize for not showing you that respect, and, as someone going through it myself, I am even more guilty in that respect.

In a bit of a rush, I skimmed through and had not even noticed you were the subject of the original post. If my comments helped or made you feel less alone out there or whatever, I know that does not excuse being so self centered or dismissive of your comment as to just pass it by, and, frankly, as one who's going through the same thing, I feel awful about doing that to you. I am selfish and self involved but I hope you know that I am also sorry.

Everybody else:
I am sorry to you too. If I had bothered to check out Exterminator or John Evo's comments in any detail, I would have noticed my gaff, and I am sorry for passing your comments as well.

Exterminator:
As a recovering Catholic I have the self flagellating guilt thing down, and I am glad you plucked the plank out of my eye and slapped me across the face with it. I deserved it, I'm sorry, and... well, I sincerely thank you for setting me straight, because the truth is I deserved it.

As for your questions about details, I probably don't have the room here to get into too much of it right here, and, frankly, I'm feeling entirely too embarassed for being so self involved to get into it.

I'm sorry.

The Exterminator said...

A.
Well now you've made me feel guilty for chastising you. But since I'm not a recovering Catholic, it'll pass in about twenty seconds.

Hey, wait a minute. I grew up in a Jewish family. We cornered the market on guilt! So I feel shitty again.

Anyway, as far as your confession goes: say ten hail Darwins and enjoy your Thanksgiving with your soon-to-be in-laws. When you come back to the Atheosphere, maybe you'll have metamorphosed into:

ta-da! *** The Lifeguard ***

(Oh, I so hope you're not going to be the Flaming Enema.)

Evie:
If you don't know what those last few sentences were about, go check out A.'s blog. And be sure to vote for

*** The Lifeguard ***

(I really like that name. Did you notice?)

John Evo said...

All is well again in the Atheosphere...

ahhhhh.... Peace, Love, Harmony, Turkey (or Veggie Turkey).

JP said...

I am in the same boat.

No, not that, I am as heterosexual as they come. However, I fear telling people who I am and what I believe (or in this case dis-believe) I am the guy who brought my wife to faith and baptized her and expected to raise my children in this faith. Now I sit here alone in a world that turns its cold shoulder on non-believers. I have not told a soul (except the blogging community) with fear of rejection, fear of being labeled a "bad father and bad husband", pushing my children towards hell. It sounds silly, I know. I love my family and respect them, its just a tough thing in my life right now to let out.

Boy, do I sound weak.

John Evo said...

JP, No you don't.

That's an unusual position to have found yourself in (by that, I mean I seriously doubt that anyone here has THAT type of a deconversion). Wow. To go back to the "gay" thing, I again see similarities. It would be like a guy who is uber-hetero, finds himself a woman who is attracted specifically to that kind of man, whose whole family was hoping she would marry to such, and then admitting to ones self that you are gay.

Well, we have some really intelligent people posting here. Some of them might know of a similar situation. Even if they don't, I'm sure they can give you some excellent advice. Ultimately you're just going to have to decide what's best for you, but I don't think you sound weak.

Lynet said...

Hello, Evie! Lovely to meet you.

I always feel spoilt in conversations like this -- not only are my parents atheists, but I'm a New Zealander. Coming out could never be a major issue for me. I almost wish I lived in a horribly theistic place just so I could have the chance to do the coming out heroics (yeah, yeah, I know, I'd change my tune if I actually did have to go through that...). As it is, I'll just have to cheer from the sidelines and write poetry.

John Evo said...

It's OK, Lynet. Countries like yours should give American atheists hope. It means that the conditions we live under here don't HAVE TO be so! It's nice to be able to point to your country when talking to a theist who trots out the tired, "society would fall apart" argument.

Spanish Inquisitor said...

Hello Evie. Welcome to the Atheosphere, if only for the occassional read and comment.

If you don't want the family to figure out things, please keep in mind that if any of us post on your blog, the resultant links might bring someone back here where they will see your comments, with links back to you. It's unlikely, but certainly not out of the realm of possibility.

John Evo said...

And if you ever invite any of us over, be aware than we go nowhere without our black, hooded robes with a red "A" emblem on the chest.

The Exterminator said...

SI:
That's a great point. I wish I'd thought of earlier. Yikes!

Evie:
You probably ought to delete my comment on that post. (NOTE TO EVERYONE ELSE: I'm sending her an email too, so she will get this message.)

Lynet:
You said, I almost wish I lived in a horribly theistic place.
Well, you could always pray for that. While you're at it, Georgia (the state, not the country) needs rain.

JP:
Do you mean to say that no one you know in person reads your blog? Some of us have mentioned that our spouses are indifferent to our blogging. But I do know my wife sneaks a peek once in a while. And I have a few close friends who stop by every few weeks to see what I've been up to. For me, blogging has become so much a part of what I do in my spare time that I can't imagine how I'd be able to keep it a secret.

JP said...

No, my wife doesn't do the whole blogging thing and has never checked mine.

So thinking about it, no, nobody I know checks my blog and if they did, I don't hear about it.

Plus, I have just recently moved. So, I can give 2 shits if someone from my previous life knows.

A. said...

jp and evie:

Only three people in my life know about my being an atheist or about my blog and none of them are related to me by blood.

You and I have a lot in common though. I was actually a youth minister at my church and am actually STILL a eucharistic minister.

Yeah.

My fiancee (a kind of agnostic deist if that makes much sense) wants to get married in the church so we have kept up a major charade so we can get "permission" to get married. She's Italian, I'm Cuban, so getting married in a church matters a lot to a lot of people. Somehow that makes sense to me, although I know in the long run it doesn't.

Oddly, it feels more silly to me than anything else, but I do often feel insecure about it just like you and I'm sure Evie do.

If I had to sum it all up, I would have to say it's a very fine line wanting to be who you are, an atheist, and being worried people won't realize that you are actually the exact same person, minus belief in god.

It's a lonely place to be. I've actually even kept a lot of this out of my blog simply because it's a bit weird to be writing about atheism and going to freaking church. Maybe I'll post about it.

Exterminator: Do NOT feel guilty. Honestly, I thank you for pointing it out to me, and that's the truth. Nonetheless, Jesus was, first and foremost, Jewish, so we share a common guilt complex.

Exterminator and John: As for a "flaming enema," under those circumstances, I have no problem declaring martial law, suspending the elections, and coronating myself the Lifeguard.

All of you: You inspire me a great deal. Okay, seriously, now I'm leaving for THanksgiving.

Evie said...

Wow - your responses have all been great. Thanks so much for your support. JP and Lifeguard, you won't be at all surprised to know that I'm also still attending church. I took a step back, however, by quitting the choir last week. Now I just have to tolerate Sunday mornings. I can do that for awhile.

By the way, I've started a new blog at Wordpress, The Apostate's Chapel (http://thechapel.wordpress.com). I went with them so that I could post under a pseudonym - the chaplain. Feel free to drop in and leave comments, as my family will not be visiting this one any time soon. God, I'm starting to feel like I'm leading a double life! That's just too weird.

John Evo said...

Look at Evie! Being the first to publically change "A" to "Lifeguard"! I like it.

I think old timers like Ext and I are just going to have to be understanding about the new generation of non-believers. It's hard for us to imagine having fears about these things, but all of your discomfort is highly understandable when I step back from my own life and look at it.

Personally, I encouraged that more and more people are questioning faith. I think there is empirical evidence of this when you look at census records from the last 100 years (and especially when we think about folks like you guys, who might still be "listing" as Catholic - or whatever - out of tradition and because of answering in the presence of other family members).

PhillyChief said...

Great post. Evie, welcome.

As (maybe) the biggest firebrand in the crowd I do have to say I think the best thing in the long run is to be open and honest. I'm further concerned about having a 2nd blog for the very reason you mention Evie, that you'd be leading a double life, only now it would be both in reality and virtual reality so to speak. I feel that not only is it important to you and to those in your life, but coming out has ramifications for all of us. The more people do it, the more the issue is pushed and acceptance HAS TO follow. Furthermore, the more Out stories there are the more others in hiding gain courage to out themselves. It's a snowball effect, one that we all hope grows into an avalanche.

I'm pretty adamant about the Out issue. Be that as it may, I can respect the fears that you may have. I can only urge you to fully out yourself for everyone's sake, and know that there are way more of us out here to lend encouragement and support than perhaps you can even imagine.

Since I have no self discipline to hold my tongue, I probably will not comment on your blog, Evie. There's no telling what I may say, what people will say in response or how they would react if they followed my name back to my blog.

Now I also want to share another thing, the comparison to the gay issue. Some of you speak of still being involved in church. Through my wife I've come to know many gay musicians, many singers. These people, despite what their personal views on religion may be or the stance of the churches they belong to is, participate in choirs and often are the choir or music directors of these churches. Why? Because their love of the music and their need to be a part of it overrides everything else. I suppose there's some sort of "don't ask, don't tell" thing going on. I don't know. I wish they would out themselves there, but like Ex's story of his sister, I can't imagine how anyone wouldn't know these people are gay. Anyway, I think I had a point when I started this but it's totally escaped me now. Oh well.

Ex - thanks for introducing me to the term "A-dar". That will no doubt become a permanent part of my speech from this day forward.

The Exterminator said...

Lifeguard:
I'm interested to hear from both you and JP -- and also from Evie, as The Apostate's Chapel takes shape -- how you manage to maintain your blogs without anyone else knowing about them. I feel the compulsion to tell everyone about mine. Sometimes, my wife has to warn me that I'm getting tiresome: "Shut up, already, about your blog. Nobody cares about your fucking blog. This is a proctologist's office."

chaplain:
I suspect I'll be calling you Charlie before long. In any case, I'm going to add you, as "chaplain," to my Frequent Commenters list of links. Those are the ones that I, personally, use most often. If you're comfortable that you'll be able to maintain your anonymity, you might want to write to Mojoey and ask to be put on the Atheist Blogroll. Most of us here are already on it -- with just a few exceptions (Evo!) -- and I think you might enjoy seeing your blog listed with about 500 others.

Evo:
You suspect that more and more people are questioning faith. I'm not certain that's true; perhaps we're only seeing more of those people because of the Atheosphere and various forums (yeah, I know the plural is really "fora," but even I draw some limits on pretentiousness). I'd like to think that we all have some small role in facilitating de-conversion for those who, in previous times, would have had to stew in silence.

Philly:
I can't believe I'm agreeing with you again. Twice in one week. But I do think you could be right about the 2nd blog issue. On the other hand, maybe we old farts who have trouble whistling and chewing gum at the same time, just haven't figured out how to keep our virtual and real lives separate.

And, of course, I agree with everything you wrote about coming OUT. But, once again, that's so easy for me to say, because it hasn't ever been an issue in my life.

You said, Thanks for introducing me to the term "A-dar".
Well, I introduced the world to it, since, as far as I know, it didn't exist until I made it up.

I love thinking up new, useful terms. Right now, I'm trying to push anatheists, those who are against atheists. In the past, some of you may remember, I began using Pro-Forced-Maternity, rather than the lying "Pro-Life."

I can't be sure, because I think I first used the term in someone's comment thread somewhere, and I may have subconsciously picked it up from elsewhere, but I believe I invented the word Atheosphere. The first reference I can find to it at this blog is on May 26. If someone runs across any earlier usage anywhere, let me know.

the chaplain said...

I hear you loudly and clearly about the second blog. I just feel a need to have some space in which I can develop my thoughts. I'm shifting an entire world view here, and I usually think more clearly when I write things down. But I obviously can't do too much of that on the family blog at the moment.

I also want a space where I can interact freely with fellow atheists. At the moment, that's not possible on the family blog.

How long will the second blog last? Who knows. I sort of like the idea of having a space where I can let it all hang out and develop sides of my personality that have been submerged for a long time. Reflecting and ranting on my "secret" blog may help me find ways to express myself when the time comes to open up more with the family.

PhillyChief said...

What I can't believe is you've ONLY agreed with me twice this week, Ex. And as for who you're introducing terms to, being in a me-centric world I am correct in saying you introduced it to me. Oh yes, others can share in the introduction as well I guess. :)

I'll file away "pro-forced-maternity" as well for future use. I don't know about "anatheist". It doesn't roll off the tongue and I think it would be confused in speech. I suppose to make it clearer it would have to be "anti-atheist", but what's the root of their objection? Fear. So I say use "atheophobe". It also rolls better off the tongue. ;)

Babs said...

My goodness, it's just a regular coming out party. Atheistically speaking, that is. I understand how difficult it is to "come out" to your friends and family who are believers of some god or the other. If you've been steeped in religion a good portion of your life, then you have been made to feel guilty for just about everything you do. Then there's the fear. The fear of burning eternally in hell was always a big motivator in the churches I went to.

So now, even if you know that the guilt and fear are just a bunch of bullshit, it's still hard to let go of them. Why is it so difficult? Because when a religion brainwashes you, it does so on an emotional level. And when something effects you deeply on an emotional level, it's hard to get it out of your system. There's also the fear of your family and friends forever chasing you down trying to re-convert you, and well that's just not any fun, either.

Oh hell, I don't even know if I'm making any sense. I'm just trying to let those who are letting go of their religion that I know it's tough. And if you want someone to listen to you, just send me an email and let it all out. I've been there, I know how it is.

John Evo said...

Ex said: (yeah, I know the plural is really "fora," but even I draw some limits on pretentiousness).

I did not know that. I always learn something new from you - like "atheosphere". You'll be happy to know that the Pinker book I've been touting goes in to some depth about "new words". You are definitely a candidate for this book.

Philly - same topic - yes, you definitely should read his chapter on curse words. You don't know how much I'm thinking of you as I read!

JP said...

ahhh, what a nice big coming out party....amongst other non-believers.

Ric said...

You guys have black hooded robes with the red A? And you didn't tell me about this? C'mon, where do I get one? Where are the meetings? Do we get to burn things up? Sacrifice virgins... ummm, lemme rethink that last one.

Evie, welcome aboard. I don't blog primarily about religion and atheism, but I'm uncommonly rude to the religious breed. Give no quarter, take no prisoners, we need more lions, and so on. Some of these other fellows are just too polite, you know? :) Probably too much for you at this point, but it beats hell out of playing harps and sucking up to phantasms.

Ric
Grumpy Lion

John Evo said...

Evie, If you liked my recent post "Clinton Would Hang" you'll LOVE the stuff Ric writes! I don't know how be maintains his anger. I get angry in fits - he is permanently enraged. Whenever I think I'm getting soft on the people who run this country I listen to the Young Turks and I read The Grumpy Lion.

The Exterminator said...

chaplain, Lifeguard, JP:

I left this comment over at Evo's blog, addressed to chappy only. But I thought I'd bring it over here and include all you recent de-cons:

It's nice to have you folks openly joining the dialogue. I don't know whom you're gonna thank this Thanksgiving, although I have a pretty good idea of whom you're not gonna thank. But I'd like to thank you for helping me realize that our little blogs might actually do some good.

the chaplain said...

To all of you and the rest of the Atheosphere:

Please be assured that your "little blogs" do an enormous amount of good for at least two reasons.

1) They form a community for like-minded people who may not have anyone else with whom to discuss certain issues. The primary reasons I started my new blog were

a) so that I could write about things I can't discuss as openly and "in-the-raw" with friends and family.

b) so that I could engage in dialog with other like-minded folks. I know you all aren't going to agree with everything I write, but I also know that you won't threaten me with hell, start praying for me, start laying hands on me, or recommend an exorcist to me.

2) They provide information for believers who are questioning their beliefs. Blogs were a big influence in my de-conversion. In addition to reading a couple of dozen books, I read scores of blogs. I read other web sites too, but the content at those sites tend to be more static than the blogosphere. The latter is great for finding new data every day.

Please, all of you, keep writing. I, for one, eagerly eat up all of your stuff every day.

Evie

The Exterminator said...

chappy said:
Please, all of you, keep writing. I, for one, eagerly eat up all of your stuff every day.

Well that settles a big mystery for me. I wondered who'd been eating all my stuff.

Zoinks, he said. said...

I'd been dicking around with agnosticism for a long time before I "came out". My wife's pretty Catholic and was pretty upset. Which is okay, because I get a little annoyed when she takes our daughter to church. However, at least she's stopped asking me to go. And besides, I did agree to let her raise the kids Catholic when we married. I guess I figured they'd just ourgrow it. I expect some difficult conversations when Mickie gets to be four or five.

Then, after coming out to my wife (who seemed to be the only person in my life who didn't know), I came out quite publicly. I was running for Provincial Parliament in Ontario, and a key election issue was provincial funding for religious education. So, at one or two debates, I said it, "I'm an atheist." And I said for several reasons.

First, in Ontario (and most of Canada, I expect), it's no big deal. Second, I feel very strongly about secular government, and we've never really had that. Canada's too multicultural now for any god-government to fly, and, as contradictory as this sounds, an atheist is in a better position to protect all faiths. I think they're all equally silly.

Evie, hang in there. I don't know what it's like to be in your position, exactly, but I do know it can be hard.

Oh, and my brother just came out as an atheist when he came out. Atheism kind of got lost in the grand scheme of things.

PhillyChief said...

Well sir, welcome to you! I wish for the day the US actually lives up to it's Constitution. Canada sounds like heaven compared to the US today.

I've argued elsewhere that it's atheists who actually defend the freedom of religion better in the US than theists. Naturally this pisses theists off. It's nice to hear someone else say it.

I think you'll find several people here who can relate to your home life description.

The Exterminator said...

Zoinks:

Yours is an inspiring story. I only wish we had some U.S. politicians who have your courage and honesty.

You're also absolutely correct when you say, as contradictory as this sounds, an atheist is in a better position to protect all faiths.

This was not always the case, particularly during the early separation debates. Some churches felt just as strongly as we atheists do today that "establishment" could be dangerous, not only to their own institutions, but to society as a whole. Most American fundamentalists forget -- or, more likely, never knew -- that the separation of church and state was originally championed, and quite adamantly, by many out-of-the-mainstream Protestant sects, including Baptists.

Isaac Backus, a Baptist preacher who lived during the Revolutionary period and the subsequent formation of the United States, summed up their position very well:

Now who can hear Christ declare, that his kingdom is, not of this world, and yet believe that this blending of church and state together can be pleasing to him?

He also wrote: When Church and State are separate, the effects are happy, and they do not at all interfere with each other; but where they have been confounded together, no tongue nor pen can fully describe the mischiefs that have ensued.

Today's Baptists don't even know their own history.

Zoinks, he said. said...

It's funny.

We have a hangover from confederation where the Protestants agreed to protect Catholic education and vice versa in Ontario and Quebec (and as a consequence, PEI and New Brunswick and every province that has since entered confederation), this is the preamble to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (similar to the US Bill of Rights, I suppose):

"Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law:"

And that's it. Our Constitution actually mentions God once (in the Charter), and protects Protestant and Catholic education. Somehow we managed to acheive a balance between church and state.

Maybe Canadians are just like that. I'd like to think so. It appeals to my totally arbitrary patriotism.

Glad to know about the Baptists' vociferous (I've been waiting for weeks for an excuse to use that word) defense of freedom of religion. It's fodder for Xmas. Some of my family is that particular flavour of Xtian.

In cas you're curious, the Charter can be found here:

http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/const/annex_e.html#II

Zoinks, he said. said...

Sorry, I meant to say the education thing AND the preamble to the charter are the only religious things in the Constitution. It was a typo that subtly changes the meaning of the first paragraph. Just wanted to clarify.

car said...

Nice blog! Just got here from the carnival.
Important topic to me, as I'm also a closeted atheist in real life. I lost my faith slowly, over many years, until I finally realized there was nothing left. I grew up in a family of fundamentalists, married one, had kids, teach in Sunday school, etc. Church is and has been a linchpin of my entire family and my identity my whole life, so I haven't even started to figure out what to do. Over the last year or two I've been slowly getting more and more brave about being straightforward about it online in the blogs I frequent (although most are under a pseudonym), just for the practice.
I have "come out" to a few close friends I grew up with, and weirdly they went through the same thing too, although we all grew up in the same church and same family type. In fact, when I told one of them she said "What took you so long? I always thought you'd go first."

Anyway, I have no advice since I haven't done anything about it, but just another voice to say there are a lot of us out there.

The Exterminator said...

car:

Thanks for the compliment. You'll always be welcome here.

Here's a scenario I've thought about in the past, but I'll address it to you: Wouldn't it be funny if it turned out that your spouse is another closeted atheist, frequenting the very same blogs you do?

car said...

That would be the creepiest thing ever. I found out last month that he had a facebook page (I've had one for months), and that was weird enough!
I'm pretty sure he's not - he's a youth director, and I did come out to him a year and a half or so ago. It's a topic that we don't discuss, but he hasn't complained that I've sloughed off a lot of my former church duties. I've even gotten to where I take the kids home after Sunday School and don't stay (or keep them there) for the worship service, and he hasn't pushed back on that.

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