Monday, May 4, 2009

Another Accidental Outing

I empathize with Everything Else Atheist and her story of being outed.

Let this be a lesson to closeted atheists everywhere: You can't hide forever. I had elaborate security protocols, and it seemed that EEA did as well, but a conscious or unconscious desire to not live a lie led to the leaking of small details that eventually led to the full outing.

The best advice I can give other atheists going through this process is to let your family know you still love them, remember that they are responsible for their own reactions, and seek support from the atheist community, especially people who have gone through this before.


JJR said...

My family knows, and it's no big deal, but I just also outed myself on my YouTube channel as well. I'd considered opening a separate channel to post atheism stuff, but then decided that would be being a tad dishonest and hiding from who I really am.

I also haven't fully come out to old high school friends, either...I'm less strident on Facebook because I have 3 of them that are VERY religious, 2 of them even work as clergy.

But I was reading the status update of one of them on Facebook, relating how his young daughter had a medical emergency (dangerously high BP) and they took her to the doctor, and while they were waiting to see the MD, everyone prayed, and when the MD ran tests, etc, everything was back to normal. He confidently proclaimed this proof of the power of prayer, and several of his closer friends chimed in, in agreement.

I blurted out in a reply: "My vote is for placebo effect, but I'm glad everything turned out well for your child". Well, he emailed me privately in response to this but I'm still working up the courage to go and read it and respond.

In the past I just would've bitten my tongue and looked the other way, but part of me said no, you've got to call him on this stuff a little. Of course, I may well lose this friendship, but on the other hand we weren't all that close to begin with, more friendly acquaintances than close friends.

I've been trying to find that story out of Minnesota (?) about the parents who denied their child medical care and prayed instead...I want to send that story along and ask my friend how should I distinguish between him and Christians like that. But I haven't been able to find the original news story yet.

If I do fully out myself to all these old High School friends, I'll let them know I've been an atheist for as long as they've known me.

forkboy said...

I must be very lucky.

Even though I grew up in a fairly religious, Catholic family, my parents did not have issues or otherwise "lose it" when I announced my turn to being an atheist at the age of 15.

I never realized how lucky I was until I started reading about the poor folks whose family do not react in such a manner.

The Everything Else Atheist said...

Thank you for all the support ladies, being outed truly is a horrific experience, and it just reflects poorly on the theists who make the experience so horrific.

I do have to say though, that I don't really "love" my family. I am not a believer in unconditional love, and I don't make an exemption for families. If a boyfriend or girlfriend were to be as emotionally abusive as my mother is, we would encourage them to leave and find someone who treated them right. No excuses of "but they gave me money and stuff", or "but I love them" would be tolerated by the people who actually cared about us. It uncomfortably reminds me of the Christian advice to forgive and forget and love everyone no matter what.

We don't deserve ill-treatment from significant others, and we don't deserve it from family. I don't want to be involved in an abusive family or an abusive relationship. My main concern, similar to other people in abusive, controlling romantic relationships, was not that they would stop loving me but that they would take revenge and get me back, no matter what: cut off any help, stalk me, try to perform some sort of intervention/exorcism.

People that would be capable of that sort of behavior towards me most certainly do not deserve my love.

I hope that your situation unfolds happily and you are able to find peace and joy.

(And if you find this family, I love you guys!)

Microbiologychick said...


I think your comments about abusive relationships have a lot of truth to them. I do not dispute that in some circumstances, discontinuing contact with such a family may be best.

My advice about loving your family is mainly directed to pre-outed atheists and situations where some degree of reconciliation is possible. Some people take rejection of their religion so personally that they need reassurance that the problem is with their beliefs and not something that they have done. This may or may not alter their later behavior and the ultimate state of the relationship.

I think it's also important to remember that their reactions are not rational. Scared people do crazy things.If their worst actions occur very soon after the outing, and they later get better, it may be worth it to forgive. The decision on how much slack to allow them is up to each individual.

The important thing is to be an adult, set your boundaries, and live a life that makes you happy. I think that we're both doing that, and that's all we can do.

CyberKitten said...

I feel *so* lucky being on this side of the pond where such issues are (AFAIK) rare. 'Coming out' as an Atheist is something I've never had to deal with. Most people I know are either atheists or indifferent to religion, so I do feel incredibly fortunate.

Good luck in your continuing fight to be yourselves.

Warwick said...

It's a surreal and humbling experience to read these posts on the "outing" of atheists. Living in (mostly) secular England I can hardly begin to comprehend the situation. When I've read books by Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris I've tried to console myself that such extreme (western) religious intolerance was thankfully rare. Your posts have made me re-evaluate that consolation. In the face of such irrational beliefs we must all take solace in reason and science. And from from the like-minded and clear-thinking writers such as those mentioned. There's more truth in a chapter of their books than in all the religious texts ever created.

Bunc said...

Here's a poem for all for you newly atheists to recite to any idiots who have a go at you....

God Made Phlegm? Why?

garneasada said...

My parents had huge issues when I told them 17 years ago, at the time I was about to graduate from high school. When I graduated I was given an ultimatum: start going to church again or move out. At the time I thought my best option was to move out. I don't necessarily regret the decision, but I have my doubts as to if it was the wisest choice.

But, the good news is that after a few rough years, things worked out. My parents tolerate (I had some trouble coming up with the best word to describe their level of acceptance) my atheism. But, and this is the best part in my opinion, they have changed their minds and beliefs on atheists. Even my mother, who is a devout Christian that hardly does a thing without considering the biblical implications, has decided that I will still go to heaven.

You may say, who cares if a Christian thinks someone will go to heaven or not. And you're probably right, its not that that matters. Its that a person changed from thinking that atheists are immoral and harmful to society to thinking that an atheist can be moral. I think Dawkins would call that consciousness raising.

I hope that everything works out well for you with your family.

Rene Benthien said...

My family, though religious, are very accepting of my atheism. My problem is with employers, current and potential, and co-workers.

I don't want to be looking for a job only find that I've been passed over because the HR guy found my name linked to an Atheist website/blog. Hence the use of a pseudonym.

Best luck to all of those who've been recently outed. I'd recommend being as agreeable as possible and to set an example.

tima said...

I grew up here in the Tri-Cities area, Carter Co. in fact and as anyone can tell you this a very religious area. But I have always been out of my atheist closet. I spoke out at bible school, I pitched a fit about our biology teacher ignoring evoultion in our text books and if there was prayer at school I held my head high and my eyes open. I am not miliant but I don't hide it and really most people, family and co-workers alike, rarely give me too much grief. If your family does give you grief, just grin and bare it. It's hard to run against the grain of thousands of years of social indoctrination. Just feel humble with the knowledge the you are a mentally evolved being, lol.