Do Atheists Hide From Family and Friends?

Yes, many Atheists do hide their Atheism from family and friends. Many Atheists are afraid of the repercussions of letting their loved one know about their Atheism. Many Atheists just avoid the conflict.

There are so many variables that an Atheist must concern himself with in revealing his Atheism to family and friends. The real difficulty is that each family member and each friend (individually) create a completely new set of variables for the Atheist to deal with.

These variables include the degree of religiosity of the person, the closeness to the person, the time one has known the person, the attitudes (including tolerance) of the person, and other issues. I often jokingly say that it is easier to come out of the closet as a homosexual than it is to come out as an Atheist.

It is unfortunate that many loved ones will “disown” a family member after finding out they are an Atheist. Have they no shame?

The problem is that my joke is not too far from the truth. A homosexual friend of mine that is also an Atheist said he received more static about his Atheism then he ever did about his homosexuality. While the family was disgusted over his homosexuality, they seemed comforted that he at least believed in a god. When he told them that he did not believe in god, they started to distance themselves from him. In hindsight, my friend misinterpreted the variables and came out of the closet to his family the wrong way. There are still family that refuse to talk to him.

One of the biggest issues for an Atheist when coming out of the closet is the sincerity of the people they are telling. What I mean is that they often sincerely believe that you will go to Hell and burn for all eternity. This creates emotional stress for them, can often be seriously heartbreaking, and may cause depression in some. You have to weigh their degree of religiosity and sometimes even their age. Should you tell grandma at ninety or let her die thinking she will see all her loved ones in Heaven?

When another friend of mine finally told his Mom, she cried. She cried because she was sincerely concerned for his soul and that he was going to Hell. She felt with all her heart that she would never see her son for eternity; that she would have to peer down from Heaven and see him writhing in pain at the torturing hands of Satan. While this friend saw the ridiculousness of his mother’s beliefs, he understood her sincerity and he had to deal with guilt from telling her. He second-guessed his decision to come out of the closet with his mother.

How open-minded are your parents and friends? Should you only tell your immediate family or include your extended family? Should you come out at work? Should you tell your spouse or children? Will the people you tell ostracize you? Will your friends leave you? Will everyone start a proselytizing campaign or an “intervention?”

These questions plague the Atheist before coming out of the closet. The sad part is that these questions are even considered. Why should Atheists be afraid to admit what they are to their relatives and friends? Why should Atheists be worried about discrimination at the workplace? Why should Atheists fear retaliation in the form of proselytizing and religious harassment and discrimination?

What do you do if you are still underage? Should you wait until after you leave the house? Can your parents still force you to go to church? Will your parents increase your religious indoctrination and get your preacher or priest involved? Will your parents get other family members involved? Will people single you out for ridicule and harassment at school? Will your teachers get involved in the proselytizing? Will your family see your declaration of Atheism as a form of teen rebellion instead of an honest lack of belief?

Obviously, other issues and variables come into play. I could never list all of them. Each individual will face different problems and different variables that they will have to take into consideration.The comedy movie Blasphemy is a perfect example of how not to come out as an Atheist to your family.

Generally, the best method is to bring it up slowly and to use “less stressful” terminology.

For example, start by asking probing questions that do not give away your Atheism (play the doubting Thomas role). You can point out inconsistencies, contradictions, and other fallacies without coming out directly and saying, “I don’t believe in gods.” Sometimes simple things like, “I don’t understand this doctrine” or “How did Noah fit all those animals into that tiny Ark?” can be great tools for letting your family know that you are questioning your faith and religion, but without coming out and saying you’re an Atheist.

By leading up slowly, over the course of a few months or so, they will be more prepared for your declaration and it will not be such an emotional hammer for them. You can use “friendly” terms like Freethinker or Agnostic instead of the dreaded “A” word if you think that will help your family and friends deal with it.

I know it can be stressful on the Atheist hiding their identity. There are feelings of resentment that build up because they feel forced to hide their true feelings from family and friends. Why should we have to hide while they get to express their religiosity out in the open? Do we ask the black man to paint his skin white in order to avoid discrimination? Do we ask the woman to act masculine in order to avoid discrimination? So why do Atheists still hide?

This goes back to the taboo associated with the word based on the very myths, misconceptions, and misunderstandings that I am addressing at Atheism Awareness. Even Atheists fall victim to the perpetuation of the 3 M’s.

When religion comes between family members: the family member isn’t the problem – the religion is.

Barna Research, a Christian research organization based in San Diego, conducted a survey in 1998 on non-believers in churches. The survey concluded that up to 7% of all churchgoers are non-believers that are afraid to come out of the closet to their family. These non-believers live a fake life, living a game of charades and lies as they appease their family and friends. Others pretend to be believers in order to keep their business contacts – knowing that as soon as word gets out that they are Atheist, they may lose a large portion of their clientele.

Of course, there are examples of coming out of the closet that went perfectly. The family was accepting and friends shrugged their shoulders as if to say, “Whatever floats your boat.”

I recommend a few things before coming out of the closet.

Join a local Atheist or Freethought group. Fellowship with like-minded individuals is just as important for Atheists as it is for churchgoers. You may even consider your local Unitarian Universalist church or fellowship, as many of the congregations are Atheists and Humanists.

Be prepared to answer questions that will come your way. You should be able to answer these questions without hesitation. Questioners identify hesitation as doubt, which may lead to heavier proselytizing. Be prepared to be hit with questions like, “How did this happen?” Be ready to answer questions like, “Can’t you find some other way to rebel?”

Accumulate lots of ammunition. In the case of Freethinkers, Agnostics and Atheists the ammunition is knowledge. If you cannot argue against what you believe then you should not be arguing for it. You should have knowledge of all sides, all arguments, and counter-arguments, both sides of the issues and know how to rebut people properly. You do not have to be an all-star debater or be exceptionally articulate – you just need to know the information so you can properly rebut anything that comes your way.

If someone hits you with a question that you are not prepared for or something you do not know – that is okay. Tell them you have to think about and you will get back to them. Do not delve into a subject where you know less than the other person does – they will corner you too easily. Remain on the offensive if you can – there are only certain times where appearing innocently defensive works to your benefit.

Be patient. Coming out of the closet will not resolve itself overnight. You may have to explain things over time and you may have to come out slowly.

Most of all, do not let anyone force you into coming out. Come out when you are ready. On the other side of the coin, do not let anyone keep you in the closet – come out when you are ready.

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Do Atheists Hide Their Children From Religion?

As a realist, I know that exposure to religion will be routine for my children during their lives. I do not try to keep that exposure away from them. It would be a futile attempt to keep it from them and brainwashing them with Atheism would make me just as guilty as the theist that brainwashes their children and indoctrinates them into their religion.

It is more important to raise our children to think for themselves in order to make their own life decisions.

There are instances where I will prevent certain exposure, of course. I will not let my children go to a church that espouses hatred. I will not let my children attend certain events affiliated with certain denominations because of some things that they do that I deem to be unethical.

My in-laws isolated their children from the world out of fear that they would not believe in God if they saw how the world really operated. In my eyes, that was mental child abuse. Their daughters lacked preparedness for the world and reality when they left home. They were dependent upon others and scared of their own shadows. That is no way to raise children so I would never raise my children in the same way.

All I can do is to help my children understand what is exposed to them. I can explain to them why people believe what they do and help them to become critical thinkers. I can give them everything they ask for when it comes to education. If they leave my arms knowing how to think on their own two feet and how to use the critical thinking skills, logic, rationality and reasoning that their human brains allow them to do, then I have achieved something. If they go on to believe in a god, then so be it.

One thing that I have done for my children is to teach them as much about religions as possible. The important thing for them to understand is that this is not a black & white; Atheist versus Christian world. They need to know that there is a rainbow of beliefs and religions out there.

We cannot protect our children from religious influence: the best we can hope for is to give them the critical thinking skills needed to overcome religious indoctrination on their own.

They have learned about Hinduism, Judaism, Paganism, Wicca, Christianity, Islam, Atheism, Shamanism, Buddhism, and others. When my children ask for information on a religion then I give it to them. I am not afraid to expose my children to different religions because I have also taught them the critical thinking skills they will need to make an educated decision about this matter.

My children regularly attend a Unitarian Universalist fellowship and they have gone to Vacation Bible School with their friends. My children ask questions about different religions and different beliefs. I do not push my non-belief on them, but I do answer questions they have honestly.

My children know that I am an Atheist. I do not lie to them. My children know my views, but they also know the views of others. When they ask about something, we tell them what everyone believes. We tell them what Christians believe, Muslims believe, Jews believe, Wiccans believe and what Atheists do not believe.

By exposing my children to all religions instead of isolating them away from religion, I feel that their odds of being critically thinking and rational adults actually increase. They already know that there is not “one true god,” but a bunch of different religions all claiming the same thing about their deity.

Do Atheists Fail In Relationships?

Atheists actually do better than theists do.

This statement refers back to religious morality. It should say, “Atheists fail in relationships and marriage because it is not sanctioned by God.”

Atheists have a lower divorce rate than religionists. Atheists do not rely on an invisible man to solve their relationship and marital problems: they rely on communication with each other.

Marriage has nothing to do with God, even if the ceremony does for many people. Marriage is about two people that love each other and want to spend the rest of their lives together in a monogamous relationship. The theistic view of no sex before marriage and no cohabitation prior to marriage actually sets marriage up to fail. How do you know that you can live with someone for the rest of your life if you have no experience in living with him or her or experience in sexuality with him or her? No matter what theists say – sex and sexuality are a major part of any marriage.

Christianity puts unfair expectations on marriage for Christian couples. Do not talk to each other, pray to God, and he will solve your marriage strife. Is that sound advice for married couples? Does prayer end our differences and create peace in a marriage? Nope.

Which denomination has the highest and lowest divorce rates in the United States? The highest divorce rate in the United States goes to Judaism at 33% followed by Baptists at 29%. The lowest divorce rate in the United States goes to Atheists/Agnostics at 21%.

Perhaps the cohabitation and sex before marriage are good after all. Perhaps discussing our problems with each other instead of praying to an imaginary friend that cannot solve our problems is better. You bet its better!

Atheists succeed in relationships because they have realistic expectations of that relationship. Atheists realize that in order to solve a problem you discuss the problem with your partner; that God does not cure broken marriages – couples cure broken marriages. Atheist couples are not afraid to seek the mediator help of a marriage counselor because they know that prayer and God as a mediator do not work.

Where Do Atheists Turn For Strength In a Crisis?

Instead of begging an imaginary being for strength in a crisis, I reach to others and myself. During times of crisis I do not ask, “God please help me” or “God give me the strength”. I simply state, “Come on, Blair, you can do it!” or “There are worse situations than this Blair, you can get out of this.” Alternatively, I will ask for help from my family and friends.

Atheists do not cry out to an imaginary god when injured or sick or in crises: we call 911, see doctors trained in medical science, or rely on our friends and family for help.

I analyze the situation logically instead of emotionally. I figure out the best way to get out of a crisis. I walk into a hazardous and dangerous situation, take charge of it, and think it through. I take control of all the assets available to me, solve the situation, and get myself out of danger. I have fought fires, chased bad people, and been in some desperate situations. Each time I was able to gather my own inner strengths and battle the situation head-on.

That has not to say that I am not emotional or that I do not react emotionally. It is hard not to react emotionally since our biology evolved to do such. Our emotions help us survive. I have seen lots of blood and damaged bodies in my time and I have never reacted emotionally – my training took over and I did what I had to do. When my daughter got hurt, it was different – my biological instincts overrode my training and I freaked out. It took me some time to come down, react logically, and get my act together in order to get her to help. One thing I never did during that time was pray to god or ask for help from a supernatural being. I did it on my own and got my daughter to the science of medicine – not the pseudoscience of church.

Another thing that helps me get through situations like that is my own body and the chemical reactions and processes that take place inside it. Adrenaline will do wonders in an emergency!

I seek help from people and things that can really help me. I do not seek help from imaginary beings that theists give credit to for doing something themselves. I find strength and help from some of the following:

  • My children, family, and friends
  • Laughter
  • Meditation or Biofeedback
  • Adrenaline (Yes – I am an adrenaline junkie!)
  • Music

Prayer and gods do not cure our diseases or solve problems during times of crisis. Where prayer and faith help is by calming the fears people have because prayer acts as a form of meditation and faith can have a biofeedback or therapeutic influence. Prayer and faith may give people the courage and emotional strength to continue, but they do not solve the problems we face.

We, as human beings, solve those problems ourselves. Imaginary beings do not give us the answers. We come up with them. Why do theists give their gods credit for their own actions? Why do theists deny themselves the credit they deserve for being human beings with the ability to think on a higher level? Give yourself credit where credit is due.

I do not know how many times I have heard theists say to people suffering from clinical depression, “Pray to god, and he will help you.” God and prayer do not cure clinical depression. Prayer may act as a form of therapy – but it cannot cure clinical depression. There is a big difference between feeling an overwhelming sadness and clinical depression. There is no arguing that prayer may help someone overcome sadness or “feeling depressed”, but prayer cannot cure clinical depression. As a society, we over-abuse the word depression and often associate it incorrectly with sadness or “the blues”.

Clinical depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain that prayer cannot cure.

If you are a theist and have ever told someone to pray to get rid of his or her depression, you owe that person an apology. In addition, you should advise that person to seek medical help for their condition.

Often we find this argument being used in the “there are no atheists in foxholes” statement. There are atheists in foxholes. I served in the Navy for almost ten years and encountered several life-threatening situations. Not once did I pray to a god to get me through the crisis.

If anything, I would aver that there are no theists in foxholes. When we are in the heat of battle, our training and experience take over and we do out jobs. It is not until after the battle is over, when we have a time to reflect upon what happened, and upon our morality, the theists begin to thank their gods and prayer.

When someone chucks a grenade into your foxhole you do not pray that god gets rid of it – you grab it and chuck it back out. You may pray latter if you are a theist – but when your life was in danger you relied on your training and your instincts – you saved yourself.

Medical Science has extended the lifespan of human beings: not prayer or belief in magical sky faeries.

Talking to fellow sailors and soldiers, I have learned one thing about god during a crisis: people forget about him. During a battle or major crisis, people forget about god most of the time. They attack the situation head-on and either save themselves or dig themselves into a deeper hole or cause their own death. Only afterwards, do people start reflecting on the situation and thank a god for saving them. God did not save them – their quick action and ability to think during a crisis saved them.

My father served in Vietnam. Vietnam made him realize that there was no god and he became an atheist in the foxhole. The foxhole made him an atheist.

Several friends of mine served time during war and each of them found strength in their atheism instead of finding a god in their foxhole. War to him or her was proof that there was no god.

One of the things that I have noticed during times of major crisis is that the hyper-religious often served as a hindrance to getting the job done and saving our butts. The hyper-religious would start to pray and cower to their god while the non-religious or the lightly religious would accomplish the mission or objective.

During any time of crisis or times when death was around the corner, I never turned to a god for help. It was my own inner strength and my own ability, as a thinking human being, to figure out my dilemma and a way out of it.

Often after a major catastrophe, we hear people say, “I had a guardian angel watching over me” or “God saved me from dying”. That is nice that they think their god saved them from death – but what about the other people that died. Did they not pray hard enough? Did their god not listen or were they not worthy?

When you hear about people that were praying to a god during a time of crisis it is important to pay attention to their story. Often you will find that those that were actively praying during a crisis were in a stagnant mode. They were hiding under a desk (as we witnessed at Columbine) or were hiding in a basement or bathroom (such as in tornado activity) or were doing something else that left them inactive during the crisis. Those that were taking action talk about thanking God after-the-fact.

The last couple of years of my life have found me in several crises with my family and environment. In each of these cases, I turned to my family, my friends, and myself for the strength to tackle these situations. Together we pulled through each crisis without any help from an imaginary being. Together we came out of each crisis stronger and closer than ever before.

There are atheists in foxholes. Foxholes create atheists.