There are a lot of ways you can come out as an atheist. Many of them result in someone getting very upset. Sometimes, it results in a fight over faith — maybe a debate you don’t want to get into.
What do you do if you want to come out publicly as an atheist but not draw all the negative attention that sometimes comes with it? Is that possible?
Reader Keith is having that dilemma and he’s thinking about the best way to handle it:
After reaching mid-life, I’ve realized I’m pretty tired of being a secret atheist. Not that I pretend to be religious, but when religious topics come up at work or among friends, I tend to clam up and avoid the subject. Lately, though, I’ve started to wonder if that’s the best stance for me to take. I worry that I’m being a coward, and that if I spoke up for myself I might (like you’ve said before) show people by example that atheists are decent people too, and also let other closet atheists know that they are not alone.
One way I’ve thought about addressing this is by announcing my atheism on Facebook (as a friend did recently). But is this too in-your-face?
I want to say to the world that I’m not afraid to be called atheist, and that atheists are all around. I don’t want it to come across as a challenge, like I’m saying “I’m an atheist… take that world!” Especially because the vast majority of my Facebook friends are Christian, and at least half of those are Very Christian (and family members). Most of them probably don’t know I’m an atheist. (I suppose part of my motivation is that I’m reaching a point where I DO want those family members to know — mostly cousins — but I don’t want to talk to them directly about it. That would feel like a confession of a dirty secret! I just want to announce that I’m proud of who I am.
The Facebook thing seems innocuous enough. Is there a better way to be public about your atheism without trying to generate controversy within your family?