I’ve been speaking at a lot of places the past few months and it’s always nice to know that something I said connected with the audience.
Reader Katy sent me this email the other day… it meant a lot to me and she was nice enough to give me permission to share it:
Thanks so much for coming to Mobile and giving a talk!
One of the things that made the biggest impact on me was when you were talking about outreach and that many people may have never knowingly met/talked to a non-Christian here in the South. When I posted the picture I took with you after your talk, and said how great it was on my Facebook page, an old friend wrote me this timid message, “Are you an atheist?”
I sent her just a nice overview of the common myths, what I believed, and how it felt so good and liberating when I finally knew that it was okay to talk about my views without glossing them over. You know the statements, “I’m not really religious, I’m spiritual.”
We wrote back and forth, and she told me that she’s been keeping her views secret all her life because she is surrounded by very religious family members who continuously pray for her, send her religious books, and subtly (or not so subtly!) pressure her. She explained how she felt like a hypocrite. She was frustrated and had to stifle herself when she heard that some of her friends “threaten their children with the devil and believe rainbows are signs that everything will be okay.”
I gave her some advice, shared some links (yours included), and told her a great first step would to be joining her local Freethinker meetup group… for crying out loud, her group had 750 members. Well, the good news is that she has finally begun to gently broach the subject with her family, has been devouring articles and reading and posting things online, has joined some area foundations, and was just asked to be an official greeter for her local Freethinker group! She has thanked me repeatedly, and I imagine now has begun to feel that uplifting, weight-off-your-shoulders sensation when you can finally be honest and PROUD of your views. It’s a process, and her journey has just begun, but she has jumped in feet first.I’m really proud of her. It is true, like you said, we need to be outspoken, not angry, shouting, or cynical, but just humble, real, willing, and honest. She just wrote to me, “I love you, Katy, for who you are and for opening a whole Freethinking world to me!” So, thank YOU, Hemant!
Orange Beach, Alabama
That’s amazing and I can’t really take any credit. That’s all Katy. But I think it does show how important it is to be out about your atheism. Start small if you must — tell your close friends and trusted colleagues — but build from there. Leave a Facebook status that questions religion. Start challenging your religious friends on the evidence for their faith.
I think there’s some truth to the idea that if you believe you’re the only person in your circle of friends who is an atheist… you’re probably not alone. When someone else sees you coming out, they’ll be more inclined to follow suit.