This is a guest post by Lisa. [Personal information has been removed.]
I have been very, very slowly coming out of the atheist closet. It literally took me years to be honest with myself and even longer to actually say the words out loud to another person: “I don’t think I believe in God anymore.”
From there, though, it slowly began to trickle out. At first I told only my close friends, only one of whom was still a Christian herself. She cried for me. And then, after the worst emotional and intellectual torture of my life thus far, I told my family.
I knew the struggle that was ahead of me as, one by one, I told the people I loved that I was an atheist. For a Christian, the battle for a soul never ends. There will never be peace for any of these people. It will always hang over them. They will always pray for me. They will want to discuss and debate with me, never with an interest in dialogue and understanding, but with an interest in converting me. It isn’t a pleasant fate to accept, but the imperative of Christianity (and most religions) is to convert others. Despite that reality, I made the decision that I couldn’t live a lie any longer.
In those months before I came out as an atheist, I literally scoured the internet for stories, blogs, support, anything to make me feel like I wasn’t completely alone. I was raised in a very small conservative Lutheran tradition and no matter how hard I searched, I couldn’t seem to find anyone else who had been a part of this faith and left it. I still went to church every Sunday — in fact, I was the organist. And I spent every service glancing at the pews around me and thinking, Does everyone here really believe this? Am I the only one who doesn’t?
I came out to my family six months ago now, but still haven’t been open about my atheism. I don’t talk about it with anyone I don’t know well. There are a lot of old friends and extended family who, until now, had no idea. And this week I went public with some writing of mine that says in no uncertain terms that I don’t believe in God.
So that’s it, it’s out there. I would be lying if I said that I don’t have a knot in my stomach at the thought. I still live in fear of earning the hatred of people I love. I have seen that venomous “Christian love” pointed at the “baby killers” and the “heathen liberals.” I know all too well what might be in store for me.
In the midst of all this, there has been one thought driving me: I don’t want anyone else to feel alone. In a world full of all shapes and sizes, every belief and opinion, I firmly believe that we can at the very least band together in our humanness. After all, at the end of the day we’re all just people.
I started out writing today about the recent birth control debates in the news, but somehow lost track of that thread and wound up here. I’m here with my simple belief that no person should ever be alone.
Maybe it’s a shot in the dark. But maybe there’s another twenty-something Midwestern former conservative Lutheran ex-homeschooler out there. Maybe they could never quite believe it either. Maybe late at night they’re doing internet searches to find someone else who has gone through the same thing. And maybe they will find this.
For anyone who has been hesitant to be open about their atheism, let me offer you my plea. There is someone else out there who is struggling with the very thing you are. The only way we can support one another as human beings is if we come clean about who we really are and what we really think. Believe me, I know very well the consequences. Be open and honest anyway, not for the sake of debate or conflict, but for the sake of human compassion.