I hope my readers don’t think less of me for this, but there is a reason I blog anonymously. The truth is, I’m not out completely to all of my family members. And at the moment, that’s okay. For me, coming out as an atheist is a journey rather than an event.
Basically, I stopped talking to my parents about my spiritual journey some years ago, and they probably assume I am still frozen where I was: Christian, but not of their specific brand. For the time being, I let them assume that. Why?
I could just say that I don’t want my younger siblings to suffer negative repercussions, or that I’m afraid my parents might cut off my contact with them, or that I don’t want to disappoint my aging grandparents, or that I want my own children’s interactions with their grandparents to be pleasant, at least when they’re small and can’t understand. All of this is true, but it’s more than that.
The truth is, my parents still have the ability to cause me pain. I know that if they knew I didn’t believe in a God at all there would be tension and anger and emotional manipulation, and I’ve been through all that before (when I refused to accept my father’s authority) and I don’t want to go there again. Not yet. The truth is, I’m afraid I’m not strong enough.
One thing you have to understand about how I was raised is the concept of “enmeshment.” What with homeschooling and the lack of being allowed to be a normal teenager and differentiate from the family, it’s easy for kids to become “enmeshed” unhealthily with their parents. When you spend the first several decades of your life trying to do everything possible to please your parents and be what they want, your parents end up with the ability to cause a lot of pain through their disapproval. Old thought patterns die hard.
I absolutely do plan to eventually come out as an atheist to my family, and for several reasons. First, the more atheists people know, the more bias against atheists will be challenged. I want to be part of this. Second, I hate feeling like I’m hiding things, and a load will be lifted from my shoulders when there are no more secrets. So someday, I will be out completely and fully. Just not yet.
At this point you may be wondering why I blog. Why risk it?
Sometimes I ask myself the same question.
When I first discovered No Longer Quivering, the stories I read there played a big role in helping me come to terms with the Quiverfull side of my upbringing. I suddenly realized that I was not alone in all that. I felt the need to share my own story to help others as I had been helped, so I wrote it up and had it posted there.
Over the months I have received emails quite frequently thanking me for blogging, thanking me for putting a voice to what so many have gone through, and telling me how much my writing has helped them heal. I love to think that I can give back, that my experiences can help others. And now, here at FtB, I have the opportunity to shed light on these movements and issues for a larger audience.
And so I keep on writing.
In the meantime, I’ve been seeing a counselor off and on, specifically looking for advice and tools for dealing with my relationship with my parents and for growing stronger emotionally. This has been extremely helpful. I’d recommend it for anyone in a similar situation.
As the month go by, I can feel myself growing stronger and feel my confidence rising. I’m learning how to set boundaries with my family, reminding myself that I can only control how I act, and focusing on living my life positively, with joy, purpose, and love. I feel so much more at peace about it all, and having a young family of my own helps too.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an entirely closeted atheist by any means. I am completely open about my lack of belief with my friends and where I live, and I occasionally attend Secular Student Alliance meetings and other atheist get-togethers. My husband and I are raising our children without religion, and I’ve also come out to several select relatives and found allies in the process.
It’s just that when you’ve been hurt enough, there comes a time you don’t want to be hurt any more. And at that point, it can sometimes be easier – and healthier – to leave some things unsaid, at least for a time. It’s not about hiding or selling out. It’s about protecting yourself, giving yourself room to grow, and knowing what you can handle.
And someday, when I’m ready, I’ll take the final step and come out completely.