By Joe Omundson —
For many ex-believers, the hardest part of leaving religion is dealing with the social fallout.
Parents can be deeply invested in their children’s faith. Partners and close friends can be shocked by a change of belief. In some countries, “apostasy” is a criminal offense with severe penalties.
The decision of when, and whether, to come out as an ex-believer is different for everyone.
If the pros vastly outweigh the cons, or vice versa, it can be an easy decision. Some people have always shared their thoughts publicly because it feels safe for them; others would face devastating consequences if they told the truth.
Most of us are somewhere in the middle — there’s a desire to be open with the people who matter to us, but it competes with the need for safety and acceptance.
I created this flowchart to help give some structure to the process of weighing out the various considerations. Keep in mind that these are only my personal opinions, and other people might give you different advice.
I’m making two assumptions: 1) you actively prefer to make your change of beliefs known to other people, and 2) you prefer a less chaotic and risky approach to getting there.
In certain boxes you will find numbers in brackets, like this: . Scroll down to “Situation-specific resources” to find relevant information.
This advice is not officially endorsed by Recovering from Religion. If you’re looking for guidance, please use the 24/7 helpline at recoveringfromreligion.org. The agents there are trained to help.
However, this graphic may appear in RfR’s resources section at some point, so please leave a critique in the comments if you can think of a way to make it more helpful.
Of course, this is only a rough breakdown of a very complex situation. Many more details must be considered to find the right plan of action for you. Still, I hope it provides a general sense of guidance for someone who is feeling lost.
Here are some websites that might be useful for anyone who is questioning, or has left, their faith:
Recovering from Religion: RfR has support agents available 24/7 whom you can reach via chat or a phone call. They also have an extensive list of resources for people struggling with religion in many different ways. Here is a page with more in-depth information about coming out as an ex-believer.
Secular Therapy Project: The STP is a directory of mental health therapists who will never tell you to go back to religion.
Religious recovery meetup groups: Talk to people in your area who are dealing with the same kind of hardships related to religious belief.
 For ex-Muslims living in Islamic countries, here are 17 resources you might find useful. If your government tracks your internet activity, please secure your IP address with a VPN first, and consider using the TOR browser (instructions here).
 For current or former pastors, priests, or other religious leaders, the Clergy Project is a private online community of people who are in the same situation as you. Here are some additional suggestions.
 For young atheists who are still dependent on their parents, here is some more reading you can do.
 For those whose families or loved ones are still religious, and need to find ways to get along, here are some ideas.
This post originally appeared on Medium.