I see people every day who are open about being Atheist. They are on Facebook and other social media outlets bursting with tidbits, novellas, short stories, rants, and so forth about their Atheism. I was always jealous of the blind faith that many religious people have. I am not jealous of that anymore. I am jealous today of the strength and bravery Atheists have in coming out of the Atheist closet.

I am not even sure how I got in a closet. All I know is that every day I want to reach out, turn that knob, and announce to the world that I am an Atheist. I am not even sure why I want to do that. Do I want to do it because I have to endure other people’s opinions constantly and proclaiming my lack of faith will inhibit their verbosity? Am I doing it because I am egocentric and feel the need for other people to know about me? Am I being petty and feel that I must say something just because other people are loud and obnoxious about their religion? Or am I just a person who feels the need to be unique yet equal? I wish I knew, but more than that I wish I could just come out and say it, regardless of the underlying reason. So why can’t I then, right? Well... You see, I cannot use the “A” word freely in my small town. I did a small coming out, but it was really an embarrassing display of how weak I truly am when it comes to being who I am. Here is how that went:

At 36 years old I decided I wanted to be a nurse. I have always wanted to be a nurse, but never had the opportunity. I have classmates who are largely Conservative and Christian; thirty four out of thirty five classmates to be exact. We were having a discussion on religion and someone asked me what religion I was. I said, “I do not subscribe.” Automatically they began to gasp and ask, “oh my, are you... .. Atheist?!” I decided right then that I was going to say yes and not feel ashamed about how I believe. I was not going to sit there and say no just for their comfort because my comfort matters too, for fuck’s sake. So I looked at all of their shocked and worried faces and said, “Yes. I am Atheist.” Their faces sank into a look of despair and hate.

Okay, so we all want to fit in and have friends. These people were all there because they were talking to me, not each other. Immediately, over half of them left the conversation and three stayed behind to talk. Well I think they stayed behind because they were assigned to sit there, on second thought. One girl then asked me, “What happened to you?” I said, “Excuse me?” She repeated, “What happened to you to make you umm.. you know.. Lose your faith?” I love the assumption that I had issues that made me not like Jesus, but she was mentally well because she needs him. I told her that nothing happened to me, I am fine, and that some people do not need faith to feel reassured about life and death. She did not stop talking to me. In fact, she was my new best friend – telling me about Jesus every single day and letting me know she was praying for me. However, I did lose all the rest of my “friends.” So, here I am being tolerant and accepting of their beliefs, their moral values, and their overall presence but they could not in any way even try to accept or even tolerate me once they heard the dreaded “A” word.

Now, here is the despicable and weak thing about me: Later I recanted. Yes, I recanted my Atheism in order to fit in socially. Loser, pathetic, pussy, fuckwit, call me what you will. We were all in a group and it turned from me not having anyone to talk to, to them poking fun and making jokes about me. They kept on making little jabs and finally I said, “You know, I am really not Atheist. I am just ashamed of you all that you would make fun of someone else for being different. How very Christian of you!” and walked off. I feel bad for denouncing, but for doing so under the guise of a weird social guilt trip? Is that who I am? No, of course not. So now I ask myself why I did that because I feel bad for denouncing, even worse for the guilt trip. I think that I did it simply to make them feel bad and to make them examine from within – how their beliefs are making them shitty people. How can one point out that other people are being shitty without being shitty?

So I finally came out of the Atheist closet in and right back in it again. I am secretly waiting to be able to be around people who actually love me or even just like me without judging me for my beliefs. I do not judge other people for what they look like, how they believe, or where they come from. However, I do not tolerate assholes or people who feel superior to others in any way.

I have dealt with people in this area who hate me for my weight, my skin color, my ancestry, who a family member is, what I drive, and the latest hate is that I am a night owl. People will judge for such little things... anything really. Atheism is huge in these parts and is an instant out group status – like how coming out gay used to be or, even further back, being in an interracial relationship. Should I really worry about what other people feel about me so much? Or do I stay in the closet because I like people and need a Maslowian sense of belonging?

Current status: Trying to figure it all out and maintain some dignity whilst doing so.

Laura Helvey

Laura Helvey

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  • It is difficult to say out loud that you are an atheist, especially in some places. I don't usually tell people unless I am asked directly but that has only been very recent. For such a forgiving and compassionate religion Christianity sure doesn't like anyone who isn't like them. For me the biggest is the conversion conversation. It starts the minute you say you aren't religious, that seems to be a signal that they need to 'save you'.

  • You are so right, Deborah, about their need to save. I have had people yell "Conform!" to me and my own niece chased me around a yard one time with a Bible about 14 years ago because I was living with a guy and not married. I am assuming that her mother did not tell her she got pregnant with her (my niece) before she was married. ;) How I see it is very basic - they have been brainwashed to give money every month to an organization that sells them hope under false pretenses and it's all wrapped tightly in a blanket of guilt. I just do not need that shit. :)

  • Congratulations Laura for standing up to religion ! Not sure of your age, but it has taken me a lifetime to conclude that religion is very bad. Your phrase their "beliefs are making them shitty people" is sooo true ! I live in the Netherlands which is a very liberal country so I am not afraid to say it. I would go a step further though.... state subsidies for psychiatric therapy for all religious groups, folks, fanatics ! Why is making your own truths, and acting on them legal ? Don't we have democratic legal truths everybody should live by ? Or to keep it closer to the heart - wouldn't people be so much more aligned on behavior, and so much nicer people ? Hypocrasy is one of the worst "qualities" of religion, right next to acts of violence and oppression because some deity requires or condones it...? The USA has a long way to go in this respect, I recommend psychiatry !!! Not to you of course Laura, you are an enlightened Atheïst. Good on you ! All the best and hope to hear more of you !!! ;)