Fellow Atheists/Agnostic Atheists - Let's Chat: Do you feel it is risky being "out" these days?

Well, that's the thing in the end. I have relatives who believe Catholics and Mormons are members of cults, essentially. This always cracks me up. They can't even agree internally. That was part of why I started to seriously reconsider my faith. I was frustrated that Christians were hard on each other as it was for differences of beliefs.

DSGamer wrote:

I liked your post, NSMike, so I wanted to comment on it. My 2 Cents is that it's worse to lose yourself than lose your family. I know that may sound crass, but I've faced similar issues with my in-laws and with members of my family. Not as severe, but still real. I've found that being honest and being myself not only makes you feel more comfortable in your own skin, but it makes it easier to get along with your relatives.

Speaking purely from personal experience so take this with a huge grain of salt. But eventually when you decide to stop pleasing your relatives and friends there will be pain. There may even be a period of time where you literally don't talk. Eventually, though, assuming you can repair that, you'll have a better relationship. And a real relationship where you don't need to hide who you are. That's been my experience. Not telling you what to do by any means, but I've been through this and I found that my relationship improved once I stopped living in this weird state of frustration and disagreement.

I'm following you completely, and were it not for the fact that I'm living under the same roof as them, I would have already come out.

I am playing an extremely frustrating game, where I still go to church, and pretend to believe to avoid the conflict. It's coming so close to a head that I'm ready to say, "screw the same roof, I need to get past this." I get angry going to church on Sunday, knowing that I'm basically just wasting an hour.

I have to get quiet any time they talk about church (and that gets more and more difficult, as my father, now retired, is getting more involved with the church than he has been since childhood). I have to endure, "why don't you do XYZ for the church?" questions all the time. I am a talented vocalist, and earlier this year I quit the choir group I was a part of, which really upset my mother.

I may be underestimating them, because they may actually be picking up on it. I may have inadvertently given them more hints than I realize. That may be part of the reason they ask me these questions so often. Then again, I somehow doubt they actually think I'm an atheist, if they suspect anything.

Ultimately, I have to tell them, because I am getting exhausted faking it. I'm just waiting for a few more things to fall into place before I do.

I don't bow my head. I see it as disrespectful in various ways - you don't respect the people you're with enough to be honest with them and you don't respect yourself enough either.

1Dgaf wrote:

I don't bow my head. I see it as disrespectful in various ways - you don't respect the people you're with enough to be honest with them and you don't respect yourself enough either.

Sure. I don't think I said I bow my head. I don't do that. I just rest my head in my hands and look forward quietly. Respectful, but not awkward.

DSGamer wrote:

Well, that's the thing in the end. I have relatives who believe Catholics and Mormons are members of cults, essentially. This always cracks me up. They can't even agree internally. That was part of why I started to seriously reconsider my faith. I was frustrated that Christians were hard on each other as it was for differences of beliefs.

It would be a lot less funny if you understood that "they" are human beings who are also being persecuted by the same people who are persecuting you. While I have not have any grief for being agnostic, I don't think it's apropos to laugh at the persecution of people for their beliefs in a thread where we're talking about the risks of revealing your beliefs.

LarryC wrote:
DSGamer wrote:

Well, that's the thing in the end. I have relatives who believe Catholics and Mormons are members of cults, essentially. This always cracks me up. They can't even agree internally. That was part of why I started to seriously reconsider my faith. I was frustrated that Christians were hard on each other as it was for differences of beliefs.

It would be a lot less funny if you understood that "they" are human beings who are also being persecuted by the same people who are persecuting you. While I have not have any grief for being agnostic, I don't think it's apropos to laugh at the persecution of people for their beliefs in a thread where we're talking about the risks of revealing your beliefs.

He means funny as in "ironic". He doesn't actually mean he's laughing at them.

DSGamer wrote:
dejanzie wrote:

Belgium is historically a Catholic nation, but less and less since WWII. According to the Eurobarometer Poll in 2005, 43% of Belgian citizens responded that "they believe there is a God", whereas 29% answered that "they believe there is some sort of spirit or life force" and 27% that "they do not believe there is any sort of spirit, God, or life force". My parents are both raised Catholic, are both atheists now and have raised me as such. I haven't been baptized.

Thanks for the perspective on Belgium.

I was just there and I was confused. I guess I thought all of Europe was fairly agnostic / atheist. But we were in Brussels and were surprised at how many businesses closed early on Saturday and didn't open on Sunday. I was trying to get replacement headphones for my trip home and couldn't find them in Brussels which kind of shocked me. While fuming about that in the Brussels airport there was a live feed of mass playing on the TV in the airport. I was very confused.

(If I'm boring you with details, let me know.)
While the shops closing on Sunday laws lay in our Catholic roots, it's got little to do with religion anymore. It's actually the SMB lobby group Unizo (which also has Christian roots, but that's another story) that maintains this status quo. They're afraid that if the Sunday rule is abandoned, they will not be able to compete with big business and that SMB's will cannibalize each other. There's a lot of pressure to abandon it though, and it's already a lot looser than a decade ago.

The airport was probably running the public channel, and they do broadcast the Sunday mass every week. Rest assured, nobody watches it Every life stance (cultural liberalism, catholicism, protestantism and islam) have their own slot on public television and radio as well. And again, absolutely nobody pays attention to it

I was actually raised in a family where both parents were agnostic. While the extended family is religious, but not conservative, this never really caused any problems. In fact, my mother was shocked when I asked to go to church growing up.

However, I lost interest in such (largely due to not being treated seriously—Roman Catholic if it matters), and have led a pretty carefree adult life without worries. Whenever I've come to visit family in Germany, it has never been an issue. My grandmother has more issue with my being vegetarian than anything else.

That being said, my teen years were a lesson in learning when to trust fight or flight instincts when it came to people being incredibly rude about it. There are reasons I am not overly fond of many of my Tennessean classmates from ages past.

It was really refreshing living in Chinese speaking Asia where no one really gave a crap about your religion. In fact, folks pretty much assumed that you approached your religiosity like high school students hit sidewalk buffets. You pick what you like out of each category, weigh it out, and pay for it. And you don't get worked up when you discover it is made of dog food or has roaches in it because you never took it too seriously to begin with.

I think what makes being an atheist in the US so difficult is that folks here (in my experience) are far less invested in their communities and therefore yearn for some kind of identity beyond family or community. As a result, they take on a tribal fanaticism regarding the god or gods they believe in. And taking a stand that you don't take it terribly seriously (or seriously at all) is interpreted as a direct attack on that identity.

When Chinese folks talk about religion, they often ask the question "Ni xing shenma jiao?" (what religion do you practice?). Some folks will answer sincerely with "Fo jiao" (Confucianism), "Ji tu jiao" (Christianity), or whatever, but the most common answer I've found is the humorous and ironic response "Sui jiao" (I sleep [presumably on Sundays]).

Even when they do practice some sort of religion, it is very rarely the case that they practice it exclusively. Taoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism are all generally practiced together. In fact, most of the Christians I knew there still had Taoist shrines in their houses and the insistence on following an exclusionary religion was generally looked on as sort of fanatical or strange.

Under those circumstances, I found it a lot easier to participate in other people's religious gatherings because it was more of an anthropological exercise. I could enjoy the examination of the cultural phenomenon without the feeling that I was among hostile tribals for possessing the knowledge that their rituals were just vestiges of times dark to science and progress.

Paleocon wrote:

Some folks will answer sincerely with "Fo jiao" (Confucianism), "Ji tu jiao" (Christianity), or whatever, but the most common answer I've found is the humorous and ironic response "Sui jiao" (I sleep [presumably on Sundays])

That's a fantastic answer.

SallyNasty wrote:

I work for a very conservative company but have been quite surprised. I was out for dinner with some higher ups tonight and religion came up. I put forward that I was an agnostic/athiest - and so did both people I was out with. I was really surprised, as I did not get that vibe from that before. It led to a really nice conversation.

I had the exact opposite happen to me. Both the CFO and EVP of Global Marketing turned out to be born agains who told me with deadly seriousness that the second coming would happen within 30 years and I had best get some religion quick.

I love my son. We adopted him in February and have explained to him that neither Mom nor Dad really believe in God or religion. So he finds himself at a community pool where he meets a kid with born-again type beliefs. When he mentions that his Dad doesn't believe in God, the kid says "I'll pray for him". My son responds with "My Dad doesn't believe in God or Jesus, but you don't need to pray for him, he's a good person."

Such a simple thing to say that kind of takes all of the wind out the argument.

Edit: I did deal with some backlash from my mother-in-law and sister-in-law when it came out that I explained Christian Easter to my son by saying "Jesus rose from the dead like a zombie". My wife was less than pleased.

Nevin73 wrote:

I love my son. We adopted him in February and have explained to him that neither Mom nor Dad really believe in God or religion. So he finds himself at a community pool where he meets a kid with born-again type beliefs. When he mentions that his Dad doesn't believe in God, the kid says "I'll pray for him". My son responds with "My Dad doesn't believe in God or Jesus, but you don't need to pray for him, he's a good person."

Such a simple thing to say that kind of takes all of the wind out the argument.

Edit: I did deal with some backlash from my mother-in-law and sister-in-law when it came out that I explained Christian Easter to my son by saying "Jesus rose from the dead like a zombie". My wife was less than pleased.

That is absolutely blasphemously hilarious-o-riffic. I've explained the concept of Jesus' resurrection to my nine-year-old son and a number of religious stories, and the look of utter confusion on his face every time is just awesome. Then he invariably asks, "Really? People believe that stuff?"

I would not have been pleased as well. Clearly, Jesus is using either the Ghost template or the Spirit Template, or is a 4e Deva/God (Epic Destiny).

dejanzie wrote:
DSGamer wrote:
dejanzie wrote:

Belgium is historically a Catholic nation, but less and less since WWII. According to the Eurobarometer Poll in 2005, 43% of Belgian citizens responded that "they believe there is a God", whereas 29% answered that "they believe there is some sort of spirit or life force" and 27% that "they do not believe there is any sort of spirit, God, or life force". My parents are both raised Catholic, are both atheists now and have raised me as such. I haven't been baptized.

Thanks for the perspective on Belgium.

I was just there and I was confused. I guess I thought all of Europe was fairly agnostic / atheist. But we were in Brussels and were surprised at how many businesses closed early on Saturday and didn't open on Sunday. I was trying to get replacement headphones for my trip home and couldn't find them in Brussels which kind of shocked me. While fuming about that in the Brussels airport there was a live feed of mass playing on the TV in the airport. I was very confused.

(If I'm boring you with details, let me know.)
While the shops closing on Sunday laws lay in our Catholic roots, it's got little to do with religion anymore. It's actually the SMB lobby group Unizo (which also has Christian roots, but that's another story) that maintains this status quo. They're afraid that if the Sunday rule is abandoned, they will not be able to compete with big business and that SMB's will cannibalize each other. There's a lot of pressure to abandon it though, and it's already a lot looser than a decade ago.

The airport was probably running the public channel, and they do broadcast the Sunday mass every week. Rest assured, nobody watches it Every life stance (cultural liberalism, catholicism, protestantism and islam) have their own slot on public television and radio as well. And again, absolutely nobody pays attention to it

Ah. That's a much more interesting reason. I thought it was really strange. Our friends there didn't explain it. They just said it was a matter of fact that stuff closed on Sunday. I didn't mind. The entitled American in me was just expecting to be able to find a pair of noise canceling headphones at any time of the day.

Nevin73 wrote:

Edit: I did deal with some backlash from my mother-in-law and sister-in-law when it came out that I explained Christian Easter to my son by saying "Jesus rose from the dead like a zombie". My wife was less than pleased.

Nope, they were right, more like Dracula.

I do not have kids, want them some day. I am dreading the fight with my family over Baptism. My mother is less than enthused that this atheism thing is not just a phase as it is. If the fight over my smoking was an indication, I may be stabbed.

Might placate her by waiving that Jesuit Education in front of her.

KingGorilla wrote:
Nevin73 wrote:

Edit: I did deal with some backlash from my mother-in-law and sister-in-law when it came out that I explained Christian Easter to my son by saying "Jesus rose from the dead like a zombie". My wife was less than pleased.

Nope, they were right, more like Dracula.

I do not have kids, want them some day. I am dreading the fight with my family over Baptism. My mother is less than enthused that this atheism thing is not just a phase as it is. If the fight over my smoking was an indication, I may be stabbed.

Might placate her by waiving that Jesuit Education in front of her.

Note: this is the perfect place to bust out the "My house, my rules" thing at her.

Revenge is best served sassy.

If the fight over my smoking was an indication, I may be stabbed.

In all honesty, you should quit smoking.

Rubb Ed wrote:
KingGorilla wrote:
Nevin73 wrote:

Edit: I did deal with some backlash from my mother-in-law and sister-in-law when it came out that I explained Christian Easter to my son by saying "Jesus rose from the dead like a zombie". My wife was less than pleased.

Nope, they were right, more like Dracula.

I do not have kids, want them some day. I am dreading the fight with my family over Baptism. My mother is less than enthused that this atheism thing is not just a phase as it is. If the fight over my smoking was an indication, I may be stabbed.

Might placate her by waiving that Jesuit Education in front of her.

Note: this is the perfect place to bust out the "My house, my rules" thing at her.

Revenge is best served sassy.

I think you know that I will approve of that recipe.

I grew up in Alabama and never felt any pressure as an agnostic/atheist. Now I'm beginning to wonder if that's a result of me and my family being a lot more in the closet than I ever realized. Grandad went to church, but his favorite saying was, "If a man walks up to you and starts talking about Jesus, grab on to your wallet and hold on tight." This was a man who grew up in Ozark, AL in the 1920's then lived in Birmingham, AL for the rest of his life. It might be that I've inherited/developed a series of non-committal responses that get me through these conversations unscathed.

kazooka wrote:

Grandad went to church, but his favorite saying was, "If a man walks up to you and starts talking about Jesus, grab on to your wallet and hold on tight."

Oh yeah, that's something else I was pressured into. My parents were not happy that I was generating income and not giving to the church. Mind you, they won't let me pay a cent of rent, which would do a hell of a lot more (read: some actual) good, and make me feel better about myself, but there was endless harassing to register with the church and start putting money in the collection baskets. I registered, and the church sends me envelopes, which I take from the mail pile and surreptitiously shred. I also make sure I don't go to the same mass they do, so they never see me not putting money in the baskets.

Is it any wonder I'm so close to coming out in casual conversation?

NSMike wrote:
kazooka wrote:

Grandad went to church, but his favorite saying was, "If a man walks up to you and starts talking about Jesus, grab on to your wallet and hold on tight."

Oh yeah, that's something else I was pressured into. My parents were not happy that I was generating income and not giving to the church. Mind you, they won't let me pay a cent of rent, which would do a hell of a lot more (read: some actual) good, and make me feel better about myself, but there was endless harassing to register with the church and start putting money in the collection baskets. I registered, and the church sends me envelopes, which I take from the mail pile and surreptitiously shred. I also make sure I don't go to the same mass they do, so they never see me not putting money in the baskets.

Just mention you donate to GWJ every year?

KingGorilla wrote:
Nevin73 wrote:

Edit: I did deal with some backlash from my mother-in-law and sister-in-law when it came out that I explained Christian Easter to my son by saying "Jesus rose from the dead like a zombie". My wife was less than pleased.

Nope, they were right, more like Dracula.

I do not have kids, want them some day. I am dreading the fight with my family over Baptism. My mother is less than enthused that this atheism thing is not just a phase as it is. If the fight over my smoking was an indication, I may be stabbed.

Might placate her by waiving that Jesuit Education in front of her.

I had a very honest conversation with my wife about baptism when we were trying to have biological children. I explained that a baptism is a solemn vow to raise the child in the faith and that godparents exist to continue that education should you die. As I have never had any intentions of brainwashing a child into a religion, I would be making a vow that I had no intention of keeping. She saw my reasoning without me bringing up the example of how it would be like me marrying her and intending to sleep with other women. I'm rather glad I didn't need to resort to that since the bruises would have taken a while to heal.

We have said to our son, however, that if he should develop serious religious beliefs, as his parents we would support him in his desire to worship. Right now I see him wanting to watch cartoons more than going to church so I'm not worried.

She is all about the photo op, maybe she thinks the oil and water are in fact magic. We barely went to church, it was always when a relative was in town. My dad golfed on Sunday otherwise. So they did not exactly keep up their end of the bargain.

I suppose if my kid wanted to go, he could. The music is pretty good at least. And l am certified to engage in the Eucharist.

What I don’t want is my 14 year old going through a ritual he/she sees as meaningless from family and peer pressure, like I did.

I'm not technically an agnostic or atheist as I do hold some positive beliefs on deities and the afterlife. Best way to refer to myself is as a freethinker. (Little f not Big F) On matters of social policy when it comes to religion, however, I 'caucus' with the atheists/agnostics. Hope you don't mind my sharing my viewpoint.

My beliefs put me outside of both camps on the No God v. Their Version Of God binary choices that are frequently put in front of me. The believer crowd that actually cares enough about vocalizing their beliefs to friends and strangers alike certainly doesn't differentiate between me and an actual atheist/agnostic if I don't agree with them. They are proceeding from their own contexts and therefore the term God possesses quite a few more properties and traits than it does to me. You'll frequently see me entering into these threads/discussions pointing out the several sides rather than two sides of the argument. That's a product of my own opinions. What I think is more important than respecting each other's opinion is respecting each other's right to arrive on them on their own terms. By that same rule, I'll respect you as a person but I don't have to respect unfounded claims that you make, whatever the source.

As far as "risk" in my day to day interactions, I say there's some. To some I'm a threat. To some I'm a project. To some I'm an object of pity. It wasn't such a big deal unti I had kids. Then it became questions about when they're getting baptized, invitations to VBS and other religious functions, invitiations to Sunday School. Most people will let me politely decline. Others make sideways comments trivializing my opinions such as, "You're just mad at God right now but you'll get over it." or something about how I'm endangering my child's soul. My take on that is that I don't think it's fair to force an answer on a child before they're old enough to ask the question.

My son is old enough to have peers that go to church. His best buddy in the neighborhood is from a religious family and my wife and I have been questioned by him as to why we don't pray before dinner or go to church among other things. It's easy to write off at that age and often amusing. At some point though, it does concern me that my children might end up being the kids with the weird parents and be ostracized or subject to bullying. Doesn't mean anything is going to change.

I've had a few unfortunate exchanges with co-workers and have had several with customers. All of them have turned out pleasant though. Respect and patience goes a long way but we need to take responsiblity for how we allow others to treat us. I'm sorry to see that rukh and others have had experiences like theirs and definitely feel there's more work to be done. Christians do enjoy privilege in American culture and going against the mainstream has its personal cost, even if we're supposed to be free from it on paper. Hopefully, it will fade over time as our world gets smaller and we crosspollinate further.

As far as my family is concerned, we don't have a predominant religion. We're a pretty diverse bunch actually. My family is roughly half-Catholic and half-Mormon, with some converts on either side. Dad supported my joining the Freemasons even though he was Catholic. My sister recently graduated from Presbyterian Seminary but she's not generally aggressive with her beliefs. We're pretty much on the same page with making up our own minds on things. There were a couple of uncomfortable conversations around my father's funeral arrangements but that was mostly on a personal level. We defered to his priest on most of them anyway. I'd say we're pretty damned progressive compared to some others.

My in-laws on the other hand are a different matter. Whenever religion comes up, they talk three steps past the actual point of the conversation to the point where I don't even know how to respond. For example, a conversation about nutirition got this gem from my mother-in-law, "That's why God made our digestive system that way." Half the time I can't tell if they're trolling or not. They've got respect issues that go way beyond religious matters, but that's another thread.

Maybe it really does come down to respect. Recognizing that my beliefs aren't about you and your beliefs aren't about me. But as a matter of principle, no one has the right to make you conform with any religious viewpoint, even if it's a trivial affirmation. That's the flipping law.

Now ask me about being a Raider fan in Kansas.

Though raised in a Catholic family, I was fortunate that their love was unconditional. As I grew away from the church they accepted it without too much fuss. I would occasionally get exasperated looks from my grandmother and grandfather, who probably rationalized that one day I'd "come around", but it was never a big issue.

I don't hide my agnosticism, but I don't try to confront people on their beliefs the way I did when I was younger. My worst experiences came from our next door neighbor who was a born again Christian of the worst kind, an all together broken human being trying to make up for past misdeeds by turning to god. Hearing him belittle, yell, and scream at his sons on a regular basis was a common occurrence growing up. It eventually cost me my friendship with his youngest son because I didn't want to expose my to his rants and prejudices.

Nevin73 wrote:
KingGorilla wrote:
Nevin73 wrote:

Edit: I did deal with some backlash from my mother-in-law and sister-in-law when it came out that I explained Christian Easter to my son by saying "Jesus rose from the dead like a zombie". My wife was less than pleased.

Nope, they were right, more like Dracula.

I do not have kids, want them some day. I am dreading the fight with my family over Baptism. My mother is less than enthused that this atheism thing is not just a phase as it is. If the fight over my smoking was an indication, I may be stabbed.

Might placate her by waiving that Jesuit Education in front of her.

I had a very honest conversation with my wife about baptism when we were trying to have biological children. I explained that a baptism is a solemn vow to raise the child in the faith and that godparents exist to continue that education should you die. As I have never had any intentions of brainwashing a child into a religion, I would be making a vow that I had no intention of keeping. She saw my reasoning without me bringing up the example of how it would be like me marrying her and intending to sleep with other women. I'm rather glad I didn't need to resort to that since the bruises would have taken a while to heal.

Finland is in a pretty funny place. We have a national church - actually we have two, an orthodox and an evangelical lutheran one, but the latter is what eveyone thinks of -- to which close to 80 percent of the population belongs. But nobody talks about God. If you do, you'll lumped in with those damn Jehova's Witnesses that come knocking on your door when you're hungover. Church is basically where you go for funerals and weddings and that's it. It's basically that happens when you establish an official sect; the unbelievers join because of the benefits and water the whole thing down.

So leaving the church isn't a big deal. Nobody will bug you about church, and if you tell anyone you're an atheist and have left the church all you'll get is a shrug. Anyone who doesn't shrug is an oddball. When I told my parents all I got was a crack about what about if a potential future wife wants to get married in a church.

Which is funny -- and also the reason I quoted your post -- because going to a friend's wedding was what really cemented the decision to leave. As the priest was droning on about god and whatnot, all I could think was that if that was me up there, could I keep a straight face through that? Even if I could keep the thing from being an obvious farce, I'd be starting a marriage with a lie, which stikes me as a really sh*tty thing to do.

GioClark, a recent study showed that about 25% of Belgians believe in 'something' they can't quite define. In Dutch we call it 'ietsisme', which translates badly into 'somethingism'. Many 'shop around' and pick from various religions what they like best (reincarnation for afterlife, Christianity for the golden rule, etc.). What it says to me is that current mainstream religions just don't click for a good part of the current generation. But that's for another thread if ever.

As we politely asked only atheists to discuss here and having only atheists answer that question is a bit like asking only white folks what racial discrimination must be like. Not to say that we can't discuss it, just we shouldn't be the only ones to.

Good point, I forgot that. Sorry.

dejanzie wrote:

Just mention you donate to GWJ every year?

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