Now I recognize that I have no right to tell other people how to live their lives, nor would I ever do so, but I do have every right to post my opinions on various subjects and invite others to engage in a lively discussion of the facts so that’s what I’m doing.
Now on the Atheist Experience that aired 12/1/13, they had a caller who was “in the closet” about their atheism. Okay, I don’t really know their circumstances and I have no means to really judge them, but that made me think about another in-the-closet atheist that I’m acquainted with, Sheldon of the Ramblings of Sheldon blog. Again, I’m not criticizing Sheldon at all and whatever reasons he has for doing what he’s doing are entirely his and his alone.
However, it really does make me think that there are a lot of people out there who are hiding who they are, be it atheist, gay, transsexual or whatever, most likely for entirely bad reasons, or at least reasons that I think are bad and their mileage may vary.
Personally, I’ve never hid who I am from anyone at any time. When I stopped being a Christian, even though my family was very religious, I never played along, I stopped going to church and I was never shy about what I believed or disbelieved. I didn’t shove it in anyone’s face but I didn’t refrain from telling anyone who asked the truth and I never pretended to be something that I was not.
Granted, I had a family that I was pretty sure weren’t going to throw me out of the house for being a heretic and who I knew for certain weren’t going to impose any bodily harm on me for rejecting their religion, not everyone is that lucky and I acknowledge that, but still, there are plenty of people out there who are not in any physical or financial danger, yet they still refuse to tell the world that they are what they happen to be. That’s honestly the part I don’t get. Why do it? What is your rationalization? Is it something overly dramatic like “my mother will drop dead if I say I’m not a Christian”? Is it just an attempt to make your relatives happy? How happy do you think they’d be if they knew you were just lying to their faces? Really, what’s the deal? Explain this to me in rational terms. I don’t think you can do it.
But even outside of their immediate family, I’ve seen at least one atheist who continues to go to church week after week after week, even though he says he hates it, not because his family would be upset if he stopped, but because he doesn’t want to disappoint the congregation and the pastor! What insanity is this? He seriously cares what a bunch of delusional religious people and their leader thinks about him? Grow a pair!
And maybe that’s part of the problem, there are an awful lot of people, atheists and otherwise, who really have no backbone, who have virtually no self-esteem, they rely on the opinions of others to make it through the day and I think people like that need some serious professional help because they will never get anywhere in life with an attitude like that. What others think of you really doesn’t matter, at least not in the general sense. Sure, you want your boss to think you’re a stand-up individual, you want your significant other to like you, although honestly that’s not as important as many people think either. The only person that really matters is you. You need to be honest with yourself and with the world around you. If you’re gay, be gay. Get your ass out of the closet and just be yourself. The right people are going to care about you. I always get sick of the whining “oh, my friends won’t like me anymore!” So what? If they can’t accept who you are, they were never your friends to begin with. Make better friends. Even your family, if they can’t deal with who you really are and insist that you cling to a lie, then they’re not worth spending time around. That’s something that I can sort of identify with, I have a distant aunt and uncle who are absurdly religious and can’t deal with anyone who isn’t as fundamentalist as they are. Unfortunately, they live in the same small town that I live in. It wasn’t intentional, it just happened that way and I didn’t know they lived here until we had already moved here. They even live very close to us, I occasionally have seen them at the grocery store just down the street. However, they can’t handle that we’re atheists. They used to want to get together and invited us to their church and all of that but we told them no and stuck by it. We weren’t going to pretend to be nice and pro-fundamentalist-Christianity just to have some family in the vicinity that we could hang out with. Their opinion of us is entirely irrelevant. The nice thing is that since the rest of my immediate family has gotten less and less religious, my aunt and uncle have been essentially excommunicated from family holidays because they’re obnoxious religious assholes. The last time I saw them, and it’s probably going on 7-8 years now, they came to Thanksgiving dinner and were utterly appalled that nobody was praying and giving thanks to God for all the food. My cousin told her that she paid for it, she cooked it, she prepared it and God had nothing to do with it. That was the last time that I know of that anyone in the family has seen them and good riddance.
And speaking of Thanksgiving, way back in the day, my grandmother was very religious and she insisted that everyone pray before they started eating. Most of the family was marginally religious and went along with it. My family didn’t. My wife and kids and I would just sit there, let them go through their ridiculous ritual, we’d be respectful but we never pretended to take part, we waited for them to finish. If it offended anyone, they never said and even if they had, we wouldn’t have done anything any differently. However, having us just sit there started to make people uncomfortable and over a couple of years, more and more people just opted out of the prayers until the prayers themselves went away entirely. It was our refusal to lie to everyone and play a part that made the religious nonsense disappear. Go atheism. That was never anything that we intended, it was never a goal, but it happened because we were not afraid to be honest about our disbelief.
Please, I want everyone who is currently lying to their friends and family about their religious beliefs to reconsider. You’re not helping anyone else and you’re really harming yourself. Your family can handle it and your friends are only really your friends if they can deal with the facts. Besides, how much do you really care about your family and friends if you can’t be honest about who you are? What’s more important, the facts or the fantasy? If you’re a rational person, you have to say the facts. Your family will understand and if they don’t, that really shows you how much importance they place in you. Don’t you owe it to yourself to find out the truth?