On my path to becoming an atheist, I struggled with doubts for years. I was given the impression that voicing these doubts, questioning my religion, was something that is just not done. I kept my thoughts to myself for so long, because I was afraid to talk about it. Had I asked questions, would others have had answers for them? Would someone have helped me figure things out? Or would I have been seen as being weak or as though I was just not trying hard enough, not doing all the things a good Christian should do? How badly would my parents have reacted, had I started questioning out loud all the things they have taught me to believe since birth?
Religion is very important in my family. Parents have certain things that they want for their children: a good education, a good marriage (grandchildren), perhaps a particular career that is traditional within the family. Oh yea, and that they will all go to heaven when they die. How could I even hint otherwise about something so vital?
It really bothered me to think that I could not talk about my doubts, my questions, my thoughts, to struggle through an existential crisis, alone and ashamed. I’m tired of hiding. I’ve finally figured some things out. That I’m an atheist, that I’m queer. And I don’t want to hide any of it anymore. I’m not ashamed of who I am.
I was quite happy, the other day, when we were assigned groups in one of my classes to analyze a piece of writing by an atheist. It was a perfect opportunity to mention, off-hand, to one of my classmates that I am an atheist. It felt good. And another time, walking with a friend from one of my classes, I was sharing an anecdote about how I used to go to the library with my ex-girlfriend. It was uplifting, to casually mention having had a girlfriend to a someone I’d met outside of LGBT circles. I suppose he probably thinks I am a lesbian now, but ah well. I relish not hiding. I’m not going to go out of my way to make sure that everyone knows my sexual orientation or (lack of) religion, but I’m not going to hide either. And that feels great. Hiding things, keeping secrets, keeping track of who you’ve told what, suppressing the urge to mention certain topics- it’s too stressful. Pretending to be someone I’m not goes completely counter to my values. I want to be genuine.
My conservative Christian parents.
Saying something like “so, I’m a queer atheist” would come across more like “so, I’m willfully immoral and I’m going to hell.” My parents have always told me that they will love me, no matter what. That they will be there for me, no matter what. And yet I’m terrified to tell them who I really am, because I kind of don’t want to find out if there are any exceptions to those things they said. I really don’t think they would disown me or threaten to withhold financial support to manipulate me, but I’m not really in a good place financially at the moment (college is not cheap), so I don’t want to find out right now.
I don’t know how long I can keep this up. It hurts, to keep quiet about things that matter so much to me. But I’m terrified to speak up. I keep thinking, I’ll just come out slowly, one little step at a time, gauging their reactions as I go, but my mom keeps saying things that scare me just enough to shut up for a little while more. I mean, she’s bothered by the fact that I occaisionally use minor swear words. She cuts me off with a religious statement that I literally cannot argue with when I disagree with her about politics. Every time the topic of gay marriage comes up, she makes these disgusted noises. She is not open-minded about these things. She’s not willing to have a discussion. If that’s how I see her react to little things, how could I ever hope to get her to accept something big?