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Another Kind of Closet

Coming out of the closet is a common phrase -- when you are speaking of homosexuality. What you may not know is that it has also been applied to atheism. After all, are not both groups often condemned to hell by fundamentalists? Do not both groups have to face an ordeal when informing friends and family members of their true inclinations? The main question faced by both groups is: How do I tell them?

A fortunate few are raised in open-minded, free-thinking homes. These atheists are able to simply say, "I'm an atheist," without fear of recrimination from their loved ones. These atheists can face their friends with a lifetime's knowledge of who they are and what they think. These atheists are amazingly lucky, and they are able to skip one of atheism's greatest hurdles.There are many theories on how to 'come out' . . .

For the rest of us, there comes the time when we must decide how to look our parents (and friends, and co-workers, and extended families) in the eyes and tell them that we have rejected a lifetime of teaching. We must explain to them that not only is this not a failing on their part, it is not a failing at all. We are forced to find a way to explain to those who love us best that we have found what we consider to be a better way.

I find that it is very important to remember how much these individuals do care for us. Our parents raised us, our grandparents spoiled us, our friends chose us, and our co-workers respect us. It is from these feelings that they are acting, regardless of how they react to discovering atheism in someone they love. Even if they scream, shout, cry, condemn to hell, or even separate you from their lives, it is because of the depth of feeling they hold for you. We are not excited by the fate of those we do not care about. While they may not be showing the best judgement, or the most maturity, in their reactions, it is important to remember that it is because they care. It is only by remembering this small fact that we are able to cope with the ugly reactions this statement may incur.

There are as many theories on how to "come out" as there are atheists who are going to need to choose between them. I have a few words to say on what I believe (and have seen to be) the best method for this. But first, a few words on some methods you may want to steer clear of.

Okay, now that I've covered all the ways I've made mistakes in this matter, I would like to say that there are some times I've gotten it right. I told my brother in a quiet, reasonable discussion. The same with my friends, and with my co-workers.

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