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Austin Cline

Comment of the Week: Trapped in the Closet

By February 26, 2013

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More and more atheists today are out of the closet and public about their atheism. At the same time, though, there continues to be significant bigotry and discrimination against atheists. Many of those who come out of the closet suffer for it. It's no wonder that many others remain trapped in the closet.

Exiting the Closet
Exiting the Closet
Photo: Dan Burn-Forti/Getty

Being in the closet about your atheism is not a good situation because you have to be dishonest about yourself -- both to yourself and to others. As bad as this situation can be, though, it can be even worse if friends, family, and colleagues aren't accepting of your atheism. The stories of people facing this sort of choice are never very pleasant.

Max writes:

I can sadly say that I've not been able to walk out the closet. All my life was around religion: my family, my friends, my schedule. The thing I will miss most is the special connection I have with my wife.

It's a very difficult position, because she will not understand my new beliefs (or quitting old ones). My confession may strike her badly emotionally. Moreover, I feel hypocrite because am lying to her and to myself. Am not honest any longer: I continue to go to church and "pray" (AKA talking to oneself) just for my wife and my family. I just can't go with the hassle.

I don't know if she may leave me. Is she worth the effort if she doesn't accept me with my beliefs, just the way I am? What if she finally understands, after years, many disappointments, discussions and ostracism? This ain't easy, since my beloved family is all I got in this brief life.

[original post]

This is not the sort of problem faced by very many people in America today. Christians like to complain that they are persecuted, but they don't face the choice of hiding their Christianity or risk losing their family.

No, the only people facing this sort of problem are those who are the victims of persecution by Christians -- like gays and atheists.

March 5, 2013 at 6:09 pm
(1) Marvin says:

I’m not sure I can help you, Max because my wife and I came to our present position in regard to religion and the existence of gods pretty much together. Both of us grew up in fundamentalist Christian homes with basically good, though admittedly flawed, parents who were loving and supportive. But early on we both realized that some things didn’t add up. A, possibly trite, sentence sums it up: I’ve been hopelessly in love with her for over half a century, and I would do nothing to screw it up. Still, I hope Max can find a way. If she loves him as much as he loves her, it is my hope that she won’t reject him over any divergence of belief. I think it’s reasonable to hope she’ll eventually even understand, if not share it.

But, Max, please avoid an elitist attitude. I sometimes find it difficult to understand how people I know are otherwise intelligent can be so completely drawn into the religion hole. I’ve seen through it, why can’t you? I have to put myself back in those early years when I refused to allow myself to question. It had to be true! Evidence has to be wrong! Learn to accept her reluctance. It may someday change, but it may not. Fear is powerful, and Christians are ordered to fear God.

I remember women in my father’s church repeatedly requesting prayer for their wayward husbands. I remember some of these men, oh so many years ago. They were wonderful people who simply had no interest in a fundamentalist version of life and eternity. Divorce was, admittedly, pretty rare in those days, but for the most part these women seemed to love their husbands and had no intention of leaving them over their difference of religion. I hope that, at least, the same is true in your relationship, Max.

March 19, 2013 at 6:21 pm
(2) mARVIN says:

I should really never post anything without proofreading. What I meant to say is there, but if I’d read it over, I surely would have said it better.

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