In the spirit of my post yesterday — What Are We Waiting For? — it occurred to me that I’ve actually been sitting on something for quite a while, just waiting for the right time to say it. But as I pointed out in that post, there is no right time. Waiting around is worthless, it only means more of my time lost hiding something that deserves to be out in the open.
Let’s not bury the lede. I’m an atheist. That may not come as a shock to you if you’re a regular reader: I’ve never come out and said it, but I’m sure it’s bled out around the edges from time to time. But I’m an atheist, and I’m damned proud of it.
This is a weird thing to sit down and type out, not because it’s something I feel guilty about in any way, but because I fear it might make things weird for me. I live in the southern United States, for one — better known as the Bible Belt. I teach at a school where many if not most of my colleagues are outspokenly religious. My family, while they don’t attend services anymore, brought me and my siblings up in the church. (And I don’t think that reading this will surprise them, but that speaks to the weirdness of all this — we’ve never had a conversation about it.) I’ve got sisters and cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents and a veritable host of in-laws who believe. Add to that that in recent studies, atheists are the most feared and distrusted of all subgroups of people (even more than Muslims!), and it’s no great surprise that I feel a little bit uneasy on the topic.
Let’s be clear. I’m not here to proselytize. (Though the idea of a proselytizing atheist does give me a chuckle.) I’m not what some might call a militant atheist. I know and accept that the vast majority of people aren’t going to have their minds changed by anything I have to say. And if you do believe, I still welcome you as a reader.
I’m just here to say that in the past, there have been things I was afraid to say for fear of offending another’s point of view. There have been things I haven’t said for fear of making others uncomfortable. There have been things I’ve done strictly to assuage other people’s beliefs.
More and more, though, I realize that while I’m trying like mad to respect other people’s beliefs, I am marginalizing my own. While I’m working to make sure I don’t make others uncomfortable, I’m twisting myself up into knots, or worse, just sitting there like a lump, saying nothing.
Atheism is the next great coming out. And I am proud to list myself among its members.
I’m here to say that I won’t be hiding this particular aspect of who I am anymore. I’m not going to shove it down your throats, either, but it’s too much a part of me to keep it locked up in a closet. It informs my moral decisions, it informs my interactions with the world, and it damn sure informs my thinking and my writing.
I’m an atheist.
I just wanted you to know.