Coming Out of the Closet

Not me or my friend but you get the idea...

Not me or my friend but you get the idea…

I have a close friend that I’ve known since 1988. We met when I got a job at the same computer store he was working at. Over the course of 25+ years, we have worked together at 4 different employers. What are the odds of that?? We both work in IT and our temperaments and skills are a nice complement to each other. We still work together very closely and he’s a wonderful employee and a tremendous asset to the company we both work for today.

He’s a Christian and was raised in the Southern Baptist church. We had always shared a common belief and we used to love talking about theology or other heavy topics from the Bible. When I separated from my wife several years ago, he wanted to be supportive and helpful but he didn’t quite know what to do for me. His parents split up when he was a teenager and it was really messy and emotional for him and his younger brother. It was awful. So when he got married, he always viewed divorce as a “not an option” sort of thing, no matter what. You probably know someone like that.

Actually, I used to feel that way. But even before I lost my faith I stopped viewing things in that rigid sort of way. Life stopped being black & white for me many years ago.

Burnt out candle 2As the flickering flame of my faith slowly vanished, I stopped talking about the Bible and faith. And after I reached that stage where I truly no longer believed at all, I was scared to tell my friend. I wanted to tell him but I didn’t out of fear. Would he spurn me and treat me like I was now the enemy?

I am partially out of the closet these days. My adult kids know I’m an atheist, and a few relatives know. But most of my fellow workmates don’t know and I haven’t told my mom. And I have dreaded what would happen when my close friend would find out. I’ve read a lot of disheartening stories about Christians who immediately spurn their friend or family member when they learn they no longer believe in God. So I’ve hid the truth from him.

But it finally came out during a long car ride last month. It started when he said, “Can I ask you a personal question? Do you still believe in God?”

I hesitated for a moment, but I realized this was as good of a time as any. So I told him, “I don’t believe in the God of the Bible anymore.” I went on to share about my oldest son’s loss of faith (which was a reminder to him since he already knew), and I told him how that event put me on a journey to try and win his faith back. But after studying the sciences and re-considering the many contradictions and enormous issues in the Bible, I stopped believing.

He was actually quite understanding and not at all hostile or judgmental. He admitted to his own doubts but he said he intentionally didn’t want to read or view any scientific materials that would increase his doubts. And he didn’t want to read or view atheist arguments because he felt that it would definitely kill his already-weak faith.

At first, I was flummoxed but then I remembered that I too had chosen to do the same thing many years ago. Now I was wondering, what was the best way to encourage my friend to consider the evidence? What was the best way to reconsider his stance? Or should I just leave it alone?

Readers, do you have family or friends who are “on the fence”?

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10 thoughts on “Coming Out of the Closet

    • I appreciate the responses! My inclination has been to just let it be and happily answer any questions if/when they came. The thing that scares me is my friend’s health. Based on his diet, weight and age, he’s at risk for a heart attack. Shortly after my deconversion and the realization that there almost certainly is “no safety net” (eternal life), I became more concerned for him. Perhaps the best course is to continue encouraging his improved health, and wait for his questions.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Funny – I did a lot of thinking about this after leaving my previous comment, but my thinking went in the opposite direction.

        Christians push and proselytize the way they do because of the urgency of the situation. To them, death is the gateway to an afterlife of either bliss or torment. They get desperate if they think we’re open to the conversation because it’s a matter of eternal destiny. In their worldview, the question of belief or non-belief has eternal, permanent, irreparable consequences. They get through to us, or watch us pass away to eternal torture.

        On the other hand, for your friend, the only consequences are here and now. If he continues to believe, but you stay friends, have good times together, he lives and maybe (with some encouragement) takes care of himself, has a good family life and enjoys his existence, he faces no special consequences afterward. There’s no reward/punishment awaiting him for making the wrong choice.

        To me this takes the pressure off of us who have deconverted. I think having deconverted we sometimes want our other Christian friends to validate our experience, to understand us fully, which they can only do by joining us in breaking the hold of the delusion. Let’s not focus on ourselves (I say this as much to myself as to you or any other non-believer.) Let’s just be decent to the believers and show them a better way, grounded in reality, and hope they come around on their own.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Each person is different, but I personally prefer not to push my friends. If they want to know my thoughts I’m more than willing to share them because I love talking about the “big questions” in life, but otherwise I just enjoy their friendship. That’s the beauty of having a worldview that doesn’t require proselytizing. 🙂

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  2. Just be there – he’ll remember, and when he can’t bear ignoring his doubts anymore, he’ll come to you and you can help him rather than push him. My wife did the same for me and was right there waiting to “catch me” when I “fell away,” as they say 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, I started to reply earlier and lost my edits! But I’m responding to your most recent reply. You put that into words very well. I’ve thought about my mom with similar thoughts… She’s older and very superstitious so why trouble her by revealing my loss of faith? I agree – there’s no real harm since there’s no reward or punishment waiting. And it’s true, we do want the validation and/or the shared view about life with our friends, and I admit that I would like that. His health is a concern, and I feel bad that he’s throwing a 10% tithe out the window!! But the days of proselytizing and cajoling are gone and that’s a good thing.

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  3. You are already encouraging him. He asked. You answered. He responded. Sometimes we think more action is needed when it isn’t. There was a lot of action in that short exchange and though you might not realize it, there was encouragement too. Both of you being open and honest.

    It’s okay to wait and see. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I talked to a family member yesterday who knows I’m atheist now. She’s the only one I told outside of my own immediate family, because I knew beyond doubt she wouldn’t freak out. She’s with our elderly mother in another state who’s sick, and requested prayer from her, but she told me she couldn’t bring herself to do it. She told mother she was receiving the best medical treatment, and when she got better it would be because of that. Of course our mother not understanding at all told my sister that she (mother) would never doubt “her” god like that! That’s the kind of home we were raised in. I realized during that phone call my sister is finally on the fence after telling me she couldn’t pray for mother, and when she went on to talk to me about why god gets credit for “answering” prayers that are easy. Why, she asked, didn’t people who lose their sight, or hearing get their prayers answered? If god can do anything why don’t people who’ve lost limbs get them back through prayer? Why do they have to turn to science? I just kind of let her go on, and on because that’s the way I began my journey to deconversion!

    Our dad has a degenerative brain disorder. There is absolutely nothing that can be done for it. It has been diagnosed as very slow progressing. If there can be a positive about this disease that is it. He’s gone from walking without assistance, to needing a cane, now he has to use a walker. One day he’ll be in a wheelchair. Years, and years of prayers proved ineffective. But, I have a half sister who’s convinced that those prayers are the reason dad is as “good” as he is, and not any worse! Someone like myself wants to ask, “Why is this god of yours simply slowing the progression of the disease?” “Why not just heal him altogether?” “Is he not capable?!” Oh, religion! What it can do to minds. It never ceases to amaze me!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Logan, I very much enjoyed reading your post about your son, and your journey from believer to non-believer. For the same reasons, atheism is my opinion as well. For its power and succinctness, the quote below by Epicurus has rarely been equaled; and for its rueful truth, the one by Seneca. And the one by John McCarthy just happens to be a favorite I am passing on as my thanks. — LLaurieG

    Either God wants to abolish evil, and cannot;
    Or he can, but does not want to;
    Or he cannot and does not want to.

    If he wants to, but cannot, he is impotent.
    If he can, but does not want to, he is wicked.
    But if God both can and wants to abolish evil,
    Then why is there evil in the world?
    — Epicurus, Greek philosopher, 350-270 BC

    Every man prefers belief to the exercise of judgment.
    – Seneca, 1st century Roman politician

    An atheist doesn’t have to be someone who thinks he has a proof that there can’t be a god.
    He only has to be someone who believes that the evidence on the God question is at a similar level
    to the evidence on the werewolf question.
    — John McCarthy. (No idea who he is. I just like the idea).

    Liked by 1 person

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