I suppose I have been an atheist for at least ten years. It took a while to say it out loud, but it’s easy now. I may never tell certain family members, but eventually I will be more public about it with my Christian friends. Soon. It should be easy; after all, I haven’t had close evangelical Christian friends for many years. I don’t stand to lose a whole lot. Maybe a few lost Facebook friends, right?
My closest friends don’t care. Most of them are also atheists, or at least unsure. And many of these friends have been around since those Christian days- they just had no idea how serious it was. I wasn’t the type of Christian to witness to my secular friends. Always “hiding my lantern” like the future heathen I was…. after reading some of this, they ought to be sending me a thank you note.
I have let only a handful of them into this world I have created because I thought they might be interested. It seemed like no big deal. They have read my other blog, so this isn’t new territory. I could also use the support.
But writing Life After Doubt has thrown me for a loop. I enjoy it a lot. I have plenty to say, and I am meeting new people with shared experiences. But I didn’t know I would feel this weird about it. It has suddenly occurred to me that I had never planned to introduce the “secret girl who used to live inside my head” to these friends. Like, ever. And I’m not entirely comfortable with it.
I had eliminated her from my life completely, and until recently I guess I never really knew her. That isn’t the real me. Not anymore, anyway. But I can’t shake this feeling that maybe my friends won’t look at me the same way and I can’t take it back now. I hadn’t expected to feel this way. I had only expected that Christian friends wouldn’t see me the same way after finding out I am an atheist. I am now realizing that telling Christians will be the easy part.
(Religious family members are, of course, a whole other topic.)
I’m not overly emotional about the past. I can tell you how I felt at the time, and I find creative satisfaction from putting a thought or emotion into words that will make another person understand. But I seldom have unresolved feelings to work through. I think about the tragedies in my life, and I know I have been lucky. Now, if I had to make a list of the things I wasn’t able to overcome in an afternoon, I would know them immediately. We all have those things, and we all know what they are.
Losing my sister to Breast Cancer, having my only child diagnosed with severe Autism, years of infertility….and then that second trimester miscarriage that hit me harder than I thought it would. These are the things that stay with us and make us a little more nervous about what’s around the next corner. And I feel comfortable with all of these things now. Ask me anything. They are part of who I am and perhaps at times I feel emotional about them, but not like I did when they were actually happening. Those feelings have diminished for good. Until the next tragedy.
But do you know what never makes the list? Losing my faith in god. And truthfully, that should be number one. The rest of those things were resolved over months, but losing god was the mind fuck that just kept coming back around for years. It changed my entire identity and worldview. I lost my top coping strategy and my immortality. It was also a breakthrough that in the end changed my life for the better. So I thought, let’s talk about religion. It will be fascinating.
Now here I am exposing what turns out to be the details of my working through the biggest challenge of my life. And I don’t feel so comfortable. Not because it’s difficult to talk about, but because until a few months ago these were the things between me and god only. My secret crazy thoughts. And now everyone knows. What will they think?
My brain is usually very good at separating fact and fiction when it comes to emotion and social anxiety, but this one is tougher than usual. I want to share it with those who understand, and I think these conversations and revelations are important. I feel I have a valuable point of view when it comes to theists and atheists co-existing (as we must), and so I’m going to keep doing it without apology.
I just feel a little panicky sometimes, and I hope my friends will continue to be supportive. I don’t require much. An occasional “No, I wasn’t weirded out by that at all” would suffice. Maybe just every once in a while.