How to Tell Your Friends That You’re an Atheist

This week, I did something really insane. I’m in a class about culture, and we had a project which was to give a presentation about our cultural identity. In an attempt to be honest, I stood up in front of the really big classroom and announced that I’m a closet atheist. It was terrifying, but fine because I took into consideration that no one in the class is a very close friend of mine in a relationship that could be potentially jeopardized by this information. I’ve talked before, though, about whether or not I’m ready to come out more at school (actually, if you haven’t read that post yet, I advise that you read it before continuing here, as it will put my situation into much greater perspective). One could say that this was a big step in that direction, but telling a large group of roughly acquainted classmates is probably less intimidating than telling individual close friends.

Since coming out to a group of classmates and getting a taste of what it’s like to be thought of as the class atheist, I’ve decided that even if the stigma does feel a bit awkward, it’s who I am, and that’s that. But coming out is a complicated thing, and since it’s such a big deal for me, it requires a great deal of forethought and contemplation. I talked in the aforementioned post that you have to consider who will react well to knowing you’re an atheist and who won’t. Before coming out to them, I had only had maybe one or two conversations with my roommates about God or religion in the years that I have lived with them, so I didn’t know how they would react. I knew that they both faithfully (forgive the pun) attended church each week, but I also knew that they were at least a little more liberal than other students here, and this might mean that they would be accepting of my atheism.

I have a couple friends that I don’t think would be so open-minded about it. One girl I know can never get through a single conversation without bringing up how God has spoken to her and changed her life in the past week, or how inspired she is by the faith of her fellow students. One of my friends is majoring in biblical and religious studies, and one believes that the story of Noah’s Ark is literally true, and in my experience, those who believe that can be a bit hard to get across to when it comes to logic and rational thought.

In recent weeks I’ve been itching to tell one friend of mine, however. I know that she has other friends that are atheists and that she is a lot more open minded than a lot of people here. She loves writing and reading, and I wish I could tell her about this blog, because I think she would love to read it. She’s also made comments before about how she likes that I’m so much less conservative than I look (I look really Christian, if that’s a thing), and I wanted to say, oh, honey, if only you knew.

I almost did tell her one day, but I wanted to mull it over before just blurting it out. I decided I’d tell her the following day when I saw her, but I ended up being sick and not seeing her. Ever since, I’ve wanted to tell her, but I’ve realized that I’m always waiting for the right moment or a time when it’s relevant to our conversation. This made me wonder: even if I am ready to tell people, if it’s so hard and awkward to bring up, why should I bother; what difference does it make anyways?

As I’ve seen with my roommates, me being open with my atheism actually hasn’t changed our relationship as much as I originally thought it would. If I don’t think it will have have much of an impact (especially if I think it might have a negative impact) on my other friendships, why should I go out of my way to tell them?

As I’ve said before, being an atheist is a big part of who I am. It dominates my bookshelf, my social media, my Sunday afternoons, and oftentimes, my thoughts. I want to be able to read The God Delusion in public without worrying if someone I know will come up and ask what I’m reading. I want to tell my friends how proud I am to have a blog and to consider myself a writer. If my friends tell me about a situation in which they’re trying to discern God’s plan for their lives, I want to be able to give honest advice and say “actually, I don’t believe that there’s a God that has a plan for you, so if you want something, you’re going to have to fight for it yourself.”


Read next:

i-am-an-atheist

11 Replies to “How to Tell Your Friends That You’re an Atheist”

  1. First of all good for you.

    Secondly, the times that I share my atheism is when to do otherwise would comprise my sense of self, which includes my atheism, so I think I understand that prt of your desire to share and be true to yourself. Otherwise, I like to question the importance of sharing my atheism. Would it matter?

    Anyway, good post.

    Congratulations on coming up to your 25th blog. So far I have posted fourteen blogs, and I am working on two more, one of which is on polytheism.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am a brand new atheist. I worked as a pastor (almost 18 years) and a hospice chaplain. I was terrified to tell my family I no longer believed (especially my kids) since I raised them to believe and live a certain way. We never really questioned or scrutinized our worldview; we just believed it and lived by it. This was our whole life. I attended seminary and completed all but my dissertation when I walked away from all of it in 2016.

    Fortunately my family has been very supportive. I have my LIFE back and learning is invigorating. I am amazed each day of the things I now notice but never paid attention to in the past.

    All the best on your new adventure,
    MP

    Liked by 4 people

  3. While I haven’t come out of the closet in this regard, I have shared deeply personal beliefs and needs that are outside social mores. I knew it was time to do that when I listened to my heart. Each one strengthened my relationship with that person and affirmed me in all my uniqueness. I wish you peace and strength in this journey.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I am enjoying your blog. I love it! It gives me tremendous insight to thoughts of the other side in a sensitive and real way. I appreciate you writing it down. Thank you. As a Christian, I have publicly read the God Delusion. It is important to me as an apologist to be as much if not more of an expert on those subjects I am refuting, and reading both sides, regardless of belief, is absolutely cool. Anyone who looks down at another individual for reading anything is making awfully large presumptions. We are thinkers, students of the world, and not burners of books. So I would encourage you to be you all the way, whoever that is. Incidentally, I too believe in a literal Noah’s Ark. In case we ever discuss positions, I just wanted to be forthcoming, in case you strike a wall of irrationality with me from your perspective. I do have to wonder, and maybe I will learn as I continue reading, why it has become such a huge part of who you are… I have to wonder if this is due more to reaction of stimulus, psychology, and emotion, rather than a logic crusade to prove we are merely accidental. Look forward to more.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m looking forward to reading more about this and the changes that follow. Both positive and negative.

    I think doing it in one big hit is better than doing it individually because then more people get to hear what you actually said.

    I wonder if you will now hear about god less often in conversations. I am interested to know how many people come and ask you about your atheism and why reject theism.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. See most people need something to hang on, God is the perfect one, becuase no logic is required here. Trying to justfy the logic with those who believe is totally waste of time and generally I have seen it is counter productive. I generally keep away from such discussions.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I cannot imagine coming out to classmates.

    I cannot imagine, because it would seem so out of place.

    Back in my school days, nobody ever cared much about the religion of others. Classmates talked about lots of things, but religion was not one of them.

    I guess the closest was in elementary school, where kids would sometimes chant ridicule of the students of the catholic convent down the street.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’m looking forward to hearing more about your tale of coming out. In psychology last year, we studied about something adolescents go through :the imaginary audience phase. You think that people are watching you, judging you all the time. Now, I do not personally know you, but I’d just say that it’s highly unlikely that people will give you anything more than a curious glance if you reveal your religious opinions.
    Then again, I’m not accustomed to the culture you’re in, so I may be wrong. I hope I’m not and that these differences of opinion do not create rifts between you and your friends.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Aayush, I was thinking the same thing as I read that last post up there. Sometimes what is a huge big event for us comes across to others as minor, worthy of a polite smile and a shrug.
      The key is, make the announcement, and then let it go. If anyone is truly concerned they will ask the pointy questions. My guess is, as important as this is to you, it isn’t going to have a huge impact on anyone else–something simultaneously annoying, restful, and disappointing. =)

      And if it costs you friends “because”, then I’d say they value their religion far more than their friendship with you, and you are well rid of them.

      Liked by 2 people

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