Sunday, September 15, 2013

Coming out requires a support network

The Carolinas Secular Conference is an annual event of the growing secular movement in North Carolina. This year's conference theme is "coming out," and we'll be in Charlotte from October 4th - 6th. I will be available throughout the conference and speaking briefly about MetrolinaRfR (at 11 am on Saturday) as part of the Opening Plenary Session. This is the second post in a series of posts about my own disbelief and experiences "coming out."

As I mentioned in my first post in this series, I have not suffered any serious negative consequences as a result of my doubt or disbelief. I have certainly never felt that my family would disown me or that I would lose my job. However, there has been an impact to some personal relationships.
"I was surprised that more people (believers) didn’t want to know the details of my deconversion. There were two general responses: “I don’t want to know you any more” & “Let’s agree to disagree and not discuss this."
 - Catherine Dunphy (as quoted by Hemant Mehta)
I have had people in my life that respond to my skepticism in both of these ways. And like Catherine, I find it somewhat surprising. But I do agree with Ronald Lindsay that coming out as an atheist is seen as a threat by some religious people: "The realization that many atheists once were religious and then 'lost' their faith has an unnerving effect on some of the religious. How far will atheism spread? Will I be next? Or my children?"

I've have also had people in my life who offered to (or tell me they are going to) pray for me. I've had a few people ask politely if I would be offended if they did. I am somewhat surprised by people who don't understand why that is condescending, and I have on occasion been offended by an arrogant know-it-all who insists on praying for me even when I point out that it is condescending. My mother is both a believer and a good person, and she has never treated me in any of these ways.

But not everyone has non-judgmental friends and family to support them. That's why I think it is so important to have organizations like Recovering From Religion, the Secular Therapist Project, and the Clergy Project. While I have not personally suffered any serious negative consequences either from religion, or from leaving religion, I do know people who have. And I think it is important to support them regardless of whether they are leaving fundamentalism for a more pluralistic theism or for atheism and humanism. For too many people, the path out can be quite difficult. But more on that later...

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