There are many reasons it’s so important to have ever-expanding atheist outreach. One of the biggest is that it encourages people to come out of the closet.
Reader Melissa sent me this email that I wanted to share:
First, I came out to the evangelicals who came to my door last Easter. It was actually so scary and liberating to tell the obviously Christian strangers that I was an atheist that I had to call my husband at work and my mother and tell them that I had done it. Then I found I was telling all kinds of strangers that I was an atheist whenever it came it up conversation…
But the most important “coming out” happened to me just before Easter this year. I’m in rehearsals for a play and we were rehearsing on Good Friday. We are an eclectic bunch. And we were talking about Good Friday. What is Good Friday? Why is it called “Good Friday”? About religion in general. Making jokes about the Last Supper. And one of my castmates, a very religious Catholic gentleman about my mother’s age, asked me what religion I was. Now coming out to people you know and see regularly is a lot harder than the person in line at the grocery store so I started gently.
“I’m a nontheist.”
I know this term is confusing and I was being confusing on purpose. Because it’s hard to be alone in that and I was afraid of a possible conversion lecture. And he said, “Well, what were you raised as?” And I just said it. “I’m an atheist.” and he asked me, “You don’t believe in god, Becca?” and I simply said no.
But then the funniest thing happened. Another actor — a 78-year-old gentleman, doctor, and a man who wears a Star of David around his neck all the time — chimed in, “That’s about where I am.” An ultra conservative anti-environmental corporate lawyer in his 50s said that he didn’t like the term “atheist” but didn’t believe in a personal god. The other actress, a woman in her 50s, said she only went to church to sing in the choir and didn’t believe in god. And the director, a man in his 70s to whose house I had been to for Seder, also said he had no god beliefs. We were all atheists. Well, all except our friend. But it took one of us to say it out loud. To say it without equivocation.
That’s why blogs like yours are so important. That’s why the billboards are so important. That’s why the alliances and meetings and coalitions are all so important. Because I needed to be able to tell people who I was without feeling like I was alone. And when other people see someone able to come out they feel more able themselves and less alone.
That’s a big reason why we encourage people to come out. Not just for the liberating feeling you get, but because it encourages so many other people to follow suit.
If you haven’t come out yet, it’s not too late. Start small. Work your way up. Eventually, you can tell Facebook 🙂