I am drawn to his unique smell, his comforting touch, and his loving actions.
He is attractive, athletic, kind, straight-forward, and funny.
He values truth, wisdom, hard work, team work, logic and reason, science, love, family, and our children. He values what is best not just for himself but for me and our boys.
We enjoy many of the same things, yet we have personal interests that we allow each other to delight in separately. We appreciate each other’s humor. We laugh and cry together. And we continue to stand beside each other through all seasons of life (mundane, exciting, and exhausting). And through all of this we remain companions, best friends, lovers. We were born to be together!
When I began blogging last summer, one of my first posts was about Coming out as an Atheist. I mentioned there were extended family members, co-workers, and some friends who after 2 years still didn’t know about this huge change in my life. I had a lofty goal of taking opportunities to come out every chance I got. Well, after 7 months, I can’t say that I’m as far along as I want to be in this regard, but I have certainly made some progress. I wanted to take an opportunity to share with you one instance of coming out to a colleague.
Enter Shannon. I first met her when I was involved in a Christian ministry in college. She is an extremely bubbly, nice, goofy, beautiful, and yes, very devout, woman. Post college, we both remained in the same town and would catch up with each other occasionally. Many years later, prior to quitting my job last summer, we became colleagues for a few months. During those months, even though I was an atheist the entire time, she still knew me as “sold out for Jesus”. Even though she talked about god often, I just didn’t feel comfortable mentioning my lack of belief in a work setting.
When it was my last day at work, she gave me a big hug, passionately exclaimed how much she would miss me, and said, “It’s OK, team Jesus forever, right?” This statement took me SO off guard. I was absolutely not prepared for her to say that to me (in front of other people, mind you) so I had no response at all. I just sort of felt sick to my stomach, said goodbye, and turned around to leave. My issue is that so many people know me as a person that loves god and spends a lot of my time and energy pursuing god and his interests. Well, now that I’m an atheist, that obviously isn’t the least bit true anymore. I want people to know that I no longer believe the things I use to believe, but how are they going to know if I don’t tell them? I can’t expect them to read my mind, that’s for sure. But the reality is, this can be an entirely awkward topic to bring up depending on how well I know a person and the context in which I encounter them.
So, after having this weird encounter with Shannon, I went home and felt sick about my inability to say something in the moment. I absolutely HAD to respond to “team Jesus forever, right?” Because, um… no, NOT team Jesus… not even if I was a Christian would I feel comfortable with that statement!
So, this email emerged:
Dearest Shannon –
I just love you and our budding friendship. I have felt the need to be honest with you in regards to my faith or lack there-of, although it is challenging for me to share because of reactions I have had from some family and friends.
In the past couple of years I have realized that I don’t believe in any gods. I look back fondly on all my Navigator (college ministry) memories, friendships, etc. but I have went on a journey of doubt, questioning, then realization that I don’t have enough evidence to believe there is a God. I value my relationships, family and morals immensely and I feel that I am in a good place and a good person without any faith in the supernatural.
I appreciate your spirit, compassion, and emanating love. I hope that we can continue forward in fondness for each other. Take care and seeya soon,
I am not sure how many times I will need to have this conversation with people, probably for the rest of my life to some degree. I do know that I will choose to be honest with people when it becomes necessary, just like it became necessary with Shannon.
Share an awkward moment when someone thought something about you that wasn’t true.
Earlier this week I wrote a short blip about the Excruciating Silence that happens when a loved one fails to communicate. As I mentioned in that post, I am a communicator, sometimes an over-communicator. It drives me insane to feel like I have discord with a loved one. I have always been in favor of mediation, conflict resolution, and the pursuit of harmony. When silence lingers for too long (especially when personal and relational challenges are being faced) it’s easy to make assumptions or perhaps let resentments linger. One such instance of an uncomfortable and ongoing silence in my life happened when I started sharing with loved ones about my new-found atheism.
“Coming Out” Atheist: Eventual Silence
About two years ago, my husband and I shared some important information with our close family (specifically, our parents and siblings). We “came out” of our atheist closets and said:
- We are not Christians anymore
- We don’t have sufficient evidence for any gods and therefore don’t believe
- We are at peace with our realization
- We are still the same caring, fun-loving, and happy people that we were before
Every single family member was surprised at this change of heart… I don’t blame them since we were seriously devoted to our faith for so long. Some family members had pretty mild reactions. Oh, but some of our family members…their response was not so tame. Raised voices. Heated arguments. Hurt feelings. Unusual behavior. Aggression. Blaming. All of these things erupted in the first few months after sharing our news.
Soon, the raging fire sizzled out and the rumblings ceased…
Awkward, uncomfortable silence.
Excruciatingly painful yucky silence.
When it came to our lack of belief, our families cries went from passionate and vocal… to silent. In desperation I felt like shouting, “But, we used to talk so openly about so many things! Can’t we be real with each other without taking things so personally? Or at the very least, can we agree to disagree, choose to love each other, and THEN not talk about it?” I used to share my deepest emotions and thoughts with my family. Now that we disagree about our core beliefs, sharing in this way has become incredibly difficult, and for now, impossible.
I can hear some of you saying, “Why do you even need to talk about god?” Truly, I would be happy to avoid the god topic under the following conditions: religion isn’t being pushed on my family and we’re not looked down upon for our disbelief. For now, that is not the case.
Unfortunately, because some family members are so devoted to their god, I fear there will be strife, passive aggression, and awkward, painful silence indefinitely. I have rejected their core beliefs, somehow that hurts them. I have to remember, I am the one who changed gradually over time, and then suddenly, I dumped this shocking information on my family.
Perhaps, gradually over time, my family will embrace me with open arms once again, with a willingness to share and be real about who we are.
But I’m not getting my hopes up.
In the mean time, I will attempt to be inspired by the words of actor and playwright, Harvey Fierstein:
Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life; define yourself.
I am such a communicator. Recently a loved one chose not to share, touch base, or respond to me for a time. I felt out of whack, desperate, crazy. We reconnected today, hooray!
The silence of a friend was broken… and all is well in my world again.