We, who are openly atheist, often encourage others to come out publically as atheists because when more people admit to unbelief, the more we are accepted, the less discrimination we experience, and the more rationality can be spread around, in general. But, it’s not an easy thing to do. A gay friend once told me that it was harder telling her parents she no longer believed than it was telling them she was gay. Yet, most people don’t realize what it is really like to come out as an atheist in religion-obsessed America.
Do you want to know what it feels like to be an atheist in America?
It feels like realizing everything you thought was true is wrong.
It feels like being off-kilter and having to reevaluate everything.
It feels like losing everyone you thought you knew and trusted.
It feels like losing all your friends and starting over.
It feels like being stabbed in the back by the sister you nursed day and night through her cancer.
It feels like being cheated out of everything rightfully yours by the only sister you have left.
It feels like being looked on with suspicion by your own family.
It feels like being rejected by your own son and not getting to see your grandchildren.
It feels like being seen as a moral degenerate by people who don’t have a moral bone in their bodies.
It feels like being WAY more moral than most of the Christians you know.
It feels like being a second-class citizen.
It feels like being discriminated against at work.
It feels like being feared by your students’ parents.
It feels like being forced into the “angry atheist” role when all you ever wanted was to just get along.
It feels like your boss pretending to care about your work environment, but really she just doesn’t want to be sued.
It feels like spending tens of thousands of dollars on your step-daughter’s medical bills and having her unfriend you on Facebook.
It feels like people lying about you to ruin your career.
It feels nauseating, listening to people thank God, pray to God, blame God, anything God.
It feels like people thinking they are better than you.
It feels like people judging you all the time.
It feels like people ignoring all the charitable work and self-sacrificing you do because it doesn’t matter if it’s not for God.
It feels so unfair that people hate you just because you’ve grown beyond them.
It feels like things finally make sense.
It feels like being the only sane one in the room.
It feels lonely.
It feels freeing.
It feels like I am an adult.
It feels like I can choose to live my life in the way that seems best to me.
It feels like I appreciate each day, knowing this is all there is.
It feels like me.
It feels right.
It feels totally worth it.
So, to those struggling with whether or not to come out, only you can weigh the consequences in your own life, but as for me, I don’t regret it.—Christina Knowles
Originally published in 2017