A friend of mine who I know from my Evangelical Christian days, and who I worked with at a leading Christian Bible camp no less, has been struggling with her recent change of heart and subsequent switch over to atheism. She has started a new blog Undercover Atheist in the Bible Belt to vent her frustrations anonymously.
You see, she's not free to express her true beliefs, because religion has encased her in a community of highly volatile irrationality. She cannot openly be atheist. If she comes out of the closet, she will likely lose her job, her friends, and possibly even her husband.
She lives in the Bible Belt--a literal hell for those who don't share the Christian faith--because as she reminds us on her blog--you are expected to go to Church. She tells us the harsh truth of the matter and the relentless Churchianity she endures, stating, "if you're not invested in the community... you're a bad person."
In other words, if you don't make a show of your Christianity and appear in Church, like a good little disciple, you will be viewed as a bad person. This is the harsh reality that closet atheists under the oppressiveness of religion face everywhere.
She's happily married, but she's married to a Christian. Nothing wrong with that... but it does raise some obstacles. Trust and acceptance can become hot topic issues when the person shares a dissenting view or opinion. Like I tell others, in my house we don't talk religion or politics--period. The only thing we fight about in the home is what television channel to watch. Luckily, both my wife and I are currently addicted to the American version of The X-Factor.
Wanting to test her husband's reaction to atheism, to see what his acceptance of her new found belief system would be should she one day choose to come out of the closet, she told him she had a dream that she had become one of those rationally minded... what do you call them... oh yeah... atheists. She wanted his thoughts.
In her words:
I explained that I had a dream that I became an atheist and was wondering what he thought. He said "what would be the point in having children if we aren't raising them as Christians?" He even carried resentment and anger towards me for even asking the question in the first place.
What a let down. When I read this I was literally beside myself--picking my jaw up off the floor--and downing some Tylenol to numb the headache such
Let me briefly explain why this form of reasoning is not only painful but intolerant and so hurtful.
What if were were to reverse the roles. What if she was the Christian hiding in the closet and her husband was the mainstream atheist? Would his reaction, upon her telling him that she had come to believe in Jesus Christ as her personal Lord and Savior be, "what would be the point of having children is we aren't raising them as atheists?"
*Gasp--Christian children?! God forbid! I mean... no... cuz god isn't real. Uh... wait... thinking hurts my thoughts!
[Never mind that all children start out as atheists anyway! Religion is something acquired. You don't come out of the womb quoting scripture with preconceived theological considerations already fully advanced. No. First your parents teach it to you--acquisition--then they take you to Church--indoctrination--and then you get it reamed into you again and again every single week--inculcation. Eventually you come to believe it--most probably because you live in the Bible Belt where everyone thinks the same and have no one to challenge your beliefs--and God knows you certainly won't be doing it. Ignorance is bliss--but it's still ignorance.]
Okay, so her husband's reasoning is... well... nonexistent. There is absolutely no good reason to give up hope because someone else has a difference of opinion.
From my perspective, her husband is simply having an emotional reaction--and he probably doesn't even realize how insensitive of an emotional outburst it really is. He, in not so many words, said he wouldn't want to have children with her if she didn't think exactly like him. It's insensitive. Cruel even.
But it's not her husband's fault--he's just not thinking--he was raised in the Bible Belt, after all. But the despair of having to be "unequally yolked" with a non-believer (as the Bible says) is exactly what I went through when I was still a raging Christian. It was the catalyst to my deconversion.
Still, I can't imagine getting the response my friend did and still feel like there is enough love between myself and my significant other to feel comfortable "coming out" and letting the world see the real me. I know why she has to be sneaky about it--she doesn't really have any other alternatives.
Maybe she needs to invite a hardcore atheist like me over to dinner sometime so I can "soften" her husband up a bit. Hit him over the head with, oh... I don't know... a ton of rationality maybe? I just hope she keeps blogging--and keeps sharing her views and opinions--because unlike those zealots living in the echo chambers of their trumped up faith--in the civilized world we try not to reject and ostracize people for holding different worldviews.