Coming Out

I've heard it said that “When you release a secret, you release the shame.” I’m finally ready to be true to where my experiences have brought me and what I believe, as everyone has the right to do.

 I’m sure this is the wrong, if not an ironic, simile to use in this specific context, but I feel exactly like a gay person who is still in the closet probably feels.  My discretion about this indicates that I’m ashamed of it, which isn’t so. I’ve just been hindered by anticipation of the response (I had an ‘aha’ moment while writing this: 'I am responsible for what I put out; I am not responsible for what I get back'). This really shouldn't even be that big of a deal, but to some, it really is. It's so unfortunate that this topic tends to bring out the very worst in people sometimes. Still, I’ve been off the record and noncommittal about a big part of myself, and pining to come out.

When I was 18 or so, something about my world just wasn’t making sense. I eventually allowed myself to commence what I called a “spiritual safari”, which lasted quite a few years. The voyage is finally reaching conclusion at this: I am an agnostic-atheist. This just means I realize that the origin of the universe is ultimately unknowable, but am heavily inclined toward disbelief that there is or was a higher being who created the universe or interferes with human life today. Simply put, my perspective is 'I’m quite certain there is no God, but never say never.'

Why do I feel the need to say anything about this? Why not keep it to myself, as I frankly wish those with a religious point of view would do with their convictions? I have several reasons.

  Every community that surrounded me from infancy to childhood to adolescence, and even into early adulthood identified primarily as religious (in other words, I was taken to church, educated in a Christian school, and worked for a Christian company for years). I’m sure most people associate me with that community (in other words, assume I’m a Christian because that’s how I was brought up). I have very, very long craved freedom from the shackles of that assumption.
  Don’t misunderstand me. Off the top of my head, right this minute, I could name at least 30 people from those communities with whom I enjoy every moment spent-- people I am crazy about. I am perfectly at peace, if not pleased to be affiliated with the people. It’s the doctrines and the culture from which I itch to remove my name.  

I have been finding myself trying to come out about this as indirectly as possible, and sometimes that has really tempted me to speak passive-aggressively. I have not spoken my truth, and have consequently placed myself at the top of the slippery slope of behaving in exactly the way atheists are so often accused of behaving: angry, hurtful, tactless, trying to burst everyone’s bubble. When my Facebook friends posted thoughts about God, everything in me wanted to reply with resentful, snarky comments like, “It doesn’t matter; there’s no God anyway, so don’t worry about it.”  That isn’t me, and I don’t want that to be me, and I definitely don’t want to add fuel to an unnecessary fire. It has become clear that keeping this in had become toxic to me, and soon, to others. I was just aching to come out, without having the spine or integrity to do it directly.  

I would also like to do my part to give atheism a better image. So many people have negative misconceptions of atheism. They hear the word “atheist” and either frown with disdain at the thought of an angry, violent, aggressive, offensive person, or there’s a shrug of pity for a poor, misguided, misinformed soul. I know this because I was trained young to have that reaction. "Atheist" was a swear word. I wish the world knew that most are not that way. If I may take a moment to talk myself up for the first and last time, to use myself as an example: I am a whole person. I am creative and extremely thoughtful and kind of funny sometimes. I’m very loyal and analytic, gifted and idealistic, moral, compassionate and friendly. My greatest passion in life is cooking. I love Broadway shows, city life, grocery shopping, animals, autobiographies, and old music from the 40’s and 50’s. I want to go to Greece, write a book, be a food stylist, and travel. I think before I act and speak. I have my flaws, too. I can be unfocused and unproductive. I think too much and do too little, and I’m terrible at getting things done in a home setting. The point is, we are real, diverse, complex people-- just like Christians, just like Catholics, just like Hindus, and the list continues. My views are not ME, they are a part of me.

This was not a naive or impulsive choice. I am not a lost lamb and I am not in need of prayer. I tried and tried for years to make religion, even kinds outside Christianity, work for me, and it never quite gelled, at least not permanently. I’ve read books, blogs, articles, watched dozens of documentaries on the subject and talked with countless people of different viewpoints. This was a researched, years thought out, very cautiously made choice that has taken years of working past fear and timidity to move out of the comfort zone I’d always known.

We are forever developing and evolving creatures. Once upon a time, I NEVER imagined I would one day see the world as I do. Never say never. Not long ago I thought I had made my final stop right at agnosticism; now I've grown even beyond that. Who knows, 5 years from now I may come to realize that Buddhism is the best fit for me or that deism makes the most sense. Like everyone else, I can make choices with only the knowledge and inclinations I have up to this point. There are still plenty of other issues that I am neither experienced nor knowledgeable enough for which to choose a stance. However, thus far, this is where my “spiritual safari” has brought me. This is what works for me. This is the answer that has finally satisfied me, that has made me feel confident, proud, contented, tolerant, and understanding. I finally have some closure after all these years, yet the learning has only begun, and I love it. This is what I could swear has raised my IQ, has completely opened my eyes and my world, and tenderized me to truly embrace and fall in love with diversity.  
 I came across a brilliant quote recently: “We are neither pure nor wise nor good; we do the best we know.”
 I am no different from anyone else. I want to be accepted and understood, but especially, I want to do and be the best I know how to be.