I am an atheist, and have been one for 30+ years. But I have been out of the proverbial closet since my divorce 15 years ago. And my reflection of my actions and thoughts over the years, not only make me proud of being an atheist but also supportive of all people who cannot be themselves and leave the closet.
Nobody goes into the closet; we all start in there. From birth (the ultimate closet), we constantly step out of the darkness to reveal ourselves. Every human being is unique. We all have something to offer this world. The challenge is opening the door and stepping out.
My 15 years in the closet were not necessarily painful. Not at first. It was easy to maintain the lie to my ex- since I was only sacrificing Sunday morning. But then the kids came, and baptism seemed silly. (Greek Orthodox church, if curious). Godparents made no sense, especially since none of them were mentioned in the will. As they got older, then I really struggled. Why push them into religion when I didn’t believe it! What kind of dad and adult was I by propagating a lie to my children! The divorce kicked me out of the closet. Forced to look hard at who I was, and what I truly believed in, I felt like a load was lifted off my shoulders (atheism didn’t cause the divorce, but it was a factor).
So I realize that the only way to come out is to have the proverbial band-aid ripped from you. The instantaneous pain felt is nothing compared to the long-lasting pain you keep buried in you. You can’t step through the door and out. It takes too much effort that. Too much time to think about your actions. Do it and move on.
The other good thing about coming out is it makes you evaluate your social environment. Your friends will now split into 2 groups: one that will support you and congratulate you, and the other that will treat you as if you have leprosy. Then you know how your journey will go as you take the steps in the brave new world.
So I can truly empathize with fellow atheists, my LGTB fellow humans, and any others who hide part of themselves away because it’s ‘safe’. Life is a series of challenges… conquer them and you live it to the fullest; turn from them and you will never be happy.