I just joined here last night and apologize if this is a recent discussion topic...I'm in my fifties, living in my hometown (a small one) once again after decades away, work in a business with my 86 year old father, mother still alive and both church attending christians...I'm extremely well known in this town and know of no other atheists....I do not have the courage (if that IS the right word) to use my real name here or anywhere else online that proclaims my disbelief in a god for fear that it might get back to them somehow even though they have no computer...I'm sure I'm not alone in this closet and would like to read how others have dealt with this issue...

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...Common enough so you don't get fired in your job because your bosses might believe in a god. That's for me.

If you think your life could be at risk by being an open Atheist, just do it slowly. Give people around you 'slight hints' of being a non-believer (e.g. "I've seen this movie Religulous and it kind of made sense"). If their reaction is very hostile, it might not be safe. If it's just verbal Criticisms, there's nothing to be afraid of. Maybe you can be a hero for other closeted non-believers like you in your town, too.

ADD: There are also organizations that protect the rights of non-believers like us. If you go to a bookstore, look for the book, "The god Delusion" by Richard Dawkins. On its Appendix, you will find various resources of organizations that specializes in protecting people from Religious antipathy.
My wife, brother and best friends know I'm an atheist but these are people who WILL not tell my parents...I'm sure my parents believe that if I'm not a christian I will not go to heaven and be reunited with them after death...I know that would disturb them a great deal...
That's true. My mother, too (a catholic-by-paper but an Agnostic Theist/Deist in belief), after telling her 'I don't believe in a god', she said to me, "I'm scared for you. What about your 'moral foundation?' what are you going to tell your kids about Life?" A weak argument that she's don't understand, but nonetheless, I continue with my atheism. I'm still trying to make her understand that Morality cannot be dictated by her religion, and it's getting there.

So far, your problem is their (your parents') notion of Afterlife. Well, I know you don't believe in hell, and convincing them that afterlife really doesn't exist will cause great disappointment to them... so just give them a little consolation and not tell them you're an atheist. IF they found out, just give them "Luke 12:10" (they believe in the bible, right?) "And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven". (Just don't mention the next sentence).
James, They will be dead...it wont matter if you don't meet them there. they wont even meet each other there. lol

So don't tell them...There's no harm in that I guess. Chances are it would crush them if they knew the truth.

You have to remember, people who have belief in gods are usually insecure and blinded by their own faith. They don't respond very well to their beliefs being shaken up. Even if they mean well, there is always a possibility that they will be spiteful, because they are so deeply set in their beliefs and what the bible tells them.

I've lost relationships with a few very close people thanks to them learning of my disbelief. If you value their relationship..even if it means hiding you're true self from them, then maybe it would be wise to not tell them.

My friends and family know that I am an atheist. However, I never bring up religious topics (among theists) unless I am being included in a conversation, people are getting facts wrong or if I feel that I am being attacked.

This is a great site for support, you certainly came to the right place.
I live in Alabama. There are 83 churches in a 15-mile radius of my home, according to Yahoo search. My family members are almost all Southern Baptists. I had to make a decision...hide this (knowing my own openness and talkativeness) or make it known as soon as possible. Why as soon as possible? I knew they would eventually find out about my "godlessness". I didn't want them to think of me as a coward and a liar as well.

Informing my grandmother was the most difficult. This is a woman who doesn't even allow Jehovah's Witnesses in her home. I was afraid that if I kept this from her, and she found out later, she would be very angry with me for being in her home under a guise. (And a guise it would be because religion is a primary discussion topic at her house.) I also knew that she would initially want to vent, ask harsh questions, or even tell me to leave immediately; she would feel guilty about this later out of her love for me. Oh, how I was troubled with this. I discussed this with a closet-Wiccan sister-in-law, and she offered to tell my grandmother for me. I told her I would think about it. I did, and told her if she wished to do this and thought it the best way, then she had my permission.

She did, and her wording was precisely, "I have something to tell you. Kim wanted me to tell you about this. Kim doesn't believe in god anymore. She was very worried about telling you, so I told her that I would tell you instead." My grandmother's response was, "She is just confused." My grandmother then gave her a message for me to come and see her. I did, and the subject of religion is always avoided. I know that grandma told my aunts and uncles, as everytime I am there and the subject of god or religion is brought up, if I am present, the conversation is quickly and awkwardly closed (as if I'm actually going to disrespect my grandmother by jumping in a conversation with an anti-god rant! lulz).

If I run into these other relatives outside of my grandmother's home, they do not speak to me, nor I to them as I will not impose myself on anyone. Does it hurt? Immensely. But it is not my fault. The feelings and opinions they have because of their belief is their burden to bear.

Everyone is different, as is every situation. I cannot tell you what to do or what will work for you. I can see by just you opening this discussion that you battle internally with being able to just be yourself, especially with those you love the most, and not causing your parents undue stress.

So, at work is off limits if you want to be more open about your atheism because your father would surely hear of it. Elsewhere.......I know you worry about someone telling your parents. But consider this: it would take indeed a...ahem..."special" type of person to inform your octogenarian devout Christian parents that their son was a godless heathen. Who would do that to them? Who would be so heartless to hurt them thusly? If you can think of anyone who would, if you do decide to "come out" of this closet, perhaps you need to address them personally to prevent them from doing this kind of harm to your parents.

Another point: My sister is an atheist. She has been an atheist all her life, unable to accept such bullshit early on as I had. But, she doesn't refer to herself as "atheist". She instead calls herself "nonreligious". Because of this pseudo-distinction, she receives much less contempt than I do. The only difference is that I use that infamous "A" word.
"She is just confused."....this is a very common response. I get it all the time from my parents and grandparents.

and I've also found it frustrating that "nonreligious" people receive less contempt then atheists do. I guess because if you are nonreligious...it could be that you beleive in a god, you just don't go to church or practice you're religion. or maybe you're even agnostic. but an atheist...everyone knows what that means. They know this, because from an early age, they are tought to fear and hate these "abominations".
I also want to point out that, if people DO think you are "just confused'....learn about religion. give them examples of why you don't beleive in a god. I have been told by a theist friend, that I know more about world religion, and even HIS religion then he does. (but he's still a believer).
Any one of my family members or friends who has actually spoken with me regarding religion has said the same to me. They are absolutely shocked at first when I quote scripture, refer to parables and beatitudes, and list characters, places, and books of the bible that they haven't even heard of, let alone read.

I get text messages and calls from them, asking where to find this and that in the bible, what the tenets are of this or that faith, and (shockingly enough) information that I might find interesting. (A Christian friend of mine told me about Pastor Jones' plans to burn the Koran when the ordeal just started kicking up in August. I had not yet heard of it at that time.) It almost seems as if they are glad to have an outlet for some of their own misgivings about religion.....even their own.
Our town had an equal number of bars and churches pretty much. Twenty bars and twenty churches for a population of about 4,000 people. . . just enough so that the sinners could pull an all-nighter on Saturday and still shuffle groggily into church the next morning to be forgiven of their sins the night before. Lol. Or so I always joked about.
I am 75 live in the UK and therefore I feel I do not have to hide my atheism away in a drawer. I have a badge which I wear proudly, I'I have no gods', and a pamphlet from my Freethinker magazine, which states 'Say No to religion', in my window. Of course I get remarks, but I know I have as much right to what I believe as any religious person does, and to be told that I will go to a place called Hell is not very christain..As Richard Dawkins has said until we all stand together there is no chance of getting anywhere.However I appreciate that in the States it is harder and it is sad to say we have to protect our families from outright bigotry.
If we were having a conversation at a party, aside from a group, I'd sniff you out. I'm that guy who asks questions and gets a feel for where you are coming from. I have a pile of friends whom I know are atheists, but I don't know how "out" they are. I would go as far as suggesting that out of my 386 Facebook friends, 75 of them are known to me as atheist.

I'm 36, so there isn't a mountain of time between us. I really think that the tables began to change in my generation and the current youth are vastly more open about it than say even I was as a kid. I was always a non-believer, but didn't talk about it unless someone decided that it was time for Jesus to save me. Today's youth are open and giggle at concepts like creation without reservation. The view is much more accepted and I think that these monumental changes are generation based. Most of my family are believers, but my Dad wasn't. Not because of my father, but I found church to be incredulous. Lived in a fish for 3 days... umm I gotta go. I married an Atheist and so the chances I'll raise any theists is slim to none.

I'm open and honest everywhere except in business. I don't talk politics or religion in business. I've taken on both sisters and my parents while drinking beer and sitting around the camp fire. Last night I took on a email from an uncle about who took the Bible out of schools and why it wasn't an atheist movement. I understand why it's not the norm from your generation. For me, sitting back and hearing how I'm to blame for the degradation of society due to the removal of the Bible from schools requires that I defend myself. The squashing of research based on Biblical non-sense requires that I speak up and defend life. My friends understand that is who I am and wouldn't respect anything less. If I held back my views, my friends will have never really known me and I will have done a disservice to our relationship.

Good luck in navigating whom to talk to. I've only been wrong about a person's beliefs once in my atheist radar. Fortunately my guess did no harm.
I'm open and honest everywhere except in business. I don't talk politics or religion in business.

Ditto.

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