I come from a rural area in Alabama, deep in the bible belt. My family is very religious. I, on the other hand, think entirely too much to give in to Christianity as they have. I've done my research. I even took a class entitled Survey of the Old Testament because the Old Testament is not often covered in church. I have realized that religion is probably little more than fiction but I still relapse occasionally. I think this may be due to the fact that there aren't too many people here who see the world as I do and many people are very hateful towards people like me, so I feel pressure to conform. As of right now, I claim agnostic, except when I'm around my family. I have tried to discuss my doubts with some Christians, but its like talking to a brick wall. A very hostile brick wall. I need to know why others have chosen this path, and what obstacles they face if any.
I was raised Catholic, and went to Catholic school. The more I read the bible, and observed the claims of believers and how they contrasted with their behaviors, the more I questioned. I realized that I was an atheist by the time I graduated and joined the service. I studied other religions and philosophies over the next decade, and slowly became atheist with Taoist and Buddhist philosophical leanings.
I've gotten the usual snotty behavior thrown in my direction, along with attempts at conversion. Each has served to clarify and strengthen my outlook. Theistic apologetics only have a handful of arguments, and they all have a healthy array of refutations. The more I studied both sides of the debate, the more comfortable I became.
I've noticed three stages in my atheism that seem to be fairly common to former theists. In the early stages, there was uncertainty and a degree of timidity in certain social circles. Later, there was a more combative time where I staked my personal position and argued with others. Now, it's just a part of me, and I don't think about it much. However, I still like engaging in theist/atheist debate. I just do it for the lulz instead of having a personal investment in it.
It's helped me quite a bit to surround myself in quotes from Atheists, and frequent Atheists websites and blogs. Reading these things makes me feel like I'm not crazy. I read a quote the other day that said, "Atheism is for grown-ups, you wouldn't understand." I tend to want to give people the benefit of the doubt, but the truth is they don't want to know the truth. They don't want to understand.
Good luck, you've got a friend in Texas!
Yes, sometimes it feels like I see way too many stupid people. Sadly they sometimes don't even know they are stupid.
I think I started becoming an atheist, (because for me, it was a process) when I first discovered there were many different religions. Being raised Catholic, of course I was taught that our religion was the "right religion". But then I learned that every religion believes they are the "right religion" with different reasons to "prove it". Someone had to be wrong. After a while I realized it was all of them.
I was exposed to the Baptist version of the art form when I was a kid. I went to church 'several times', and even spent a whole summer in bible school. But it was like a vaccination that didn't take.
I was a reader of stories as a kid, so the bible stories were interesting to me. But even the stories were certainly not believable, even to a ten year old.
After a while, it seemed to me that all the adults around me were 'play acting'. It was like they were all in the middle of some strange adult fantasy game. I soon got bored watching them play their game. It just seemed silly.
Yes, 'coming out' can be a little unnerving. But once you've subtly proclaimed you don't believe in God enough times through conversation, things get easier. Unless you have friends and family that are hardcore religious believers, you can mention it enough times that they'll get used to hearing it. After a while it won't seem to bother them at all. At least that's how it was for me.
I do have many friends who believe. That's not a problem, I just keep it in mind when I'm with them. I don't think I could enjoy my life as much as I do without being friends with some believers. Just because they believe in something I don't, doesn't mean I can't be friends with them. No matter how I may feel about their skewed mental state, I would never intentionally hurt their feelings.
I think it all has to do with how you interact with other people in your everyday life. I don't say a word about my atheism unless someone asks or I'm on a forum like this one. If it doesn't come up, there's no reason to say a thing. I'm not a militant atheist, I just don't believe.
There's no way I'm personally going to rid the world of the malady of 'belief'. So why should I martyr my peaceful life for the sake of trying to change the minds of those who partake in the frenzy?
If I'm accosted by a book-thumper, I'm pretty quick to let them know my point of view. But unless I'm forced to get defensive, I just leave the room. I pick my battles.
I feel I've done my fair share of fighting against the robe & cloth in my day. My head still hurts from beating it against the wall. I now live the life of a quiet atheist.
For me, the best part of not believing, is peace of mind.
I actually like the "play acting" part. As an atheist, I'm totally turned on by Catholic beliefs and rituals and love the idea of being transformed and submitting myself into becoming a believer. Sadly, so far, it's more along the lines of method acting where I can psych myself up to actually, if temporarily, believing it all (with lots of Cathechism to bolster it) while play acting. Secretly, I'd love to fall into complete belief but my mind won't give into to it.
So, I too stay quiet. For my situation that's probably very wise! :)