I'd like to share a little more about my history, to elucidate some of the reasons why I remain a closet atheist, besides the financial and familial reasons I've already described on this blog.

I was raised Lutheran, but my parents were not very regular church-goers.  I went through Confirmation, and was a regular church attender and choir member as a teenager.  Then I went to college, and immediately stopped attending church.  So when I got out on my own in my early 20s, I continued to drift away from "the faith," and became a sort of neo-pagan: tarot cards, runes, all that kind of bullshit. After a painful breakup with a girlfriend with whom I lived for several years, I found myself reaching for solace in religion, and began going to an Episcopal church. Nice and liberal, but very liturgical...

That's about the time I met the woman who would soon become my wife.  She was a Bible college graduate, but not at all prudish.  We dated for a year, and then got married.  We've been married for almost fifteen years, and have two daughters. She's remained a committed Christian, even though she's gotten considerably more liberal than she once was.  I, on the other hand, have been all over the map when it comes to religion.  For awhile, I thought I wanted to become Catholic.  Then I was certain I had lost my faith entirely, but I missed the social aspect of church life, and went back to church.  For a little while, I thought I wanted to become Eastern Orthodox, and then I considered returning to the Lutheranism of my youth.  But as the years have gone by, I have had more and more periods where atheism seems the most sensible worldview. There was a time, shortly after I got married, when I accidentally revealed to my wife that I had lost my faith.  She found it very difficult to understand, and there were many tears shed. After a few weeks, I went back to church with her. Would she react in the same way, almost a dozen years later? I don't know.

Part of the problem for me has been that it is extremely difficult for me to break away from the cultural norms that have been a part of my life for most of the past 45 years. I spend a lot of time with people for whom god, faith, etc. are natural parts of their everyday lives.  Even my parents, who are not particularly religious people, have often talked of my brother who died last summer being "in heaven, looking down on us." They go to his grave to talk to him.  The "default setting" for much of my life has been this vaguely religious worldview, that gets a little more explicit on Sundays, and then takes a backseat to the rest of my daily life.  When we visit my in-laws, who are more devout, we don't drink and we pray before meals.  The rest of the time, god doesn't really enter into it much.

Why do I keep going back to my default position of nominal religiosity? May as well ask why I keep speaking in English, in a sense. Atheism as a second language hasn't been very easy for me to learn!  I am a creature of habit, to a certain extent.  Because I'm also sentient, I have the ability to reflect on the problem, and yes, I have the ability to go in a different direction.  But I haven't fully committed to that kind of cultural adjustment yet.

I know, to a lot of more committed atheists, this seems like weakness.  And it is, I admit it. I have long followed the path of least resistance when it comes to the issue of religion.  So I come here and share thoughts on a forum where I can retain my anonymity.  It relieves the pressure a bit, but it's not ideal, certainly. Someone commented on my earlier blog post about "living in the closet" that I need to choose between "honesty and security." I agree.  And for right now, I'm still choosing security.  The thing is, I realize there's no god to help me get through the decision, so I'm on my own.  And I'm handling it in the only way I know how.  I really do appreciate many of the comments that have been made on my blog posts, both the supportive and the critical ones.  It all helps me gain some more perspective.  Thanks for reading.

Views: 120

Comment by Belle Rose on August 20, 2014 at 1:53pm

Hi A.T, I enjoy your blogs, and I enjoy your writing....

Something stood out to me that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up:

Atheism as a second language hasn't been very easy for me to learn!

There's nothing to learn. It simply means that you no longer believe what you once thought you believed. There are no holy books to follow, people or things to worship, or ways you are required to act to be considered a "good Atheist" the way that you would if you were to be considered a "good Christian." So there's nothing to learn.

Think Atheist I find to be a fascinating cite. You might be interested to learn a little of my own story, may be that will help you put things in a different perspective.

I joined Think Atheist almost exactly 2 years ago. At the time I was a TOTAL Christian. I was living in an abusive marriage, and had only just started to realize it. I had gone to an orientation at the local domestic violence agency in my area to find out, because I suspected it was abusive, but I didn't know FOR SURE....when I sat there for the 3 hour presentation, my stomach sunk deeper and deeper. I knew that I was married to a man who was abusive.

The question then became, "What do I do???" Because I was such a dedicated Christian, divorce was in my mind a ticket to hell. I thought that would be the worst thing, both for me and for my son. Shortly after I had these startling realizations, I heard about Think Atheist. I had been on facebook debating a friend of mine, citing every video I could on Ravi Zaccharias, Dr. James Dobson....I really thought that I knew answer, and that God held ALLLLL the answers.

At first I felt like I was being sucked in by Satan. I had nightmares and felt sick to my stomach. But I was hooked. I posed a lot of questions on the forum and got into a lot of debates with various members of T.A......

Then the domestic violence kept getting worse. I tried to escape from my home physically with my son in arms. I wanted to go to a domestic violence shelter. My ex-husband stopped me from leaving, tore my purse and keys out of my hand, and called the cops on me and told them that he didn't want me taking our son anywhere and that HE would leave instead. The cops agreed with him because he was so "nice." They didn't stop to think that if HE left, that meant that he could return any time he wanted!!!!

After several more verbal and even physical/sexual assaults I began to feel my mind slipping. I remember sitting on the side of my bath tub honestly wondering if I had lost my mind. I felt like I was crazy. When he said things to me like, "I didn't push you, you totally fell," when I KNEW he did....but I started to question my own sanity.

So I started to fear for my life. Mostly because the domestic violence agency always said that when a woman is leaving her abusive relationship, she is at the highest risk of being killed. I worried about that. My ex-husband liked to break things in front of my face. He did this very often. Or he would stand over me as I was cooking dinner and I felt like even one wrong move and he could/would assault me. One time he did. He called me names and made me feel completely worthless.

I won't even go into what he did to our son.

So with all of this happening to me, I tried to seek answers within the church. THERE WAS NO HELP!! I was amazed at the sheer LACK of answers. Such as, "Submit to him and look at your own part of the wrong doing." I would google things like, "how to respond to an abusive husband as a Christian wife," - it all said to seek counseling with the church. Problem number 1 was, my ex-husband REFUSED counseling! Problem number 2. ALL scientific research shows that if a partner is abusive it can WORSEN if they start couples counseling.

So the church's answers were empty. So having been isolated from my friends and family, literally having NO ONE to turn to..........I turned to T.A. One member in particular who I wish to remain anonymous. This person helped me. Rescued me. SAVED MY LIFE!!! with no strings attached. Not expecting anything in return. Not for any selfish motive. Not even wanting a public THANK YOU!!!!!!!!

I came to realize that one man or woman who is willing to get involved and who is willing to help out another person through ACTION, not prayer, is able to affect more than a million people praying.

I became an Atheist because I realized that religion - Christianity - held no answers for me. I realized this in a matter of months, because it was a life or death situation, and my prayers were not being answered just by praying. I didn't have to "learn" anything to become an Atheist. I just simply realized that everything I believed, everything that I stood for, everything that I thought I was - I was not.

Now I have been divorced over a year. My ex-husband no longer has a domestic violence order against him, and he has made several efforts to change himself and his conduct towards our son. He is still chillingly disrespectful towards me, but it is changing - slowly. There are times when he's very nice, and other times when I have to literally hang up on him to keep him from going off on me. He is still a dr. Jekyll and mr hyde. But overall, we have managed to find a way to be co-parents to our beautiful son. I am meeting with a lawyer next week in regards to a few concerns I have to find out my options. But I have slowly .........slowly learned to stand up for myself again. I have slowly re-gained some confidence and self esteem, and I have started to rebuild myself, a moment at a time.

There is so much more to my story....but in a nutshell what I'm trying to get you to understand or at least ponder is the fact that being a self-identified Atheist doesn't mean you have to do or say anything. I just means you no longer believe the way you once did. The way that you arrived at those conclusions doesn't matter. I for example, didn't have the time or the mindset to read book upon book upon book about atheism like some members of this site. I watched videos, skimmed through books, etc....but for ME I became an atheist because I realized that there were no answers to my life and death situation. If there were no answers in that, then there weren't answers in anything else either, so it made no sense to continue to believe in a world view that was so empty.

You don't ever become a "strong Atheist." You become an Atheist that's strong.

Comment by Belle Rose on August 20, 2014 at 1:54pm

Comment by A.T. Heist on August 20, 2014 at 3:09pm

Thank you SO much for sharing your personal story, Belle Rose.

And also for the quote from Louisa May Alcott...actually, my wife is a huge Alcott fan.

Comment by Belle Rose on August 20, 2014 at 4:07pm
Comment by Tom Sarbeck on August 22, 2014 at 3:50am

Belle, I'm puzzled.

A. T. said that atheism as a second language hasn't been very easy for him to learn. For him, learning atheism requires him to do a lot of unlearning and then relearning, both of which are forms of learning.

You replied that there's nothing to learn and then told us how very much you unlearned before you could learn atheism.

Yep, I'm puzzled.

BTW, I'm studying Spanish on my ipad, and as time allows xlating your post of several days ago. Gracias.


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