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.