Just over a year ago, I managed to get a new church music job: it pays better (and I've gotten two raises in the past year); the people I work with are very cool; my kids and wife love it there, and truthfully, I love it there. There's just one thing I realized today: in my heart of hearts, I don't actually believe in God. I pray out loud with my choir every week, I participate in Sunday School and talk about the Bible with other Christians, I often pay a lot of lip service to God. It's part of my job, and I really love my job. But when I am really honest with myself, and think about whether I really believe that there's a God, that prayer actually works, that there is an afterlife, all that stuff--when I really examine it, I realize that I don't buy it. If the Church as an institution suddenly ceased to exist, I would be out of a job, and that would be unfortunate for me and my family, but I don't think it would change my life in any other way.

Before I have a bunch of people comment that I'm being dishonest with my friends and family, and with myself, let me state that I have absolutely no intention of telling others in my life about this new realization. If you've read any of my earlier blog posts (I haven't check in here in over a year), you can read about my struggle with this issue. As I said above, I genuinely enjoy working with the people at my church. They're cool people. Sure, there's a few of the folks that spout the usual party line about "being blessed" and about how much they "love Jesus," but most of them are people that I would want to hang out with, even if I didn't work at that church. 

I certainly respect atheists who have been able to "come out of the closet," but that's not gonna happen any time in my near future. It's a free country, and I have the right to pretend to be Christian as much as I want. I worked twenty years in retail, and I spent most of that time pretending in front of customers that the company I worked for was GREAT, so I don't see any difference in this job. I'm good at the church music I do, and I enjoy it. But today was a bit of an epiphany, because I've been speaking the language of faith long enough that I really thought I was believing it. And all of a sudden today, I realized that simply wasn't the case.

So, life goes on...and so do I.

Views: 129

Comment by Reg The Fronkey Farmer on August 24, 2016 at 4:54pm

Well done on “getting it”. I know of some members of the clergy that are atheists but are “not out” about it. Clergy Project. It is obviously not for you but I am just pointing out that there are many people in a similar position to you. We have a long term member here who plays the Church Organ fulltime.

I think you are taking the correct approach to it by staying silent. At least for a year or two. Your epiphany reminds me of the line about the singer who “became an overnight success after twenty years in the business”. However you will most likely find that you will start to re-evaluate your life as your worldview changes. It can be emotional. Some people get angry for having believed for so long while others mourn the loss of community if when they leave their church. A sort of 5 stage grieving process maybe?

However you are not there to feel blessed or to pray. You are there to add to and share in the community spirit with your friends. But you are going to go on a new journey and there is nothing you can do to prevent that – which is a good thing. You will enjoy discovering new knowledge and perspectives that you never had before. I wish you well. I know one atheist that can be stopped in his tracks by a perfect “middle C” and find his thoughts go to interesting places.

When you come back from your Sunday School you can always check out our atheist version.  Don’t read too much into the quote in the first comment :-)

Comment by TJ on August 24, 2016 at 6:01pm

Epiphanies can be inconvenient.  You have every right to remain closeted though, as a practical matter.

You could start looking for another gig of course, so, if something became available that required living less of a lie...it would be an option at least.

MOST atheists are closeted, BECAUSE of direct, as in your case, or indirect, adverse impacts coming out tends to trigger in some places.

You didn't lose your faith, you found the truth.  You realized there's no Santa Claus, but, can't tell the other kids because the parents will come after you.


Comment by matt.clerke on August 24, 2016 at 7:19pm

I've been speaking the language of faith long enough that I really thought I was believing it

This is an interesting quote, imo. It makes me think there's probably far more people like you than the church would like to think. The worst part is that there are children who speak this "language of faith" ever since they were able to talk, and they will most likely never question it, despite the answer to that question being able to shatter their worldview.

Comment by TJ on August 25, 2016 at 9:05am

The inhibitory issue is not DESPITE the answer to that question being able to shatter their worldview...its BECAUSE the answer is able to shatter their worldview.

Humans, typically, resist changes to their worldview, hence, confirmation bias as the default.

The closer an idea gets to shattering that, the more walls get built to protect the view from it.

Comment by A.T. Heist on August 29, 2016 at 10:12am

I'm going to admit something here that's difficult for me, because it makes my feel like a total weeny. I have lost track of how many times in the past couple decades I've decided that I really don't believe in god, only to fall back into my default religion. My track record over the past several years (since discovering Think Atheist) is: realize that I really don't believe in god, post on TA for a week or so, harbor my secret thoughts while I continue working in the church, have some "meaningful" experience at church, decide I really do believe in God, repeat again a year later. (Shampoo, rinse, repeat.) Religion has been a difficult cultural context for me to break out of. Meanwhile, I often wonder if I've just become too skillful over the years at compartmentalizing my intellect and religious beliefs. In other words, do I just convince myself that I actually believe, just to make things easier for myself? Every time I have the epiphany that atheism makes more sense, I feel like I've awakened from a dream, to a certain extent. I say to myself, "Well, you've done a good job of talking the talk, but you really don't believe it, do you?" 

All this is to say, if I disappear for several months, you can just chalk it up to my intellectual weakness, or peer pressure or whatever. But chances are, I'll be back in several months, ready to confront myself again...

Comment by A.T. Heist on August 29, 2016 at 10:15am

P.S. I checked the dates on My Page, and it was Feb. of 2015 that I last realized I was still secretly atheist. Then no posts until last week. Boy, what a doofus I can be...


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