I'm getting ready to "come out" to my family and church. I've written a letter to send to the church or any family member in the event that I cannot personally talk with them for fear of my own safety. I intend to go about this in the least dramatic way possible, and only use this letter if I have to. If there is any drama, it will be caused by the church or by my family- not by me. I played a very active role in the church (I'm their best worship leader, they keep saying), so I expect some backlash. If you have any advice, please comment below. If you would like to provide moral support, that is encouraged as well. Here it is: 

 

To Whom it May Concern:

 

In my nearly seventeen years of life on this planet, no congregation has ever been so loving, considerate, and supportive as my family and the Church of Christ at {CITY NAME WITHHELD}. For that I express my overwhelming gratitude. They have unwittingly saved my life on more than one occasion by giving me a sense of purpose and belonging. The days in which I found solace in the church are long gone now, as my hormones continue to steadily settle down. 

According to the bible {PREACHER} gave me a few months after the fact, I was baptized into Christ on March 12, 2006. I seem to recall it being March 11, but the memory has since been sandpapered away to only a handful of images and sensations. I remember being baptized face-down and floating to the top of the baptistry. I remember taking communion for the first time. I remember hugging everyone. I remember {FORMER YOUTH MINISTER} inviting me to bible class with the teenagers. I remember my grandmother giving me advice about Satan’s temptations over a pepperoni pizza. I have a few pictures from that night, but I don’t recall where we put them. Mom surely kept them in a safe place. It’s a special memory for me, still.

Then complacency set in, as it always does. I rededicated my life in secret several times, although I feared that I would go to Hell if I didn’t walk the aisle and rededicate my life publicly. Something kept me from doing it. Even so, I maintained a strong, almost unshakable conviction that God was real and that he was watching my every move. Two years went by, and I never questioned anything that I was told. The child’s mind is biologically set up to accept anything it hears from its elders. 

I’ve always been a thoughtful person, but when I became a teenager, my thought processes began to work independently. I started to do things that I previously thought were “bad” or “wrong.” Most of these were petty things, such as playing The Sims, watching YouTube, and displaying my interest in becoming more physically fit. This was a time of self-exploration, but apart from just trying things to see what I liked, I also developed what I called the “third person” philosophy. It basically stated that in order to answer large questions, such as “Should the government have a role in business?” or “What happens after we die?”, we must first detach ourselves emotionally from the problem, and look at it from a third person point of view, considering the evidence and/or what is best for society. With the types of questions I was examining, God’s existence would inevitably surface. 

Since I was 13, I knew that there was a chance that God didn’t exist, labeling myself as an agnostic theist, but I had never been brave enough to look into it. When I was 15, I decided that God would forgive me for trying to make up my mind, and if I didn’t believe in God by the time it was over, then I didn’t really need forgiving. I set out to make the most informed opinion I possibly could about this matter. Why wouldn’t I, if the state of my eternal soul hung in the balance?  

To be brief, I reviewed all the evidence I had come across at the end of a year, expansive as it was (I must have read at least 5000 words worth of it every day, and watched a whole lot more video), and concluded that God probably didn’t exist. Religion became so much more interesting than before, and I felt like a tremendous weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. I dug deeper, and found my interests expanded into biology, theology, church history, philosophy, psychology, anthropology, and archeology. As I write to you now, I want you to realize that this is not rebellion. I’m not going through a phase. I feel like if I decided for some reason to turn back and actively participate in religion of any kind, I would feel like I was kidding myself. 

If you attend the services of the {CITY NAME} Church of Christ, you might be confused or shocked by this revelation. Let me reassure you, my behavior around you was not a facade. I feel like I can be very genuine around you. My enthusiastic song leading and the recent lesson I delivered to you all I have summed up to be compensation, my mind making up for not believing in God, by acting more faithful than ever.

I hope that now that I have gotten these things off of my chest, even though I am an Atheist, I can still manage to have a friendly relationship with all of you. I do realize, however, that this is not possible with some of you, and to those I say thank you and goodbye. Please make no attempt to change me or create friction between myself and the people who still accept me for who I am. 

 

Still your friend,

Bryan J. Casey

 

Views: 431

Tags: agnosticism, atheism, baptism, christ, christianity, church, coming, family, letter, out, More…studying, theism

Comment by Dale Headley on August 11, 2011 at 3:27pm

   Bryan; it's nice to know that there are people like you who THINK.  The church is dedicated to keeping you from thinking.  Also, it's clear that you have always been a closet humanist; but the church despises humanists for putting human beings' happiness and welfare above the blind worship of a mythical, jealous magician in the sky.

Comment by Tex on August 11, 2011 at 3:44pm

Isn't it funny (or not) that he should have any problem expressing he doesn't believe, I mean it's like he's telling everyone he's gay (which is fine too) but worse. Why should anyone have to feel guilty for not believing in talking snakes and all the other malarkey? Welcome to the world of rational, logical,sane thinking Bryan, the longer you're away from GOD the more amazed you will become with the people around you, and not necessarily for the better...lol.

Comment by Branden Ballard on August 11, 2011 at 4:04pm

You're a very smart & brave man, Bryan. Your letter is very encouraging, powerful, and also a voice for many who are voiceless in this issue. Best of luck to you.  

Comment by Anthony Martin Page on August 11, 2011 at 4:27pm
How about..... "Hey folks, listen up. God has re assigned me to be an atheist As I have no control over his actions I must assume he has a plan for me.
See ya all around."

As they already believe the other rubbish, this should sail through.

Good luck Bryan
Comment by ryan on August 11, 2011 at 6:18pm

This post really reminded me of the fear I used to live in of whether my family would figure out that I had abandoned notions of god.

I was angry and arrogant in my early days; just as bad as any evangelical christian. I was angry at having felt lied to when all wanted was truth. I would caution against arrogance in your response to certain backlash from the church/friends/family. But send that letter out. You might save someone for real.

 

I don't believe in god, but if I can save just one mind from heaven, I have done my duty to humanity. --I don't remember where I heard this.

 

 

Comment by Jerod on August 11, 2011 at 8:30pm

There's nothing to feel guilty about, man.  I think telling your loved ones is definately the right thing to do, the harder way out usually is. Your church and family will probably be sad for you, and not because of you. It isn't like they are just going to stop loving you :)  

Comment by James on August 11, 2011 at 11:06pm

Bryan, I must say that is a very well written letter. I consider it rather brave to come out to your church in such a way. But the words on the page leave them no room for anger, so the only attitude you should get would be from those looking to be offended. I too came out to my family via a letter. The writing process itself was therapeutic a letter, refined it, and left it out for them to find. I feel it help them understand, and we can usual;y discuss it without much issue now. I wish you the best of luck!

Comment by CJoe on August 11, 2011 at 11:09pm

Obviously you should do whatever you feel compelled to do, but I'm in the camp that says don't do it.

For fear of being ostracized? No. Well, sort of, yes. Mainly no. I can tell you though... having everyone turn their back on you at the same time will be quite traumatic. Yes, eventually telling your family is important (and select friends)... inevitable even. But the whole church? Leaders of the church? You're asking for mass rejection. Why not do it in stages? Slowly, so your entire network of support isn't ripped out from under you suddenly.

I know you feel like getting it off your chest, but I'm afraid you just won't get the reaction you want. And I say this because I didn't get the response I wanted. 

I was a lot like you. Devout. I was even an example some people wanted to follow. I was completely dedicated. I really thought that the fact I had been so loyal for so long would cause people to actually wonder why I no longer believed there was a god.

The sad truth is, however, Christians are always ready to forget everything they ever knew about you in favor of their preformed ideas of those who "turn their back on God!" They must believe you're rebelling in order to maintain their own faith. A genuine curiosity to know more, and honestly finding that there is no god? No. That cannot be the reason you are now a non-believer. As thoughtful as your letter is, they will shove their own ideas between the lines; they will not see your letter as thoughtful but as confused.

I'm not trying to be negative, but... the hardest thing you'll discover about your Christian friends is that they live in a world insulated against all your logic, rationality, and intellectual inquiries. They live in a different reality than you, and the further you get from the last moment you believed, the wider the divide will be between you and them. Most of them will not stand by you; they will not support you. They will not remember who you are.

My own family doesn't know me. My best friends while I was a Christian tell me (yes, TELL me) that I'm just being rebellious; that I know the truth in my heart. I just had a bad experience with The Church (which I really didn't). They say they accept me even though I'm atheist. I feel that if a person says they accept you "even though", they don't really accept you... because if they truly did, they wouldn't mention it... because they already approve. You don't say "I love you even though you're such a nice person!" You don't have to mention things you really accept.

Well... anyway... I think you should do yourself a favor and let this happen naturally, and keep your expectations of them low. I know it hurts like hell to keep this to yourself, but there's nothing to gain by expressing yourself to your church. Your attendance will eventually fade. You'll find friends who think the way you do. You'll transition out of your past life. It will get easier, but not before it gets harder.

Don't get too discouraged whatever you do. You have a network of people here ready and willing to support you. Don't hesitate to come to this site and let it all out! :)

Comment by Darrell Mont on August 11, 2011 at 11:16pm

Stay strong. Good luck.

Comment by Bryan Casey on August 12, 2011 at 12:13am

What I might have failed to mention in my first blog post is that the town where I live is very small (population circa 2,000 as of 2009), so as you can probably guess, word of mouth saturates Small Town, America’s collective consciousness in about the same time it takes for you to brush your teeth. There can be no slow transition for this reason, and the psychologist I was taken to emphatically stressed the importance of getting this off of my chest when I feel comfortable, and the damage that could be done by keeping this to myself for at least two more years. That being said, I decided the best course of action would be to do what Rick asked me to consider: 

 

“Instead, consider simply living your life as an atheist. There’s no need to hide it. If someone questions you about your beliefs, tell your story, but do it with conviction and confidence...”

 

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