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: 432

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

Comment by Jimmy Boy on August 12, 2011 at 12:32pm

Bryan,

Firstly - well done on coming to the position you have done.  It takes guts to admit you have in fact evolved to become an atheist.  I remember how shocking it was to make that self confession.

The Church of Christ is a pretty intense organisation - and they do have a history in some places of treating members who leave quite apallingly. I would strongly recommend having a good friend lined up who can listen to you and help you through a coming out period.  It is usually much more shocking than you might imagine.  As you presumably know well, friends and family will now believe that you are going to hell and that it is their responsibility to stop that.

The good news is that many - myself included - find that it is profoundly liberating to escape from the clutches of fundamentalism.  I too felt that it was a matter of integrity for others to know that I was no longer the person they thought I was.  I told the ones it mattered too, did not tell my mum and dad (don't see them that often - it would just upset them for no obvious benefit).

I was never so happy as the period after realising it was all rubbish: the hassle from those who feel threatened by your decision is tough though.  Hope it goes well.

So all the best with it whether you go ahead with your letter or choose some other route.

 

Jim

Comment by Steve P on August 12, 2011 at 12:40pm

Absolutely amazing letter, and your bravery to do such a thing is inspirational.

Comment by CJoe on August 13, 2011 at 6:20pm

I agree with Rick! :) I guess I just don't think it's productive to spill your guts to people through such an intimate, vulnerable letter. Like I said above, I think you should do what you think is right for you. I also think you're brave if you go through with it, and have nothing but respect for you. The idealist in me is barely kicking at this point though, and I just feel protective of newly deconverted atheists! Ha.

Your letter is beautiful and heartfelt; full of honesty and raw truth. Those of us on this side of belief can only appreciate your transition. However, as a former Christian myself, I see you giving them ammunition; I see your words reinforcing the reasons for forbidding such things as YouTube, The Sim, and (FSM forbid) taking care of your body. They'll think, "SEE! We knew those things were evil, and so this just PROVES that we should avoid wordly things."

Anyway... dude, good luck to you. I hope I'm wrong. I really related to all you said in that letter and felt like I was reading my own words. I just wanted them to understand I wasn't a reprobate! I wanted them to know it was an honest search, and an honest conclusion. And maybe the people you associate with will understand, even if they do not agree.

 

:)

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