The irony is that people talk about 'coming out as an atheist' like they do with homosexuals admitting their nature to their parents and friends. It's like there is some great problem with these things. I cannot understand why people discrimerate like this!! It is ironic that everyone assumes that you are a straight christian until you say otherwise. It's crazy! Why doesn't everyone have a clean slate about a person before having to correct all the assumptions they have made?
Assumptions are bad scientific practice!
As sad as it is to admit this, I feel I must count myself fortunate to have been born a heterosexual, due to the rampant homophobia and intolerant remarks I've noticed from my family as well as others in the area where I live. My mother and grandfather have been accepting of my atheism and I know that if I had been a lesbian they would've found the strength to be accepting of that as well, against the ideas that were taught to them by the church. My dad, however, has made offensive homophobic remarks fairly frequently for years, and even stopped going to church entirely because ECUSA (Episcopal Church USA - the national church as a whole) has decided to be open and accepting of gays in ministry. This has a point, I promise. And here it is.
For a long time, this was what kept me from voicing my doubts about Christianity to my dad, even before I became an atheist. I was afraid that he'd view me the same way he views others with certain "different" viewpoints or lifestyles. (Today, as I mentioned in a comment on my last blog, I refrain from telling him because he is quite sick and I feel that casting doubt on his beliefs would be detrimental to his emotional health. I believe that he would be more open to accepting my viewpoint now than he would have been a few years ago.) He was raised by strictly Catholic parents who went so far as to refuse all forms of birth control (in fact, his mother had six live children in total and many more miscarriages, and nearly died giving birth to my dad) - so I have little doubt about the kinds of absolutes he must have been brought up believing. He's no doubt come a long way from where he was, but I'm sure that he's still at a disadvantage because of the things he was taught by the Church.
My mom's side of the family is also mostly Catholic, though for the most part they seem to be more reasonable about issues like birth control and wifely subservience. My late uncle on her side married a woman shortly before he died. It was the second marriage for both of them, and they both had kids already. My newest aunt is a very lovely woman in many ways; she is kind, generous, and loving. However, she has one large flaw, which is that she was also brought up in the discriminatory, conservative Christian culture. I was at her house with my parents, grandfather, and ex-boyfriend (also an atheist) a few years ago, and she was ranting about her son going to visit his father. Apparently the father was dating a younger woman - an atheist - who was really into doing things for shock value.
She and her son are both Christian (she loves to tell the story about how they both got "saved" at the same time - never mind the fact that they had already been "saved" prior to that) and she was up in arms about the fact that her ex-husband wouldn't take him to church on Sunday. She went so far as to say that his girlfriend "better not be teaching [her] son any of that atheist devil-worshipping crap!" I was deeply hurt, and didn't feel free to speak up in the presence of my dad, so I let it go.
It's sad that in this day and age, with all the scientific advances and acceptance of non-Christian religions, there is still such a backlash against non-believers. Nobody cares much about what you believe as long as you still believe in some sort of god. I suppose if you believe in the "wrong" god, then they figure that you'll still have a good chance of being rewarded for your faith... or maybe they figure that even though it's the "wrong" god, you still have a basis for morality because you still have the threat of being punished or rewarded by a deity. It's sad that people will go to such lengths - believe horrible things, do horrible things, ostracise their loved ones - all basically because they are so afraid of ceasing to exist when they die.
When will people realise that morals mean more when they aren't coming from empty threats and promises, and that it makes no sense to accuse an atheist of worshipping anything due to the very nature of atheism? And perhaps most importantly, when will people stop clinging to outdated notions of "Big Brother in the Sky" and realise that non-existence after death is not a scary thing?