So you are a non-theist, maybe you recently made this decision or maybe it has been a lifelong thought process that you have always had.

But there is a social problem: What about telling friends or family about your convictions?

How have you handled this- or do you just follow a don't ask don't tell policy to avoid the issue? Is it an issue or just tradition?

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Nelson I believe we are as one. We think the same thoughts as what you have just stated.
I am not afraid now to tell anyone that I am an Atheist and I am proud of it How can so many religions exists and be true when there are so many. If someone believes in a god if they are black do they think of him as black, white as white, etc.
I agree the study of all faiths and religions are great but i just get more confused.
All I want is to see a world where there is no abuse, no starvation at all, so is that bad to be called an atheist believing in these things. and living with caring for others, whatever their faith.
I'm pretty straightforward about being an atheist. If someone asks, I'll tell them without beating about the burning bush. That's how I ended up telling my mother, incidentally. She asked if I'd been going to church recently, and I replied No, I'm an atheist. Which then led to a 3 hour discussion.

If it doesn't get brought up, then I don't make an issue of it, but if it does, I don't hide it, either. I am rather glad that my grandmother hasn't asked, as she's fairly religious and I'd not want to hurt her by having her think that her grandchild is damned, but if it does come up I'll just have to try to break it to her as gently as I can.
I'm fairly open about it, but also take it on a case by case basis. Most of my family and friends know. Yet I haven't told my fiance's mother yet. With most people I don't come right out and say it if the topic at hand isn't focused on religion. However my references to science and logic are ever present. However if the topic of religion comes up, I have no issue saying what I am (save a client of mine that I don't want to lose). But my friends except me for me, so I have no issues there. My parents like to throw out little quips (my dad is usually joking, my mother more serious), but I'm always able to expertly reverse them.

So you first need to know that you can defend your stance before you come out. After that, I'd just ask myself how they will likely act to this news. But as Nelson said, weeding out people that will turn away from you because of this isn't really a bad thing. After all, they're not really a true friend after all.
My dad's Christian, but not really religious, so he never really cared. My mom's a religious nut, and when she found out, she instantly started asking the bogus questions [which I knew were rhetorical]: Where did we come from? How did the universe get here? etc., etc.
I walked out of the room as soon as it came up, because I knew she wasn't open-minded to valid answers that didn't involve divine intervention. That was the last time she brought it up, even though she still forwards religious e-mails to me; but she'd done that before she knew anyway, so I don't take it that offensively.

As for publically, it hasn't really mattered. My closest friends are atheists as well, and I guess most of the people with whom I become acquainted aren't aware of my religious standing until after they're my friend. It hasn't really been an issue for anyone I know in real life, but being an atheist online seems to draw much more negative attention. But I probably draw that attention by actively participating in religious debates online.
I suppose for me it's a "don't ask don't tell" out of respect for my family. I don't mean respect for their religion, but their personal relationship with me. My family is a generation behind, ultra Conservative Republican and Catholic (albeit non-practicing Catholics). They do not debate well, and they cannot say at the end of the day that they still love me despite my opinions. When my mother found out I voted for Obama she was livid and never told my father for fear it would kill him (he's 86). So out of respect for not wanting my family to have heart attacks I keep my mouth shut. I think you have to choose your battles and some aren't really worth fighting.

It's not easy though. I'm an environmentalist, so to hear my dad talk about how global warming is a hoax to obtain more federal funding for scientists (to do what with I wonder?) makes me want to spit nails. I try to argue a little, but when it becomes too heated I back down to avoid WWIII.

My brother is agnostic (probably an atheist though he's never really pondered the issues). My sister is a re-born christian. I am an atheist, and my mother seems to have accepted that both my brother and I think religion is a pile of crap, though I think deep down she considers it a fad and doesn't believe someone can actually not believe in god. My sister on the other hand is fun to provoke and argue with when you get her going. But as with anything else in my family, I keep my debates to a minimum so we can all have dinner together.

As for friends and acquaintances--that's been the most difficult. My husband, one good friend of ours and my sister-in-law are all in agreement with my views--but outside of that close group I find myself losing friends and obtaining more random twitter and facebook friends who are atheists just so I can have someone to talk to. I've noticed a big surge in Facebook with people defriending me or avoiding talking to me there because of some of the groups I'm members of or because of some of the links I post. And I'm really not that confrontational unless they come at me first. I would welcome a debate...just most christians I know don't even want to go there. Not sure why; because they don't feel they could adequately argue their side? or do they think I'm already lost and not worth trying to convert?

Sometimes I feel like I can understand what it's like to come out as a homosexual. That lovely freeing feeling of telling the world what you believe, but at the same time knowing it will lose you friends, family and possibly co-workers.
This question looks a little bit strange to me, maybe because I'm not from the USA (I'm from Switzerland). To be an atheis is normal to me. I undersand that it may be difficult for guy people to "admit" to their relatives that they are gay. But that could not be compared with this conviction. To be an atheis is so normal like to have brown hair or blue eyes. :-) It's just nothing special.

I personally think it's odd to believe in something supernatural, and not to trust in science and reason.
Jeez... I wish I lived in a country where it was normal to be Atheist. Here, it honestly does feel like telling someone you're gay. It's like belonging to a secret cult almost, because you can't just bring it up anywhere without knowing what the people around you believe... unless you wanted to be verbally assaulted or avoided like the plague.
Being gay is often seen as more acceptable, just so long as you're not an atheist as well.
I wear my Think Atheist bracelets 24-7 and have never had a problem. (I've got some nasty scars on my right hand and wrist, so I always wear SOMETHING there to distract/cover, and these are pretty hygienic and look cool.) When I was in Thailand, pretty much all my friends were atheist or Buddhist, so no one to really froth at the mouth. Now that I'm in Scotland, no one cares, either. Really, the biggest battles I get are on the internet.
My family is on the other side of the globe, so it isn't a big deal. I'm not really close to any living relatives, anyway. The aunties I am close to know. One isn't religious at all and has an openly gay son. She's more deist than anything. The other is Mormon and doesn't believe in hell, anyway. Since she didn't agree with the religion I was raised in to begin with, I haven't 'turned from god' but instead 'never knew him to begin with' so I'm not a Daughter of Perdition. That means she's going to do a post-death baptism on me so I can get into heaven. Um.. cool! It makes her feel better, so that's ok.
My mom has tried to debate me on America being a 'Christian Nation' and 'Violence entered our schools when god was asked to leave' and I spanked her ass on the real facts, as well as called her out for being a personal hypocrite when it comes to scripture. She doesn't bring it up anymore. At all. Ever.
Really, the best thing they ever did was send me to church. I'm well armed when it comes to religious discussions. Too well armed. No one wants to engage me anymore :(
Sadly it looks like my next stop will be a Catholic majority country, so we'll see if my tune changes from there. It's been easy sailing so far.
An American perspective: I'm very similar to Julie with regards to my parents. I told them after I got out of the military (about 20 years ago) that I was agnostic, and it still comes up in conversation every now and then. At the time my father was a cynic who never went to church, while my mother was very active in the church. Since then my father has developed a more profound religious life style and I feel he has regrets for how he used to feel.
But honestly I do not want to pick this as a battle with them as they are both in their 70s now and we just don’t discuss my religious beliefs. I don’t think they would handle the fact that I have moved on to become an atheist very well and I don’t want to cause them any strife or additional guilt (which is how they will take it).
In regards to friends and co-workers though, I have no qualms about revealing this to them. My brother and sister know how I feel (they are both agnostic).
No one I know has any problems with it. The ONLY person I worry about is my mother-- I think she would be devastated. For her, prayer is an extremely important part of her life, and for her to think that I don't experience that would really upset her.

But, if it were to come up, like if she asked me straight out, I would be honest with her. That one can't choose whether to believe something or not-- you either believe it or you don't, based on what you observe. For instance, I do believe my brother is watching TV out in the living room, because I saw him there and I can hear the TV. I could not bring myself to believe that the TV is actually off, even if wanted to. Anyways.. she knows I have always been a sincere seeker of truth, and I think if I can make her see that my worldview stems from following what my conscience dictates, she would understand.

Still, the longer I can put off having that discussion, the better, as far as I'm concerned. :)

BTW regarding the gay thing.. I also happen to be a lesbian -- and have never really had much of a problem with people knowing that either (including my mother, incidentally-- she's basically fine with it). I do think that people feel much more comfortable engaging in debate with atheists than they do with gay folk. I guess it's just more socially acceptable. Regardless, I've not had much of a problem with either... I've been fortunate to have found myself surrounded by some pretty friendly, open-minded people. :)
I told my parents once I moved out permanently (at 18), although I was agnostic by 15 or so and an agnostic atheist by 17. Beyond that, I don't blare it out, but I'm comfortable being who I am. If someone raises an issue where it's relevant or if they ask me, I'm quite comfortable being forward and open about it, but I don't go around introducing myself by saying "Hi, I'm Sam, I'm an atheist". Even when newer friends invite me to religious events, I tend to say "Sorry, but I'm not interested in religious events" over "Sorry but I'm an atheist", partly because the former is more true (I've gone to a couple religious events as an atheist observer) and partly because I don't care to fight with a new friend over their beliefs if they're not trying to indoctrinate or convert me.

In this, I do believe in doing unto others as would have them do unto me. I don't want someone shoving their faith system down my throat unless I open debate on a religious issue and so I won't do it to them with my lack of belief.


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