Sunday, February 5, 2012

Atheism in America

I just read this article on It made me think about coming out. Why don't I? I'm keeping this blog anonymous and not promoting it in any of the ways I normally would (like mentioning it to my friends on Facebook) so that I can keep my atheism in the closet. Why?

A few reasons, really. For one thing, I doubt my commitment. Part of me thinks this is all a mid-life crisis, and eventually I'll go back to belief, as hard as that is to imagine. After all, I gave up eating meat at around the same time I stopped believing in God, and I had shrimp salad for lunch today. To some extent, I am going back. I love my Jewish community and when it came time to pray for the sick this Friday night at services, I found myself saying my brother's name. Why? I don't believe that God will intervene to cure my brother's ear infection.

But I do believe it's a good thing to share one's concerns with a community. Were I to start a Humanistic Jewish community, I would have to find a way to share news: illnesses and deaths require support, and sharing joys brings a community together.

So there I was, asking the community to pray for my brother's health.

And then there's my job. I teach religion. To children. What would happen if I came out at work? As I have previously shared, I already discussed this with my Rabbi, but even then I asked her to keep the conversation private. Now, Judaism does not have a creed, so there is no requirement that a Jew believe in God. But if you say that to someone who does believe, they get very uncomfortable. And when I ask the parents of my students what they want for their children, I usually get responses like "to form a personal relationship with God." Would they trust me to teach their children if I came out? Is it even okay for me to be teaching these children anymore? And if not, where do I go?

I'm not living in a part of the country where being an atheist is scandalous. I have plenty of friends who don't believe, or don't believe much. And plenty more who don't believe in God, exactly, but in some kind of "power in the Universe." And yet...I'm in the closet.

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