I've been listening to some podcasts from The Thinking Atheist and was particularly drawn to "Help! I'm a Closet Atheist!"
This resonates so strongly with me because obviously I'm a closet atheist - I've worked in a Christian industry and a Christian company for nine years now. I've established myself professionally in a Christian environment. I've surrounded myself with Christian colleagues. More importantly, my closest friends and confidantes are Christians.
While I'm glad I'm not alone in being a closet atheist, I'm horrified at those who call us names like spineless and coward.
Wow. I don't care if you're Christian, atheist, or whatever - this kind of name calling just isn't cool. Have you walked in my shoes? Do you know what it's like to be me? What gives you the right to call me spineless?
Just the fact that I've admitted to myself, after careful thought and study, that I can no longer believe in God - that alone has taken tremendous courage.
If I came out of the closet, the first thing that would happen is I'd lose my livelihood. In the space of a moment, my family's income would be cut in half (right when I have a couple of kids headed for college). And it would be worse than simply getting laid off or fired: I'd be blackballed in my industry and unable to get a job.
Making it worse, there are literally hundreds (maybe thousands?) of people who would take my renunciation of Christianity as a betrayal. Yes, a lot of people know me. And there are probably at least a hundred who would take it as an absolutely personal and very painful betrayal.
You'll have to excuse me if I don't relish the thought of this. The desire to spare many loved-ones real pain and worry is not spinelessness.
Until I find a way to make a living outside the Christian realm, I'm stuck without many good options.
But here's my bigger problem with people saying closet atheists are cowards. Do we really have to be willing to give up everything for the cause of atheism? Isn't that just as bad as giving up everything for religion?
Embracing my disbelief in God and renunciation of Christianity means freedom for me... and although I won't be totally free until I come out of the closet, I can still experience freedom in my mind and heart, which are now, for the first time in my life, all mine. I'm no longer sharing every thought and desire with this all-knowing god. I'm no longer wondering about all the inconsistencies in the Bible and Christian theology. I'm no longer in fear of somehow missing out on heaven. I'm free. And I want to embrace and enjoy my freedom in the way that I choose.
This means, I'll come out of the closet when I'm damn good and ready. And when I do, I guarantee it will take a LOT more courage than many of the name-callers have ever had to muster in the name of their atheism.