Fugitives from Fundamentalism

The Musings of Adult Missionary Kids (MKs) & Former Born-Again Believers

Bearing the Burden…

Posted by dsc01 on December 14, 2011

I’ve mentioned before that letting go of theism lifted a weight from my shoulders. It certainly did. Believing the unbelievable is an unbearable burden. Carrying constant guilt weighs a person down. But that doesn’t mean that disbelief doesn’t come with its own burdens to bear.

I am fairly “in the closet,” as an atheist, for a number of reasons, the primary one being the likely loss of my job, should I ever come out too publicly. However, whenever I can, I strive to be brutally honest–amiable, to be sure, but wholly unapologetic.

Now, my totally reasonable terror of losing my livelihood is ample evidence of societal discrimination against atheists. That’s only aggravating. The discrimination becomes a burden when it hits closer to home.

Recently, my wife and I were uninvited from an extended Thanksgiving celebration that we had been looking forward to. The bearer of the news, one of my best friends, ever, was pretty irate, but he had to keep the peace with his sister-in-law, who expressed annoyance at the invitation of non-family members. You know, in the grand tradition of the first Thanksgiving, which was about familial insularity and not communion with people one usually didn’t associate with (/sarcasm).

Eventually, it came out that my family–my wife and I, that is–was the specific problem. The aforementioned sister-in-law to my dear friend doesn’t trust us wicked atheists around her children.

And there is the burden. It’s one thing to be able to feel righteous indignation about discrimination in our society. It’s another thing to be barred from a family gathering (and I do consider this friend to basically be my family) because one is an atheist.

That’s pretty rough. And it’s a bunch of bullshit. And it hurts.

But that’s life, after all.

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7 Responses to “Bearing the Burden…”

  1. Paulo said

    “The aforementioned sister-in-law to my dear friend doesn’t trust us wicked atheists around her children.”

    Are you serious? What the hell is wrong with people?? Seriously, what does she think atheists would do to her children? Man, that is some lame shit.

  2. Clamence said

    Based on news reports over the past decade, I’d be most worried about having football coaches, priests and evangelical boarding school staff near my kids! Your story is a great reminder to myself of why I used to live a life completely withdrawn from Xians. Faith makes you a bigot. I don’t think that’s overstating things. Thinking you know absolute truth makes you act in absolute ways in accordance with the commands and laws of your invisible deity. If your holy book says it’s ok to have slaves, even if you’re a nice person, you’re going to trust the holy book over your own common sense or the discoveries of science. dsc01, you don’t need friends like that. I’ll be presumptuous and ask you a few questions: why do you work for a Christian-affiliated organization? It seems to me that by keeping your career contacts within the Xian realm, you are shooting yourself in the foot long term. (I realize the scenario you described above is unrelated to work, but the same idea of a network of human connections still applies.) What I mean is that we all get jobs (and newer, better jobs) through our career-related networks of acquaintances and friends. Why stay in a network that will require you to live a secretive and closeted life for your whole career? I make use of my Xian network on occasion, don’t get me wrong, but I also have a robust secular network of people who are responsible for hooking me up career wise; I never have to be secretive or pretend with them in conversations. I never have to worry about being discriminated against either. If you make yourself dependant on Xians, one day people are going to know the truth about you and you’ll be fucked. Anyway, I know you’re doing more of a “Isn’t this some shit?!” post and aren’t really trying to solicit advise, but I’m in end-of-semester prof mode right now and felt like offering career advice! 🙂

    • Ann said

      Of course, you can be a bigot without faith, but it is good to eliminate that source. And of course some believers are not faith bigots, having eliminated the most unreasonable of beliefs stemming from literalism. I don’t know…I got more of an impression dsc01 would probably take another job outside the Christian world if it came his way, and his job may be more a necessity and convenience thing? But I think you were writing more of a “let’s find places for us where we can be ourselves” kind of rant. I agree, it is good to be around people in general you can trust and feel comfortable being yourself. Working for a non-Christian organization doesn’t mean you will never be reprimanded or fired from a job, but hopefully any firing or “disciplinary action” will be unbiased by belief and based on your performance and ability (lol)…actual evidence of job failure.

      It is difficult working at a job where there is the potential for a faith-based, biased assessment of your ability to do a job if you disclose your disbelief..to be viewed as an “atheist” instead of a real “peer”, where co-workers/supervisors believe they are superior morally due to their faith. I remember when I worked briefly as an intern in the school system here in the south. One of my peers had a cross and some religious writing on the wall of her counseling office, at a public high school mind you, and my co-workers openly discussed their beliefs and conservative values with each other. That was a strange experience, I felt like I was living in some kind of world where I had to hide my books in case someone found out and burned them, and maybe me in the process…but I needed that internship to get a school counseling certificate. After I completed the internship, I decided working for the school system was not the best choice for me. I think the last straw was when they voted to ban hip hop music from the prom because they didn’t want the kids dancing too sexually, lol! That was just too messed up. ha!

  3. Clamence said

    Oh, and I love the cluelessness of the sister-in-law who probably believes the myth that Xians are oppressed in the U.S. (the war on Xmas, “taking” prayer out of schools, etc.) but sees no problem discriminating against people because of their views. Sorry for going on about this, but what you posted is what I am always going on about: Xian beliefs make you an asshole. I always get objections from Xians when I mention this (makes sense, since who wants to think they’re an asshole–although I don’t mind admitting it…maybe that’s just because the extent of my assholishness is too large to deny), but how can you claim that the Xian view of gays is anything but bigotry based on one’s hatred for those who don’t embrace your interpretation of your belief system? The problem with Xians is that they want to exercise power over the rest of us. They are tyrants and authoritarians at heart. Xians are free to think what they want about gays or atheists, or whoever else, but why do Xians have to try to force the rest of us, through school prayer, Constitutional discriminatory legislation against gays, etc to practice their beliefs? Why do they want to use their power to force the rest of us to be their clones? Let me be who I want without your negativity, and your sin, and your guilt and groveling, and your waving your hands in the air in a make-believe orgasmic communion with Jesus, and the all the rest of that ridiculous shit, and leave the rest of us normal and rational humans alone to live our lives for Christ’s sake!

  4. Ann said

    Both the owner of my agency and my clinical supervisor know I am an atheist. But I don’t go around telling people I work with because of this kind of stuff. I work with kids ages 6 to 18. I have not been asked about my religious beliefs or lack of, so so far, it has been a non-issue. I do say I don’t go to church if I am asked (which is normal for people to ask about in this area). Thankfully atheists don’t have some kind of physical appearance “indicator” that can be used to profile them. I hate to think about how my kids would be treated if that were the case, especially living here in the south. Yeah, it’s some lame shit.

    My first thought after reading this story was to wonder why your friend caved in to his sister-in-law? I am sure he is a good guy, but I think if I were in a similar situation I would just let my sister-in-law miss the party since she is the one with the real issue. As an aside, my sister and her husband know I am an atheist and I just spent Thanksgiving with them and their 3 kids…

  5. Ann said

    I forgot to mention, my brother-in-law is a pastor and my sister runs a couple of charities. One is a home for unmarried mothers with no resources (Bethany’s House, my sister’s first name is Bethany). The other is an orphanage in Colombia that she visits several times a year and funds through their church. Proper respect to them!

  6. JN said

    Sorry, man. That’s a pretty lousy situation to be in.

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