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Out of the Shadows and Into the Light

By Klym ~

Next month I will celebrate my 60th birthday. I have also decided to retire from 37 years of being an educator (public and private schools) and mental health professional (school counselor, past work in a women's shelter, and an MHMR caseworker). Both these 'events' are huge in my mind. The decision to retire is probably the hardest decision of my life, second only to the decision to divorce my first husband at the age of 20, when I attended a fundamentalist Baptist church. I am a bit terrified of the prospect of not having a job to get up for each day, and of having no "regular" paycheck.

On top of all that, I am seriously thinking of coming out as an atheist, once and for all. Most of my close friends and family know that I am a non-believer, but it is very rarely discussed. My husband knows I'm an atheist and respects my intelligence and thoughtfulness on religious issues. But, he's not quite ready to give up his extremely liberal christian worldview. He knows nothing about my essays and posting on this website. He would be shocked (temporarily) at some of the things I have written/shared here.

All my Unitarian Universalist "church" friends know that I'm an atheist. I live a dual life---one at my school and in my community where I'm perceived as a Christian, because of the culture of this geographic area---and my other, "secret" life that I share only with my church family and my family.

I have been a non-believer now for eight years. Actually, I was probably a non-believer all my life, but it took me way too long to accept the truth of who I am and who I've always been. Such is the power of growing up in the Bible Belt. I remember clearly as a child thinking that if it weren't for the fear of hell, I wouldn't believe in any of the doctrines I was taught.

Anyway, something one of my dearest friends said to me at church a few Sundays ago has been going around and around in my mind. This friend is a gay man, my age, who I dearly love. He is an amazing human being, and has suffered so much because of his sexual orientation. We were talking about his coming out back when he was in his twenties. He told me that he decided years ago that when people asked if he was gay, he was going to tell them the truth---at the very high risk of losing his job and standing in the community. He said that when he told people he would remind them that HE was STILL the same person they had come to know and love; that only THEIR PERCEPTION of him had changed. HE WAS STILL THE SAME PERSON! He had not changed. He did this faithfully and never lost his job or his standing in the community.

I live a dual life---one at my school and in my community where I'm perceived as a Christian, [...] and my other, "secret" life that I share only with my church family and my family.I got to thinking that if I come out as an atheist, I AM STILL THE SAME PERSON. Only the other person's perception of me has changed. This is a tremendous epiphany for me. I'm sure several of you have already figured this out, but this was like a gigantic clanging bell going off in my brain when I thought about it. Why has this never occurred to me before?? DUH!!!

I am reading all kinds of retirement books. I'm at a stage in my life when I have the privilige and opportunity to reinvent myself totally, if I so desire. Actually, we reinvent ourselves each and every day, don't we? When I turn sixty, why not come out as an atheist to everyone, and let the chips fall where they may?

I've spent my entire life as a child advocate. I detest that children continue to be brainwashed and abused with the superstitious BS that is Christianity. I'm thinking it's time to be completely true to who I am. I hope I have the courage necessary to do this. If it weren't for the courage of the gay community to come out, they would not have made the amazing strides towards equality and justice that they have earned over the past few decades. The same can be said for women and minorities. We are reaping the rewards of our ancestors in so many areas; many people gave their lives so that as a woman I have opportunities that were denied my mother and my grandmother. Perhaps it is time for another revolution.

It's time for me, personally, to stop living a dual life. I have such admiration for all of you on this website. I know that each of us have our own personal reasons for living in the shadows. I know my "coming out' won't change the world, but perhaps it will shine a light in some of the dark places in my immediate sphere of influence. I am excited about my sixtieth decade of life----get ready world, here I come, ready or not! YEEHAW!!! It's gonna be a wild ride!