Coming Out

December 4th, 2011

I’ve heard a number of coming-out stories at the Non-Theists meetings; here is my story:

More than coming out atheist, but coming out gay.

I entered college, (long ago in the Dark Ages) as a pre-theology student.  It took me almost two years to realize that the “calling” I had felt was really just a warm and fuzzy feeling, with no real belief.

At the same time, I was growing up, maturing, and discovering myself.  After I left my sophomore year of college in complete confusion, my parents sent me to a psychiatrist;  I guess they thought he would “cure” me; he ended up confirming me in rejecting the opinions of the world, and relying upon myself.

Over a year later, I came out as a gay man, at least to myself.  I could never talk about it with my folks, but I knew myself.  After graduating from college, I moved to New York City, where I opted out of the draft and got a job writing advertising copy, and led a life of freedom.

Nine years later, I was living in an ashram (ever the seeker) in Denver, but restless.  One evening I was going with my friends down to a gay bar, and with us came Avis, with whom I fell in love, and then married.

Coming out as a gay man, in my youth, was a difficult thing; coming out as a married man to my gay friends was not so hard; there’s a certain understanding and acceptance of ‘differentness’.

Now, I am apalled at the difficulties my brothers and sisters here, in Greenville, have with coming out with their own non-belief in a god.  It’s almost as bad as coming out gay was back in the 1960’s.

In 1962, I commuted to college from my parents’ home, and drove every day past a gay bar; that bar was raided by the police, and every patron was arrested, finger-printed, and their names, addresses, and employers were printed in the Chicago papers; several of my professors were among them.

My senior year in college, it was discovered that there was a special “dean’s list” of ‘suspected homosexuals’, and I know I was on that list. Kind of intimidating.

So, I sympathize with my brothers and sisters here in Greenville, who are struggling to come out as non-believers.  For many, just admitting to a non-belief in religion is a struggle within their own minds; and to have to deal with disapprobation of society adds tremdously to the pain.

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