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Living a Double Life
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27-07-2015, 06:47 PM
Living a Double Life
I am struggling.

Almost three years ago I came out to not only myself but my long term boyfriend. I kept my atheism a secret for about a year and then came out to my closest friends. And that is it. In the past two years I have only let one other person know that I am an atheist and that is only because she told me she was one first.

Now to the more immediate problem. I work in a tight knit office environment with nine other women in their 20s and 30s. I have been at the office for almost five months now and feel like I am not making any friends. I realize that I instinctively keep other people at arms length and have a very hard time letting others in. I keep my personal life very secret. So secret in fact that I feel as though I am living a double life.

As far as I know all the girls I work with are either openly Christian or at least believe in god. Deep philosophical conversations often occur, that I am never a part of, and I have never heard one other person say that they are atheist, agnostic, or even non-religious. Therefore, I have told NO ONE that I am an atheist for fear of feeling more awkward in the office than I already do feel. I am afraid if I told anyone that they would think differently of me.

This would not normally be a problem except for today a girl in the office whom I thought might be another closeted atheist (she is a vegetarian, covered in tattoos, and has a LOT of piercings) said “Now, I have a good relationship with Jesus, mind you, but my fiance’s family is just way too religious. They don’t support my vegetarian lifestyle because they think the Bible tells them that eating meat is ok.” So I say “Yeah, and the Bible also says that you shouldn’t eat pork and shellfish but I bet they don’t follow that.” Long story short, I offended her by saying that. Now I don’t know what to do.

I guess I just need advice.
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27-07-2015, 07:03 PM
RE: Living a Double Life
If you feel the need to tell the women in your office that you are an atheist--go for it. I don't hide my atheism at work--but I am also not a martyr about it. At the same time, if someone makes an ignorant religious-based comment, I will say something in a polite, but firm fashion. The bottom line is--you need to do what you feel comfortable with. You can always share other aspects of your personal life with them, let them get to know you a bit, and then mention the part about your atheism. If you don't feel comfortable telling them you're an atheist, then you shouldn't feel compelled to tell them. You can be an atheist without shouting it from the rooftops.
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27-07-2015, 07:13 PM
RE: Living a Double Life
Advice about what? You learnt she's a theist.

Most people you meet are going to be believers, statistically. Seems to me that worrying about offending them is a fine rationale for hiding your own self away. It takes a little guts to speak your own mind, because invariably someone will get offended, no matter what.

Living in fear of the opinions of others is not a good way to garner their good opinion of you, I don't think. Speak your mind, considerately and openly. Those who are close-minded will avoid you, those who are open-minded will appreciate your candor, and natural selection will run its course, in a manner of speaking.
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27-07-2015, 07:22 PM
RE: Living a Double Life
(27-07-2015 07:03 PM)jennybee Wrote:  If you feel the need to tell the women in your office that you are an atheist--go for it. I don't hide my atheism at work--but I am also not a martyr about it. At the same time, if someone makes an ignorant religious-based comment, I will say something in a polite, but firm fashion. The bottom line is--you need to do what you feel comfortable with. You can always share other aspects of your personal life with them, let them get to know you a bit, and then mention the part about your atheism. If you don't feel comfortable telling them you're an atheist, then you shouldn't feel compelled to tell them. You can be an atheist without shouting it from the rooftops.

I am tired of feeling like I can't tell anyone. Especially when other people are talking about their beliefs. I guess I'm just tired of pretending. But I am terrified of coming out.

The whole idea of having to stay quite makes me depressed and is eating away at me but I get sick to my stomach when I think about other people, especially my parents, knowing. Telling my office might help or it might alienate me more.
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27-07-2015, 07:25 PM (This post was last modified: 27-07-2015 07:29 PM by carasaurus_wres.)
RE: Living a Double Life
(27-07-2015 07:13 PM)Thumpalumpacus Wrote:  Advice about what? You learnt she's a theist.

Most people you meet are going to be believers, statistically. Seems to me that worrying about offending them is a fine rationale for hiding your own self away. It takes a little guts to speak your own mind, because invariably someone will get offended, no matter what.

Living in fear of the opinions of others is not a good way to garner their good opinion of you, I don't think. Speak your mind, considerately and openly. Those who are close-minded will avoid you, those who are open-minded will appreciate your candor, and natural selection will run its course, in a manner of speaking.

I guess I just feel like I have little to no allies. I moved from Indiana to Missouri and the Mid-West is not very forgiving to atheists (although it seems to be better than the deep south). I want to come out to my parents someday and think that coming out to my colleagues might be a small step in that direction. Although I am terrified to do it. I am tired of carrying this secret around and it is eating away at me.
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27-07-2015, 07:25 PM
RE: Living a Double Life
If you think being open about your atheism at work could have negative effect on your income, it might be best to keep quiet. Something to consider before coming out.
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27-07-2015, 07:27 PM
RE: Living a Double Life
(27-07-2015 07:25 PM)pablo Wrote:  If you think being open about your atheism at work could have negative effect on your income, it might be best to keep quiet. Something to consider before coming out.

I don't think it would have negative effects on my career. Just on personal relationships. Which seem to be rocky to begin with. I feel like I'm wearing a mask and am having trouble getting close to people for that reason. But would revealing my true self only make things worse? I'm new to this state (Missouri) and feel like I just need friends. But I want to be open and honest with people. It feels very conflicting at the moment.
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27-07-2015, 07:32 PM
RE: Living a Double Life
(27-07-2015 07:22 PM)carasaurus_wres Wrote:  
(27-07-2015 07:03 PM)jennybee Wrote:  If you feel the need to tell the women in your office that you are an atheist--go for it. I don't hide my atheism at work--but I am also not a martyr about it. At the same time, if someone makes an ignorant religious-based comment, I will say something in a polite, but firm fashion. The bottom line is--you need to do what you feel comfortable with. You can always share other aspects of your personal life with them, let them get to know you a bit, and then mention the part about your atheism. If you don't feel comfortable telling them you're an atheist, then you shouldn't feel compelled to tell them. You can be an atheist without shouting it from the rooftops.

I am tired of feeling like I can't tell anyone. Especially when other people are talking about their beliefs. I guess I'm just tired of pretending. But I am terrified of coming out.

The whole idea of having to stay quite makes me depressed and is eating away at me but I get sick to my stomach when I think about other people, especially my parents, knowing. Telling my office might help or it might alienate me more.

Maybe start slow with telling them bits and pieces of your personal life (minus the atheism). I think if you develop friendships with these women first, you will show them that atheism isn't a bad word. It will also make it easier to weave the topic of atheism into conversations.

Do you still live with your parents? If you do, you may want to wait until you get a place of your own. If you are living on your own, and telling them is important to you, then you should be true to yourself and your feelings. Just be prepared for questions (and a strong reaction) if they are quite religious. Go through different scenarios and questions in your mind and think about how you would answer them. You can use this technique for the people at work as well. It is scary thinking about various reactions to atheism, but if you are prepared, it can make things a lot less scary and a lot less intimidating.

Be yourself and be strong. You will be okay Smile
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27-07-2015, 07:34 PM (This post was last modified: 27-07-2015 07:39 PM by Thumpalumpacus.)
RE: Living a Double Life
When I'm in an uncertain situation and religion comes up as a topic, I simply say, "I have no faith." If someone wants to dig further, I will explicitly say "I don't believe in any gods."

I had this sort of situation arise about six weeks ago at my Preserve job; we had a new employee, an older man (around 60) who is quite devout. We hit it off right away because we're both cool folk, and then one day we're talking and he asks, "D, do you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour?"

I replied as above. He answered, "Really? You don't believe?" He motioned with his arm at our beautiful landscape and asked, "What created all this, then?"

Now, I thought about telling the story From The Beginning, and I also thought about explaining why I found his Christianity unsatisfying, but I decided upon simply saying, "Bud, I don't think this is really appropriate as a workplace conversation. I don't want to insult your religion, too." That pretty much ended the conversation.

It turns out we still get along great, because instead of locking horns about views we probably cannot change in each other, we've turned to focusing on our common ground: two older guys (I'm 48) in a field with mostly younger workers; we share a sense of duty looking after these kids and each respect the other for that outlook no matter our religious views. He and I see eye-to-eye about many deeper things even despite our disagreement on such a fundamental matter, and we have found our way to mutual respect despite our initial rough start.

It takes care and finesse, but it's worthwhile to work for good relations in the workplace, and it can be done without hiding one's core values -- not always, but sometimes.

Look for common ground even as you do not hide your core values.
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27-07-2015, 07:36 PM
RE: Living a Double Life
(27-07-2015 07:32 PM)jennybee Wrote:  
(27-07-2015 07:22 PM)carasaurus_wres Wrote:  I am tired of feeling like I can't tell anyone. Especially when other people are talking about their beliefs. I guess I'm just tired of pretending. But I am terrified of coming out.

The whole idea of having to stay quite makes me depressed and is eating away at me but I get sick to my stomach when I think about other people, especially my parents, knowing. Telling my office might help or it might alienate me more.

Maybe start slow with telling them bits and pieces of your personal life (minus the atheism). I think if you develop friendships with these women first, you will show them that atheism isn't a bad word. It will also make it easier to weave the topic of atheism into conversations.

Do you still live with your parents? If you do, you may want to wait until you get a place of your own. If you are living on your own, and telling them is important to you, then you should be true to yourself and your feelings. Just be prepared for questions (and a strong reaction) if they are quite religious. Go through different scenarios and questions in your mind and think about how you would answer them. You can use this technique for the people at work as well. It is scary thinking about various reactions to atheism, but if you are prepared, it can make things a lot less scary and a lot less intimidating.

Be yourself and be strong. You will be okay Smile

I don't live with my parents but I have recently developed a very strong relationship with both of them. I was not very close to them in high school or college and we fought a lot and now that I am graduated from school I feel like I don't want to screw things up. But I have to lie and pretend that I am still Christian, which is exhausting. Keeping my mouth shut, especially at work, is becoming more trouble than it's worth but that does't make me any less scared of what the social repercussions might be.

I've been afraid of letting others in, but maybe I should. Then I might be able to let people know more easily.
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