When I was a child and my family attended church, we considered ourselves Christian. We celebrated Christmas and Easter (still do). However, even back then, religion was never central to who we were. We never thought we were better than anyone else. We never prayed regularly. We never tried to get people to believe what we believed, and we never said bad things if someone didnít agree with us about religion. For many years, I lived among the religious and never questioned why they thought the way they did. I only questioned why I did NOT think the way that they did.
Sure I knew about atheists and what it meant, but I didnít know anyone who didnít believe (that I knew of). So I kept trying to believe. I went to church less and less as I grew into adulthood. Then my sister started questioning things and reading books about freethinkers. She talked to me about it and we searched the internet for more information.
I know if I had met someone who thought and felt the way I did much earlier in my life, I would have taken my stance as a non-theist much sooner. I have mentioned to some friends and family that I have always been a skeptic, I just now knew that I wasnít alone. That it was okay to not believe. However, the sentiment is that it is not okay for me to tell others that I donít share their belief and that I am a skeptic, if not an outright atheist. It is not okay for me to not be able to say how I feel. But I stay quiet for fear of reprisal. I have NOT ďcome outĒ of the atheist closet (except for here on Bellaonline). I had a lot of trepidation in even wanting to write for this site under the atheist subject because I had to use my real name. I am still concerned about the negative reactions I may get, but Iíll cross that bridge when and if I come to it.
Of course some friends and immediate family know that I am agnostic and not religious. They are too. However, many others do not know. I have not announced it to my facebook family and friends, many whom Iíve known for a long time and many of whom remember me when I attended church. My true friends will know who I am and should not care, and I am slowly realizing that I can't worry about it and I'm letting others know that it is okay to not believe.