Is It Official?

The other day gave me an opportunity for reflection on where I’ve come philosophically in the past several years. For the first time ever, I officially listed myself as “Non-Religious” on a government document. Though I’ve frequently tossed around the term, there was something about the act of scrolling down the jury impaneling form, pausing, and chuckling a bit in irony when I came to the question of religious affiliation.

*By the way, I’m publishing this post with some hesitation. That was a confidential form that will be read only by people who couldn’t care less about my religious affiliation if it doesn’t benefit their courtroom argument. And this post here is a very public statement I’m making. And I know this may have some potentially undesirable consequences. But oh well.*

For some of you, such a thing may seem like no big deal. But for me, it kinda is. Not like “OMG-WTF” huge. But definitely “fo-reals” significant.

Anyway, I can now officially be listed in the minority of American religious views. I’ve migrated from the Major Two-Thirds of the pie chart to the 16-percent of Americans who claim no religion. And it’s quite different from just saying something like, “I’m spiritual, not religious.”

Right now I don’t feel like detailing the minutiae of thoughts and feelings involved. I especially don’t feel like defining what exactly “non-religious” means to me, or the reasons why I made it official. But there’s just something about  making things official. For me, the official-ness frees things up. No need to explain. Now, it just “is.”

I’ve also mentioned in previous posts how I wonder if it’s anything like a coming-out experience for an LGBT person. I doubt it could ever compare, but when you feel like you don’t have to hide anymore, life just seems to open up a bit. Of course, on a jury form, I was under penalty of perjury, so I had no choice. 😉 It gave me an opportunity to be completely honest.

And while I’ve been honest here on my blog, in other online locales, and in conversation with friends, it was especially interesting to be able to, in some tiny way, announce myself to the greater world as a specific minority category.

Anyway, I just thought I’d share that. How about you? Have you had an “official” experience with announcing a major category shift in your life…a shift that you previously felt safer hiding?

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14 Responses

  1. I “came out” to my father a few weeks ago who happens to be a pastor. Yep, I am a PK. I also came out to a few of my close Christian friends. It was difficult mainly because I know their thoughts about non-christians (needing prayer and deliverance from the devil). No one was shocked (at least that’s what they said) because I had been slowly revealing my thoughts over the years. But I do think they believe it is a phase brought on by deep hurt I experienced from some church people. What I failed to share with my family and friends are the historical facts that have had more to do with my new non-belief more so than any hurt. The religion not working for me led me to search and the searching led me to facts. Oddly, I felt responsible for their faith so I opted not share those facts. I wanted to protect them from finding out we’ve been duped (in my opinion). Anyway, my father’s response was simply kind and loving. He did ask questions and I expected nothing less. But still, kind, loving, supportive and understanding. However I do feel like there’s a huge elephant in the room whenever I talk to any of them.

  2. I changed my “religious views” description on Facebook from “Christian” to “Agnostic Theist (or something like that)”. I guess that makes my religious view officially nebulous. It felt good. Freeing in weird way, as Dave describes in this post.

  3. A major category shift in life! I love that question. When I was 17, I had always thought I Was a Christian, being raised within the modern religious system (that is, if you go to a church, you’re a Christian….we all know that isn’t true!). I also attended a Christian school my entire life, so imagine my suprise upon my realization that I was in fact a false convert to Christianity, a cozy ‘believer’ in a gospel that did not in any way affect my behavior or change my desire for lying, stealing, having sex with my boyfriend, blaspheming God, lusting for men, creating a lovely array of idolatried that I adored and the list of my wretchedness could be infinite, but for the sake of yours, I edit myself. 😉
    Through a personal spiritual awakening (having nothing to do with church or parents or religious reading), I came to see and know for the first time, that I was meant to know Christ, and follow Him. It was the greatest “category change” that ever happened to me! Having no religion, but instead, a soul freeing relationship, knowing a man who IS love, is the greatest, highest pleasure I know. And the deeper I know Him, the deeper pleasure there is to be known. I am thankful for Christ, and all he entails, despite the many false ideas that men hold about him. I would agree with Einstein, when he said, to be great is to be misunderstood – and that is Christ, Great, and misunderstood.

    • Thanks Crystal…Was there a time with this change that you in some way felt you had to hide who you had now become, or felt like you couldn’t be truly open for fear of either someone misunderstanding you, etc? I think that’s what i was getting at, was dealing with the realization that really being honest about my “new” perspective could make social and family life more difficult because I am so different than the majority of those close to me.

  4. “how I wonder if it’s anything like a coming-out experience for an LGBT person”

    As someone who is part of that group I can say that in the sense that you don’t have to hide who you are anymore the two are somewhat comparable.

    Although I’ve never been to a non-religious pride parade. If there anything like the LGBT ones they’d be a lot of fun, though! 🙂

  5. Actually, there’s only one label I’ve ever been happy to self-apply. Normally, I find labels somewhat stifling. Since becoming Christian I’ve been reluctant to call myself a Christian, for all the baggage and stereotypes that come with that (it could make people automatically assume dozens of things about me, many of which might be totally untrue) . Since shedding much of my ‘religiousness’ and belief in ‘orthodox’ doctrine but not my faith, I’ve been reluctant to call myself “agnostic” or “non-religious”, because those labels don’t really cover me either. I’m reluctant to call myself “Australian” or “Polish”, because though I straddle both of those cultures, I don’t feel 100% at home with either. The only label I’ve been happy to self-apply is “vegan”. Once I did the research and watched the videos of what modern farms and slaughterhouses looked like, I knew I had to change, and I was more than happy to use the term “vegan” to mark my rejection of the violence, hubris and environmental devastation inherent in the mainstream lifestyle I used to be a part of. I know some vegans who hate having to label themselves, and prefer to just say “I don’t eat meat, dairy or eggs because of x, y, and z”, but for me the label is a neat way of summing up many things I believe in strongly, like compassion, progressiveness, non-violence, and caring for the earth, so I’m happy to use it. I guess it’s a relatively simple label with less stereotypes an ambiguities than all the other labels I mentioned above.

  6. I am a 16% too. I went from Conservative Fundamentalist Baptist to progressive, somewhat Liberal Non-denominationalist to agnostic.

    I had a lot of problems with keeping my apostasy a secret. Finally, 2 years ago, I wrote what is famously called THE latter. 🙂 Since then it has been heaven and hell on earth. Heaven, because I don’t have to pretend. Hell, because of all my Christian friends and acquaintances that still want to win me back to Jesus.

    It gets better as time goes on. The evangelists quit evangelizing and I meet new friends. I miss what I have lost but I do appreciate what I have found.

    Bruce

    • Thanks Bruce…I would love to see THAT letter.

  7. Maybe when I got divorced? That’s a long time ago now. I suppose there are few things I haven’t outed to my parents. But then I never did anyway.

    Jonathan from Spritzophrenia

  8. I had to tell my parents that I wasn’t a Christian anymore. I think they would have taken it better if I would have said I was gay. I tried to hide it for a long time because I didn’t want to upset them, but my mom kept pushing me into a corner asking my why I won’t go to church anymore until finally I was like look we need to talk.

    Before, they thought I was dumb because they felt I took Christianity to the extreme. Trying to save the world. Now they think I’m dumb because I don’t believe what they believe. I can’t win! LOL.

    My mom worries that I’m going to hell now, which I knew would happen. But it feels great not to have to hide from them or lie to them anymore. Hiding is stressful. Lying to people I love bothered my conscience. I think I have a small taste of what gay people go through in a way as far as “coming out”.

    • T-Man…”…they thought I was dumb because they felt I took Christianity to the extreme. Trying to save the world. Now they think I’m dumb because I don’t believe what they believe…” Wow. Well, at least they know that when you do something, you do it all the way. I know that must have been a major deal. Tons of stress all around.

  9. I’m definitely in that 16%. Have been for years. Like you, I don’t call it “spiritual, not religious”. I have just become totally and completely disgusted with organized religion, particularly Christianity.

  10. we need to share a brew together .. count me in the 16% … but you already have I assume 🙂

    • definitely, my friend. one of these days, i’ll get out there…or you’ll be here?

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