I'm an atheist in the Bible Belt -- What do I do?

Sent in by Caleb

Well, I sense my whole de-conversion from Christianity is about to come to a head.

I guess it is funny how it is all playing out. You see, when I was a youth pastor and ministry director, my faith and commitment to God and ministry led me to neglect my family. This caused severe problems for my wife and I, because she was and still is a 'closet atheist.' I say 'closet' because she is to scared/embarrassed to admit her atheism publicly.

Luckily, even then, even as a devout Christian, I realized how important my family was to me. I left the ministry so I could become more involved in my wife and children's lives. Through this time, I was able to study Christianity as more of an onlooker. My church attendance dwindled, and my study of what exactly this religion I was following was, became more intense.

I finally let go of my superstitious beliefs in God, and decided to live life free of religion. Through all this time, I kept a my-space profile. As my de-conversion progressed, my my-space profile evolved into a tribute to atheist videos, and blogs.

One day I became worried though. For some reason, I felt like people I knew were looking at me differently. I started to worry that the views I expressed on my profile were offending people. Since I live in Texas, and in a Christian dominated community, I feel like I am the only atheist in town. I help teach classes at the local TaeKwonDo school, and I am an elementary school teacher. Because of this, I began to worry that my career could be damaged if people think I am some kind of Christian-hater.

Let me make myself clear when I say I am not. Almost all of my friends are very devout Christians, and I still love and respect them very much. So one day in an effort to err on the side of safety, I sent out a my-space bulletin to all of my my-space friends. I basically explained that I was going to delete my profile, because I did not want to offend anyone.

I explained that I was an atheist, but not an enemy of Christians. I also explained some of my reasoning for becoming atheist. I finished by asking that the bulletin be kept a private matter, because I wanted to be the one to explain my atheism to anyone that was curious.

Well as it turns out, most people had never read my blogs nor did they watch my videos. They explained that they saw some of my atheist quotes, but never knew exactly what I meant by them. Now they know however, and the rumor has spread like wildfire throughout the community. I have since deleted my my-space profile, but the phone calls and emails have not stopped coming. So much for it being kept a private matter. It's like my wife keeps telling me, "you should have just deleted your profile, and not sent out that bulletin. Nobody even knew you were atheist."

The hard part is that I know the one family that had to have started the whole rumor mill. Besides, I didn't have that many friends on my-space anyway. Needless to say, my wife is very upset. Most of the people don't know my wife is an atheist, so it appears on the outside that I am the source of problems in my family. Of course this comes at a time when we have been at our happiest as a family.

Now I've come full circle, because it is now my atheism that is causing problems between my wife and I. I don't know what to do. I have always wanted to live an honest life, and be real about who I am. For some reason though, I feel the worst is yet to come.

As the rumor spreads and becomes more and more twisted by the Christian gossip mill, will it eventually destroy my family's reputation? What do I do?

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