/ ask / What do I do after I came out as an atheist and it didn’t go well?

Dr. Darrel Ray is an atheist, humanist, and psychologist. He is the author of The God Virus, and specializes in issues relating to religious deconversion. [ more ]
If you have an issue relating to religion but no one to talk to, ask Dr. Ray. He doesn’t promise that he has all the answers, but hopefully he will be able to provide insight and experience that will be beneficial for both you and for the many other young people in similar situations.
Angry friend


Dear Darrel,

I told my best friend recently that I was an atheist, and she was really angry about it. She’s told our entire social group, and now I’m a pariah and none of them will talk to me. I’m feeling really upset about the whole thing. Was I wrong to have told them, and what should I do now?

From Dr. Ray

I am very sorry to hear that your friends have treated you so unkindly. It is one of the great ironies of religion that religious people can be so cruel to those who do not follow their dogma. Being different in any way can be hazardous. Whether you are gay, a minority or an atheist, people can be very unaccepting.

I cannot say if it was a mistake to come out or not, but the deed is done. You now have the great benefit of being true to yourself. You don’t have to pretend that you believe in invisible friends. Now that you know how they can treat other people, you may be glad you are no longer part of your former social circle. You can now practice being a good person, accepting others and showing compassion without bowing to their dogma.

It is unlikely that these so called “friends” ever were or ever will be true friends to you, so seek out new and better ones instead. You can continue to interact with your old associates, but realize they were not very good friends if they cannot accept you for who you are. They are certainly not very compassionate or understanding of people who are different from themselves.

Building up a new group of friends takes time, and can be a lonely process, but it’s one that most people do many times throughout their lives. Find other students who are not as prejudiced. Be optimistic and nonjudgmental and you will attract new friends to you quickly.

Treat others with understanding and compassion and you will be more likely to find people worthy of your friendship. As a result of coming out, you have lost status with this group, but you have gained a good deal of personal integrity. Be careful to treat them respectfully and avoid getting into arguments and debates. The best you can probably do is to simply be a good person and let them see you treating others respectfully, even when they do not. It is painful to be pushed out of a group. But keep in mind that groups who don’t allow you to think for yourself are not healthy for you.

You are obviously a very intelligent person with a mind of your own. Seek out other people who enjoy using their curiosity and intellect. As you go through life, you will encounter this issue many times. Learn how to be your own person; and be the best person you can be.

Most importantly, be respectful and kind to those who have shunned you. You will have far more influence that way than if you try to repay them in kind.

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