I was “Stan” on the CNN special, “Atheists, Inside the World of Non-Believers,” which aired last Tuesday. That's right. I was the minister in shadows with the distorted voice.
I'm grateful to the CNN producer who has protected my privacy so I could actually talk about this with someone. The interview took place several months ago, and it was weird because it was the first face to face conversation I’d had where I discussed at length the shift I’d made from belief to non-belief. The interviewer had me talking for over three hours and I could have continued. It felt good to be able to say the words with my mouth, “I don’t believe in God.” For the first time in months, I felt the muscles relax in my stomach and shoulders.
I’ve read some comments about the show, and of course I looked especially for things said about me, most of which referred to my distorted voice, which I thought made me sound like Darth Vader. Cool, huh?
I saw a comment that stated I didn’t have enough guts to just “come out.” It's okay. He’s entitled to his opinion just as I’m entitled to invite him to go screw himself. Actually, I understand—they were words of a young man who still has energy, few obligations, with more years in front of him than behind him. Lack of understanding is often the basis of scorn.
Actually, I’ve thought the same thing, too. Why don't I just come out with it, walk away from it all, and let the chips fall where they might? I really want to. The pressure of keeping this secret makes me want to explode:
“Hey everyone, I’m an atheist and I don’t care what you think!” But the next thing I’d say is, “Can I have a job?”
A few weeks ago, I’d had hit my capacity for bullshit and I thought, to hell with everything--I’m telling. But then I was introduced to other ministers who had come out, and consequently lost many relationships, as well as income. In fact they are still struggling. From the wisdom of their difficult experiences, they urged me to be cautious. They knew exactly how I felt and were able to talk me down from that cliff. It eased the inner pressure to talk to others who understood, and I was able to heed their advice.
I continue to look quietly for other work. Meanwhile, I'll continue to use the name, "Stan," when I write.