by Stan Bennett

by Stan Bennett

Thursday, March 26, 2015

I Was On CNN!

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.   

10 comments:

  1. Oh man I missed it. Ended up having last minute church stuff I had to do. Anyone know how I can watch it?

    Yeah, some of the young piss-n-vinegar atheists who don't have kids or mortgages can be pretty tough on us closeted types. I care way more about my kids having clothes than about their opinion on how fast I'm getting out of ministry.

    Either way, I'm sorry proud of you for going on the show. I NEED A LINK ASAP!

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    1. Hey, there's a youtube link; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HALEEPOIcUo

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  2. When I was an atheist in the closet...which I guess I'm still half in...the only thing I was really worried about was would the girls in my home state of Alabama go out with me once they found out I was the dreaded "A word." In the end they were more turned off by the fact I was the other A word, An asshole. It was only after several months of my personal journey into secularism and slowly telling a few close friends that the real gravity of it all started to sink in. I was giving up a huge part of my culture and heritage, my family had been steeped in the church of christ probably since its founding. I lost so many friends and mentors, broke my grandfathers heart. But even though my personal loses were substantial, I can't even begin to imagine losing my entire way of living. I was fortunate that I was able to go through the growing pains of life without religion with my best friend, who had also come to the same personal conclusions. I have a great non religious girlfriend (she doesn't like labels) and a pretty good job at a bookstore filled with like minded individuals.

    Even though you are still in the cloest Mr. Stan, I find you incredibly brave. I know so many people who are fine with the fact they are living a spiritual lie for no other reason than its easier than having the sigma of
    being an atheist in the deep south.

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    1. Hi Anonymous. I wrote a clever reply to you and lost it of course.

      I wanted to say I'm glad that even when you were young, you had clear priorities--getting dates is important. :).

      I admire that you were able to escape the influence of your church/cultural upbringing, which is quite strong. And I'm glad you have a community of people to talk to. I hope the life continues to grow in joy as well as truth, for both of us.

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  3. Hello,

    I have read your story on CNN, I felt like the Lord wanted me to remind you that He does still love you. And I have no idea what your background, or religious beliefs were, however just know that Jesus is the only true way. I pray that your heart will be convicted and that you will find the Lord again.

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    1. Hi Anonymous. I appreciate the sincerity and kindness that motivates your reaching out to me.

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  4. I can understand leaving an anonymous comment as an atheist (we're one step away from being hunted for pleasure), but to anonymously leave a comment regarding a person's solid on the rock belief that the Lord loves you, astounds me.

    I started wondering why reading the bible gave my sister peace, yet reading the same words made me angry. So I read more, studied more, even began as a student minister at my church. My sermons were highly requested, because I was merely preaching what I "wanted" to believe. Halfway through theology classes, I began to smell a 2,000 year old rat's nest.

    I did not recognize the word atheist at the time, having mistakenly associated atheism with devil worship - but I didn't believe in the devil, so I assumed I was not an atheist. What was I? Hurt. Confused. SCARED.

    20 years later, I know what an theist is, and I AM ONE. But coming out would destroy my sister, since she is looking forward to our heavenly future together.

    The worst part of being an atheist is having to keep your hard earned knowledge encased behind a facade of stupidity.

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    1. Hi LJ. "Hard earned knowledge" is a good way of putting it. I look for a time when I can come out fully, but like you, I have relatives I do not wish to hurt. My parents are too old and sick to deal with this bit of news about me.

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  5. I am inspired by your article as you and many others have experienced belief. I still believe in God but I am no longer living in fear of the fundamentalist belief in the bible being the infallible word of God. I have gained knowledge through watching you tube videos. I have been deceived by many Pastors who have had supposed words from God which have caused me to turn down a career training as a psychiatric nurse in my 20's and marrying a man I had severe doubts about marrying because I had anxiety and was told to stand against the devil and believe that it is Gods will for me to marry this man, whom I was going out with at the time. This resulted in many years of guilt after leaving the marriage. This continued and I was told I could never remarry, so when I did after years of not believing I could my best friend turned up on my wedding day telling me that I would go to hell. I constantly doubted my salvation as I struggled with sin, natural things that we do as humans, sexual and a tendency to drink a lot, also laughing at naughty jokes. Enough said. I wish you well for the future. Liz Ryder. Ps you can publish this if you wish. Thankyou. x

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  6. I have enjoyed reading your article and similar articles that I have read have helped me to move away from the fundamentalist dogma. Because you have been in the ministry as a believer I know you are not biased. I still believe in God but I have learnt a lot through watching you tube videos about the origin of the bible that I no longer feel bound by with all those worrying verses. I have been deceived a lot by Pastors with so called words from God. I gave up a career as a trainee psychiatric nurse before I even got started because I was told through prophecy that I would be in danger. I also married my boyfriend even though I had severe doubts and anxiety about going ahead with it because the Pastor gave a word over us that it was Gods will to go ahead and that the doubts was the devil.. The anxiety did not go away and so I left, which followed with years of guilt and severe anxiety leading to epilepsy. I was told I could not remarry and when I eventually had the courage to was told by my best friend on my wedding day that I was going to hell. Years followed of more anxiety until now. Thank you.

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