Monday, December 17, 2012

I'm Coming Out

This is a post I've really wanted to write for so long, but was always too scared to.  In fact, I'm still a little terrified.  Make that really terrified.  Even so, it's important to me to get this out, so here goes.....

I grew up with an amazing family.  My parents have always been a huge part of my life, always there for me and giving me everything I could possibly want.  I was probably a bit spoiled.  I have a younger brother I'm still close to, who has always been able to make me laugh.  I wouldn't trade them for anything in the world.

I was raised Presbyterian, sort of.  We didn't go to church on Sundays, or have religious discussions, but I knew what religion I was.  I went to church a few times with my grandparents, and my brother attended the pre-school at the church.  Two of my closest friends were part of religious families, but of different religions.  One was Catholic and the other Episcopalian.  Back then I didn't know the difference.  I went to their Vacation Bible Schools in the summer.  When I had a sleepover at their house on a Saturday night, I went to church with their families on Sunday morning before getting dropped off at home.  The mother of one of them taught church school up the street from my house, and so I spent afternoons there with my friend after school until her mom could get her home.

I was also a good kid.  Kind of a goody-two-shoes.  The teacher's pet in school.  I always did my homework.  I got straight A's.  If my grades went into the 80's I got extra help from the teacher, because I wanted it not because my parents told me to.  I played sports.  I never partied.  I never got in trouble.  To this day I've never even been pulled over while driving.  I volunteered once in a while at the SPCA with a friend.  I was in key club (the charitable club in school), and donated my time and energy to many worthy causes.  I was in National Honor Society and graduated with honors.  My brother had a tough act to follow.  Sorry little bro!

I did these things because I wanted to.  Because they were important to me.  Because my parents taught me that being a good person and respecting and helping others was just what you did when you could.  It's a belief that I've carried with me past childhood and adolescence and into adulthood.  I've proudly married a man that has been recognized in three different cities as the team's Man of the Year awarded to the player who does the most to help out the community he's playing in.  A man who believes just as strongly as I do that you help where you can.  I've always willingly attended everything he did that I could and I jump at the chance to assist any ideas the team or the other girls have to give back to those in need.  I love doing it.  I'll never stop.

One last thing about myself.....

My name is Rachel McKenna and I'm an atheist.

Yes, you read that right.  I don't believe in God.  I haven't since I was in high school.  I'm sick of having to keep my mouth shut in fear of what other people will think of me.  I've finally decided that I don't care.  It's not fair that I have to hide because someone might have something nasty to say about me simply because I don't believe.  So I'm done hiding.

Why did I choose now of all times to finally fess up?  Because I can't handle all the Facebook posts, tweets, and blog entries that have popped up recently that basically tell me I'm a bad person because I don't pray.  Really?  Does the person described above sound like some heathen bent on destroying the world?  I don't think so.  In fact I think I care about this world too much sometimes.

This is not going to turn into some religious debate.  I won't go into why I feel the way I do.  That's not why I'm writing this.  I would never dream of telling anyone who believed that they are wrong.  That they are stupid or crazy.  That they shouldn't have the faith they do.  I respect that they have those beliefs.  It would be so incredibly insulting of me to say anything of that sort to them.  So why isn't it insulting that they say those things to me?

All I keep seeing lately is how everyone needs to pray, get right with God, and bring prayer back to school.  Maybe if we did those things all these disasters like shootings and hurricanes and gays getting married wouldn't happen.  I don't even know how to respond to that.  (Side note: I am 100% behind allowing everyone the right to marry whoever they want)  Quite honestly all of that sounds a whole lot like, "Rachel, because you and others like you don't pray or believe in God, you've killed all these people".  Fuck that.  You don't get to place blame on me simply because I'm an atheist.  I won't be your scapegoat.  And you sure as hell will not force my children to pray in school.  Freedom of religion counts for those of us without it too, you know.

The point of this blog post was to open up, to reveal a part of myself I've kept hidden for way too long.  I shouldn't have to hide.  I shouldn't have to feel like views I don't share are being forced onto me.  I shouldn't have to feel guilty or at fault for things I've had zero part in.  I shouldn't have to cry over the stress of being different and the fear of what people would think of me.  I have many friends who are devout and we get along fabulously because we respect each other for both our similarities and our differences.

I don't judge anyone only on their faith, so I'm asking you not to judge me on my lack of it.  If you can't help it and you hate me only because I don't believe, then so be it.  If you can't be okay with the fact that I'm an atheist feel free to stop reading my blog and stop following me on twitter.  It won't hurt my feelings.  I'm only interested in relationships - both in person and online - where there is mutual respect for each other no matter what.  To those of you that can understand and support that, I whole-heartedly thank you.  For those of you that can't, I won't miss you.

And there it is.....I've come out of hiding.  And I have a huge knot in my stomach.  The fear is never going to go away, but it was time to suck it up and defend myself.  And as difficult as this was, I'm glad I did.