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Nov 01 2013

“Coming Out Atheist” — First Draft Done

Thank you all so much for your patience, and for putting up with weeks of cat photos. The first draft of “Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why” is done. It’s going to need revisions, and that’s going to take a certain amount of work, so I won’t be back on a totally full blogging schedule until that’s completed. And I may have take a couple/few more shorter hibernations during various upcoming pushes in the process. But the overwhelming bulk of the work is done.

And I am hugely excited about it, and happy with it.

The process of reading through all the coming-out stories I gathered, and thinking about them, and looking at the themes and patterns in them, and figuring out what I wanted to say about them, has been fascinating. There were lots of surprises. I’ll talk about those more in coming weeks — and of course I’ll talk about them in the book itself. But I want to talk about a few of the biggest and most important ones now.

1: The overwhelming majority of “coming out atheist” stories had pretty happy endings. Truly dire outcomes were fairly rare. There were a lot of stories that started badly but turned out fine. And even people who did have traumatic experiences still think that coming out was right, and are happier now that they’ve done it. In all the stories I’ve read, literally one person who came out as an atheist said they regretted it. I think we tend to tell each other the sad stories a lot — which is understandable — but most of the time, coming out as an atheist seems to turn out well.

2: I was extremely surprised at how many people came out as atheists at a young age: not just college, but high school, middle school, even younger. If I recall correctly, the youngest age was six. Seriously.

3: The diversity of coming-out experiences was enormous. I’ll have a lot more to say about that later, and I talk a lot about it in the book itself. But in reading the stories and writing about them, I had a pretty major shift in the entire way I was envisioning the book.

When I first decided to write a how-to guide for coming out atheist, I’d originally been thinking of it as a set of directions. “Here’s what to do, here’s what not to do.” But the huge diversity of stories and experiences made me realize that this was totally the wrong way to look at it. The book isn’t going to tell people the right way to come out as an atheist — because there is no right way. It’s too different for different people. The book isn’t providing a set of directions. It’s providing a map: a map of territory that people are likely going to be dealing with… so they can decide how to proceed for themselves. There are a few basic guidelines that seem to work for most people. But a lot of the book is, “Here’s a situation that may come up. You could do A, or B, or C. Here are some things to think about when making that decision; here’s what other people dealing with it did, and how they feel about it now.”

I am exhausted. I have been doing just about nothing but eat, sleep, occasionally hang out with Ingrid, and write, for days. To a lesser extent, for weeks. So I’m going to post a couple of announcements that I’ve let slip through the cracks in the last few weeks. And then I’m going to sleep for about sixteen hours, take a long long walk, sleep some more, go to the gym, and take a break from looking at a computer screen for a couple of days. I’ll see y’all soon. The kitties say hi.

5 comments

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  1. 1
    embertine

    putting up with weeks of cat photos

    “Putting up with”. Suuuure.

    *loves the cat photos*

  2. 2
    Stephen Frug

    The overwhelming majority of “coming out atheist” stories had pretty happy endings

    I wonder to what degree this is selection bias, either in terms of how you gathered stories, who who would be motivated to write in, etc. I can imagine lots of ways this could be so (e.g. people who had an unhappy experience might be less likely to want to talk about it), but obviously those imaginings are not evidence. Still, it seems a worthwhile question.

  3. 3
    Markita Lynda—threadrupt

    The cat photos were great.

    Selection bias: I’m sure there’s some. Kids who died, who are still homeless, etc., are unlikely to be writing in.

    I wonder if a reference to assertiveness training techniques, maybe in the bibliography, would be useful.

    Hurrah for finishing your first draft!

  4. 4
    Ani J. Sharmin

    Congratulations on the first draft, Greta!

  5. 5
    doublereed

    I am disappointed by the lack of cat photos in this post.

    Sounds like a cool book!

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