Friends and Family
This has surprised me, as I think it does every person who takes this road. The thing about leaving any major belief system, is that all of a sudden, it's no big deal. If there is nothing to believe, there is nothing to really think about. I'm not really sure how else to put it because I know that explanation is lacking. Let's look at the opposing view: there IS something to believe in. There IS a higher power who demands nothing less than ALL of you. Well, that's one all-consuming idea! So, once you leave that lifestyle, all of a sudden, you're no longer bothered by it. However, many people you love (and who love you!) still believe and it is their everything. They believe you are going to die and burn in hell for all eternity because you no longer believe. You hear things like "you've been on my heart/mind lately" and "we're so sorry to hear about this" and "we're praying for you." And you know they are worried sick.
I take all these things as signs of love from these believers. Obviously they are doing everything they know how to "help" me. It is sweet. I know not all atheists agree, but I think it is sweet. I hate that they are worried about me, but in time it will blow over.
There are those friends and family who try to argue with you. As if you've not looked all the facts already. You get: "For every atheist argument, there is a Christian argument that is just as good." What? First of all, wha-what??? You cannot make an all-encompassing statement like that. It just proves how ignorant you are. The funny thing about "atheist arguments" is that we don't need any. We are not trying to prove anything. We just think the religious arguments don't hold up. We can't prove that something DOESN'T exist. It's like trying to disprove you are not a thief. What? [Thanks to JT for that!] The proof must come from the person making the claim. In this case, there is a group [theists] making an extraordinary claim: There IS a superpower/god. Furthermore, [from Christians] he wrote a book, sent his only "son" [and part of himself in this awkward Trinity arrangement?] and demands your entire self, promising you an eternity in the hereafter with Him... just to be clear: this is an extraordinary claim. Therefore, it requires extraordinary evidence. I'm still waiting for that evidence. I digress ...
Overall, my family has been very supportive. They lovingly have bought us books (some laughable but I appreciate the thought). I am certain they pray for us. I have been lucky enough to have one family member de-converted with me! We are now able to respond in the same manner (we laugh) about some of our old beliefs. We also mourn over not having a superpower to pray to when things get hard. But we lean on each other and we get through it.
Friends... the first time I mentioned on Facebook that I had become an atheist, I had approximately 25 friends drop me overnight. I have no idea who they were, but I'm guessing they didn't really care about me. The surprising part has been the friends I didn't know all that well who have offered support (albeit usually through prayer), and even offered to gather evidence for me to re-convert to Christianity. It is so sweet. I've had some very, very close friends ignore the change altogether. It's like they're in denial. I don't even think they've read about my journey here. It has been SO strange.
The highly annoying people are those who say: you want proof? Well there's this scientist ... who proves a God through science ... here see this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F0-NPPIeeRk. OK, sorry but don't waste my time! I had a large handful of people try to sneak in sermons in the name of science. It was at first laughable, then just plain annoying. The sad part is, once I asked these people about the videos, they personally had not watched them. UGH!!! The same thing was happening with books: read THIS or THAT. It is a response to ______ [insert anti-religious book title here]. And then as I'm TRYING to get through the ridiculous reasoning (or lack there-of) in the books they recommended, I find out said person hasn't read said book and is only offering it because he/she heard it was a good response ... do NOT offer "evidence" to someone who is genuinely seeking unless you have checked it out yourself. It will just push them further into the "Christians are ignorant of science" direction. Just sayin'!
I know a lot of my friends have been scared about family response. I am from a fundamental Christian background (Baptist actually) and my husband was raised Pentecostal. I can only speak for our experiences, but our families have been overwhelmingly supportive. So, don't be scared. Be open with your friends and family. It must be so hard to hide something so big from them. I think you would want honesty and openness from your child/friend/loved one.
On a sidenote, I have received many private messages on Facebook and e-mail, numbering into the 20s, saying they lost faith a long time ago but could not "come out" publicly because of work, spouse, family etc. I hate this for them. And that is why I'm here, sharing all this with you.
I WANT PEOPLE TO KNOW THERE IS A SAFE PLACE TO LAND HERE. Atheism is not scary. After the initial shock, it's quite pleasant. And you will still have your true friends, and sometimes even a few more <3 to everyone and have a great day!