I just have to share this because I'm jazzed about it.
Many of my regular readers will know that while I'm very outspoken about my atheism on the web, I'm still a mostly-in-the-closet atheist when it comes to my immediate family members. (I know, I'm working on it; these things take time.) Said family members were have their Thanksgiving celebration yesterday, myself included. I love our Thanksgiving. I mean, sure, I still like going to the houses of parents' and grandparents' of extended family for the holidays, but nothing can beat the spread, quality, and atmosphere of having Thanksgiving at home (and Mom's food is always better). They're not an overtly religious bunch. None go to church regularly and holidays have always been about family and food and togetherness, never about Jesus or other religious hogwash. So there I was, sitting at the dinner table in the house that I grew up in, stuffing my face with...well, stuffing, when one of my grandmother's many brothers walked into the kitchen with his southern boisterous ululations.
"You god-damned atheist!" he roared.
I froze, heart thumping.
"With yer bumper sticker saying 'The hard work of one does more than the prayers of millions'! I'm gonna go get Brother Jack and we're going to send you straight to hell!"
I nearly choked on the turkey -- with laughter. "Well, send him over!" I quipped. My mother chuckled.
You'd probably have to know the man to appreciate it all. He's known for that type of language, but I was surprised to hear it and being in the form a joke softened it a little. But the fact was there...I was called an ATHEIST in front of my whole family! Holy shit! I'm sure because of me not objecting to the term and congenially welcoming the attack was in a way a coming out of sorts. At least I'm sure it will aid in the real event, should it arise in the future. It was great. In one instant I essentially made the topic accessible. Call me an atheist, I don't mind.
I assume that my family suspects at least something's up. I mean, they realize I stopped going to church. And I have that bumper sticker and an EvolveFish on my truck. And I made the priest who came into my hospital room when I had my cholecystectomy leave immediately. And I sent my mom a reply linking to this blog when she forwarded me a stupid email. And some of my kinfolks and related-in-law already know for sure, through either direct conversation or finding me on the internet (no telling who they talk to). So I think at least some of my core family members might get the picture, although they're not aware of all the details.
My great uncle was joking, of course. He meant no ill toward me, though I'm not entirely sure he'd be so cordial if I had stood up and said, "yeah, I'm a soulless, faithless, godless atheist...so what?!" And I was all ready to defend my position. This is it, I thought. Oh well, perhaps for the better; it may have ruined the festivities. But at least my uncle can joke about it. He was raised in a tough Catholic school way back in the days where they would beat your hands with rulers for not obeying their strict requirements. He hates nuns now.
Anyway, I'm still all goosebumpy over it even though it literally was one sentence and nothing more from anybody. I never thought I'd be (semi)outed by one of own family. Being called an atheist, just out in public like that, was exilerating.
I hope it happens again.