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The End.

May 31, 2014

Almost 4 years ago I made this post, my inaugural post to this site and the very first time I admitted to anyone other than myself that I am an atheist. 3 years, 7 months, 21 days. It’s just a little over 4 years since I admitted to myself that I am an atheist. Tomorrow I do not get up at 8:30 and get ready to go to my job, directing music in a very conservative Southern Baptist church, as I have almost every Sunday morning for five years and three months (I missed a couple of Sundays because of the flu, or vacation, but of the 274 Sundays since I started I was probably there for 265 of them. Last week was my last day as the music director. I am finally free of that job.

I do not currently have anything to take its place, however. This wasn’t a choice I made entirely on my own. No, no one at the church has found out about my unbelief, and I wasn’t fired from the position. When I took the job I was in graduate school. It was an interim music director position–generally what a church does is hire someone on a temporary, interim, basis while they search for someone to fill the permanent position. Usually these jobs last a year or two, sometimes less. The last one I did was 10 months. For a variety of reasons this one didn’t end, and the church has not been seeking someone permanent. In fact, many of the members assumed I was a permanent employee until recently. Two months ago the Personnel Committee told me that they had decided to end the interim position, effective at the end of May, and hire someone for the permanent, still part-time, music minister position. I would have to apply for the position, and they would have to advertize it even if I did apply, but I got the idea that my application would take priority over any others.

I decided I could not, in good conscious, apply for the new position. When I was hired, just over five years ago, I thought I was still a believer. I didn’t lie to them when I told them that. I would have to lie to them this time around and I can’t do that. It’s one thing to continue acting like it in a position I already have, but to lie as a part of the hiring process seems more dishonest to me. And, of course, I have planned to leave as soon as I find a secular job for quite some time and that would not change. It wouldn’t be very fair to them to accept the position and then a couple of months down the road resign, forcing them to perform a search again. So, a couple of weeks later I told them that I would not be applying for the permanent position. (I also found out that they will be requiring more hours and possibly be giving less pay for the new position, so… Yeah, that’s not going to happen.)

I’ve maintained the lie that I am a believer. I don’t want to burn my bridges, and this is 5 years of work history that I wouldn’t want to mess up while I look for another job. So my line has been that, “I just don’t feel that this is what I’m called to do now,” and lots of stuff about how I’ve prayed about this and such. I know that to some, especially the Christian readers, the difference in lying to them about this, and all along for the past four years, and lying to the committee to apply for the job may not seem like much, but it feels very different to me and is a line I just can’t cross. I know there are those who think I am a terrible person for having kept this job for over four years without being a believer. I’ve done what I had to in order to survive.

If I had come clean to them I would have been out of a job four years ago, and I may have ended up having to move back home. It would likely have come back to my parents that I am no longer a believer, too. Now, I trust my family to not react the way some do when they find their children are atheists–cutting off all communication and support, kicking them out if they live at home–but I have no way of knowing for sure. It wouldn’t be very smart to make a move that would cost me my job and then possibly cost me any family support I have all in one blow.

Anyway, it no longer matters. I’m done. I am no longer a secret atheist music minister. I’m free of the church, free of the lies I had to maintain, and free of having to listen to my bigoted, anti-science pastor spew bullshit from the pulpit every week. I’m quite happy about it, though the prospect of not having a job does not really make me comfortable.

But tomorrow morning I get to sleep in and enjoy not going to church. I’ve probably missed church on a Sunday morning fewer than 34 times in my 34 years of life, and now I won’t have any obligation to go back.


Edit: I don’t intend this to be the last post to this blog. It’ll still probably be infrequent, but I won’t be shutting it down. The title was simply referring to my “ministry” at the church.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. June 1, 2014 6:46 am

    It does seem to me that you’ve made the right choices. They’re certainly the ones I’d have made in the same situation. Though of course my approval doesn’t necessarily make them the right ones :-)

    Good luck with finding a new role, I hope one comes along for you soon.

  2. June 10, 2014 12:07 am

    Congrats on getting out! There is no feeling like it. I hope you find a great job soon. I served in music ministry for 10 years. About 3 of those years were filled with serious doubts. The last 4 I was an atheist. I did what you have done and left on good terms. I feel good about the fact I did. I was able to transition into higher education/IT from my previous ministry. I’m happy for you and know EXACTLY how you feel. Hang in there and stay true! Quitting is the antivenom to the poison that religion injects.

  3. August 7, 2014 7:52 pm

    Not trying to change your beliefs, yet, proving what’s Upstairs as you’ll soon find-out: the Warning shall influence humanity to choose — Greetings, earthling. Because I was an actual NDE on the outskirts of the Great Beyond at 15 yet wasn’t allowed in, lemme share with you what I actually know Seventh-Heaven’s gonna be like for us: meet this ultra-bombastic, ex-mortal-Upstairs for the most-extra-blatant-and-groovy, pleasure-beyond-measure, Ultra-Yummy-Reality-Addiction in the Great Beyond for a BIG-ol, kick-ass, party-hardy, eternal-warp-drive you DO NOT wanna miss the sink-your-teeth-in-the-smmmokin’-hot-deal. YES! For God, anything and everything and more! is possible!! Cya soon…

  4. R.Ambrose permalink
    September 29, 2014 5:19 pm

    I may be a little late jumping in on this thread, but I wanted to say congratulations on setting yourself free. I have recently “come out” as an unbeliever after a lifetime of religious indoctrination and practice. I can empathize, because I am still in hiding when it comes to some of my Christian friends and family. But, I do hope to find the strength someday to be as honest with others as I’ve become with myself.

    • September 29, 2014 5:43 pm

      It’s pretty liberating just being honest with yourself, but the Fregin that comes with being open with those around you is even better. My family still does not know and visiting them is hard. I have to pretend to still be a believer when I am around them and it feels awful lying to them.

  5. October 23, 2014 8:12 am

    In many ways their attitude gave you no real choice but having to lie. In many ways your desire to be congenial, tolerant and accepting when they would not be that way to you demonstrates you have more morality and “Christian values” than they do. I’ll guarantee that even if Christianity was the truth…few Southern Baptists would find their way into the kingdom of heaven. I lived in Oklahoma for 3 years and I know people in the south don’t consider that the south, and consider it the west, but Oklahomans are every bit as Southern Baptist as anybody else. I found the southern hospitality thing to be a great big façade. People who are friendly to your face but will talk shit about you behind your back and consider you a heathen. I am half Indian (India Indian) and Oklahoma and Texas were the only places where I felt that my skin color was a problem. One time I was on a bus and it was full and the seat next to me however was open…new people getting on the bus chose to stand rather than sit next to me.

  6. Brit permalink
    December 8, 2014 10:40 pm

    I found this in a Google search. I’ve been questioning things for a long time, but have been passive about it. I am now actively pursuing my own beliefs and it is tough! When my husband found out about my research into atheism, he threatened to leave and take my daughter from me. My dad is a southern baptist pastor, so I understand the difficulty in telling family.

    That was just a long way of saying I appreciate your writing about your experiences!

    • July 10, 2015 7:17 pm

      Sorry it took me so long to respond, but perhaps you’ll see this. I’m also sorry that you had such troubles. I’ve said it before, but I am very glad I do not have a spouse or children to worry about through my transition out of religion. I am far enough away from my parents that I don’t really have to work hard to keep my beliefs private, and can bite my tongue when I visit and my father talks about creationism or gay marriage or something. I hope that in the half year since you left this comment things have improved for you.

      If they have not, know that there are plenty of others out there suffering for the same reason. Check out Recovering From Religion for resources to help, if you haven’t already done so!

  7. January 3, 2015 3:34 pm

    If you want to stay in church work, you might look at Unitarian Univeralist churches. Most of the folks in our choir at atheists, including the director, or at most theists. If we sing a song with any traditional religious language, she acknowledges and kind of apologizes and we deconstruct it to its humanist message. And we get to sing so many really wonderful things from all genres. I don’t know where you are – if you are in Cincinnati, we are actually on a music director hunt right now, if you are interested.

    • July 10, 2015 7:01 pm

      I would consider it, but I would have to find the right UU church (many of them are way too “woo” for me) and many of them do not hire full-time music directors. Those that do, and would fit with my beliefs, are few and far between. I’ve found a job, however, outside of church work entirely. Post on that coming soon. :D

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