THE ATHEIST CLOSET
As an adult who had become comfort- able with my Cedar Hills neighbors for the last twelve years, I was apprehensive about relocating to Provo just to be closer to my daughter’s school. This move deep- er into Utah County had the potential for culture clash and new Mormon neighbors that typically keep me from answering the door on Sunday mornings and make me want to curse loudly and drink beer in my front yard—but once the boxes were un- packed, and the kids and I had legitimate library cards for the first time in years, we decided Provo wasn’t all that “jacked.”
It helped that the previous owners of our home were nonmembers and it helped that the neighborhood itself seemed to be moderate, accepting, and loving LDS people—so far we have not encountered any that are not.
Our new neighbors unnecessarily tend to apologize for community events always being church related, and when my daughter was invited to join the bi-
monthly youth activities for the 11-year- old Mormon girls, I was hesitant. She, however, was anxious to meet new friends and was bored with summer. I walked her to the door and met the teacher, who was a very gracious older woman with grown children and fiery red hair. She welcomed us in and quickly explained that her husband was also not a member. I was just getting ready to make my exit when she looked at me and asked, “Do you believe in God?” In my years as an atheist, no one has asked me this heavily-weighted ques- tion so directly. I felt nervous, not sure how to respond, and sputtered through an awkward smile, “No, I’m an atheist, but my daughter will need to decide that for herself.”
As I walked to my car and drove back to work, an odd settling and sense of relief filled in from the back of my mind to the tip of my tongue. My tongue, that up until this moment, had never uttered the words, “I am an atheist” to anyone other than my
closest friends, and certainly not a stranger of the popular faith in my own neighbor- hood. Over the next couple of weeks I found myself willingly admitting my atheism to people in the office whom I had worked with for years and in any other conversation that warranted it. My fear of offending those whom I respect the most had finally receded. I had
Officially come out of the atheist closet, out from the piles of little-girl Sunday dresses I once wore, out from under my parents’ disappointed eyes, and into a realm where my beliefs no longer need to be squelched for those I was afraid I might offend. I regained my faith in the
compassion of people, which I should have had all along.
Trish Hopkinson / HEX Writer