I have friends who are closeted atheists.
I would never, EVER out them. One, in particular, breaks my heart; she’s terrified that her family – specifically, her husband – would reject her if they knew she doesn’t believe the same way they do.
Part of me – and a rather large part, at that – is infinitely frustrated by this. What kind of a relationship is my friend (or any of my closeted friends) really having if they can’t be who they truly are with the people who claim to love them the most? I recognize, though, that their choices are theirs to make, no matter how much it hurts me to see my friends have to stuff an important part of who they are away just to spend time with the people they love. I want my friends to know that I think about their struggles, and I support the choices they need to make for themselves.
I’m afraid that many of my friends will never be able to come out publicly, so I continue to be a sounding board and a proxy for some of the things they’d like to say but feel they can’t. Sometimes, I think that this is part of why I’m so outspoken about my own atheism; I feel as though I have a responsibility (and the privilege) of giving voice to those of my people who are, and will likely remain, voiceless.