Friendly Atheist has a post about a guy who works at a Christian university and became an atheist while he was there. He still works there, and hasn’t come out as an atheist to anyone, including his wife, who also works there. His story is pretty sad. He also now has a blog where he’s telling his story: Closeted in Academia.
A couple of comments mentioned that depression would be highly likely if he were to stay at his present job and stay in the closet. That was definitely true for me. I was depressed during my last year at Wheaton. From the time when I began to seriously doubt the veracity of Christianity, I grew more and more miserable while I was at Wheaton. Around the time I first started thinking that I might be an atheist, I realized that my misery had turned into depression and was spiraling downward very quickly. I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to recover completely until after I had left Wheaton and could be honest about myself, but I had to somehow keep myself from falling so deep that I would be unable to recover.
So I went to the Wheaton College Counseling Center and began to have weekly sessions with a counselor. It was pretty miserable. The counselor kept giving me books with Christian approaches to dealing with depression. I didn’t read them. It was not very helpful, but just being able to talk to someone, even someone who patronized me and pissed me off, was enough to keep my depression from getting out of control. It didn’t get any better, but it didn’t get much worse.
My relief from depression wasn’t immediate, but it started happening in small steps as soon as I graduated. The misery of being silenced for so long made me determined not to hide my atheism once I left Wheaton. A friend said to me once that my journey of deconversion took a lot of strength, and once I had used up all my strength in keeping quiet, it would be time to take back that strength and use it to speak out.
Even a year after graduation and nearly two years after becoming an atheist, I am still recovering from the effects of having suppressed my true beliefs for such a long time. And as I recover more and more, I’m gaining more confidence in making my true self known. I’ve come out to a few more people, and now I’ve taken the (somewhat laughable) final step: I’ve come out on Facebook. Ever since I began having serious doubts, my Facebook profile has remained silent about my “Religious Views”. If I were a Christian, it would not have been silent. This small step for me marks the end of my acquiescence to fear.