A nearby Library was working on rebuilding the second floor. To make room for this renovation, they were clearing out their shelves. They had a variety of books for a low price, so I decided to come in and browse through them. When I walked in, the library looked quite empty. The only exception being a few students that had come in to check out books.
I walked over to a small shelf that still had some of the discounted books. The shelf was filled with random selections like self help books and romance novels. However, there were also a few mythology books and supernatural story collections. I decided to continue searching to find some books on ancient mythology to use for writing.
I was nearly finished browsing, when a man entered the opposite end of the library. He came over and started looking over books at the same shelf. I didn’t pay much attention to him, but did notice that he was making his way through the books and closer to where I was.
I had nearly given up on finding anything of interest. Most of the good choices had already been taken by other visitors. A book about angels drew my attention, as it claimed to be about the history of how these tales started. As I was examining the book, the man leaned over and noticed what I was looking at.
“Hey, don’t see people like you around here very often.” I was taken back by his words. Not sure what he met, I looked up toward him. “People around here don’t like that kind of stuff. It isn’t really something you can talk about in public.” I was beginning to see what he meant, but I must admit I was a little creeped out. Maybe it was just because he was making so many assumptions.
The man pointed over to the librarian standing behind the counter. In a low tone, lower than he was already speaking, he said to talk to her. “She is also one of us. We have meetings here every week. Talk to her if you would like to come.” I looked over at the woman, still with a confused look. I knew what he meant, but I had no idea this was going on.
As I was glancing over at the librarian, an older gentleman entered the library. He went over to the front desk to return some books. The man next to me pointed at the older man and said, “Don’t say anything in front of him. He is very religious, and would probably try to preach to you. He’s a nice guy though.”
The man that was talking to me then picked up a book and went to the counter. As he walked away he said, “Hope to see you again.” The whole exchange felt odd. I hadn’t said much of anything to him. He pointed me out, and knew something so easily that I had been hiding.
Leaving the library, I couldn’t get over this strange feeling. It was like an underground society. In a town where the majority is overwhelmingly religious, it is terrifying to get found out. Some atheist could risk harm, losing their jobs, or their family. It felt weird to see someone who was so ready to assume that I wasn’t going to judge him. Atheism was something that had to stay hidden. It felt nice though. Knowing that I wasn’t alone was nice. I know that seems obvious. It’s just so rare to find other people with the same view. Perhaps in other areas, atheists are more open. Here, that was not the case.
I never went to meet for their book club. I do wish that I did. But I was afraid. I was not comfortable with going out to meet a group of people, and trust that they weren’t going to say anything. Perhaps in time it will become easier to expose that view. For now, I will stick to keeping it to myself.