Are you open about being an atheist or are you in the closet?

I am semi in the closet. I do have to admit that I am not comfortable discussing my views with just anyone. I am the type that wants everyone to like me (such a fault I have!) and I am nervous someone will think I am a bad person. Even when I find someone who is passionate about science, I still try not to venture down that avenue. So lucky to have you guys!

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Thanks, that made me smile. I've actually come across some rather open minded theists, in fact I took one to a Seattle atheists event on the psychological harms of christianity, it was pretty good. However I've also come across extremely closed minded people on the subject, dangerously so. One guy told me that people who haven't heard of jebus go to hell when they die, and he said he was perfectly fine with that. When I was obviously in shock, he compared it to "Well think of it like this, people in Africa who don't have a fridge can't ever eat ice cream, and you're fine with that". He's the same type to say without gawd they would go around raping and murdering all they want. And that's a scary thought. Which is exactly why I'm so open, education is the key to everything.

My uncle was a Superior Court Judge, and I capitalize the words deliberately. He had the voice of Moses and very strong feelings about what was appropriate for his daughter and me and all women. We were to submit and obey our husbands. period). I went to him 40 years ago and asked why law enforcement and the courts were so hard on women who were battered. I also asked why child support was so difficult to get from some judges. He told me that a woman who wouldn't stay in a marriage deserved no support. 

My other family members who are believers hate that I spoke publicly about family violence. My aunts accused me of speaking badly of our family and talking about what happened. I stated I was telling the truth and my Aunt Martha said she knew I was telling the truth, but we don't talk about it. She ordered me out of house.

From that day on I decided I would never remain silent again.  

My cousin's husband is a minister and they spoke to me as though the voice of god came through their larynxes. Another cousin who was a sheriff spoke as though he had the power of god himself and the state of Washington behind him. He knows how to order a crowd around, and he is as skilled with individual law breakers.

Therefore, I decided I had to speak as though the universe spoke through me and I had the authority of all nature, including the fire of lightning and sound of thunder. I would stand as tall as I could (I am among the smallest of the family at five feet two inches ). I held my head high, my shoulders straight, my spine as strong as steel, and my feet planted firmly on Mother Earth. I spoke clearly, calmly, authoritatively, accurately, and truthfully as I could. I told of my grandmothers', my mother's and my truths. I told the truth of battered women and police officers (police officers have the fourth highest family violence rate of all professions). I defined what happens in courts and the kinds of supports that are given to women with children (40 years ago it was absolutely shameful). I told of the role of religion in keeping women bound to values that come out of the Bronze Age. I described the ways physicians and psychiatrists treat battered women and the research that revealed the wide scope of the medical profession in maintaining and perpetuating family violence. I recounted the role of jobs that pay unequal pay for equal work and limitations of women for advancement. I told of women not having the right to say no to sex with their husbands, of not being allowed to use birth control, of not having a legal right to an abortion. 

So, the trick, at least as far as I experienced, is to be competent, confident, committed!!! Know what you think and why. You don't have to know the bible or historical dates. Just know the principles and speak with authority. For those who weep, well ... well ... well ... I don't know what to say. For those who see that you mean business, you shouldn't have too much trouble from them. 

The funny thing, when I am with family I never initiate a discussion about religion. The topic always comes up.  They speak their mind, I speak my mine, and all seems civil. I don't know what they think or feel, unless they tell me. If they don't tell me, then I let it go. 

I tell anyone who brings up their deity to me, assuming that I also have faith.  I am out and proud to my Baptist fiancé.  He fully supports me, and seems fine raising any hypothetical offspring with all of the facts and letting them decide for themselves after hearing both of our sides.  :-)  My immediate family knows that I am not Christian, but I haven't "come out" as an atheist yet, because I am a bit afraid of their reaction to that word.

My coworkers will find out if they ever try to talk to me about religion.  I work in a pretty safe environment, but so far religion hasn't come up.  Politics have, and I am happy to report that I work with several like-minded progressives.  I don't fear any reprimanding for my atheism at work.

My extended family will find out only after all of my lucid grandparents are gone, because they are extremely Catholic and I don't fancy killing Grandma because I want to tell her that I reject all that she holds most dear.

In general, I do consider myself to be an "out" atheist, because I don't hide it from most people.  But really there are a few people who I would like to tell...

Here's how I would handle that, Leah. If the subject comes up just tell people that you are a non-believer. If they start in on you say something like " I didn't say I had never attended church and knew nothing of god, I said I am a non-believer." It's a decision you have come to and the word "atheist" actually scares the hell out of a lot of people.

I agree, Michael. Sometimes "secular" and "humanist" sound softer. They mean the same thing. 

I am:

  • A human
  • An atheist
  • A male
  • An engineer
  • An audiophile
  • Occasionally a touch off of three-sigma

Not necessarily in that order.

I am:

1. A scientist

2. A gardner

3. An anti-theist

4. A technician

4. Occasionally a touch off of three-sigma (If I know what you mean by that Loren.  Will you tell me what you mean by that exactly?)

5. Other lesser important things to me, like a male, an atheist, a human, and a curmudgeon.

In that order (today).

Joan, I'm trying to remind myself to use a softer word or phrase, instead of atheist.  When I came-out to my family, I said I was an atheist.  I think I did it to let them know how strong I felt about it, to try to keep them from trying to convert me back.  If I had it to do over, I would not use that word.

I'm not fond of secular or humanist.  I prefer scientist, but will probably start saying I gave-up faith for science, and see how that goes.

What's wrong with "atheist"?  It's just the opposite of "theist."   It's the narrow-minded theists who have added all the hateful baggage, like "commie, pinko, witch, scumbag, etc." to it.  It helps them get their own knickers in a twist, which makes them feel superior to everyone else.

Stand proud and say "atheist," and mean it...or try "realist."  "Rational skeptic."  "Non-believer."  If whoever you are talking to persists that there is a god, ask for evidence.

All "atheist" means is that you do not have a belief in any god or gods.  That's all.

I highly recommend Dan Barker's book, The GOOD Atheist.  The first part defines "atheist" in great detail, and the second part lists and describes famous atheists who have brought knowledge, common sense, and joy into this little mudball of a world.

sk8eycat, I agree totally. Since the Chapel Hill shooting of 3 Muslim students I've been online in blogs defending atheists, but NOT Craig Hicks, the shooter.

I make it plain that the weapons of even a militant atheist are going to be a pen and a word processor. You'd be surprised at how many "thumbs down" I get on that because people instinctively hate atheists.

Yeah, I know.  "But you MUST believe in something."  Yeah, "Live and let live."  Is that so hard for people to understand?

The ones I do not trust are fanatical gun-worshippers...and from what I've read, the 2nd Amendment was/is Craig Hicks' true religion.

Two of my uncles were genuine cowboys after WW2, and I never saw either of them carrying any sort of weapon except a pocketknife.  I think Hollywood has a lot to answer for...glamorizing a wild west that never was, and idiots like Mr. Ugly Stallone.  (And if I ever happen to be approached by one of those overweight "open Carry" slobs, I will be sorely tempted to kick him in the "family Jewels."  IF he has any.)

PS: Our across-the-street neighbors for the past 36 years originally came from Pakistan.  They are Muslims, naturally, but they are also nice people.  I would never lump them with the Muddled East crazies. 

My hometown glorified John Wayne with a "John Wayne Trail". During the Vietnam war, when Don served there, it was John Wayne this and John Wayne that. I was a Jane Fonda sympathizer and you would think I had grown horns. 

I don't like what she did and said about the soldiers, but, hey! people do and say stupid things when faced with a town or a country full of beliefs that created such a lousy war in the first place. 

There is something about age that mellows people out. Hopefully not as far as to be a conservative, but just not such a radical. I am still a Saul Alinsky radical, though.

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