Hi, I'm new here. Never had any idea that this site existed til yesterday when I accidentally stumbled upon it.
I realize I ramble a bit here, so if you just want to hit the "poll" portion of this, skip down a few paragraphs to where I talk about "the point."
Introductions. I am an atheist, a nontheist so to speak since birth (which at that time I suppose, technically we all are), becoming an atheist sometime later, I suppose, at about the time I was old enough to recognize that there all these improbable things called "religions" floating around out there.
See, my parents are atheists, "strong", "weak", whatever, atheistic to some extent. "Faithless" may be an appropriate term that removes some of the ambiguity of simply "atheist". As such, theist vs nontheist was simply a non-issue. We didn't talk about it, there was no explicit indoctrination into atheistic beliefs, simply the lack of any religious indoctrination otherwise. The concepts of god and etc never came up til much later on, probably when someone had to explain to us kids just who this "Jesus" person was and why the kids at school believed in these crazy stories about him.
Now, I've never worn atheism on my sleeve, so to speak, but it's never been something I've hesitated at any time in talking about. Similarly, I would never introduce myself as saying, "Hi, I'm Travis and I don't believe in invisible pink unicorns," but if my great aunt Sally informed me she was sending up some pink unicorn prayers for me I'd say something to the effect of, "no, you're not, Sally. Keep your religious nonsense to yourself TYVM."
So anyway, I'm an atheist browsing the internet. This site intrigues me. I sign up. Then I get here and I look around and notice something: a theme of sorts. A lot of people talk of this community as a sort of haven for atheistic ideas, a place where they can talk about atheism without fear of reprisal, a community of like-minded individuals that they're thankful for, and so on.
The point, long in coming, is that being a lifetime atheist, without ever experiencing any religious indoctrination or ever going through a period of internal conflict where I had to deny my family's faith-- I have never felt the need for such a community. Speaking my mind, in any situation, about my atheism has never been of the slightest concern. This community, to be honest, feels very much like a support group for those "coming out" as atheists. And this is by no means a bad thing! I am very (very) much against organized religion and I applaud people breaking from it. My intention is not to offend. It just makes me wonder about the demographic, as this place would never be something I intentionally sought out, nor will it probably be a place I frequent. It's just not really for me. (No offense intended. I was just curious about this community and I'm not normally the social internet type.)
So finally the point, really this time (as if anyone is still reading).
1.) How many of you who are active in this community are lifetime non-theists (from non-theist households, not just early converts), and how many are converted from some religion. And in either case, if you'd share, what benefit do you derive from this community? What keeps you coming back?
2.) How many of you come from communities where public knowledge of your atheism would have real consequences, e.g. social blackballing or worse. If the consequence is offending Grandma, well I'm sorry, but f*** Grandma. Tip-toeing around religion to avoid hurting others' feelings is part of the reason that religion remains a "sacred" topic. However if the consequence is your store getting burned down, or you being put up on the stake, well, then those are some defensible consequences. FYI I come from a religious part of upstate NY. It's not exactly the middle east, but it's also certainly not a community friendly to the non-churchgoer.
Anyway. Just thought I'd put it out there. Reply, flame, etc. Thanks for reading.