Could I take a poll? How important is it to YOU for others to know where you stand on the God fantasy? Do you go out of your way to let others know you are an atheist when you could just as easily keep quiet? (We'll assume that most of us are careful when employment or personal safety is at stake.) But how about those situations where you know you will be quietly pitied or quietly condemned for your atheism but will not be openly vilified, rejected or threatened? In other words, I'm thinking about relationships and situations where you know that people will talk about you behind your back but probably will not confront you in any way. Do you feel that to be intellectually honest you need to "share" or reveal your atheism, even when there is probably zero chance of awakening or enlightening others or causing them to rethink religious dogma?
B.K., I don't initiate any discussion about religion unless someones says something like, "I'll pray for...", or "The lord told me ...", or "Let go, let god". I make it clear in such circumstances that I am not a believer. I see no benefit to me to remain quiet about who I am and what I believe. I owe no one such silence. Silence in the face of such circumstances benefits no one. I am retired and have nothing to lose by speaking my truth.
What people think of me is none of my business. If they pity me, or condemn, or vilify, or reject me, then they obviously will not make an attempt to spend time with me and I have no interest in spending time with them. Time is too precious to spend it with those who do not have an inquiring mind. If someone becomes threatening or belligerent or aggressive, I have a fire in me that lights very easily and I can knock the biggest brute aside with my tongue and my reasoning. That usually ends the relationship, to my great pleasure.
People who talk behind my back are not uncommon, and their version of me is very different from what other people think of me or how I think of myself. When someone expresses racist, homophobic, or sexist remarks, I confront very easily and if they are in my home I invite them to leave. If I am in their home, I leave. If I am in a third party's home, I often express my thinking and move to a different conversation or leave. I don't like gatherings anyway, so that is no big deal.
If a person is curious, asks questions, makes statements about their religious beliefs, I can stay with them as long as they remain civil.
I have absolutely no interest in "proselytizing" for secular values. If someone asks me questions, I answer as honestly as I can without passing judgement on their values. If he or she finds my reasoning compelling, he or she may look further into the ideas and that is great! If I sense value judgment against me from another, I am done. I have no interest in disputes.
I am proud to be an atheist, I see so many healthy benefits for learning how to think for myself and refuse to submit to another because of some notion of power. I am fully equal with all that exists, I live a far more interesting life than most, I have a very short period of time of being conscious and I intend to spend it in ways that enlighten and inspire me.
Joan's perspective above seems very wise and healthy. Except I'm not sure that I have no interest in "proselytizing" as I would like to see secular values and perspectives grow in society.
I think the basic premise upon which religion is based is flawed and will crumble from the inside. That means that we need to be vocal about being moral and ethical and happy, and productive, and without fear of hell and hope of heaven. Being silent about being atheist serves no one.
Building community based on good communication skills and other interpersonal skills is far more satisfying than trying to obey some arbitrary rule. The hatreds generated by religious dogma surely will eat away at the flawed religious systems.
I am atheist and proud of it. I think it shows.
I like your ideas Joan.
It's important to me that everyone knows I'm atheist. I remember when I was only eight or ten years old and asked my father what an atheist was. He told me they were the most horrible people in the world. They would say or do anything. They would even kill anyone for no reason! Needless to say I didn't want to meet one of them.
Fast forward many years....Not only am I atheist, and you can tell from that earlier bit it was a tough road, I want everyone to know it. But most of all I want my grandkids to know,and their friends to know, that atheists are just your average people. We marry, raise children with good moral values,work,pay taxes and (most of us) have never had so much as a speeding ticket in our lives.
,.People should know who we are and what we are...we're not the devil in disguise.
K Hughes, I guess I'm still trying to decide if it's important to me that people know I'm an atheist. I'd like to do my bit to let people here in the South know that atheists are normal, "nice" people. But maybe I'm just making an assumption that there is a horrified reaction to the concept of atheism. My relatives are polite people and any in depth discussion about such things would likely be initiatied by ME, not them. For this reason I wonder if I'm better off just keeping quiet.
I was thinking about this recently when I considered posting a Facebook link to a little video (sort of well done) by CFI (Center for Inquiry). It's called "Living Happily without Religion". Something like that. My reasoning goes that if family members are posting religious nonsense (" 'Like this' if you trust Jesus with your life and repost it within three minutes"- that sort of stuff), then it's reasonable to post another point of view.
Yeah, need to unfriend a few people to clean up the stuff that shows up on my FB newsfeed. I only joined to be able to see photos..
I feel the religious intolerance in this area. I think you and I live in a very similar towns as far as race,religion and politics go. The town I live in is full of fundies who,for the most part,don't beleve in evolution. Ask yourself this 'can I make a difference and do I want to'? My family have been surprised about me openly claiming atheism but they are my family and we love each other. We don't discuss religion because their religion believes being gay is a choice and I know it's not. I haven't lost any friends or family over my decision and the people I come into casual contact with, store clerks etc.. think it's kinda cool. When I was on fb I used to post links to atheist wesites and only one person even commented on it. Maybe a couple tame, atheist posts, is a good way to put out feelers.
I can honestly say I haven't gotten the first horrified reaction. I keep hoping for one. Laugh.
Good luck with whatever you decide.
Home schooling is common in this area so the kids don't get exposed to science!!
Thanks, K. Hughes. In the past I've I've done exactly what you suggest-- put out a few facebook feelers, interspersed with posts that are full of sweetness and light. So far no horrified reaction. (just complete silence...) I suspect (paranoid?) that "they" are talking about me, but the best approach is to continue to be a caring, thoughtful person-- bring pound cake to family gatherings, be a good neighbor, compliment them on their cute kids, etc. Right?
I also post pro-gay rights stuff and posted a really funny parody of that Cheerios commercial with the interracial couple. Just could not believe that a mixed marriage is ANY kind of an issue in 2013-- even in the deep south... but guess what? It is!
I'm an old white man and my wife is from Kenya. She told me that people at her work do not like that mixed marriage Cheerios commercial. (We live in Missouri.) I told her that those people need to grow up!
And they need to learn that hatred that is a learned feeling can be unlearned. Yes, just grow up!
Google the lesbian version of the Cheerios ad. It's pretty funny.