Saturday, August 9, 2008

Atheists: Get Out of the Damned Closet!

William J. Isom is gone. Yesterday I abandoned my nom de plume, and changed my blog and my book's web site, to reflect my real name: Craig A. James.

And today, I issue a challenge to all Atheist bloggers: Come out of the closet! Don't be afraid, be proud. You're a rational, grounded thinker. You have the courage of your convictions. You've picked a hard path, and stuck to it. Don't hide!

My decision was due to a comment from my book agent, who asked, "What are you afraid of?" I had no good answer to that question. There was just a vague, unsupported fear of persecution and harassment from the religious extremist.

Well, that made me kind of mad. I thought about the courage of our well-known authors, such as Harris, Dennett, Gould, Mills, Dawkins, and especially, Bertrand Russell, who was terribly persecuted for his atheism by the State of New York. If Bertrand Russell stood up to argue my cause, and I don't even have the courage to stand behind him, but instead hide behind the internet's veil of anonymity, then what kind of atheist am I?

I did a quick survey to find out who hides behind internet anonymity, Atheists or Christians? The results are stunning: Atheists, by a HUGE margin. Almost ALL Christians blogers use their real names, but roughly 70% to 80% of Atheists bloggers are anonymous.

To be fair, Christians are the majority, and have no reason to hide. But what about other oppressed minorities whose members have had the courage to take a risk, to stand up for what they believe? Should Rosa Parks have given up her seat on the bus to a white person? Should women have agreed that they weren't worthy of the right to vote? Should gays and lesbians stay in the closet and suffer? What about Bertrand Russell's courage?

Put your name on your blog. Put your name on your web site. When religion comes up at a party, don't be afraid to say, "Well, I'm an atheist, and here's how I see it..."

Oppression is a state of mind, and it takes both an oppressor and a cooperative victim for a human to be truly oppressed. Don't be a victim, be a courageous atheist.

Signed proudly: Craig A. James

About my "survey": Please see for a complete list of the Atheist sites I surveyed, and how I sampled them. Here is a raw list of the URL's.


  1. Right, so because you "came out," it is suddenly safe for everyone else to do the same? Have you spent any time in the rural South?

    I understand what you are going for, but the reality is that it simply is not safe for many of us. Some may lose their jobs, their family, their friends, or their ability to speak their minds on their blogs.

  2. vjack, you are right. Many people risk losing their jobs by coming out as an atheist. Some areas of the country are worse than others. Some people have been threatened with bodily harm for just having a website. I had a muslim troll for awhile who was horrible and made me a bit nervous. Imagine if just one of these crackpots got a bug up their rear end and came to pay you a visit? It has happened for various reasons because of internet blogging.

    Then that is a very good point vjack has made about family. When my family found out about my atheist blog, most were ok with it, but it drove a wedge between my sister and me and her daughter won't even speak to me. My sister and daughter are strict Baptists, and while my sister was my very best friend in the whole world, she now doesn't visit, and our relationship has become very distant. One must be prepared for these sacrifices just because we want to "come out". I am still quite sad about it, and must live with it.

    While it's great that so many of us are coming out, it still isn't safe for many to publicize their true identities in this crazy world.

    In the blogosphere, one does not have to use a real name to make a statement. No one knows us personally anyway, so it doesn't matter if we use a blogging name. Just the fact that there are more than 700 on Atheist Blogroll is a great thing. However, we still have a long way to go.

    Craig, why haven't you joined Atheist Blogroll and increase our numbers by one more?

  3. I still bear the physical and emotional scars of being "outed" in childhood. I live in a community that is very Calvinist. At my last place of employment and many others my co-workers and employers openly spoke out against atheists, comparing them to terrorists and suggesting they should be "kicked our of America" or shot. I've overheard a manager instructing department heads to only consider applicants from Christian schools.

    Being an "out" atheist is not safe everywhere.

    Now that I'm disabled and trying to scrape by on my freelance writing income, I answer to no one and I'm out as an atheist.

  4. Congratulations on coming out.

  5. I'm making progress ... but I'm with vjack, the rural South sucks for atheists. I'm not worried about me personally, but rather for those around me. Individually, I freely admit my atheism to anyone around me that brings up religion to me personally. I might hesitate a moment and have that gnawing anxiety in my stomach, but I'm not going to lie. But being very public about it, well... then there could be innocent victims.

    My wife and her family are baptist and in good standing and occupy leadership and teaching roles in their church -- which is generally full of very nice people, despite their common delusion. My father is in a delicate position in his job - an executive position in a gov. facility - where despite always doing the right thing, there are a few people that feel wronged by him and are already grasping at straws and spreading lies/rumors to threaten his job. Despite being a fruitless effort, they would take the "his son is an atheist!" angle and run like hell with it.

    So my position is mostly political. I don't want to do or say anything very publicly for fear of putting those around me in awkward or damaging positions.

    I wish it were otherwise, I really do.

  6. Coming out needs to be decided by each individual because they know their specific circumstances. Personally, I have tried to stay anonymous because I have children.

    Unfortunately, some people at my in-laws church discovered my blog and were able to find out who I am through some digging. This has led to some terrible repercussions for my husband's brother has disowned him and his children are no longer allowed in our home...or even near us. My children are essentially being cut off from that side of their family because they can't handle the fact that we do not believe what they do. So, if I could go back, I would be even more careful to protect my anonymity.

    Now, if I didn't have kids, I might be more likely to rid my site of anonymity. And, I think it is great when people are able to do so. I just think it depends on the situation each person is in. Congratulations to you and to all the others who have been able to do this :)

  7. I understand and sympathize with those who cannot risk coming out as an atheist.

    For the rest of us, however, I concur that we need to be willing to show that we are not embarrassed or ashamed of our atheism and we will not be intimidated by the majority. We are secure in our conclusion that atheism is the only sensible conclusion in the face of fantastic beliefs. It is indeed time for those of us free to do so to stand up and openly identify ourselves as atheists.

    I'm Jack Carlson (who sometimes writes under "Jeber" and "Radical Atheist" and I approve this reply. ;)

  8. Coming out as an Atheist and coming out as a blogger are two different things. In Norway where I live, closet-atheism is a non-issue unless you happen to have a very religious family. Everyone knows I'm an Atheist. No problemo.

    But blogging and internet in general is a completely different thing. Privacy is important. Not because I'm afraid of religious nuts, but because I learnt many years ago that what happens on the internet stays on the internet - forever.
    Everybody googles everybody these days. I don't need to be afraid that they discover that I'm an Atheist, but I like to be frank when I write, and that might not always give people, future employers, in-laws etc. a good impression (Her father googled me, she told).

    That most Christian bloggers use their full name is interesting, but even they may regret it.

    Anyway, since I live in a sort of Atheist's paradise I am very humble with regards to the hardship of Atheists other places. If you can come out, then by all means do it, because I think it will have a positive effect. Just consider that the internet is not the same as real life.

    Having said that: there's one thing you can do, if you want to come out, but don't want everyone to know just how pissed off you are with religion. Start another blog, with your full name. Write about more trivial things, and throw in a little atheism here and there. A lot of Christians are obviously taken aback at all the angriness, so this might have a double effect.

  9. I'm out to my family. I'm out to my friends. I'm out with my coworkers. The problem is my employer, who is a group of people with no sense of humor. It would not take long for the security stooges to put 2+2 together. I'd be fired, or worse, relegated to some shit hole task with no future. While it is not a problem for me to be an atheist at work. It is a huge problem for me to be an Atheist Blogger at work. So no thanks.

  10. Sorry, I love what you are trying to do but I have to agree with Mojoey. I, too, am "out" to pretty much everyone that knows me but ironically, it is the blogger part that keeps me anonymous.

  11. I've been out for quite some time now. During that time, I've had my children physically threatened on two occasions. I think it's a tad irresponsible to suggest that, just because you've come out, it's safe and prudent for everyone else to do the same (or figure, wrongly, that they're not already out because of their blog title). That's a fairly arrogant assumption. Good luck.

  12. Yes, the key word is PUBLICIZE. It's one thing to tell an acquaintance you have a different world view. It's quite another to broadcast yourself in a way as to draw attention from anonymous strangers.

    Want to know what could happen when you tell your best-friend you're an atheist. Living in a liberal State such as Michigan no 2005:

    The Murder of Larry Hooper

  13. I agree with most everyone else here.

    I am out in my real life to most everyone I know. I just don't want to attract the crazy religious types out there on the internet.

    I prefer to be protective for myself and my family.

  14. It's not about being afraid of being an atheist, it's about the varied consequences and stigmas associated with atheists as a group.

    My friends and most of my family know about my disbelief, however, I'm looking to the future as well. My current employment (as a graduate student) would suffer essentially no consequences from coming out or having a blog. Future companies may very well have a different view of things.

    My Facebook profile is limited as well. I have only essential personal information, nothing about anywhere I've worked, and nothing that can be used to identify where I live or how to contact me beyond the name of my city. While that profile uses my real name, it's also limited to people that I actually know.

    Should I blog under my real name? In the long run it would probably not have a significant negative impact on my future. Still, just because I live in relative safety does not mean that I'm about to out myself in (what is essentially) a hostile zone.

  15. I wrote a post a little over a year ago about why I remain anonymous on my blog:

    I just went back and re-read it. Sadly, it is as true today as the day I wrote it.

  16. as I just replied to your comment on my blog- I remain anonymous not to hids my ahteism as all who know me know i am an atheist- but because it allows me to comment freely on my work without worrying about breaking confidentiality of any of my patients- not everyone is anonymous for reasons of fear and not everyone can 'come out' as you call it - without consequences :)

  17. Unfortuniatly, I let it out in my Jesusville community that I am an Atheist, I cannot now get anyone to come out and do service work for me. I had one guy come out and take my TV apart and left with the parts hanging out of my TV and never heard from him again. They know my real name, it spread like wild fire.

    Here's a blog I was coresponding to regularly, she was blogging heavily and now she's suddenly disappeared, I have no way of knowing what happened to her, check it out.

    This shit is serious.

    The fucking christians are fucking insane.

  18. Wow, those are scary stories. Like strappado, I too live in a country where it's no big deal to be an atheist (Austria), so I don't feel that I have to conceal anything. I hope that tolerance for different beliefs will eventually become the norm everywhere, but there is obviously a lot to do yet.

    Anyway, my real name is Scott Wallace, and if any of you are ever in Vienna, or in the SF Bay Area most summers, drop me a line, and the drinks are on me.

  19. I've been an atheist/agnostic for years, but only my husband and [some] close friends knew it. Last year I got into a discussion about "sin", wherein I claimed to have never sinned. Mistakes, sure, but not sin. It was the first time I actually thought about that in a rational way. It was frightening and liberating at the same time.

    I think that the Xtian ethos has so permeated our culture that those like me who were raised in that religion have absorbed it without realizing it.

    And, yes, I take my "Darwin Fish" off my car when I visit my mother in rural Virginia.


  20. Regarding the comment that Michigan is a liberal state - parts of Michigan are liberal, certainly not all of it.

    I grew up in a small town in Michigan and that's where I received physical and emotional abuse from peers, teachers, and other adults. I moved to Grand Rapids, a fairly decent sized city assuming I'd find a liberal and safer environment. WRONG! Grand Rapids is the Calvinist center of the universe and I've seen non-Christian people treated in an appalling manner in parts of the city.

  21. My question asks what difference it makes on what name I use on my blog? I know your real name now which means nothing to me (unless you are trying to sell something, then it makes sense). But with that info I can pull your entire financial history off the web, find out where you live, where your kids go to school, etc. While you may be ok with posting personal information online alongside your opinion, many are not and we have a responsibility to those we love to protect them from threats that could be avoided. I think your point would be much stronger if you argued being open to friend, family, and others in real life, but not through blogging. To me, my anonymity has nothing to do with my atheist views, rather the protection of my family. Those who know me in real life knows I am atheist including all colleagues at work, my friends and my family.

  22. My name is Stephen Johnson. I live in Wigan UK. I am an atheist.

  23. It must really suck to be an American atheist. I live in Christchurch, New Zealand, my name is Kelsey, and I'm not afraid to say I'm an atheist. Its a lot more liberal around here and I am really glad of that.

    If you have a problem with that, feel free to email me.
    I check the inbox for fairly regularly. ;)

  24. This is interesting, considering you used my blog ( as an example of an anonymous blog in your survey.

    The primary reason for remaining anonymous is not to do with the subject matter but the medium. I do not, as a matter of course, offer up my personal details for the uncontrollable audience of the public web.

    My friends, my family, my co-workers and everyone else I know reasonably well in real life (or those where it's a topic of conversation) know that I'm an unapologetic atheist (amongst other attributes and labels) and I have no fear of anyone knowing so.

    However, there are is an element of the web composed of criminals and crazies (and I'm not talking about the religionistas here) and giving them less ammunition to act as such seems sensible to me. Some choose to accept that risk and, if they wish to do so, that is of course up to them. I simply choose not to, in the same way that I choose not to publish my DoB, my national insurance number, my address and dates when I'll be out of the house.

    It has nothing to do with being an "in the closet" atheist, and it has everything to do with protecting my personal life from any additional potential risk that I wouldn't be exposed to day-to-day.

  25. Hey Nullifidian,

    Don't take my categorization of you as "anonymous" too seriously. My method was simple (as described in the blog), and I didn't ask "why" of each blogger.

    The most interesting result is that, regardless of why you or any other Atheist elects to blog anonymously, most Christians do not. Why there is such a wide difference is the real question.

    But to address your specific point: I've been blogging for a while now, and have yet to encounter any harassment of any sort. It would be easy for someone to find me in real life if they wanted to, but it hasn't happened.

    But that's me, and I respect every blogger's choice, especially those who live in the more conservative parts of the country (or world), or who have positions in the community that might be jeapardized by their atheism.

  26. Hi Craig.

    I see what you're getting at, and don't have an answer for that. Point taken though.

    You wrote: "But to address your specific point: I've been blogging for a while now, and have yet to encounter any harassment of any sort. It would be easy for someone to find me in real life if they wanted to, but it hasn't happened.

    "But that's me, and I respect every blogger's choice, especially those who live in the more conservative parts of the country (or world), or who have positions in the community that might be jeapardized by their atheism."

    As I pointed out in my previous reply, I don't anonymise my blog for any reason to do with atheism (I live in the UK, so this isn't so much of an issue) but purely for (no pun intended) secular reasons: fraud/ID theft, awareness of when I'm not going to be home, keeping personal details private (inasmuch as any can be), etc.

    I'm not going to be naïve enough to suggest that this is in anyway equivalent to having magic rocks in my garden that keep tigers away, but I reckon if I put less personal information online, there's less potential for abuse.

    P.S. Welcome to my blogroll :-)

  27. I'm the owner of You may be interested to know that, shortly after the date of this post, I changed the name of my blog to and started posting under my full name, which is Dave Holloway.

    My posting under Silent Dave was not due to any particular desire to remain anonymous, but rather due to the fact that I am better known in the blogosphere as Silent Dave than as Dave Holloway. My decision to start using my real name was similarly unrelated, or peripherally related at best, to any desire on my part to "come out of the closet."

  28. Dave, thanks for your response. I understand your point, that there may be good reasons for blogging anonymously or under a pen name, that have nothing to do with atheism per se, and I didn't try to deduce why each atheist blogger was anonymous or not. It was hardly a scientific survey!

    But even so, I still think the contrast between Christian and Atheist bloggers is dramatic. Presumably, some of the anonymous Christian bloggers also have reasons why they're anonymous that have nothing to do with their religion, so the gap is still there.

  29. .. I've never been in the closet, I've been a Normal Person with NO addictions (including religious addiction) all my life and just paid the price of it as I went along... which is harsh... fired from good jobs... religious Xtian mom hates me like she hated my Deiist dad... hated by religious co-workers... tried to run away when I was 4 after hearing the story of Noah's Ark and realizing that non-Hasidic Jews should properly all be drowned even if that meant killing 99+% of the people on the planet and that's OK with a god...

    .. I don't allow the religics to call me the negative name of "atheist"... I'm PROUDLY and POSITIVELY a NORMAL PERSON with NO religious addiction... I don't want to kill others of different beliefs... I don't want to become a RELIGIOUS TERRORIST! BTW, always use the word "religious" with "terrorist" to emphasize where RELIGIOUS TERRORISTS come from! ALL religions foment religious terrorism! ALL religions CREATE religious terrorists... not just Moslems... DON'T go along with the Christian tagging of Moslems as THE religious terrorists... Timothy McVeigh, Terry Nichols, David Koresh, Jim Jones, John Brown, Adolph Hitler, Bush Jr., etc. are/were all CHRISTIAN terrorists who love to kill innocents!
    .. I don't believe there are as many religious people as they pretend there are... religics LIE about everything... including how many of them there are... they try to say EVERYONE is a religic! WE know better!
    .. When the religics fight amongst themselves for customers, they tell the truth and say stop stealing our already religious religics and go out and convert some of the "55%" (!!) NON-religious people in the world!
    .... There's prolly 4 BILLION NON-religious people in the world! WE are the MAJORITY! Stop cowering and stand up for truth and decency! Take the VOTE away from the mentally ill including those with religious addiction! Allowing the mentally ill to vote is akin to "LETTING the NUTS RUN the NUTHOUSE" !!

  30. It's not so easy to come out. I own a retail store in the bible belt. As a store owner, I need to not alienate people. I try to live my life as a nice, kind person, using the Golden Rule as my guide. In my area, there are lots & lots of devoted Christians, many of whom are fundamentalists. When they see me doing something kind, they say,"You must have Jesus in your heart!" Instead of saying I am an Atheist, I tell them [politely] that I am not a Christian & hope they just let it drop.I try to stay vague,hoping that they may think I am Jewish! Instead of accepting that, they tend to get very angry. Then they start trying to convince me[often angrily & forcefully] that I need Jesus in my life altho I have not said anything negative to them about their beliefs.

  31. Yes it's true, we should come out.

    It's just not safe yet. Seriously. Let's not kid ourselves here.

    The Competition is the Official Sponsor of the Currency, the Pledge, the Oaths. We're a long long way from parity here.

    But I applaud your bravery and hope you the best of luck! Go get em tiger.

  32. I live in the DFW area in Texas.

    If its work, friends or family in this area - big mistake. You nod your head and keep quiet. Persecution by the religious is VERY real.

    If its in the North where I originally came from, its not as bad.....

  33. I like the idea of "coming out of the closet." For those I know in my private life, I already have "come out" as an atheist.

    I have a couple of "nom de plumes" on the web that have nothing to do with atheism. The reason why I don't use my real name because I'm not getting paid for it. I have no way of defending myself if a wacko person finds out where me and my family live if something I say makes him go crazy.

    I use the internet to express myself anonymously - to get things off my chest. This allows my thoughts to be expressed along with others with similar beliefs without being attacked. If this were my career & I got compensated for my expressions & could cover the cost of security, I would let everyone know who I am.

    For those of you with lives that will not be harmed by identifying yourself, go for it & thank you! For the rest of us, we must remain anonymous.

  34. Maybe the atheist bloggers are smarter. Maybe they understand the risks of exposing their true identities online more than their fundamentalist counterparts.

  35. I came out with my atheism, being in a catholic school with mostly religious junkies, it was hard. My parents consider me the devil and can't stand me anymore, some kids in my class will tell me that I'm damned to hell and that theres no point of me getting an education. And I'm afraid to go to a public school because all the kids where I live are christians and proud, so I'll be beat up in public schools. But I have pride that I have found the truth and I endure all the christians hateful words, because once I graduate college I'm going to speak for all atheists out there!

  36. While I agree with much of what you've written here, I'd like to point out that there are situations, like mine, in which "coming out" would be solely incendiary and harmful.

    I'm tremendously happy to be an atheist, but my family lives and breathes religion. I love my parents and my grandparents and my aunts and uncles, at least, I love the parts of their personalities that aren't completely poisoned by the bible. I know who I am, so it's not hard to fake it around them just to keep from being disowned. On top of that, I won't be eighteen until a year from now, meaning that I still live with my parents. Being "outed" as an atheist in this household would create a living hell for everyone involved.

    Fear isn't keeping me in the closet, just consideration for the happiness of my discriminatory, closed-minded family members.

  37. Holy crap, thanks for doing that tally -- that's really surprising!

    For me, there was never any debate, I started my (atheism-oriented) blog with my real name and never really considered doing otherwise. Incidentally it did cause me a spot of trouble when I wrote a non-atheism-related post complaining about a particular software tool we use at our job. Heh, so I just vowed never to talk about my job on my blog anymore :)

  38. 1)how is bush jr. a religious terrorist
    2)what is the big problem with religion anyway, this entire blog paints all religious people as insane, children, or mentally challenged. the majority of us are not like that, we are normal people, i have several atheist friends
    3)stop acting like you're the first group of people to take hate for your beliefs (and they are beliefs) and stop acting like it's worse on you my job requires me to move a lot and i have taken to going with a different religion each time to gauge reactions from most to least accepted the pattern is about
    1:Christian 2:Atheist 3:Jewish 4:Muslim 5:Wiccan
    you do not receive as much hate as other religions, and certainly not as much as people of other races


Dear readers -- I am no longer blogging and after leaving these blogs open for two years have finally stopped accepting comments due to spammers. Thanks for your interest. If you'd like to write to me, click on the "Contact" link at the top. Thanks! -- CJ.

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