Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Atheists: Get Out of the Closet: Part 2

Thanks to all who replied to my Atheists: Get Out of the Damned Closet! blog. I truly appreciate the thoughtful stories and reflections everyone contributed. vjack's blog from a year ago seems to be prototypical of what everyone feels.

I'm somewhat disappointed, but not exactly surprised, that most replies were about discrimination and fear of reprisal. The Intolerance Meme is clearly alive and well in America. We don't hang 'em, burn 'em at the stake, or throw 'em in the river any more, so I guess that's progress, but we have a long way to go before Atheists aren't an oppressed minority.

One misperception I'd like to correct: Several writers hinted that I was a bit naïve to suggest anyone could do what I did. But in fact, I understand that many Atheist bloggers can't "come out." It was relatively easy for me – my customers are scientists, and my friends and family are mostly atheists or agnostics and are tolerant, open-minded people. I understand that for some, it's just not realistic.

Yet ... I find it hard to believe that only 20% of Atheist bloggers can blog without fear.

So I reiterate my challenge: Get Out of the Closet If You Can! It's important. And no, it's not risk free, but ending discrimination never is. Women's suffrage, civil rights for people of color, gay rights, these things never would have happened if some of the oppressed hadn't taken a chance. And the more who do, the faster the momentum builds. If those of us who face less of a risk keep hiding, the discrimination will never end.


  1. I think you overlook quite a large atheist population online, and that lies in the readership. After you wrote your article I hosted a simple poll to see how many of my readers were "out" online. I made sure that I defined "out" as having your real identity known alongside your atheism. So far almost 80% of people have said they are "out".

    I also think that your original sample size was way too small. Seeing as there are over 700 blogs in the Atheist Blogroll, a sample of 100 or 200 would have shown a general trend.

    That gives me an idea though... :P

  2. Perhaps a poll that asks how many people are "out" in their real lives-family, friends, colleagues? I think this would have more of an impact on the reality of the situation whereas blogs are anonymous rants as a general rule. My political blog has been going for nearly a year in which I am anonymous on their as well.

  3. I am out online and proud of it!

    My name is in my Profile section, and anyone who reads that section will learn that I am an atheist.

  4. I missed the original entry in which you issued your challenge, but I blog using my real name and my atheism is well known. I've been at it for almost 7 full years now and with a blog name that in itself is controversial with some folks (Stupid Evil Bastard).

    I have to admit that there are times where I feel like if I knew then what I know now I'd have used a pseudonym. I'm pretty sure that my site and my atheism worked against me finding a job during a bout of unemployment I had a couple of years ago, but it also worked in my favor in landing my current job when my boss Googled my name and liked what he saw. I'm not sure the positives outweigh the negatives, but what's done is done and I'm living with it.

    My recommendation when asked is that people should go with what they are most comfortable with. If they start with a pseudonym they can always "come out" later if they should decide it's worthwhile, but it's much harder to put the genie back in the bottle if you start off out in the open.

  5. I've been out online for almost a year. After a couple of months blogging, I found it inappropriate to be ranting about issues yet hiding in relative anonymity. Also, I was moved by one atheist's advice to another to stay quiet. When I came out, I got a mixed bag of responses. It is hard for some and I can respect that. If you're self employed or in any way dependent on customers or clients for example, you may not wish to be out. I weighed that and decided fuck it.

    I think it's still very important to urge others to come out, but never to out someone. That has to be done by the person.

  6. coming out may be a bit difficult for me work wise, not because they necessarily have anything against atheists, but I'm worried they may think I waste time at work on the atheosphere. ;-)

  7. ** pick your comfort level before you start playing “atheist apologist” **

    Before you engage as american atheist warrior, either openly or anonymously, four strands of discourse need to be untwined. How sweeping a denial can you reliably make against religious claims? Can you defend it rationally?

    1. Supernaturalist: someone who accepts any doctrine positing a supernatural realm or post-mortem existence: whether of Platonic ideas, Aristotelian entelechies, gods, demons, spirits, minds, mystical union, karma, reincarnation, nirvana, Buddha realms, yogic chakras.

    2. Xianity: one recent religion (in the last 3,300 years) belonging to the big-4 monotheisms, from eldest to youngest: zoroastrianism, judaism, xianity, and islam. Xianity accepts a basic equality: Jesus=Messiah=Christ=God.

    3. Fundamentalist xianity: highly puritanical sects broadly identified within american protestantism as Baptist. Characteristics: adult baptism by full immersion, psychological indoctrination leading to “conversion” to sect membership, epistemological reliance on biblical inerrancy, enthusiastic and “inspired” preaching dismissive of rationality and science. Often enough, these “churches” are fronts for tax avoidance, sleazy money making frauds, and thoroughly irresponsible K-16 and professional education.

    4. Dominionism: a christo-fascist political ideology masquerading as a legitimate aspect of fundamentalist xianity. It seeks to overthrow the US Constitution and secular government, and to replace them with a xian theocratic state.

    Like Russian dolls these ideas fit one inside the other. If, like me, you are an anti-supernaturalist then you also reject 2, 3, and 4. You can be a xian without being a fundamentalist (fundie). You can be a fundie without accepting dominionism. (True also for islam and judaism.)

    • “those not against us are with us”

    The atheist has a lot of company in being against dominionism. If you can support the Freedom from religion foundation or the ACLU for example, than you will advance the welfare of the US as a secular state.

    • “ laugh and the world laughs with you”

    The atheist will have a goodly company with him against fundies. FfR and the ACLU also oppose contaminating secular science education with garbage like Intelligent Design. But, a plurality of americans think that some god directs evolution -- how could a brainy good looking person like me come about otherwise? Here poor science education and egoism comfortably reinforce each other.

    Also, “liberal” protestants, RCs, and jews “sin” by omission in not opposing vigorously the machinations of sub-cultures 3 and 4. Their silence gives consent.

    • “cry and you cry alone”

    The atheist might receive tepid assistance from minority monotheistic competitors. After all, US jews, muslims and sikhs have a stake in preserving religious pluralism within a secular state.

    But, anti-supernaturalists have all of recorded history and global religiosity against them. Want to bring down even the wrath of pantheists, deists, new agers, mystics, unitarians, gnostics, and theosophists? These are generally pacific live-and-let-live folks. Leave them lost in the fog?

    But we know. We know that mythological explanations explain nothing. Does science then explain everything. It does not. Not even within its own boundaries.

    At this point, I can ask Nietzsche’s question: how much truth are you able to bear?

    bipolar2 © 2008


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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