How important is it to let people know you're an atheist?

Hullo everyone! :)

I was just wondering-how important do you think it is to tell people you're an atheist? I suppose I'm talking about both people you're close with and just people in general. I came out to my parents about a month or two ago, and my mum in particular was surprisingly supportive, but I never actually used the 'A' word. I just went about it by saying, "I'm not a Christian." And afterwards, she mentioned that even saying it that way was a bit harsh, so when I tell other people I know I should maybe rephrase myself.

 

This sort of took me by surprise, since telling the rest of my friends hasn't really been the biggest priority in my life. I've never really thought, 'I'm an atheist, so every single person I know MUST know of my lack of faith!! *Cue demonic laughter*'. The only reason I told my parents was because I'm going to university next year, and my dad kept going on about Christian clubs I could join while there. (He actually started networking a bit with some of their leaders, so I felt a bit bad breaking the news to him.) All-in-all, I just hadn't really planned on going public with my atheism, but ever since I voiced my lack of faith to my parents, I have felt a little more awkward about hiding my atheism, and have been wondering about breaking the news to some of my friends. (Who, of course, are all devout Christians)

 

I've only really got two friends in mind:
-One is a girl I've grown up with pretty much my entire life. Her family are MEGA christians with a capital 'M', and while we never exactly had a lot of religious conversations when we were little, and while she MUST have noticed I haven't been coming to church or youth group a lot lately, she's been having a bit of a religious calling recently. I'm happy for her-I wish I was as certain about what I want to do with my life-but every now and then she says something like, "I really feel God's spirit, and I feel like he really wants to move the world through me," and then there'll be this awkward moment where I go, "Right", and start eyeing the fire escape. (Okay, the fire escape is a joke...but I think you get the point. It's kind of awkward.) I'm also VERY pro-gay, and there was another awkward moment when I mentioned homosexuality while we were hanging out at youth group, and she just gave me this really long, disbelieving look and said, "We're in a church." So yeah...I think it's kind of obvious where she stands.

-The other, who I haven't known for quite as long, is REALLY close to god; only not on a rule-following, religious level like the first girl, but on a more personal, spiritual level. She's actually planning on being a pastor, and loves being a christian. She's probably the sweetest, happiest, most friendly person I've ever met, and has always struck me as being open minded. (In comparison to friend #1, she's also pro-gay.) The only thing is she doesn't go to the same church as me, so probably doesn't have any doubts about my 'faith'. (Since she doesn't know I haven't been attending church that much since I came out to my parents.) We're in philosophy class together, and we have these fun little debates about the meaning of life, etc. Sometimes she'll ask me a philosophical question that has a bit of religion in it, genuinely interested in what I have to say, and I'll try and give her to most honest answer I can without totally letting it out that I'm not religious. She's always looking out for other people, and I have the feeling that if she were to find out about my atheism, she'd be completely heart-broken.

 

Honestly, my social skills aren't really up to par. I have a bit of trouble making new friends, so I'd really like to hold on to these two. So basically; in your opinion, should I be telling them, or anyone else from church, etc. that I'm an atheist, and also, should I consider telling my parents that I'm not just non-religious?

Also, just as a side note, I'd like to say that I'm kind of new to the site, and it's by far the most supportive, friendly resource I've come across. It's just so nice to find a community like this where everyone's so open-minded! :D 


Thanks everyone! (And sorry about the rant-it's just nice to be able to properly talk about all this.)

Tags: atheism, christianity, friends, parents

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When directly questioned or a statement is directly addressed to me, I hit it head-on, no ifs or buts about it.  I am who I am and I won't have a religious person force me into the closet to suppress my views. 

At work it finally came out one day in a meeting when another employee during a meeting started flinging religious references out with regards to work and the management did nothing.   I stood up turned towards the door and said "This is BS" and walked out the door.  My manager called me in his office after the meeting and I knew what it was going to be about, so I cut him off before having to listen to the whole BS.  I said "I apologize for walking out of the meeting, that was wrong BUT if the religious discussion continues, which has NOTHING to do with work, then I'll be contacting the Human Resources Dept..  And that there's no place OR need for religion at work.  If they want to worship, they can do it at their own house.  I don't believe in that crap and I shouldn't have to be subject to this at work.   Then I just looked him directly in the eyes and waited for his reply.  He was definitely in shock.  He fumbled to find words but was really at a loss.  Finally he just told me that he'd have a talk with the other person and that was it. 

I know it definitely changed his views of me (not for the better since he's religious also) but I'm good at what I do at work, he knows it and the other managers know it also, so it's not like I'm risking my job or anything. 

From that point on I've had a number of employees come up to me and start discussing how I needed to be saved and each and every one of them get an ear full from me about religion until they walk away.   90% of them now know not to even bring the topic up to me because they risk being pushed into a corner to answer questions about their god that they don't want to have to answer and it makes them uncomfortable.  And I'm glad it does...because they've needed that feeling for a long time!

When I go to a religious person's house, that's off-limit for any discussion of Atheism, I give them the respect of their house.  In the public, there is no respect the door is open to attacking they're views whenever the topic comes up.  It's that simple.  I don't go searchin' to spread the word of Atheism to religious people unless I'm addressed by religious statements, then it's fair game!  I'll respect their personal views as long as they keep it to themselves and in their house (NOT in our government) and I'll do the same with my Atheist views.

Have I lost people that once were thought to be my friends?  Yep but that's ok because now I know they really weren't such a friend after all.

It depends on context, and how interested you are in having a relationship with your religious friends.

 

Generally speaking, I avoid making atheism the cornerstone (or capstone?) of my public persona. Not because I'm ashamed (in fact, being in the military I have "Atheist" on my dog tags and on my public records), but because there isn't much to atheism itself. Who I am consists of a lot more than just my non-belief, and when arguments/debates come up in conversation, I've found it effective to argue around specific, substantive points (e.g., gay rights, environmental issues, etc.) rather than generalizing about atheist beliefs or politics as such.

 

So, if your one friend were to start moralizing about homosexuality, I'd consider that a good time to make an argument. Not on the basis of atheism per se, but on the basis that it's awfully judgmental and intolerant to do so. Of course, it goes without saying that to get away with this it pays to be informed on the issues you feel are important.

 

With all that said (and at the risk of contradicting myself), I agree with the other comments concerning the importance of coming out. There's a lot of ignorance surrounding atheism out there, and "outing" yourself is one way you can help change that. Doing so, however, may cost you a relationship or two, at least in the short term.

Welcome to TA Rose!

 

Even though I was raised agnostic/atheist, I have struggled with the same question of "exactly how open should I be about this"?  For most of my life, I just didn't talk about my lack of belief, except with very close like-minded friends and family.

There is alot of judgement and stigma assigned to atheists. And for a long time I just couldn't be bothered with opening myself up to that sort of conflict. It really wasn't until a little over a year ago that I felt ready to be open about my non belief. Nowadays, I certainly don't make a point of preaching to everyone about atheism, but if it comes up in conversation I have no problem with telling people.

 

If or when you do come out to others about your atheism is entirely up to you. Speaking from personal experience though, I think it is alot less stressful to be honest with others and yourself about your beliefs (or lack thereof) even though it does carry the risk of rejection or judgement.

I have a couple of christian friends, who have known about my atheism from day one. They have both been fully accepting and have not once preached or tried to convert me.

 

Keep us posted! You've got alot of support here.

I don't find it at all important to let people know that I am an atheist (as it often isn't relevant to our interactions).  However, in order to have healthy relationships with people, I feel the need to be able to tell people that I am an atheist when I do feel the need to make it clear.  If the reason I wasn't telling people that I am an atheist was simply a fear of rejection or a hysterical response, then I would consider that a problem. 

If their religion is more important to them than our friendship,they they ain't friends, and screw them.

I don't hide that I am an atheist, I have covered my car in stickers lately, a good "no God" sticker on the door also keeps the nutters away.

As for friends, I don't think it is a great subject, it ALWAYS starts with someone trying to SAVE me, and by the time it finishes I am "being rude" and "a religious bigot."

I never bring it up, but if religion is brought up I have become quite an activist about it.

It is very important for me because it is who I am. If someone can't like me for who I am, then there is no reason to be friends with that person. That is how I feel about this.

I think the best thing to do is to tell people as it comes up. Then tell them like it's a totally normal thing, which it is.

For me it's a situational thing.  I live in the bible belt and constantly have to listen to people talk about how they were 'blessed' in some situation.  ("The hurricane destroyed our house, but we were blessed and still have each other.")  Most of these people are racist, ignorant phoneys and hypocrites.  Then there are the genuine believers who are simply nice people, and for whom their religion is important in their lives.  There is a difference between letting phoneys know you see them for what they are and just being rude.  For the most part, people only know the depth of my atheism if they ask me.  My usual response to questions of religion is that I have no use for any of them.  That said, I have personal friends who are catholic priests/deacons and have no problem carrying on interesting conversations with them.  I realize that churches and religion are a part of our society, no hard feelings towards those who help others without clobbering them with a bible....but I still think they're delusional regarding their god.  As for losing friends over religion......try being a liberal in the south!  One more thing - you WILL lose your religious friends, find some atheist or at least more accepting ones.
It depends where they are asking you about. If you are in an islamic country and you tell you are atheist you could be executed lol I would not dare saying that there. In the west you should be ok more often the cases of ellen beth wachs or high school graduation ceremony issues have given me second thoughts about US too. I think its important to maintain annonmity at work because your career can get affected. One thing being true to oneself is the best thing you can do.

I became atheist long ago without really ackowledging it.

For the reasons you state is why I think I have become a bit of an activist though.

I don't like religion and politics mixing, I don't like that 1 voice can be heard, but a dissenting voice is viewed as an attack. I am lucky to not really be faced with many faithful buddies (2 that I know of).

Buuuut in Canada, we seem to becoming more politically "devoted" and we cannot let it get carried away.

Offline, I'm as private about my lack of religion as I wish a lot of religious people would be about their lack of atheism.


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