I have been reading a lot of atheist's comments about how they feel that they must hide their atheism from their religious families. Although my family is very Catholic, I never felt ashamed of my beliefs but instead proud. My situation is probably different from most, I live in Miami and it's more open minded than most places. I've read some people that use the term "come out" i.e "I haven't come out as an Atheist to my family yet." This interests me. It's the same term used for when gays reveal that they're gay. I understand that both groups are oppressed and attacked by the religious. But aren't they fundamentally different? Being gay is not a choice, you are born that way. Atheism is a choice because you are making a conscious effort in choosing to not associate with a religion. How can we make Atheism something to be proud of? Something that we clearly researched and put a great deal of thought into to come to the conclusion that we don't believe in God?
I'm not sure why that being gay is something that is (perhaps in large part) biological (but even when not totally it's still not a choice in the way the religious allege) and being an atheist is a choice (Is it really though? Can you choose to believe in something in which you don't believe?) means that they're not the same in the sense that's relevant to the fear of coming out. So what if they're fundamentally different in one way, they're still the same when it comes to being a marginalized member of society where the possibility of being cast out by your friends and family is a real possibility when coming out as either one or the other.
Neither does it seem that being proud of your atheism while still being afraid to come out to family and friends are necessarily mutually exclusive. You'd need to be a lot more than simply proud to not care that you might lose your closest relationships and even put your job at risk in coming out. You might need to be reckless.
It seems that what you want to do is have people feel like they can be open about their atheism, not necessarily be proud of it (though obviously ideally we should be proud of it). And as far as that goes, research suggests that the more open we are, the more accepting people are of us. So the solution seems to be for more of us to be more open when we can, thereby leading more people to be more accepting of us in general, which in turn would produce an environment where those that currently feel fear at the prospect of coming out would be able to do so easily and casually.
Because of my location, I never felt oppressed, different, or shamed in the way that unfortunately so many others do. And yes, I guess I meant that I wish we could all be open about our atheism so others can be more accepting. I feel that there are even many religious people who know that they don't actually believe, but are still scared to leave their ways bc they have gone their whole lives fearing eternal damnation, and bc of all the reason u mentioned above.
I don't know if location has much to do with it. I'm from the Seattle area, which is pretty much the most liberal and un-churched part of the country. I think it doesn't matter if the greater community at large accepts you, it matters if the people you love accept you. And you can live in hippie land with all the legal pot and civil rights you want, but if your family and friends are very religious, then you will get a lot of hurt feelings, anger, confusion, and sometimes even be shut out of peoples lives. It messes up relationships when you tell them you are not a believer anymore. People don't understand that. So it can be a really scary thing to come out as an atheist/agnostic, because you never know what kind of reaction you will get from your loved ones.
Atheism is not a choice. Having pickles on my sandwich is a choice. I could no more choose to believe in gods than I could fly to the moon. Do you really choose to not believe in things that you don't believe in? Does it require a conscious effort to not believe and if I get tired or lazy will I'll find myself in a church worshiping some god again until I come to my senses and reassert my non-belief?
Now that that nit has been picked, I will say that for many people, not believing in this shit can cause them a great amount of turmoil in their life if people were to discover it. Friends abandon them, family member disavow them, and in some cases their very livelihoods can be threatened. For some, revealing their atheism is a big deal that can have life changing consequences. That is why it is often compared to gays coming out.
The come out campaign is designed to do several things 1. to make our selves known 2. to build a community 3.to establish and increase our numbers 4. to assert our sense of pride in who we are. You are right that we choose this unlike gay people but we still have pride in who we are further more did we really choose or did we just wake up. I would argue that when presented with the evidence we all accepted the logical answer that there is no god not so much a choice as more an acceptance of evidence and reason. As Atheist we are entitled to all the same rights and respect of any other group and there is nothing shame full at all about being one of us. Lastly Atheism is something to be proud of and don't let any one tell you differently we are a growing group spread world wide and we are fighting a long and up hill fight but it is one we will ultimately win because we have the facts are on our side. Every day more of our brothers and sisters wake up and embrace reality and join us standing tall in defiance of superstition and fairy tales.
Atheism is not a choice. Once you start to realize that all of your beliefs are wrong, you cannot undo that. There's no going back, even if you wanted to (and I did). Once you start doing your research and getting the real facts and not bullshit answers like "God made it that way", you start taking pride in that intelligence because you know that you are right. Being more educated about religion that religious people is definitely something to be proud of.
Hi Stephanie. I must say that while I agree with you that a gay person is born gay, I also think we are born atheists. I wasn't born with a belief in a god or gods. I was told by other humans that I was to believe it or else I'd be destined for hell. I think, until another phrase is coined, 'coming out' is the most appropriate description there is.
I think you're confusing atheism (lack of belief in a god or gods) with the choice to openly reject religion or voice your lack of belief. Like sexual preference or losing belief in Santa, losing your belief in God isn't really a choice. One could even lose belief, continue to go to church, and pretend to believe for the sake of friends and family. One could also come to realize they have homosexual preferences, but continue to pretend to be straight for the sake of others. In fact, most homophobic religious families would probably be ok with this pretending in both cases.
The choice comes in openly admitting who you are, or openly rejecting religion. This is what I would call "coming out" and it can be very difficult for some people in highly religious areas or families. If you don't understand that, then I could have guessed you didn't come from the Bible Belt!
Thanks for the reply!
You are right, I never even realized how much hate atheists must endure until I joined these online communities. Living in south Florida, I was fortunate enough to never have been exposed to it! I also agree that I have met many people who I think are pretending. But is openly admitting who we are a choice, even if who we are is not a choice?
But is openly admitting who we are a choice, even if who we are is not a choice?
Sure. We could choose to remain silent and hide who we are. In fact, for many people in the world, admitting atheism would probably be suicide. I am reminded how fortunate I am when I rub elbows with these people on the internet. There are a few on this site and that saddens me.
I think I'd have to agree with most of the posts below, I wouldn't say that being an atheist is a choice, once you have reached the conclusion in your mind that there is no god then you are an atheist (at least that's how I see it). I think the coming out statement is used because of some similarities in perception/actions, i.e. that as an atheist many people hide who they are from the people around them just as many homosexuals do; in this aspect I would say that the "coming out" statement is actually quite apt.
Thanks for the replies everyone! I think the reason I saw this as a choice is because we are all (mostly all) fed religious crap from the day we are born. After some logic and reason we realize that we no longer believe, even if we wanted to. And I understand that in itself is not a choice. But didn't we at least choose to accept the logic and reason? We can tell the religious all day long about how the holy books make no sense etc. etc., so aren't they are in a way choosing to not accept fact and reason?
Back to the fact that we are born atheist, would this make atheism the "default" way of being, and any deviation the "choice"? I'm not sure yet that I agree atheism is not a choice in any sense of the meaning... since we were all (mostly) born into theist beliefs, we did something differently (use our brains), would this act be considered choice since everyone is capable but only some actually do it?