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 think it's harder to be open about your lack of belief when you're an adult. I grew up in an accepting part of the country (Pacific NW) but the "A" word is still not something I like to toss about. It unfortunately still carries the connotation that you're hostile to people's beliefs. I'm not a hostile guy; other than to be depressed/disappointed if you're religious, I don't give much of a damn what you believe as long as you're an open, normal person who's not constantly in God-mode. It's easier to be honest about atheism when you're in your late teens or early twenties and are among your friends, especially if you're all college-educated. I've found that when you get into the work-force and have to work closely with all kinds of people it's not so easy to flaunt your deep thoughts, especially if they include atheism. It may be hard to believe (or not), but a huge number of people have never had a deep thought in their lives, and the workplace isn't a useful place to challenge them. Plus you'll work with older folks and people with kids and conservative people, and it's a bad idea to get a reputation as an un-American God-hater, even if you're not. These kinds of folks will generally believe in belief, if they don't necessarily believe in the literal Bible God, and they'll expect you to at least share their values as a prerequisite for considering you a decent human.
For a long time, I have equated coming out as an atheist with coming out as gay. In fact, I was just talking about it with another atheist last evening. Thankfully, these days both being gay and being atheist are much more accepted than they used to be. Also, it's easier to admit to being "different" as you get used to saying it. Now, although I don't lead with, "Hi, I'm Amanda and I'm atheist," I do tell people pretty early on, as it enters the conversation. What I hate, though, are the sad looks. I'm sure gays get the same response, but I can't change being atheist any more than gays can change whom they love. It's not really a choice either way; fundamentally, we are who we are.
Thanks!! This is is exactly what I was looking for.
I think the way an atheist would be proud is for other people to accept them besides the fact that they are atheist. The fact is, most people in the U.S. do not accept atheists (learned that the hard way!). They argue. They're violent towards atheists. Some people (especially in the Bible Belt) are downright afraid to "come out." It's not right and will only change by proving to theists that we're not bad people.