I have been “out” as an Atheist for over 25 years. I live in Ireland where it is not an issue. I have never thought of it in terms of coming out. I just am one. However I still find most people do not understand what it means when someone says “I am an Atheist”. I do not make a big deal out of it. There are people who know me through work or socially who do not know. This is only because it is not tattooed on my forehead. Even when I get accosted by fundamentalists on the street or doorstep I do not inform them. It will however become obvious to them after the first few rounds of questions . Most people figure it out because I am militant towards having a separation of Church and State (in all countries). I also detest the promotion of Creationist bullshit in schools and the religious indoctrination of children by “educators”. I don’t really care whoever gets upset or annoyed by this. I challenge these topics whenever they raise their ugly heads. These issues aside, I do not challenge individuals unless “they start it”. However once it becomes clear that I am an Atheist people’s attitudes change.
Many Theists do not “get it” that I do not believe in the existence of gods, especially their one. Generally they jump to the conclusion rather than making a statement my (lack of) belief, I am attacking theirs.. This is because the word “Atheist” tends to bypass their wall of Faith and kick their Doubt (critical thought) back into life. This is what happens in the next few seconds:
They become aware of a sensation that confuses them. “How could somebody not believe in God?” (especially someone I have known for a long time). Then panic caused by having a momentary Doubt sets in until they get rescued by their indoctrination and years of confirmation bias by their peers. Wait – the Elders told me this moment might happen. This person has been sent to challenge my Faith. Doubts are bad, Faith is good. God I love you pray keep me safe from this Atheist. Thank you Jesus for strengthening my Faith in you! Now I can challenge this so called Atheist.
Then I hear something like – “I don’t see why you need to disrespectful towards my Religion. I have a personal faith with Jesus and he comes to my aid and answers my prayers whenever I ask him. He never lets me down. My faith is strong. I mean it must take just as much faith not to believe in Jesus. What about your eternal soul? I will pray for you.”
All I have said is that “I am an Atheist. I am not attacking you – I am only saying I do not believe what you believe”.
By claiming to be an Atheist you set off alarm bells in the Theists mind. This is because we have one understanding of what being an Atheist means but the Theists has another one which has been built up by prejudices and misinformation over the years. So before any Theist can be at ease around an Atheist they need to understand what being an Atheist means. It is important to do this properly. You have to remember that creating doubt also creates fear in their mind. Once the fear is quelled and they understand you are not an immoral Satanist in league with Lucifer they will accept your stance. There is no need for you to ever challenge their beliefs. They will do that for themselves because they are compelled to think about why you are an Atheist. Once they trust you, they will ask you questions. All you ever need to do is free them from their bias towards Atheists which is caused by Atheophobia