Online "closet" atheists annoy me. Does that happen to you?

Yes they do. I don't hate them, but there is something in them that makes me feel sort of uneasy.

I have counted myself among those without religion for quite some time. I'm pretty open about it and I'm always eager to talk about it when the occasion is right (which isn't all the time, of course). So, as much as I'm open about it "in real life", I'm open about it online. I don't hide my name, nor my face and whoever wants to find me online can do it with a couple of clicks. When I can, I'm pretty active on Facebook and write on my bilingual blog. All that with my name and a link to "friend" me if the reader wants.

So I tend to get quite a lot invitations. The problem comes when I receive invitation from someone who has a nickname related to atheism, like "atheist archbishop". Sometimes they don't even have a display picture, just some random picture, or worse, something related to atheism or a religious cartoon.

In the beginning I didn't accept their invitation under suspicion that they would be some kind of christian troll or someone who just wants my information to harm me. But as the time passed and I met more people involved in atheist activities, I noticed that they are legit accounts, not just trolls.

But then something else came to my mind. If I see someone with some sort of atheist name and atheist picture, I think that such person will only talk about atheism and nothing else. No matter how much the topic might interest me, a person like that is boring to me.

Moreover, to me it's kind of an act of cowardice to criticize religion but concealing one's name, pretending to be just a shadow that is there to be a nightmare to religion, some kind of "anonymous" that pretends to be a hero. Their points are usually good points, but the fact that there is no one to talk to, or argue with, throws much of it away.

A friend of mine who acts in facebook under a nickname and no pictures says it's because of safety. He says he can't disclose that because in real life, most of the people around him are christians and then he would have a hard time. Yet, online, he is very critic of religions, sometimes getting a little bit extreme.

I can understand the concern for safety, yet, I have another facebok friend who lives in Morocco (the first one lives in Mexico), has a blog that criticizes Islam, and has pictures of himself. He has received threatening calls, but keeps criticizing Islam. To me that's a correct correlation between one's position and one's action. My Mexican friend, on the other hand, criticizes religion online, but bows to it in real life.

That annoys me. Maybe not everyone has the "guts" to confront a religious society, but there are many who have. I don't think I'm being brave, just being who I am, and living according to my ideals, both online and in real life.

So, does that happen to you too? Am I being too hard on these online closet atheists? I would like to have some input on that.

Views: 89

Comment by Dan on December 29, 2010 at 7:37pm

Some could literally be killed if they expose themselves as atheist. 


Some could lose friends, jobs, family....


To many the title or it bragging rights is not important. Just knowing who they are is enough.


Comment by Diego on December 29, 2010 at 10:16pm
I know, and my criticism doesn't go to them necessarily. I know many atheists who just want to belong to a community in which they can live a peaceful existence and share common thoughts, feelings and experiences with other like-minded people. What I dislike is those who are really aggressive towards religion, but won't dare to live up to the standard they set up. If they criticize religon so much online, then the consequent thing to do is live by those same standards in real life. But if they are not even going to disclose their name, how could I take them seriously?
Comment by Dan on December 29, 2010 at 10:43pm
ah, gotcha. The online macho atheist.
Comment by Diego on December 29, 2010 at 10:47pm
Exactly, the one who insults not just beliefs, but believers, the one who attacks atheists who treat them with respect, the one who trolls christian facebook groups, but won't even disclose his information to the ones he sends a "friend request". To me that means just a kid who plays to be the big bad atheist, but can't let others know who he is because he's too scared of the consequences in real life.
Comment by Bill on December 29, 2010 at 11:34pm

I was completely open about my atheism in the late '70s and '80s, but I've found that I've had to moderate my public outspokenness over the last 20 years. It has been very disappointment to see my country become more religiously intolerant exactly when we should be becoming more scientific and rational in our thinking. When I joined this forum, I posted with my full name, but later I decided it would be more prudent to just use my first name. I enjoy engaging people about atheism in real life, but on a site like this one you really do run a greater risk of attracting the attention of bad people.


I don't get so annoyed with the anonymous tough guy as you do. Atheism is truly one of the greatest ideas of history, and we need to nurture it so it can grow. If the anonymity allows folks to try it out and test out their wings before they ever think about coming out, well I thing we should nurture them. Yes, their behavior is not always pretty, they are the atheist equivalent of teenagers, but I think many of them will grow into thoughtful, outspoken adults. 

Comment by Gilbert Carvey on December 30, 2010 at 12:44am

It's great that you're out. Not everyone is. Religion and politics can ruin friendships and impact careers, so some prefer to keep their personal and professional lives separate from their online lives, which is where they express themselves.



Comment by Diego on December 30, 2010 at 1:01am

@ Bill: I don't know if this is actually about "pretty behavior", but instead "consistent" behavior. If one is proud enough to boast about their lack of belief online, then I think it should be the same out there. If not, well, then that makes me you such person is just a kid playing to be an internet knight. For example, these are some of the people I tend to receive "friend" invites on facebook:


- Ateo irredento

- Arzobispo Ateo

- Ateo Mayor

- Ateluz Rock

- Gerard Pensamiento Critico

- Ateo soy

- Athiest Texan


While all of these are in Spanish, you see that there is no "real" name among them. There are no pictures either. And their first presentation card is "atheism". To me that's just a kid who can't talk about anything else than atheism, and furthermore, can't take meeting others seriously and disclose his name or at least his face. I can understand anonimity in a forum like this, in which everyone can see our information, but Facebook gives you the option to close it to whoever you want. And if after that you still want to present yourself as some kind of masked warrior, then sorry, but that's for kids.


@Gilbert I know that, and as far as they keep a consistent attitude online and offline, then that's ok with me. But the "macho atheist" that behaves as I just described is disgusting to me.



Comment by Sadly 'M' iCantSay on December 30, 2010 at 7:46am

As one of the people who are anonymous and may annoy you ;), Do you think I love being anonymous? Do you think I love living two lives? Is killing you considered a ticket to heaven, like me? Does coming out could cause health problems to your parents, like me?(apostasy in Islam is the worst thing, death is the punishment) Do you live in a country ruled by shari'a law, and there is no one to protect you because EVERYONE thinks you deserve to be killed?


I understand that the people you mean are the ones who troll religious sites and Atheism hero wanna-be's, and I'm not one of them, but you also seem to think that safety is not really an excuse for anonymity. 

Comment by justin gold on December 30, 2010 at 11:57am
I an totally see why some members have to seek some sort of anonymous membership but that is down to the fact of where they live.As I live in Great Britain,Wales more to the fact i have no inhibitions of showing my face or name as we've become quite a secular state.i couldn't think of what it must be like to live where hope lives or in even the American south,the bible belt,or where ever atheism is an issue for day to day life.I'm sure it would be an eye opener to live in such a country,and for those who do they have my up most respect.
Comment by Edmond on December 30, 2010 at 12:28pm

I don't broadcast but I will not deny. My "friends" and family read my Facebook which echoes most of my Twitter account and I say what I want. Has it effected some relationships? Probably. The way I look at it is I'm too damn old to care what others think of me. I don't hate any religious folk, I assume that they can at least do me that favor. Of course, we know better. 


Bottom line is that I agree with you. Maybe they express aggression because they wish to come clean and due to issues they cannot. I'm sure we could talk about this for a very long time. The way I see it is this is the internet. If I don't like something I see, I go somewhere else. So I just skip past the yelling. Yelling on any side annoys me. 


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