I had kind of a cool experience yesterday.
I was sitting waiting for my physics discussion to start and I had brought Dawkins' "Unweaving the Rainbow" along to pass the time. From behind me I heard a voice "so...are you reading Dawkins for a class?" I turned around to the guy sitting in the row behind me, who looked like he had been a bit nervous to ask me. I replied, "no, just for fun. I like his stuff."
It was great the way his expression completely changed and he told me he liked his stuff too. He asked if I read "anything else like that" and I told him I liked Harris and Hitchens a lot too. There were other people in the room, and it was very obvious to both of us that we were avoiding the term "atheist," but it was also so very obvious to each other that we were. There was definitely a sense of excitement and even relief that we had each found another fellow atheist. There was an instant ease between us because of it.
As exciting as it was to make this new friend, it was bittersweet. The way we both danced around the topic of atheism at first only reminded me how socially unacceptable it still is to be an atheist in this country. We were both a bit cautious at first, because we weren't sure where the other was coming from. It worked out this time, but it could have just as easily have been some fundie looking to attack.
Things need to change, people.