First, I must say that I am very concerned about the negative view of atheists.  I faked Christianity for years despite my disbelief in a God.  This was because being an Atheist was not an option; Atheists are cold and mean, and think life is meaningless.  It took only a nudge of encouragement, namely from good old Richard Dawkins, for me to discover that it is okay to be an atheist.  Regardless what society thinks, it is truly okay to be an atheist.


This is why I am 1) making efforts to be an open atheist and 2) writing a short argumentative paper on why there can indeed be beauty and meaning in the world without an afterlife.  This is a significant step for me, and someday I might hope to share it with someone who would benefit from reading it.


Now, normally I completely refrain from touching religion at all in an academic setting, but I have come to be very close to my writing professor, who also happens to be an atheist.  Once I discovered this, I went to her with my idea to see if she would approve it, and she did.  I was happy to have her professional opinion on how I could improve my paper, and we had a magnificent discussion on the topic.  She even asked me if I would like to announce my topic before the class, and so I did.


However, while we were editing our papers in class, I asked for some advice and was met with a completely different personality.  She made a straw man of my argument, accused me of claiming that those who don't believe in an afterlife cannot live a happy life, and dove into an argument over the moral implications of atheism- which had nothing to do with my paper.  The entire class was dead silent while we discussed, and I finally said that we were way off topic, and asked if she could answer my original question on the organization of my essay.  She said she could not answer my question, and scampered off to pretend to be busy.


I was wondering all day today why I was left so disturbed by this.  I wondered if perhaps she did not want her status known (though she openly admitted her religious status in class) or perhaps she did not want the students to think badly of her.  But ultimately, not only was I humiliated by being framed as the "evil atheist," but it perpetuated a negative view of atheists in the minds of my peers.  


Originally, I was delighted that I was able to admit to being an atheist in a class, because it would expose my peers to that idea that completely normal people are atheists.  Now, I hate to think that I am serving as more evidence to support a negative view of atheists.


What do you think about:

Closeted atheists and respecting their privacy?

Whether closeted atheists perpetuate the negative view of atheism?

The possible benefits and consequences of coming out of the closet?

And, has a situation like this ever happened to you?  Have you ever been made a scapegoat by another atheist?


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I generally see this as similar to the problems that faced the LGBT community.  There are many negative connotations associated this atheism but without real world experience with atheists that do not fit the stereotype, they will never change their opinion.  There was a lot of negative stereotypes around the LBGT community and those didn't change until our friend, family, neighbors and co-workers came out of the closet.  Ignorance breeds fear and misunderstanding.

I think the decision to come out of the closet should ALWAYS be up to the athiest.  While time will change additudes, we should remember that be "outed" may cause serious problems for some people

As for me, I'm kinda "out". It's something I'm not shy about, but often don't speak about it in certain company.

I like your comparison.  I hope perhaps people's view of atheists will take the same turn as it did on LGBT individuals (though, there is still a lot of work to be done for LGBT community, but nothing's perfect)...

I will respect the privacy concerns and not out an Atheist. I'm not even forceful about the subject unless I have push back. Example, yesterday my FB status was "Zuckerberg pledges wealth to charity Carlos Slim criticizes charity. Who it good?" (para) Now an Atheist pointed out the difference. But I'm just not in your face about it unless you ask me to be. Same day, a friend posted a video of atheists marching in a Christmas parade and a guy criticized them. He said atheists don't want to debate. So I volunteered politely and he changed his mind.    

The reason that I'm not a "your religion is bullshit" "come out of the closet" Dawkins type is that I don't think that it appeals to as many as simply being an example. Think about your picture of Atheists while you were still pretending. You didn't want to fit the "mold". You didn't want to be "that guy" (or girl as it were). Sure, Dawkins talked you into being an Atheist, but was it a reasoned argument that got you there or a vitriolic one that tipped the scale? 

Your prof might have been trying to just push you into standing up for your argument as well thinking that you were ready for this public display. Maybe she wanted you to defeat her canned arguments in front of everyone? 

I wouldn't say Dawkins "talked me into" being an atheist.  I was already an atheist.  He talked me into coming out, which I think is valuable, as you were saying, because hopefully I can serve as an example.

As for my professor,  I don't think I'll ever figure out what was going on in her head, but your speculation sounds feasible to me.  Do people normally do that?  I mean, make a show of offering up arguments to be refuted?

I think some vocal people might. It's a stretch of a speculation.

Closeted atheists and respecting their privacy?

This involves compromises, since you have to lie to people that you believe in myths. Their privacy cannot be respected if they are closeted since religion is shoved down their throats.


Whether closeted atheists do any harm to the negative view of atheism?

I do not fully understand this question. Care to rephrase?


The possible benefits and consequences of coming out of the closet?

Benefits: you are free from religion, you are not blocked by any kind of superstition ( since you clearly deny them )

Negative consequences: social punishments ( friends/family marginalize you )


And, has a situation like this ever happened to you?  Have you ever been made a scapegoat by another atheist?

I have never met another atheist IRL. When I was closeted I reasoned quite a lot and developed a critical way of thinking. It persisted ever since. I am pretty adamant when defending my point of view. I am getting tired of constantly refuting all that bullshit. In the end? It's definitely worth it. Especially in the long run.

Ah, thank you for your sympathy.  I believe this is the first of many experiences I will have dealing with a confrontation over a religious matter.  Sadly, I am young, and uneloquent, so despite having answers to all her accusations, I merely froze up and let her make a punching bag of me.  I am hoping, though, that in the future I will not be so sensitive, and will have an easier time expressing my opinion effectively and calmly.

"I am not out at my job"

I just read your post on not being "out," and I think that's actually quite noble.  I was not out at my old job, and that was only Old Navy...!  I actually feared I they might find a reason to fire me...  However, now I cook in a restaurant, and all the chefs are atheists! 

And I am considering contacting my professor about this...  But I will wait until the final grades are in (wink wink)

I'm sorry she was not more helpful, and am confused by all that.  I don't get it.


I get it... you said that you lost a job after admitting that you are an atheist. Maybe she was afraid of something like that happening to her.

You should definitely respect their privacy - just as you would a homosexual. Outing a person can have devastating effects to their life - including income. You don't have the right to effect a persons life on such a level. I know many parents who attend church, and live the lie - they do so for the same reason I sometimes find myself wishing I hadn't came 'out' ... The cost was also to my children - which I didn't foresee. I lost my community and my support- my friends and bonds of motherhood when I admitted over 20 years ago - I've never been able to replace them. Now as I have two more young ones - and am out, I find I am still without community, support and lasting, beneficial relationships with other women ( and men ) who I can share my triumphs, failures and motherhood - at least in something with more depth than online. An individuals whole life can be encapsulated within that lie - and it's not for us to violate or to risk them , their children or family before they are prepared. 


There are benefits to being out - one is peace of mind to know you no longer live a lie, and are free to express your opinions more freely - there are cons too. Each person has to weigh them and decide for themselves - and for their children, if they have them. 

First off what your professor did is unreal and I'm sorry you had to go through that.

 My answers to your questions:

Q1: Always respect the closeted Atheist choice to be in the closet.

Q2: I can see why you would ask this question, but I think the answer is no.

Q3: Pros: Freedom!! Cons: alienation of family, friends, co-workers.

Q4: No, I'm sorry you were and I hope that never happens to you, or me again..


As a closeted atheist myself, it would be detrimental to my life for me to come out of the closet. The only people I have to watch my kids for me to go to work or school is my husband's family. they are all bible thumpers. You can imagine where that would leave me. I commend any out atheist. Maybe when my youngest one goes to school I can be out because i will no longer depend on them for me to do the things that are necessary in life.

What if I can't fit in my closet anymore???


We should respect everyone's privacy and whatever they decide is best for them. The closeted atheists are the only ones that have to bear that burden, so no, they are not perpetuating the negative view of atheism. They should really think about the advantages and disadvantages of hiding their atheism and then decide what's best for them. Of course it would be better for us as a group if everybody was proud of being an atheist and all that, but the individual comes first.

In one of my classes, we watched a video on youtube of Christopher Hitchens explaining simply why religion was wrong. At the end of the video, my nonreligious teacher asked what we thought of the video. The room remained quiet, as if everyone was afraid to speak. I gave my teacher two thumbs up, signifying my acceptance of the video. Then other students in the class started to speak, each saying that while they respected Hitchen's beliefs, they did not agree. With some of the people in that class, I find it hard to believe they are religious. I think some people are truly afraid to admit that they are atheists. 


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