Fellow Atheists/Agnostic Atheists - Let's Chat: Do you feel it is risky being "out" these days?

It was never an issue with my parents, or anything else in my life before marriage. I don't think it would have a negative impact in my professional life. I think I was willing to go through communion and all that when my husband still believed, because it was important to him, but I think deep down I wouldn't truly believe it myself. He came to his atheism on his own, and that worked out pretty well for me since it meant that I didn't have to feel bad about what I truly thought.

We still, uh, got married in a Catholic church, though. That was for his mother. At that time, the husband wasn't fully ready to address his position personally, let alone address it with his megacatholic mother. I think if his side of the family knew, they might disown us. Our living in a different province makes those philisophical/religious conflicts easier to avoid.

We pick our battles. This wasn't one of them. We're openly agnostic/athiestic in our philosophies and social lives; we quietly respect the beliefs of the people we love and try to be sensitive to the expectations of their beliefs if we're in a situation where doing otherwise could cause conflict. Being open about our athiesm would be risky with some family members, and bringing it up just isn't worth it.

I guess we've spent too much time on the internet (he was also a former seminary student with a philosophy degree); arguing about "faith/belief vs. not" has been so far done to death that engaging, defending, or explaining our stance seems futile and tiresome. Not worth the effort, in my opinion.

My beliefs, or lack thereof, aren't anyone else's business. They're mine. Whenever people argue about it, I can't help but think of this:

IMAGE(http://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/duty_calls.png)

My parents would both claim to be believers, though very non-practicing. They never pray, or go to church (however my Mum goes to Christmas/Easter mass with my wife [who's Philipino, but is never awake early enough to go to church on Sunday]). My mother-in-law is properly Catholic and goes to church every Sunday without fail. I've been an atheist since primary school, and whilst I had some debates with my idiotic Religious Education teacher in high school, I've never had any problems at all. We're just generally less devout in this country. I've worked with some quite religious people, and we've discussed what our beliefs are about whatever (abortions, gay rights, Calvinist implications for the notion of free will), but after we've enumerated what those are, we've not done each other the disservice of trying to change their mind.

At university, I went out with one girl who was definitely bothered by my atheism, and the relationship died as a result. I went out with the chairman of the university Catholic Society (from Belfast, no less), and it was never any kind of problem at all (at least with my extensive collection of cliterature). I think when people are (a) secure in their own beliefs; (b) have enough respect for the other person that you are pretty sure they have heard both sides of the argument before, it needn't be a problem.

I've never had much of a problem with my agnosticism either. I seem to recall many Catholic priests being agnostic as well. When I bring it up in faith discussions, gnostics tend to run away for some reason, but I've never had grief over it. The worst is people saying that it's Larry being Larry again - needlessly pedantic. I've been agnostic for as long as I can remember. I think my parents are, too, though I don't know that they've ever though of it that way.

Raised nominally Catholic in Sydney, was an Athiest before I was out of my teens. Now live in London and it hasn't been a problem in either city. I got more grief being a Catholic from other Catholics than I ever did being an Athiests. Surburban Catholics are about as judgmental group as you're ever likely to come across.

Closest it's ever been to a problem is when the wife and I got married in Vegas. The guy who ran the chapel didn't want to let us use the humanist ceremony but they discussed it and ended up saying it would be fine. The priest asked if we minded him saying a prayer during the ceremony which we were both fine with and we all left happy and with a mutual respect for each others' beliefs.

DudleySmith wrote:

it was never any kind of problem at all (at least with my extensive collection of cliterature).

Fun!

DSGamer wrote:

As far as I'm concerned this is basically your thread. I figured that if we stayed on topic we could actually have the original conversation so I risked Certis' wrath.

Oh I know, I was just being dryly humourous.

Here in the UK I've generally been surprised when people say they are religious, at least with Christians. (With Judaism, Hinduism, Sikkhism and Islam it's easier to tell.) Christianity seems to be something we're getting over, though I'm concerned that the America's influence may be affecting that. I hope that we are 'over' all religions soon.

I've worked in sales for decades now and have noticed that salespeople and fishermen tend to be highly superstitious. That kind of magical thinking tends to lend itself very much to a religious mentality. Sales managers routinely host "optional" prayer breakfasts that turn out to have subtle but serious career implications. The word that you are "not one of us" tends to get you noticed in all the wrong ways. Pretty soon you end up getting hassled over TPS reports or put under the compliance microscope.

It doesn't happen nearly as much as it used to thanks to the fact that uppity Jew lawyers and obnoxious atheists have made those kinds of practices harder to execute.

Belgium is historically a Catholic nation, but less and less since WWII. According to the Eurobarometer Poll in 2005, 43% of Belgian citizens responded that "they believe there is a God", whereas 29% answered that "they believe there is some sort of spirit or life force" and 27% that "they do not believe there is any sort of spirit, God, or life force". My parents are both raised Catholic, are both atheists now and have raised me as such. I haven't been baptized.

I'll try to keep this short, but I need to explain our educational system a bit first. We have a catholic, regional (Flanders/Wallonia) and a local (per town) pilar. Religion/morality is taught 2 hours per week. The catholic schools only teach catholicism, but the schools of the other pilars have to teach every recognized religion (jewish, catholicism, protestantism, humanism (atheists go here of course), islam) when the demand is made by parents. As long as a school abides by the regional curriculum, they get government monies.

I remember being the first in our local elementary/primary school EVER to get humanism (in 1987), they had to hire a teacher for me. Until high school I was the only one in my humanism class. Before lunch, everyone would say grace while I kept quiet. Apart from me and one other classmate who went to sports school, everybody went from our local public elementary school to catholic high school. When I told my neighbor back then that I went to public school and not to the catholic one, a very awkward silence followed. In our town (which was next to Brussels mind you not some peasantville in the middle of nowhere) public schools were frowned upon and Catholic schools were holy.

Apart from that, I remember that the kids who lived in my best friend's street weren't allowed to play with him for some time because he wasn't baptized.

In general, it was often made clear to me that I wasn't part of the majority. But it was never a real issue either, and I felt more proud than ashamed of me being 'special'. After high school, it has never ever been an issue or even a topic.

The only religion you don't want to be associated with (when it comes to social relationships and professional opportunities) is islam. Belgian employers avoid clicking muslimy sounding names when looking for employees in the government's database; a foreign accent or introducing yourself as Mohammed suddenly makes rental houses disappear from the market and wearing a niqab automatically labels you a fundamentalist.

The only preachers actively trying to convert heathens are Jehova's Witnesses, and everybody dislikes them.

dejanzie wrote:

Apart from that, I remember that the kids who lived in my best friend's street weren't allowed to play with him for some time because he wasn't baptized.

It it wrong that I immediately thought of Dejanzie talking to his best friend about his concern regarding their upcoming fight with Satan's Cavemen?

Paleocon wrote:
dejanzie wrote:

Apart from that, I remember that the kids who lived in my best friend's street weren't allowed to play with him for some time because he wasn't baptized.

It it wrong that I immediately thought of Dejanzie talking to his best friend about his concern regarding their upcoming fight with Satan's Cavemen?

I don't get it Google turns up Jack Black's Nacho Libre movie, but I fail to see the connection?

dejanzie wrote:
Paleocon wrote:
dejanzie wrote:

Apart from that, I remember that the kids who lived in my best friend's street weren't allowed to play with him for some time because he wasn't baptized.

It it wrong that I immediately thought of Dejanzie talking to his best friend about his concern regarding their upcoming fight with Satan's Cavemen?

I don't get it Google turns up Jack Black's Nacho Libre movie, but I fail to see the connection?

It was just a scene in Nacho Libre where Jack Black ambush baptizes his best friend (an atheist) prior to their fight with Satan's Cavemen.

As a Canadian in Ottawa, the answer is a definite "No." I feel like being an atheist/agnostic is pretty normal, and when I meet others who are religious, we almost always have very civil conversations on the subject and it does not affect our relationship.

Just another one of the perks of living in America's hat, I guess.

I come from a big Catholic family, my father's active in the KoC, most of their friends are from the church, and I'm probably the only sibling that doesn't go to church regularly (I am not myself agnostic/atheist, I just don't believe in the churches). Despite this, it's never been what I'd consider a rabidly religious family and I can't remember ever hearing a peep from them that my wife (Yellek) is agnostic/atheist. However, she's probably more likely to remember instances like that than I am, or people may have said stuff to her while I wasn't around.

When I was an Atheist, I never saw anything as "risky" in terms of "coming out". I was out...and quite vocally. In Ottawa U, most of those I knew were atheistic in thought (..the majority of the university was that way in my day. Still is I think...) and it was usually the Christians that needed to watch out. I would pounce on them with the usual arguments given the right circumstances. I was quite comfortable as an Atheist. As Dysplastic hinted, different thing here in Canada.

Growing up religion was never a big deal in my house. Myself and my siblings where baptized catholic to keep some grandparent happy but that was as far as it went. However some years ago my mother went from being a lapsed catholic to being Born Again (Lost Drugs found God, Seems to almost be a rule). At the time I was toying with the idea of Deism so there was some strife but it was minimized since I “Still believed in God”. Eventually I admitted to myself that I'm an atheist and more or less always was. I’ve decided however that this is something my mother Will Not Know. I can only see it causing problems. Shes a rather emotional and intense person at the best of times and I only just managed to avoid her demand that I baptized again once.

My job is a part time job for a town on Long Island and I can safely say I would receive far far more trouble for coming out as a liberal then as an atheist.

Oddly I do currently have a professor I’m trying to avoid expressing my beliefs around. Given that its a Religious History class this is proving somewhat of a challenge. Hes a really rather hardcore and outspoken christian. He has regularly declared that Jesus in the only way to God, That God has influenced history directly, and declared evolution to be a lie. I'm slightly worried what affect my lack of theism being known would have on my grade so I'm just going to try and not find out.

I'm pretty firmly agnostic and anti-church for the most part, but I tend to keep it to myself and speak about the reasoning and topic at hand when it comes up, rather than flat out use the terms. For the most part, I've never run in to a lot of trouble, even when I'm having these discussions at Catholic Charities or the Austin pastoral center here. However, it's also been my experience that all it really takes is one very vocal person to start giving you serious grief to get everyone else suddenly on their side. It may be regional, but even in such a hippie/progressive town as this, people are much more likely to quiet down and tacitly agree with the guy pushing religious worth in a conversation than anyone not doing so.

Tagging to follow. Probably going to stay out of the conversation itself for the most part though.

I'm an atheist, and my dad just retired as a Presbyterian minister a few months ago after 40+ years. We've never directly discussed the issue, just because it doesn't seem necessary; I don't particularly care if people believe in a deity or not, and I don't let it color my relationships with people. My dad knows I don't go to church and I have no doubt he's aware I'm at least agnostic, but it doesn't matter, because there are more important things to worry about. Then again, he's incredibly open-minded and once told me he doesn't care if God actually exists, because the important thing is that belief in God inspires people to do good things, and that's what really matters. He's a pretty awesome guy.

In terms of personal relationships with other people, I just don't bring it up; it's not relevant to my life. As a rule, I would prefer people keep religion to themselves and not force it on me, and I do the same with atheism. If I'm talking with the mom of one of the girls I coach in youth soccer and she brings up church, I don't shout her down. If somebody asks me what church we go to, I just say, "Oh, we don't go to church, we're not religious people" and leave it at that. "Atheist" is a confrontational word, whether or not I want it to be, so I don't feel the need to fling it about. If someone asks me directly, I'll tell them, but I don't consider my lack of belief in a higher power to really be all that important in my life.

A close, longtime friend stopped returning my phone calls and uninvited me to his wedding. Another refused to collaborate with me on any animation projects. There were some very awkward moments with my larger Christian friend group and many of those acquaintances have now become strangers. My family now views me as some sort of weird elitist with something to prove, but sadly I don't think that's anything new :). There was also some general rudeness and mind-blowingly awful questioning from some older people.

"But Scott, if you don't believe in God, would you even care if a group of men were taking turns raping and torturing your wife?" That gem came from my aunt, over facebook chat.

But that's really about it. I'm in the process of writing a blog post about my year as an "out atheist", and I must admit that I have been given pause by the fact that I now have more people watching me online and this may be a bad career move. That said, I haven't experienced any career effects from it at all, possibly owing to being a freelancer in a not-particularly-churchy field..

Mom's a lapsed Catholic who gave up everything except God and guilt, Dad's a seasonal Muslim who doesn't fast if Ramadan falls between the spring and autumn equinoxes, and I'm a pork-averse atheist married to a Buddhist. Except in Malaysia I'm a Christian for reasons I'll not bore you with. In any case, I don't really share my thoughts on religion with anyone except those who really want to know. I don't think my parents or wife cares too much. Wife's family might a little, but they'd probably prefer atheist over Muslim. Technically I guess I should call myself a weak atheist, someone who doesn't think about the question all that much.

Living in China I don't think I'd ever be ostracized. Religion doesn't define people here the way it does in the West.

Quintin_Stone wrote:

I come from a big Catholic family, my father's active in the KoC, most of their friends are from the church, and I'm probably the only sibling that doesn't go to church regularly (I am not myself agnostic/atheist, I just don't believe in the churches). Despite this, it's never been what I'd consider a rabidly religious family and I can't remember ever hearing a peep from them that my wife (Yellek) is agnostic/atheist. However, she's probably more likely to remember instances like that than I am, or people may have said stuff to her while I wasn't around.

I think your father was more disturbed that I don't do your laundry or cook regularly than he was by my lack of religion.

bombsfall wrote:

"But Scott, if you don't believe in God, would you even care if a group of men were taking turns raping and torturing your wife?" That gem came from my aunt, over facebook chat.

I've gotten this kind of comment before too, and it really disturbs and scares me. Are they saying that their belief in god is the ONLY thing keeping them from doing horrible unspeakable things to others? Seriously scary.

bombsfall wrote:

"But Scott, if you don't believe in God, would you even care if a group of men were taking turns raping and torturing your wife?" That gem came from my aunt, over facebook chat.

Anyone pulls that type of comment on me, even family, and I will bluntly ask them if they really are that stupid or if they meant to say something entirely different and simply had a grammatical malfunction.

I think it's one of those things where people are just afraid of what the world would be if God's existence wasn't the base for morality. They may put it in a really offensive manner, but what they are really grappling with is the notion of subjective, naturally-arising morality, which sounds really scary at first.

Sometimes when I'm sitting in traffic I think "How are we all doing this safely? Why are we obeying these signs and lights? Oh yeah, it's because we want to get where we're going, alive, without harming anyone else. Because we are social animals with sh*t to do."

Dysplastic wrote:

As a Canadian in Ottawa, the answer is a definite "No." I feel like being an atheist/agnostic is pretty normal, and when I meet others who are religious, we almost always have very civil conversations on the subject and it does not affect our relationship.

Pretty much this. One of the benefits of my Mom being pretty much my only family is that I don't have a large group to content with offending because of my atheism. My Mom was raised Catholic and my grandparents were both very religious but she adopted atheism around the same time I did. I don't believe my girlfriend's parents are religious though the subject has never come up and I don't intent to ask. My girlfriend is also a proud atheist. No employer I've ever worked for has given an indication that my beliefs would impact my job and as Dysplastic said, I think that's very common in Canada. We do have "bible belt" areas here but they tend to be very small and not encompass any major cities.

The only sort of problems I had were with my ex and her family. They were very religious (i.e. attended church every week and said grace before dinner) and my ex believed in God but didn't practice really. I never told her family I was atheist and I don't know if she did. They never got on my case about it but gatherings like Christmas were always awkward when I was the one guy at the table who didn't bow his head and close his eyes to say grace. I did not want to preach but I also was not prepared to participate in rituals I didn't subscribe to in order to avoid making waves. One of the only real fights I had with my ex was religious based. We were talking about kids (she wanted them and I don't but that's another point) and she said any we had would be 100% free to pursue any faith (or lack of) they wished but she insisted that they still be baptised. I objected to this and said that while I didn't see baptism as something with any real implications, I didn't think it was right to be making decisions of that nature for them before they had the means to decide for themselves. If they were free to pursue any faith they chose, that to me meant making no faith based decisions for them ever. She took great offense to this and it turned into a heated argument which never really got resolved. We cooled off and moved on but there was never any sort of agreement.

I consider myself very lucky to have that be my worst experience of the sort. I really feel for anyone who has their job or family life impacted by their atheism. It's one of the most divisive subjects available and I'd never want to have to fight that every day.

I close my eyes and bow my head when other people do prayer, and I tell my kids to do the same. If we're at somebody's house and they do a pre-meal prayer, I think it's important to respect their traditions, regardless of whether or not I share them. It doesn't hurt me to sit quietly for a minute at somebody else's table.

Yellek wrote:
Quintin_Stone wrote:

I come from a big Catholic family, my father's active in the KoC, most of their friends are from the church, and I'm probably the only sibling that doesn't go to church regularly (I am not myself agnostic/atheist, I just don't believe in the churches). Despite this, it's never been what I'd consider a rabidly religious family and I can't remember ever hearing a peep from them that my wife (Yellek) is agnostic/atheist. However, she's probably more likely to remember instances like that than I am, or people may have said stuff to her while I wasn't around.

I think your father was more disturbed that I don't do your laundry or cook regularly than he was by my lack of religion. :D

I'm disturbed by that as well.

If I lose a friend because they find out that I lack faith, then guess what? They weren't my friend to begin with - they were a bigoted asshole disguised as a friend.

Jonman wrote:

If I lose a friend because they find out that I lack faith, then guess what? They weren't my friend to begin with - they were a bigoted asshole disguised as a friend.

I don't know that that's entirely fair. I have some college friends from my time hanging out with evangelicals whom I would be sad to lose if they so chose, but I don't know that I could say they were bad people for doing so. Religion and faith have some powerful effects on the mind. I'd have a hard time blaming them for failing to overcome it just for my sake.

I'm broadly with Jonman here. It's not a loss to lose a "friend" because you disclose that you're atheist, a member of any other perceived minority, or whatever. If anything, that just allows you to dodge a bullet, as they say.

MilkmanDanimal wrote:

I close my eyes and bow my head when other people do prayer, and I tell my kids to do the same. If we're at somebody's house and they do a pre-meal prayer, I think it's important to respect their traditions, regardless of whether or not I share them. It doesn't hurt me to sit quietly for a minute at somebody else's table.

Sure. I've done that before. If it's family, though, I think they understand at this point (because we have gone through the pain of sorting this stuff out) that I'm not praying. I'm leaning on my hands so as not to throw it in their face that I think they could just as well be sending a prayer to Zeus.

Yellek wrote:

I've gotten this kind of comment before too, and it really disturbs and scares me. Are they saying that their belief in god is the ONLY thing keeping them from doing horrible unspeakable things to others? Seriously scary.

Yeah. This one is scary and fun. Scary because it is truly scary. And fun because you get to explain to someone how you must have some stronger moral fiber that you don't believe there is a God and yet you're not a rudderless amoral lunatic.