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

LarryC wrote:

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.

Make no mistake, if they became hostile as a result, I obviously wouldn't try to nurture a one-sided relationship. I would cut loose and avoid them. I just don't know that I'd be all that angry about it, or even consider blaming the person themselves for it.

Mind you, I haven't talked to most of these people for upwards of six years anyway. That kinda happens when you all graduate and go your separate ways, so there's not much I'd be losing.

NSMike wrote:

Mind you, I haven't talked to most of these people for upwards of six years anyway. That kinda happens when you all graduate and go your separate ways, so there's not much I'd be losing.

Facebook has given me a lot of entertainment in that it's allowed me to reconnect with people from high school, let them go through my pictures, and then watch them summarily wallow in self-satisfaction as they tell me I turned out to be the sad, morally bankrupt atheist they always thought I'd be. The internet is just a great avenue for people to be really, reallllly judgmental on pretty much any topic, though.

I have thus far avoided facebook. They're probably all hanging out there, but I have no desire to immerse myself in that mire.

NSMike wrote:

I have thus far avoided facebook. They're probably all hanging out there, but I have no desire to immerse myself in that mire.

Yeah. They're there. I've lost family through Facebook. During the rise of the Tea Party I was posting articles about the Tea Party's hypocrisy on individual rights when it comes to issues tied to religion. One of my uncles disowned me and told his children never to talk to me again. I've never talked to my cousins since, don't talk to my uncle and wasn't invited to go to my cousin's wedding. When that happened I got an email from my aunt saying that it had nothing to do with the fight, but she knew that her husband could be difficult and had put a strain on the whole family with his extremism. Apparently she doesn't take that feedback to him.

Anyway, point being that Facebook, like anything Internet-related, unfortunately amplifies these differences. Link to that first article about supporting the repeal of DADT and you'll find out which "friends" of yours are tolerant of you disagreeing with their faith.

Bloo Driver wrote:

... The internet is just a great avenue for people to be really, reallllly judgmental on pretty much any topic, though.

This. A thousand times this. I get crap for not having enough faith, for having too much faith, for having the wrong kind of faith. Some people say it's okay to have faith, but you better not have a name for what you have faith in or go have faith in it with other people.

I get as much or more crap for being short, fat, female, old, geeky, for my technical job, and for my hobbies (both geeky and non-). I get crap for being too feminine, and for not being feminine enough. I get crap for being single, and crap for having been married. I get crap for having too many kids, having not enough kids, and don't get me started on people who have opinions about how I raised them.

I have had job and personal consequences from people's judgements on all the above. My FSM and Cthulhu-fish logos laugh at them all, though.

Today I want to feed everyone to Ongo-Bongo the God of the Congo. They should all fit pretty handily in his great belching, volcanic gullet. If there's a volcanic eruption in Atlanta today, you know it worked.

DSGamer wrote:
NSMike wrote:

I have thus far avoided facebook. They're probably all hanging out there, but I have no desire to immerse myself in that mire.

Yeah. They're there. I've lost family through Facebook. During the rise of the Tea Party I was posting articles about the Tea Party's hypocrisy on individual rights when it comes to issues tied to religion. One of my uncles disowned me and told his children never to talk to me again. I've never talked to my cousins since, don't talk to my uncle and wasn't invited to go to my cousin's wedding. When that happened I got an email from my aunt saying that it had nothing to do with the fight, but she knew that her husband could be difficult and had put a strain on the whole family with his extremism. Apparently she doesn't take that feedback to him.

Anyway, point being that Facebook, like anything Internet-related, unfortunately amplifies these differences. Link to that first article about supporting the repeal of DADT and you'll find out which "friends" of yours are tolerant of you disagreeing with their faith.

I had a similar experience with an aunt who is very into the Tea Party and her boyfriends support of people joining militia's.

momgamer wrote:
Bloo Driver wrote:

... The internet is just a great avenue for people to be really, reallllly judgmental on pretty much any topic, though.

This. A thousand times this. I get crap for not having enough faith, for having too much faith, for having the wrong kind of faith. Some people say it's okay to have faith, but you better not have a name for what you have faith in or go have faith in it with other people.

I get as much or more crap for being short, fat, female, old, geeky, for my technical job, and for my hobbies (both geeky and non-). I get crap for being too feminine, and for not being feminine enough. I get crap for being single, and crap for having been married. I get crap for having too many kids, having not enough kids, and don't get me started on people who have opinions about how I raised them.

I have had job and personal consequences from people's judgements on all the above. My FSM and Cthulhu-fish logos laugh at them all, though.

Today I want to feed everyone to Ongo-Bongo the God of the Congo. They should all fit pretty handily in his great belching, volcanic gullet. If there's a volcanic eruption in Atlanta today, you know it worked. ;)

IMAGE(http://t2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRgaxNChe4vDk5RUn566getPatjKYnSYQBai_R-hclF0YMNuf47)

"Judge not lest ye be judged" seems to have no weight when done through a series of tubes. It's beyond belief that people feel the need to say such things on the internet to you. I am quite curious if they would go so far as to say such things to you in person.

Nomad wrote:

IMAGE(http://t2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRgaxNChe4vDk5RUn566getPatjKYnSYQBai_R-hclF0YMNuf47)

Does that work? I'll have to try.

I'm far enough along in life that my being an Atheist doesn't seem to affect much since my day to day has already fallen into the ruts that I'll probably be treading for the next few decades. There are a few strained relationships at work, but mostly because (like always) I'm the exception to everyone else. In Gradeschool I was the American Atheist in Strongly Religious Bavaria. Once we moved to America I was the German Atheist that reads too much and doesn't do sport. And now at work I'm the Tech guy that roams between a half dozen offices, doesn't really belong to any of them, and doesn't go to church. Worst of all I'm generally nice person despite being a heretic and dirty sinner, so there wasn't ever any real conflict just... a slight awkwardness. Most people are absolutely perfect about it and it just isn't an issue. For the ones where it is an issue I lucked out and my coworker for the first few years was a Jehovas Witness, which made me slightly less repulsive to them. It really is disturbing how much the different factions don't like each other. Lip-curling grimaces when his name was mentioned... but absolutely the nicest guy to work with whose only real flaw as a person was an inability to say no to anyone. But I digress. I'm a state employee so the workplace is pretty sensitive about remaining religion 'neutral' to varying degrees. Clusters of 'rebels' making sure that there is plenty of unofficial Christian swag around for the holidays. Nothing really over the top so I think the administration keeps an eye closed and just makes sure they aren't using official letterhead for their invites. Which I have no problem with. Now if it came from the administration that would be a different story.

I'm in Iowa now so there was quite a bit of friction during my school years. Nothing creates 'Holier than Thou' attitudes like small-town America. Self-righteous indignation at my absolute lack of reverence for religious icons of any stripe. It got really bad when we got a few Born-Agains on the PTA Board coupled with an ambitious hell-fire preacher and suddenly there were prayers at our school assemblies and then choirs singing the Lords prayer at graduation. When approached they claimed that it was 'tradition' and had always been done, and why did one family of kill-joys have to make everything worse for everyone else? They realized that what they were doing was illegal, but since the majority was Christian who would ever convict them? The State of Iowa is the answer to that question. My aunt was on the board at that time and she recounted how the ring-leaders dug in their heels and doubled down. When it came time for court the tapes of those meetings were curiously deleted. All throughout this process my family received mailed and phoned threats encouraging us to leave town, die, and burn in hell. Not necessarily in that order. I was already at College at this point, so it was my younger siblings that got to endure going to school while being branded as... how has it been put? "Crazy Atheist and their Lunatic Lawyers."
The law is clear. And the state agreed. Things quieted down when people realized the facts of the situation. The school fought us all the way to court because they wanted to move their prayers and sermon into the main graduation ceremony instead of having them at the Baccalaureate Service (like they had done for the past sixty years). There was NO objection to the prayers or sermon. Hell, my sister is in the choir that sang their Lord's Prayer... the objection was moving those rituals into the secular ceremony of graduation.
A few years later my family moved out of that town and to a quiet neighborhood in a big city (next to a church) and couldn't be happier.

... distracted by work a couple of times so I'm going to hit post and cross my fingers that it still makes sense.

When I was 4-ish, my parents gave me and my siblings a choice to either continue going to Sunday School (I'm not 100% sure of what denomination of Christianity it was, I think it was Presbyterian, I know it wasn't Catholic or Baptist) or stay home. Like any sane children, we chose the option that allowed us to watch cartoons and not wake up early and get dressed up. I never encountered any negative reactions from religious people, but that mainly stems from living in one of the least religious states in the US, and people are generally less confrontational about that sort of thing up here. My younger brother did have some issues with his best friend who kept telling him he was going to burn in hell because he wasn't baptized, but they worked that out and remain best friends. Outside of the internet, I've only ever had one instance where I was given crap for being an atheist, and that was by a born-again evangelical biblical literalist.

Yellek wrote:

I grew up in the very liberal Seattle area and never had family issues because I didn't really have a clue how many families out there were religious. It just didn't come up. In fact, I never spent much time thinking about defining my views because there was no reason to do so.

Reading through the thread, I think it reinforces what I've always heard about the north west - we're pretty reticent about most things. Granted, in Montana and Wyoming we have some terrible extremes (the Freemen, CUT, Unibomber, Matthew Shepard, etc..), but average people seem to have the philosophy of "don't push it on me, and I'll do the same." It's extremely rare to find people pushing religion on others. I've never heard of anyone, in any business, talking about religion here. There's probably a few small businesses around, but I've never seen them.

Working on a college campus, we have our share of religious student organizations, but they're all pretty low key - their club recruiting consists of a poster saying "Hey, BBQ!", never someone in your face saying "Hey, God!" There's some outside group that used to pass out bibles on campus once a year, but they make everyone uncomfortable, even the religious.

Among my friends, most are probably agnostic or athiest, but some are pretty devout. It's never been an issue. The few where we've gotten into a debate at all, it's always ended up as just "I think you're wrong, but whatever. Lets go get a beer."

In my family, a few grandparents and cousins are religious to varying degrees, but it's almost a taboo subject to ever bring up (outside of the occasional Facebook post we all ignore). If I were to bring up my own lack of belief, most family members would just nod, say "yeah," and change the subject. If at a grandparents' house for a holiday, we might say grace before a meal, but that's about it. In my own family, we might give thanks before a holiday meal, but in secular way.

Growing up, we were briefly in the Mormon chuch just because my parents' social circle happened to be Mormon. Went to Sunday school for all of a month and hated it. I was too young to remember much of it now, other than it held absolutely no interest at all - the bible stories were just stories and held no truth to me. I think the way my mom, now agnostic with some Buddhist leanings, put it years later was just "I could see it wasn't for you." My dad got transferred to a new town and we never back to the Mormon church - having been in it mostly for the socializing, they were very done with the other requirements the Mormon church was trying to force on them (have more kids!).

My sister's currently training for a Buddhist chaplaincy (not priesthood, but counseling type of stuff). Probably her most vocal supporter is my very Catholic grandfather. My dad was raised Catholic, but lapsed pretty much the second he went to college. The most he's ever said on the subject was simply, "Why worship God in something man made, when I can do it outside in what God made." Then he goes skiing. My mom's side has always been athiest- I guess my great-grandmother was deeply into the whole speaking-in-tongues stuff, and my mom's father hated it.

I guess in the end, if there was ever any strife in my family based on religion, it all happened a generation or two before me. Any disagreement now is kept behind closed lips.

I haven't ever been too concerned with the affect my atheism has on my relationships. I've got pretty strong opinions on these things, but for the most part am opening to hearing other people out. The only place where I can see it being a big issue in my personal life is with a potential significant other (my current girlfriend for example). She was raised Catholic and doesn't practice and is unsure what exactly she believes, but I'm pretty sure she would insist on getting married in a church. That is not something I am willing to do. If she's as stubborn about it as I'm prepared to be, there will not be a wedding (or we'll do something creative like a wedding on the beach on an island paradise somewhere).

Professionally, it does concern me a bit. I work as a Sales Engineer, which means I have to meet with clients on a regular basis. Many of our customers are either religious schools (Catholic, Lutheran, etc) or public schools in conservative/rural areas (Central/Southern Illinois aka Bible Belt North and Oklahoma).

I just last month had a Principal at a Christian school on the south side of Chicago ask me what church I go to and offer up their church as an option (this demo had several "Praise Jesus"es come out of the audience mid-demo). I run into similar things working with public schools. One school we sold last year had 3 secretaries married to ministers. It doesn't really come up in the presentation but in the conversation around the meeting or if you take the client out to lunch, etc it can come up.

If I straight out said, "I am an Athiest", we would lose business. Instead I will mention friends of mine who are involved in religious activities (my best friend from Jr. High is from a SUPER religious family. He does all kinds of bible study/youth group stuff, and one of his brothers is studying to become a minister).

The sales rep I work with the most in those areas is a Tea Partier. The first time I met him our conversation went something like this:
Him: "What religion are you?"
Me: "I'm not."
Him: "You know, what religion were you raised with, what church do your parents go to."
Me: "I wasn't. They don't really go to church."
Him: "No, what religion is your family."
Me: ".....uh..... well I think my Grandma is a Baptist"
Him: "Oh, so you're a Baptist."
Me: "No, I'm an Atheist, my Grandma might, maybe be a Baptist."
Him: "Right, you're a Baptist."

He's not a particularly good listener (unless it's Rush or Hannity).

I live in a bible belt of Canada - Fraser Valley. I was raised by my single mother, and I can remember all the backlash my mom received when the good Christians mothers at my school found out that she was divorced. Over the years the Fraser valley has lost its high church population. The churches are still on every corner, but it seems to be diluted. I do not have issues anymore with my beliefs, but sometimes it comes into play if I hang out with certain friends who are Christian; specifically when he has invited his other friends over. My one friend looked at me once and said, "Morally your my best non-Christian friend" He seems to have problems getting around the fact that I am a good person and that I am not Christian. I remember when I was a child and stores started opening on Sunday and the huge protest from the community. The backlash has died down now, but one perk about living in a bible belt is that you can get all your errands done Sunday morning and be home before the church rush hour. Ghost town on sunday until 11am.

I don't feel threatened, no, but I do feel like if it were widely known people might give me a hard time about it. Therefore I generally keep it to myself but won't lie if someone asks.

Man, I seem to have had the complete opposite to most people's experiences here.

I'm an atheist, in a city filled with atheists, attending a school with a definite atheist majority.

It's probably coloured by the fact that I associate mainly with 16-and-17-year-olds, but when religion does come up it's almost exclusively being brought up solely for ridicule by somewhat-elitist militant atheists. In my English class of 30, when the teacher incidentally asked how many people believed in a god, only two people raised their hands, one Islamic and one Christian. I actually saw one classmate hold back a derisive snort. I felt bad for them, it seems like being religious is a disadvantage here.

I wonder how many folks who are religious have been disowned, harassed at work, stonewalled, or shunned by atheists?

Robear wrote:

I wonder how many folks who are religious have been disowned, harassed at work, stonewalled, or shunned by atheists?

Not sure I want to know the answer to that. Thus far this topic has been kept safely away from theism vs. atheism as in the last thread.

I'll rephrase: What social repercussions are seen by religious people who freely and openly discuss their beliefs in public?

Robear wrote:

I'll rephrase: What social repercussions are seen by religious people who freely and openly discuss their beliefs in public?

I imagine it's much like this. (NSFW Language)

Ok, not really, but I love this skit.

I live in the bible belt. I think that really says it all. Outside of some bullying in school (Though to be fair, I think it was something like the 300th reason down the list, there.), I haven't had too many issues. Well, outside of that one wingnut that got away with smiting the "godless heathen" with a sign.

I liked the irony of getting a wooden Jesus broken over my head.

I'm with the types that bow their head when everyone else is praying, which I do for the most part, though if I'm being perfectly honest, it has more to do with me not wanting to explain me being agnostic than anything else.

Overall, damned few people get deflecting religious questions with FSM comments or jokes about the Machine God (Or Omnimessiah if they're paying closer attention). Outside of random wingnuts, I haven't had too many problems with people whose opinions I value. My mom is agnostic, my grandpa didn't care, my extended family is crazy and I don't give a damn what they thought, and my aunt was a psycho for many reasons. (Her shouting "not an ape-descendent" and flipping out about my cousin and I watching a Hitchhikers' Guide to the Universe had to be my favorite.)

Robear wrote:

I'll rephrase: What social repercussions are seen by religious people who freely and openly discuss their beliefs in public?

I would start a separate thread for that topic. As we politely asked only atheists to discuss here and having only atheists answer that question is a bit like asking only white folks what racial discrimination must be like. Not to say that we can't discuss it, just we shouldn't be the only ones to.

Robear wrote:

I'll rephrase: What social repercussions are seen by religious people who freely and openly discuss their beliefs in public?

You guys get to "flee" to "ghettos" like the Pacific Northwest, New York City, San Francisco, etc.

Going by that other thread, we get places like Idaho and West Virginia.

Groovy.

Because here's the funny thing that you've got me thinking about Robear--when you say "openly discuss their beliefs in public" is that just religious beliefs, or any beliefs?

It seems to me that a lot of the bigoted people you are talking about in this thread are about as open to atheism as they are to the idea that Obama wasn't born in Kenya, or that the Confederacy wasn't a noble and just cause.

I don't want to derail your "safe space" thread, but I think it' worth offering to help you guys and gals figure things out: how much of what you deal with has to do with being atheist, and how much is to do you being a free thinker?

CheezePavilion wrote:
Robear wrote:

I'll rephrase: What social repercussions are seen by religious people who freely and openly discuss their beliefs in public?

You guys get to "flee" to "ghettos" like the Pacific Northwest, New York City, San Francisco, etc.

Going by that other thread, we get places like Idaho and West Virginia.

Groovy.

*sigh*

As Mixolyde said and I alluded to it's probably best to move that to another thread. Please. This thread was created with a specific purpose so as to avoid what happened last time. Certis frowns (rightly so) on creating threads to simply repeat a thread that was just closed. So I knew I was potentially incurring his wrath by even making this thread. Thus I tried very carefully to word things in such a way as to make clear that I didn't think it would be helpful to this thread being its own thing to have it be theists vs. atheists again.

We're having a fine discussion about the experiences of atheists and agnostics. Let's please keep it that way so this is a safe thread for people to give their experiences. We've seen a wide spread from nsmike's story to Jonman's. I'd like to keep the peace here and would ask that everyone respect that. If we really need another thread like the last thread, please go create that thread.

CheezePavilion wrote:

I don't want to derail your "safe space" thread, but I think it' worth offering to help you guys and gals figure things out: how much of what you deal with has to do with being atheist, and how much is to do you being a free thinker?

That's a fair question and not out of bounds in my opinion. I don't know that it's terribly relevant, though. My experience has been that in "safe" places like the Pacific Northwest "free thinkers" can be very hostile to conservatives. I've seen that first place myself. I'd prefer to stick more strictly to the question of how much atheism is a problem for people to admit to as that interested me.

I was trying to make a joke and insert a bit of levity, but you know, I should just let this one slide, I think.

Kannon wrote:

I was trying to make a joke and insert a bit of levity, but you know, I should just let this one slide, I think.

I got where you were coming from and I don't think it was out of bounds personally. I just tend to agree with mixolyde. We asked nicely that theists let us atheists have a thread to ourselves and that's worked so far. If this thread gets boring we can always find a reason to go make a thread where we argue with each other again. Until then I'm hoping we can keep this thread intact.

El-Taco-the-Rogue wrote:

Man, I seem to have had the complete opposite to most people's experiences here.

I'm an atheist, in a city filled with atheists, attending a school with a definite atheist majority.

Yes, New Zealand's one of the most secular countries. People openly talking about their religion stand out here, mostly people just don't talk about it.

My own discomfort was greatest in secondary school - I went to a school that made a big deal of all its traditions, aping some kind of ideal of English public schools. The headmaster at the time I was there was very religious, and insisted on the Lord's Prayer and hymns at our weekly school assemblies. It felt pretty odd to be in the middle of that. Not really bad in any way, at least no worse than other aspects of school assembly.

DSGamer wrote:
Kannon wrote:

I was trying to make a joke and insert a bit of levity, but you know, I should just let this one slide, I think.

I got where you were coming from and I don't think it was out of bounds personally. I just tend to agree with mixolyde. We asked nicely that theists let us atheists have a thread to ourselves and that's worked so far. If this thread gets boring we can always find a reason to go make a thread where we argue with each other again. Until then I'm hoping we can keep this thread intact.

I think the thread is far less boring than the one that got locked, mainly because I don't have to pop in only to see tired arguments being slung back and forth.

dejanzie wrote:

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.

Thanks for the perspective on Belgium.

I was just there and I was confused. I guess I thought all of Europe was fairly agnostic / atheist. But we were in Brussels and were surprised at how many businesses closed early on Saturday and didn't open on Sunday. I was trying to get replacement headphones for my trip home and couldn't find them in Brussels which kind of shocked me. While fuming about that in the Brussels airport there was a live feed of mass playing on the TV in the airport. I was very confused.

NSMike wrote:

** Good stuff cut. **

The risk is that I will lose my family. Now, it's more clear why I think I will.

I liked your post, NSMike, so I wanted to comment on it. My 2 Cents is that it's worse to lose yourself than lose your family. I know that may sound crass, but I've faced similar issues with my in-laws and with members of my family. Not as severe, but still real. I've found that being honest and being myself not only makes you feel more comfortable in your own skin, but it makes it easier to get along with your relatives.

Speaking purely from personal experience so take this with a huge grain of salt. But eventually when you decide to stop pleasing your relatives and friends there will be pain. There may even be a period of time where you literally don't talk. Eventually, though, assuming you can repair that, you'll have a better relationship. And a real relationship where you don't need to hide who you are. That's been my experience. Not telling you what to do by any means, but I've been through this and I found that my relationship improved once I stopped living in this weird state of frustration and disagreement.

I know that I haven't had to deal with any persecution being an Agnostic Athiest yet, but I stopped believing in God/Allah/gods/tree spirits/whatever after college and then I lived in California, Hawaii and now D.C. instead of the bible belt where I grew up. But growing up Catholic I got tons of crap and harassment all the time for being a "heathen going to hell" from bible thumpers that didn't know the difference between transubstantiation and consubstantiation.