Is Declaring Your Atheism Social Suicide?

The Thinking Atheist compiled this collection of comments from people who declared their atheism, only to be ostracized or cut off in return:

If you’re able to declare your atheism to certain people without fear of reprisal, please do it. Do it for the people in the video. Do it so that pointing out the obvious stops coming with a penalty.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • MegaZeusThor

    Great video, both in content and production. I’m glad Seth is on our side.

  • Bruce Heerssen

    The only people I am not honest with concerning my atheism is my family. They still think I’m a believer, albeit one who does not attend church. Publicly, I am an out and proud atheist who can and will challenge irrational belief wherever I find it. Fortunately, I live in the relatively liberal Houston (relative to the state as a whole) and I don’t face much in the way of discrimination from the community at large. But if my family were to find out, there’s a nonzero chance they would ostracize me. That is a step I am not willing to take voluntarily, at least not at this time.

  • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

    At worst, you lose part of one social circle and gain another (a much better one, IMO). Suicide doesn’t work that way.

    • http://twitter.com/tauriqmoosa Tauriq Moosa

      You don’t necessarily gain a new social circle; though I do think it’s wise to have such a circle if you do decide to declare it to the religious one. 

      • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

        I wonder how many Christians become atheists asocially (by reading books or reading blogs, for instance), and how many do so socially (through involvement with new friends, college life, etc)? I can see how it might be hard for the former to easily fall into new social circles; not so much the latter.

        • http://CoffeeShopAtheist.com/blog Patrick

          I was a social Christian (went to a church that stressed friendship, confession, “living life together,” they called it), but deconverted through reading and intellectual stimulation, along with maybe 1-2 influential friends.

          I’ve gathered new social circles, and thanks to SSA it wasn’t hard at all.

        • http://nathandst.blogspot.com NathanDST

          Anecdotally, I became an atheist asocially. I don’t recall any influential friends, in fact, most of my friends at the time were believers in something, even if it wasn’t Christianity.

  • Anon

    I’m lucky. Not only is my mother an undeclared atheist (she doesn’t believe, she just doesn’t use the word ‘atheist’) but that where I live is fairly nonreligious, despite the churches, and the religious people I’ve encountered have been nice. My friends know I’m an atheist, many of them are atheists or agnostic or just vague about religious stuff and the topic of religion didn’t come up for several years. I have friends who are christian, they know I’m an atheist and none of them care. They don’t try and convert me, I don’t try and rationalise them, we’re all good.

    Hell, my Guiding promise as an Adult Leader was specifically altered to not include the word ‘God’ (after a discussion with my mentor) and nobody, not even my 10-12 year old Guides, batted an eyelid.

    • DG

      Funny, that was my experience growing up, declaring myself as an agnostic, and in a variety of places around the US I’ve lived.  And that’s from both sides of the fence.  It also seems to be the case here, where my sons run with a variety of people from a variety of beliefs, including non-religious, and seem to get along quite well. 

  • Kirby

    We vistited an exhibit of Norman Rockwell’s work at a gallery here last week.  Under his painting “Freedom of Religion” there was a place for people to write on post-it notes and say what that freedom means to them. 

    The post-its were mostly “God is Great!” and “Thank you Jesus for Freedom!” and “I can pray where I want!”

    My 11 year old asked me for a pen and went off by himself for a bit, then came back and stuck up the post-it he had written.

    It said “Not having to lose all your friends when you say you are an atheist.”

    We left the church 2 years ago and we’re still recovering, and I occasionally get little glimpses into how deeply it affected my kids.

    • monyNH

       Your child sounds like an amazing kid.  :)

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      Not that it helps him now, but I presume you know and have told him he’ll find better friends.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000381469942 Justin Light

    Its not suicide for me here in California, I am very lucky.

    Are you an political atheists, Hummanist, Agnostics, Openminded theist?

    Check us out:
    National Atheist Party
    http://www.usanap.org
    http://www.facebook.com/National.Atheist.Party

  • Anonnie Mouse

    Well, it took about five years, but I just lost one of the last of my religious friends today. Apparently, I’ve “been a jerk for years” but the only thing that changed between then and when we first met was she found out I didn’t believe in deities.
    :(

    • cjo1967

      I can empathize 100%.  Same has recently happened to me.  Only change:  my coming “out” as an atheist.  It is sad, and a shame, but obviously if someone is not willing to be objective and rational and see the truth of your goodness as a person and friend, you don’t really need them to be your friend.  It’s a hard thing, but we just must move on.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=775209902 Stephanie Thayer

    Coming out to my spouse was hard. We were both Pagans when he left to go to Iraq in 2004. While he was gone I really started to ask myself some hard questions. The more I pondered about the subject the more that I realized that I was an Atheist. He has accepted it now and even attends atheist events with me. Most of my friends and family don’t seem to care, I’m very open about it on my social networking pages. However, one of my (distant) aunts sent me this little jewel a few months ago.
    “Hey Steph! Hope you and your family is doing well. You have been on my mind so much lately. I am so sad everytime I see the word “atheist” on your profile. I want you to know that God loves you even though you don’t believe in him. He loves us all so much that he sent his only child to suffer and die a horrible death because of our sins. He took our place so that we would not have to suffer for eternity in Hell. God has blessed us all so much. All God asks is that we love him and have faith in him. God does not expect us to be perfect, we all sin because we are human. Being a christian does not mean that things in our lives will always be easy, but God is there to guide us and comfort us during those tough times. I am here for you. I am praying for you and your family. I want the opprotunity to tell you more about Jesus and his love. If you have any questions I may not have all the answers, but I will find the answers. Please just give it some thought and remember, I love you.”

    • Annie

      It’s so good to read that your husband was open and accepting of your atheism.  As for your aunt… I have a few people like that in my life.  They think I am misguided and will come to know god some day.

      Your aunt wrote, “but God is there to guide us and comfort us during those tough times.”  If she is still taking questions, I’d love to know how god comforts and guides her. ;-)  I imagine her answer would be through the bible, but one aspect of Christianity that I don’t get is how everyone talks so much about their “relationship” with someone who gives absolutely nothing back.  I wonder how this acceptance of this type of relationship being OK affect their other relationships?

      • Ndonnan

        Annie a lot of people dont understand the relationship with God that christians talk about,even some christians,and there are those who know God who arnt christian.If you dont have the relationship happening then all you have is religion,and if thats all youve got,im with you ,might as well be athiest and stop wasting your time because religion just brings strife and conflict. However if you do have that personal thing happening its awsome,youre eyes are opened,you see and hear things that you just didnt notice before and are aware of the good and wrong things in you and those around you,and you will want to change.Because you deny the spiritual realm,and will only accept the world as you see and understand it on your terms ,the side of you that is your spirit is bound and blinded.That may sound depressive but it is easily changed through Jesus,all you have to do is ask God to show you the truth with a humble heart,and your spiritual eyes will start to see,He will start to speak into your life,yes through His word and other people,but also to you personally.That is why it is known as a personal relationship with Christ. Once you have it,no matter what the smartest interlectuall,the best talker will say, you know in YOUR heart its true.And nomatter what is said here or even in some churches,God is not worried or punishes you for asking questions or having doubts and struggles,He knows its a lifetime journey .Although satan is as real as God and will try and stop you searching for the truth ,the journey is worth it,eternity heaven and hell are real so dont be decived,keep looking.xx

        • Michael

          Good one!!

        • Gem

          I’m very, very sorry that you seem to need religion to be moral. :(

          • Ndonnan

            never said anything about morality

            • Gem

              I will respectfully disagree and quote you:

              “However if you do have that personal thing happening its awsome,youre eyes are opened,you see and hear things that you just didnt notice before and are aware of the good and wrong things in you and those around you,and you will want to change.”

              What you wrote here is a direct attribution of morality to a belief in or personal relationship with your god. It suggests that before having belief or that personal relationship, ones’ eyes are not open to ‘the good and wrong things in you and those around you’. It draws a direct link, therefore, between a personal god – specifically YOUR personal god, and your personal morality. It suggests that before you ‘found’ your god, you were unable to see ‘the good and wrong things in you and those around you’. Which also posits, implicitly, that without your perceived personal relationship with your personal god you would revert back to a state where you could not see ‘the good and wrong things in you and others around you’, and could not, therefore, tell the difference between right and wrong.

              Since most human beings are able to tell right from wrong without a deity, or even regardless of their particular deity, I will repeat my sympathy for you, in your need for religion to be a good person.

              Though, I suppose we should all breathe a sigh of relief that you followed this up with: 

              “Once you have it,no matter what the smartest interlectuall [sic],the best talker will say, you know in YOUR heart its true.”

              Making explicit your complete refusal to listen to any sort of discussion or evidence, no matter how well researched, impirically sound or sensible, if it threatens your belief. On the one hand, you’ll always be bopping that blind faith. On the other, I guess you’ll never turn into a mass serial killer because you lost your god and don’t know right from wrong any more.

              • Ndonnan

                Actually Gem i was refering to a spiritual awarenness not a moral one.You say people can naturaly tell right from wrong but this is only relative to your culture and enviroment, and we all know how people can justify any type of behavior.Also why do you assume i am unwilling to be challenged interlectualy, this only reveals your own ignorance or you would  know the vast range of discussion continually going on scientificaly,socially,politically,and interlectualy in religious circles,im here arnt i, if i needed to be surrounded be like minded this is not the place.There is a lot of very tallented people of all perswasions in christianity,no need to feel any threat from any sceptics thats for sure

                • Gem

                  You specifically said that you “are aware of the good and wrong things in you and those around you” if you have a personal relationship or faith in your specific deity. Could you explain what you think the difference is between spiritual right and wrong, and moral right and wrong? Is one more ‘right’ than the other?

                  I think the fact that morality is contextualised by culture and time is self evident. Even (most) religions that used to think it okay to slaughter people in the name of their god, have reined it in lately and recognised that killing people is probably not ‘right’. Even in Christianity itself, we are told that where it used to be acceptable, nay, necessary to stone stubborn children, marry rape victims to their rapists, be plagued by self-hatred and kill people for working on the sabbath, it is now no longer necessary and suddenly it’s all about love and acceptance. Morality moves with the times. Religion is not immune to this, obviously. Thanks for pointing it out, but I don’t think that anyone was under the illusion that morality was anything other than contextual and subjective. That it is those things makes it no less an inherent trait of the autonomous being.

                  I assumed nothing about your willingness to be challenged intellectually. I simply read your post, where you clearly stated “Once you have it,no matter what the smartest interlectuall [sic],the best talker will say, you know in YOUR heart its true.” – this is nothing short of admission that, no matter what evidence you were presented with, your faith in your god would not be shaken. This may be exactly how you feel, but if you don’t see how it is heavily indicative of a closed mind, hell-bent on explaining away evidence that flows contrary to that belief, I don’t think I will be able to make you see that.

                  Please don’t accuse me of ignorance, Ndonnan. It’s rather insulting and uncalled for. I’m aware that there are Christians of all degrees, from the intellectually challenged to the academically elite. I’m aware that they discuss all sorts of things. I’m aware that many are either unaware of certain facts, or must reduce their scripture to mere allegory in order to maintain their faith. That is entirely their choice, but not one I will ever consider to be academic, sorry.

                  As for you being here – you are, indeed. But you are here speaking of the unknowable. Of personal relationships with invisible skygods, or spiritual rights and wrongs, of ‘JUST KNOWING’. You are speaking of things about which there can be no discussion or debate, because your entire attempt at indoctrination with Stephanie up there was based on your personal feeling that you know god. You present no evidence, no argument – just an assertion that if someone does what you say, they will feel how you feel. 

                  What you don’t seem to have considered is that many, many atheists started out as religious, given the sadly common practice of infant indoctrination, and they stopped believing because the evidence they found no longer supported their belief in god, or because the foundation of the belief (scripture) was found, upon further investigation, to be unreliable. As a point of interest, the prospect of eternal life is a very attractive one. Those of us who have lost loved ones would surely love nothing more than to see them again, healthy and happy, in a place called heaven. Most atheists would really LIKE for that to be true. It’s not that we don’t want to believe, Ndonnan. It’s not that we choose not to believe. It’s that we cannot believe, because every shred of evidence and investigation suggests that there is no god. At the very best, it shows no evidence FOR a god.

                  Threat? No threat here. Just discussion. That’s not threatening, and it’s not attempting to be.

                • Ndonnan

                  OK ,thanks,some good points

              • Collin

                Yes, this is just beautiful.  Ndonnan’s “truth with a HUMBLE heart.”

        • greyhound37

          Ndonnan, you sound like you really want to help, and like you truly believe what you say is true.

          However, you must realize that this “Although satan is as real as God” sounds very much like “although unicorns are as real as goblins” to anyone who doesn’t practice your brand of reality, don’t you? 

          I, personally, believe that you too can wake up from your stupor one day and realize there is a wonderful, vibrant REAL world around you and that you only have one life to live and you should make it good for the sake of being good.  Please don’t waste more of your life talking to imaginary friend that (hopefully) don’t talk back.  There’s a lot out there to see and do and to have to go through life believing in make believe just seems so sad. 

          Some day you’ll start applying logic and reason to ALL aspects of your life, and I’m sure that day will be an eye opening experience for you. 

          Good luck getting there, it sounds like you’ve got a very deep hole to dig yourself out of.

          • Ndonnan

            Thanks greyhound[my fav dog breed] i will take that on board, Ooops slipped over the edge ,,darn.Heh look at the pretty unicorn.xx

        • Annie

          Ndonnan-  I’m curious.  What has god ever said to you?  You talk on and on about your fine relationship, but you are right.  I don’t feel this and I wonder what you feel.  How does your god speak to you?  Your description of seeing the world in a more clear sense is no different than anyone’s view… who takes the time to see.  I spend hours studying ant communities, watching flowers open to full bloom, and studying the nest preferences of Carolina wrens.  I don’t see god there.  I see nature.  I feel very connected to the world I live in, and the people too.  How has god ever communicated to you that this was her work? 

          • Ndonnan

            Well Annie,maybe one thing you might relate to is Antony Flews book how as an athiest and philosopher ,when he did look at creation,especially DNA,he could come to no other explanation than intelligent design.The book is called There is a God.And no Annie you probably wont hear or at least recognise His voice untill you know Him

            • Annie

              You didn’t answer my question. 

              • Ndonnan

                God usually speaks through His spirit in an on going conversation,i talk,pray if you like, and He mostly listens.The bible describes it as a “still,small voice”.Often i ask and He says,”you know th answer to that,just do whats right”.More often than not He says, “Wait”,or”dont you worry about that,just leave it to me”. He often speaks through other people who know nothing of what you have prayed for or dont know your situation and they have spoken with compleate clarity saying,”i dont know why but i feel God wants me to say to you,such and such”.But the best way by far is to read the bible,the word of God,there you will get to know Him and understand who He is and why and how He works.Then when you see people without that understanding saying what god is like i pray for you,that through His grace you will come to know Him

                • Annie

                  Ndonnan-  That’s for your response.

                  You wrote, “Often i ask and He says,”you know th answer to that,just do whats
                  right”.More often than not He says, “Wait”,or”dont you worry about
                  that,just leave it to me”.

                  I wonder if you would be open to pondering a question?  Do you think there might be even the slightest possibly that the person who is actually answering your prays or questions in your head is you? 

                • Ndonnan

                  Absolutly,its the same as talking things through

                • Annie

                  So, if it’s the same as talking things through, and you are the one generating the answers to your own problems, I’m confused why you also think that God is answering your prays.  Wouldn’t that mean you think you are God?

                • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

                  He often speaks through other people who know nothing of what you have prayed for or dont know your situation and they have spoken with compleate clarity saying,”i dont know why but i feel God wants me to say to you,such and such”

                  I don’t know why, but I feel God wants me to say to you that he’s not real.

                  Paradox. Consider yourself mindfucked.

                • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

                  I feel like lighting up.  And I don’t even smoke.

                • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

                   In all seriousness though, this is why religion is so dangerous. People so desperately open themselves up, so absolutely positive that God is there. It is a purposeful act of vulnerability. And since he’s really not there, that void easily gets filled by other human beings. With their own corruptions, limitations, and agendas.

            • Demonhype

               Anthony Flew was taken advantage of and exploited when his mind started to go.  (Hope this linkie works–haven’t tried it since FA switched to Patheos.  If not, you can either cut-paste the url.)

              Roy Varghese and the Exploitation of Anthony Flew

              From the source:

              It’s the story of Antony Flew, the former atheist philosopher who
              rejected Christianity, but has since been dragged back into the
              limelight as a convert. It is not a story of an intellectual
              decision, but a sad tale of an aging, fading scholar who has lost almost
              all of his acuity and is severely memory-impaired, who is being
              manipulated and used as a pawn by a team of frauds and apologists for
              religion and creationism: Varghese, Gerald Schroeder, and John Haldane,
              Liberty University, and Biola University.

              • Ndonnan

                For a person with an unstable mind he writes a very good book.I hope i have half the interlect he has when im his age.He seems to think and talk with clarity to me.Are you sure your not just annoyed?

                • amycas

                  From your reply, it seems you didn’t actually read the link.

        • http://twitter.com/TimidAtheist Timid Atheist

          You know I use to love hearing things like this.  The idea that I could have a personal relationship with God and Jesus and someone who loves me no matter what.  Then I realized that I never once, not once, actually felt this. I just -wanted- to feel it and would tell everyone who asked that I did feel it because I didn’t want to be the one left out.  And then it dawned on me that everyone who says this is probably saying they feel a personal relationship with God because they don’t want to be left out either.

          After all, why are only -some- people allowed to feel it? Why not everyone if it’s really there?

          And finally I just decided it was a bunch of crap designed to make me feel even shittier than I felt before I believed it.

          • Ndonnan

            Im sorry you feel that way,i actually dont relate to that much at all

    • Ndonnan

      Steph what a beautiful aunt you have,an honest and open person, no threat of social suicide here.I dont see the difference from her perspective if you are an athiest or pagan though.

      • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

        We love you too Ndonnan, and although we argue, we’re here for you even though you believe in silly myths.  But we do hope that some day you’ll see how beautiful reality is.  Please just give it some thought and remember, we love you.

        • Ndonnan

          Ha thanks Mr.Wilson,big hug to you too :)

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=775209902 Stephanie Thayer

         This wasn’t the first or the last time she negativity commented on my atheism. My family ( who are devout Christians) finally told her to leave me alone. This is from a woman who rarely sees me and frankly knows absolutely zilch about me. It’s particularly funny how she suddenly cares. I think it was a chance for her to look like she’s on some kind of moral high-ground. I told her, very politely, that I wasn’t interested in discussing it with her, but she still continued. Now, I’ve never felt threaten, just a bit annoyed. My heart really goes out to the fellow atheist out there that have suffered the loss of family members or close friends because they came out. It’s a travesty.

        • Ndonnan

          I guess from a christian perspective,if you belive someone is going to hell and you say nothing,wheres the love in that.If someone was going to suicide and you said,”ok thats your choice”,i think you would be a real AH.And yes i agree,if someone chooses to be an atheist they shouldnt be rejected in anyway

          • amycas

            If hell were real, I would not worship the god that created it and is sending people to it. I would also not encourage others to worship this petty and evil god.

    • HughInAz

      ” He loves us all so much that he sent his only child to suffer and die a horrible death because of our sins.”
      What an asshole! It always boggles my mind that we are supposed to be overcome with gratitude when we hear of such a sick, twisted act.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Adam-Patrick/100000027906887 Adam Patrick

    I live in Mississippi where there are churches literally on every road. My friends are aware of my atheism, but by family is not. I do think there would be some confrontation if they found out, and right now, I really don’t want to risk it. 

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

    Not where I live, but I’m lucky. I wasn’t raised in a religious family and have spent my entire life in an area where social circles generally don’t revolve around a particular religious community. It’s easy for me to express my atheism here, but I don’t think I would do so well in the Bible Belt.

  • Reason_Being

     I find it quite sad that in today’s day and age it can be so hard to “not believe” in something.  The idea that so many people’s lives are destroyed and/or made so difficult because they do not believe in god is horrifying.  We are talking about a belief that harms no one.  My neighbor’s lives continue in the same manner whether I believe in a deity or not (I don’t).  Why should it matter to the extent it does?

    My best guess…so many people are shaky in their faith these days.  They know that science is killing it slowly, they may not know how or why, but have heard the argument.  Haven’t you found that the people who dig their heels in the hardest, in any argument, are the same ones who don’t really have a good argument?  I wonder if there is some of that going on here…just a thought.

    • James Reade

      Hahah. Science is killing faith slowly?!?!

      It strikes me you exemplify shaky understanding about faith.  The fact is “religion” and “science” answer two entirely different questions and that’ll always be the way. Science addresses the how, religion has a go at the why. That’s why science will never be able to “kill” religion – science can’t decipher meaning of things, only how they exist, how they have become to be what they are. There are yawning holes in both that only the other can fill in.

      Moreover, you have faith – faith in science. How did you feel when the particles went faster than the speed of light in Switzerland? Let down? Didn’t you think that science had settled everything into its neat rules of nature?

      The fact is science is filling explanations (theories) to observed events. If they fit really well, great. Will they keep fitting? Who knows? It’s all about faith.

      • http://criticallyskeptic-dckitty.blogspot.com Katherine Lorraine

        When I heard that particles were going faster than light in Switzerland, I wasn’t let down, I wasn’t upset. I was excited! Science was going to be rocked by new observations. That’s why science is so amazing and why faith is such a bore. I do not hold faith in science, as Tim Minchin put so eloquently:

        Science adjusts its views based on what’s observed. Faith is the denial of observation, so that belief can be preserved.

        Sadly, the particles weren’t going faster than light, it was merely a misobservation, but scientific study determined that to be so – as many different people in different labs attempted the same experiments and found the answers to be that it must have been a faulty observation.

        Scientific understanding produces knowledge that leaves religion in the dust. We used to think that natural events like lightning and earthquakes were caused by angry gods, but they’re just electric charges in the air and the movement of the huge “plates” our planet sits upon. Science figured these out.

        The more we learn, the more amazing science really is. Three years ago I was a diehard Christian, thinking I was a special little snowflake in a world 6000 years old. Now I know that I am not something incredibly special, but that I am a product of dying stars, and that I am related to every living thing on this entire planet. The mind boggles, and I feel so much more excited now than ever before.

      • Reason_Being

         You have much to learn about science, particularly if you do not think science addresses the “why”….

      • Drakk

         I’ll accept this when religion stops saying that 2000 years ago a Canaanite Jew was raised from the dead, the universe is 6000 years old, and evolution doesn’t happen.

      • C Thomas

        The particles moving faster than light was a glitch. it has been retracted. also, religion generally doesn’t approach the “why” as carefully as science. Religion’s model is a model of “god of the gaps”

        • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

          Glitch or not, that’s not the point. An observation was made, and it carried with it the possibility our understanding of one part of nature was wrong or incomplete. Most people were quite properly skeptical, but nobody was threatened by the possibility. That it actually was possible was not denied. Others looked at the observation, it was tested, and found in error. It might have been found correct. Either way, science functioned as science does, and we gained a little more knowledge.

          When was the last time you heard of a religious concept being put to the test, found wanting, and rejected?

      • Stev84

        Reality doesn’t depend on faith. It doesn’t change depending on whether people believe it. Things will still happen the way they do, no matter who knows or believes. The opposite is true of religion. If people stopped believing in it, it would cease to exist.

        • Ndonnan

          Thats hard when you live it and experience it,it is your reality

          • amycas

             You do realize that personal experience is not very good evidence. Seriously, I could point you in the direction of some pagans, muslims and hindus who all claim to have personal experiences that show their religion is true. Why should I accept your personal experience as truth, and not theirs? Could it be that none of them are correct and you’re all having experienced based on emotions running high and the fact that the human brain can often fabricate experiences?

            • Ndonnan

              Why dont you google Howard Storm.com, an athiest, professor of art,died from a perforated bowel.Had what you might call a fabricated emmotional experience.Its up to you whether you belive somone elses personal experiance or not but its good to hear other peoples experiences

      • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

        Science is the exact opposite of faith. Science is rational, faith is not. You cannot have both, unless you completely compartmentalize your beliefs.  Otherwise, you’re left in an unhealthy state of cognitive dissonance.

        Religion and science don’t answer different questions. Science answers ALL questions that have unambiguous meaning- real questions- whether of the “how” variety, or the “why”.

        Religion answers no questions at all. What question has ever been answered by religion? Provide just ONE example of a question that religion answers (and I don’t mean just in your mind, but in everyone’s- the same way science does) and I’ll change my opinion about religion’s merits.

        There are lots of fuzzy, ambiguous questions that are inconsistent with science. And we already have a discipline that seeks to answer those kinds of questions (by providing fuzzy, ambiguous answers, of course). That discipline is called philosophy, and operates just fine without the need for religion.

      • Ndonnan

        Sad isnt it ,billions of$ and only got to 7.If the weight of a mossie being 1 its a long way from proving the big bang

      • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

        Science has a history of providing correct answers to things that were previously attributed to god(s).

        We’re still waiting for god(s) to correct an answer from science.

        Science will never ‘kill’ religion for the simple reason that we can never disprove god.  Or the Matrix theory for that matter.

        But as we explain more and more of of the universe, the space left for “must be God!” is getting smaller and smaller.

      • Xeon2000

        You claim that science addresses the “how” and religion addresses the “why”. You claim that science can’t “decipher the meaning of things”.

        You should probably read up on complex systems and learn about emergent properties. Why is the universe organized the way it seems? Why does the sensation of love “feel” the way it feels? What makes us conscious? Why does a crystal form the structures that make it up? These concepts are generally hiding very complicated mathematical models.

        We generally have some good ideas on the “why”. Science is not a discipline solely dedicated to “how”.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/DeeCee-Fish/100000512232809 DeeCee Fish

    Social chemotherapy?  It does get rid of acquaintances, but very selectively, and not at all for the bad.

    • Demonhype

      I like that concept and I may borrow it!

    • LBK

      I don’t think chemotherapy is the word you are looking for. Chemotherapy is a systemic treatment.  It is not selective and doesn’t just get rid of “bad” stuff.  I think anyone who has seen anyone suffer under chemotherapy treatments would be insulted by this very light and incorrect use of the word.  I’d suggest something else.

  • ortcutt

    I’ve been fairly fortunate in this regard, but I have a lot of empathy for people who don’t have that sort of family or social support.

  • Jaynehuddleston

    As I can see from the comments so far, it depends a lot on where you live. I have always been an atheist and I am in my fifties, so I have been for a long time. I live in Canada and it’s never been an issue. There are few people I would meet socially who would care. In Canada we not only have freedom of religion, we have freedon from religion. The religion of our political leaders is never an issue in elections as I have seen it be in the U.S. I remember when the U.S. was not such a hyper-religious country as it is now.

  • Crazed Atheist

    I admit atheism online to blogs and boards I frequent.  No way I could do it in real life.  My husband is in command in the military and we have to live on base.  Just being a liberal is bad enough, but if I were to actually embrace my atheism openly he could actually lose his job.  On paper, discrimination is illegal.  In reality, his career could stop on a dime.  For now, I simply don’t talk about religion.  I neither promote it nor denounce it but I am raising my children to question everything. They know I don’t believe in God, but not because I’m certain there IS no God, but because there isn’t any evidence of it.  For now, when a General is flanking a chaplain who says “We will now bow our heads in prayer” I just pretend I’m meditating to make it okay in my own head.  I’m counting down the days until that will be over.

    • Ajeldred

      I am in the military and an atheist.  I have had military commanders and I can say that from my experience your husband  has a better chance of losing his job from having a liberal wife than one who is atheist.  Religion is often a topic of discussion at work and I can comfortably say that many more lean towards atheism (or at least tolerance) than religion, especially those who have been deployed.  I think you are afraid of admitting you are an atheist and you are using your husband as an excuse.  It is fine if you don’t feel comfortable admitting you are an atheist, but the military is amazingly open minded when it comes to religion and the lack of it.  If for some reason your husband has told you he would lose his job if anyone found out his wife was an atheist, then he is deceiving you for his own reasons.

      • amycas

        You seem to be assuming a lot about her situation, but you don’t know where her husband’s base is located and therefore you couldn’t possibly know anything about the personal feelings of any of his commanding officers. Seeing as how you couldn’t possibly know anything about her actual situation, I’m going to go ahead and discount your insulting claim that she’s “using her husband as an excuse.” I’ve heard of plenty of cases in the military of religious discrimination and I have no reason to disbelieve how she characterizes her situation.

    • Mosbluepitbulls

      I just think of it as respecting others beliefs as I wish they would respect my lack of, when im in a situation in which prayer is involved and feel obligated to bow my head, but I do not say “amen”:)

  • Country Crock

    Although you don’t change, your friends accuse you of changing, just because you don’t spew the dribble you did for decades.  Most of my family does not know.  Both of my parents passed away, my Dad three years ago.  After that, I realized I don’t have to pretend to the rest of them.  So at this point, I don’t care what they think.  Since I live in a distant state, I only see most of them once a year anyway.  Several friends still say they could not live with no hope.  

    NO HOPE?  I always ask them why they think I have no hope and the answer is always something to do with eternal life, of which they still can offer not a single thread of evidence.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tr-Dev/100003542966660 Tr Dev

    I was, until recently, very afraid of speaking out.  After reading Greta Christina’s book, I didn’t really care anymore.  I’ll proudly post/say what I want, even if it means losing friends or going head-to-head with family.  Getting over the fear is possible!  No matter how many people turn away from you, there is always a shoulder in the Atheist community!  Viva la Revolution!

  • LifeInTraffic

    I live a very mixed life. My family all know I am an atheist. No one cares, and all but one of my siblings are atheists, as well. My friends in my home state all know I’m an atheist, and again, it’s no big deal, even to those who are religious.

    Now I live in one of the most religious cities in the in the US, and almost no one but my fiance’ knows (he’s agnostic). Mostly they know I am “not religious,” in the sense I don’t go to church, and that I don’t discuss religion. I have no idea what they think I am, but it’s often clearly insinuated that I believe in god. Here, it wouldn’t just be social suicide, it would be financial, and potentially even invite violence. 

    We’re moving in a year. It’s been a really lonely few years here, and I can’t wait. 

  • Mike

    I’ve honestly never had a problem with my atheism growing up. To be honest, the subject doesn’t really even come up very often in my family or group of friends who all mostly lean towards non-religious. I really do feel for the people that get trapped in situations like this and feel like just by being themselves, that hey are committing “soical suicide”.

  • Gem

    I like the idea behind this video, however, I do have an issue with the language used. Right at the beginning, it talks about “a choice to live without any belief in the supernatural”. No such choice exists, in my opinion. You can choose whether to say that you don’t believe, or not, but the belief is simply something held based on your own experience and evidence. It is perhaps impossible to choose to keep on believing by not engaging with evidence that might run contrary to your belief, but I don’t think that’s the same thing. And calling it a “choice to live without belief” goes directly against the assertion of the people in the video, and most fellow atheists I’ve ever spoken to, that they CAN’T believe. Calling it a choice dilutes the message, I think. Once presented with the facts, barring some impressive aptitude for cognitive dissonance, it is nigh-on impossible to believe.

    • http://religiouscomics.net/ Jeff P

      I agree.  What many people call “a choice” is really an after-the-fact rationalization for a reorganization of the brain in what you think.  Such things realy happen on a subconscious level.  We rarely really make a real choice about such things like beliefs.

    • April

      I completely agree.  I recently went through a phase where I believed I should return to the church as a means to connect with a community that I feel ostracized from by not attending church.  It was also supposed to help me be more employable.  Also, my daughter has decided to be Christian, so I thought it would be more comfortable for her not to have to attend church alone.

      I soon came to realize that trying to “believe” again was akin to trying to convince myself Santa Claus actually exists.  You just can’t put that cat back in the bag.

    • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

      I think you are correct that you can’t really choose what to believe. But you can choose to question your beliefs, and the result of that questioning can very easily be an actual change in them.

      The common theme that runs through nearly every story we read about theists becoming atheists is the conscious decision to actually think about their beliefs, and to follow those thoughts through to their logical conclusions. (Is there a better example than Julia Sweeney’s fantastic performance, Letting Go of God?)

      Almost universally, religion contains mechanisms designed to prevent or discourage this kind of analysis. And for good reason!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000030624986 Cindy Harvey McIntire

    I’ve gotten more guff from people who are Republicans, when I’ve posted my comments that are Pro Democrat! (c;  Guess I’m lucky!  The one’s who’ve unfriended me socially (on Facebook) aren’t important enough in my life to matter.  I’m honored that they fear my announcement that I’m an Atheist.  Perhaps they both question their faith, and it’s THAT which they fear.  (The notable two are a sister in law, and her mother – it’s no great loss.  I’ve never feared them, fully knowing that they are over-the-top Catholics.  Why should they fear me?  It’s not like I woke up one morning and became an Atheist, I’ve always been one!  They just don’t like that I’m verbal about it now.  I’ve found it empowering!)

  • David W. Irish

    Well, I’m biassed because I live in Massachusetts, and when I tell my mostly religious family that I’m an atheist, they do not disown me. I have been friends with Born Again Christians who knew I was an atheist before they got to know me. I suppose that whether or not it’s social suicide to admit you are an atheist depends more on where you live, and who lives around you than anything else.

    • DG

      And, if
      I may, it could also depend on just how one ‘comes out’ as an atheist.  Again, I didn’t experience any problems in
      the day when I was an agnostic surrounded by religious folks, and now I notice
      my sons’ friends are of a variety of beliefs. 
      We know parents who we are friends with who are atheists, as well as
      from other belief backgrounds.  So it
      could be place, it could be those around, but it could also be how one acts as
      an atheist.  Let’s face it, some atheists aren’t exactly humble and charitable toward people of faith.  So it’s probably a great many factors, as is
      typical in human interaction.

      • Demonhype

         Yes, but given the fact that there are a lot of  believers who do lose their shit the moment someone says “I’m an atheist” and nothing more aggressive than that–and then accuse the atheist of being “strident” or “militant” or “bullying” just for that alone, and worse if the atheist dares to refuse to pray along with everyone– I tend to give the atheist the benefit of the doubt on that one.

        That saying that to  be a militant theist you must kill someone or blow something up, but to be a militant atheist all you have to do is publicly admit to atheism.  (sometimes it’s “write a book” instead, I know).  Anyway, there’s a reason that saying exists.

        I’m also inclined to be more charitable to a “not exactly humble or charitable” atheist than a similar believer, in the same way I would be more charitable to an “not exactly charitable to white people/black racist” black person than an outspoken white supremacist.  When you’re in an oppressed or vilified minority, you have a little more reason and excuse to have become intense (defensiveness against a long hard experience of that majority’s behavior toward you) vs. someone who is in an overprivileged majority and therefore has no reasonable excuse for such behavior.  (No, loss of privilege is not a valid reason.)

        • DG

          Personally, I’m not inclined to be charitable toward any type of behavior that I deem to be bad.  As the late Eugen Weber was fond of saying, there is nothing the persecuted likes so much as to become the persecutor.  And history, sad to say, shows he is correct.  One need only look at the history of the Christian faith to see that.  If atheists insist that atheism will sweep the world any day, while saying that there’s less wrong with atheists being disrespectful toward religion, if not outright hateful toward it, you can see where that forumla doesn’t bode well. 

          In the end, I’m sure atheists can get a bad run of it in some areas.  Just like people of faith can get it in others.  And that’s just here in the ol’USA.  That’s not counting other countries.  In some, good luck being an atheist.  But my friends from the former USSR tell horror stories of life in a state dedicated toward the principle of eliminating religion from the social framework.  So it’s never a good thing to over-generalize.  That, if nothing else, has been pretty consistent throughout history of leading to no good end.

      • Stev84

        It depends on where. The same wouldn’t be true in most of the South or generally in conservative areas. There are people who have lost their extended families, their jobs, their businesses and even their children for being atheists. Just because all the people around them are ignorant assholes. It doesn’t matter how nice one is. Assholes are assholes. They flip out when you just say “I don’t share your beliefs” or don’t like having “What church do you go to?” thrown in your face as a greeting.

        Nice victim blaming there, asshole.

        • DG

          So I simply point out that things could be based on a host of factors, and that the reaction one gets could be due to the way one behaves. I do so respectfully and, of course, it’s obviously true. And so an atheist responds by calling me – who has called nobody on the blog anything at all – an A-hole! That just made my day. Thanks for making my point better than I did. :)

          • Stev84

             There is nothing respectful about you

            • DG

              Really? Where have
              I been disrespectful? Looking back, I haven’t even been that glib. Just asking
              questions and pointing out things from a different point of view. I’m sure you
              don’t mean that’s disrespectful.  Do you?

              • amycas

                 Stev84′s comment was posted 5 hours before yours was. I don’t think he was intending the asshole remark for you, but since you wanted to jump to that conclusion…

  • Keulan

    For me, I’m pretty open about my atheism to my friends and some of my family, and they’re okay with it. In fact, some of them are pretty non-religious too, and we don’t talk about religion much anyway. I’m also open about it online, so anyone who bothers to check my Facebook page would know that I’m an atheist. The one place where I’m more reluctant to disclose my atheism is at work. Some of my coworkers are very conservative, to the point of believing everything Fox News contributors say without question. I’d rather not risk the potential social penalties of being openly atheist around people like that in the workplace.

  • Seladora

    I often forget how lucky I am to be surrounded by such accepting people. Everyone close to me would accept me no matter what my sexual orientations or my world views were, which is probably why I haven’t officially “come out” as anything because I’ve never felt I had the need to.

  • Christianegbers

    I’m quite lucky to have understanding friends, when I first declared I was an Atheist most people thought i was having a laugh. Some tried to convince me otherwise – but in the end I’ve been taken seriously and my friends just get on with jt, even to the point where we poke fun at eachother over it.

  • compl3x

    People who would abandon you because you don’t believe in god or have a differing in political opinion should have never been considered friends in the first place. Cut ‘em loose and go find some cool, accepting people. Trust me, there are plenty of them out there.

    • LifeInTraffic

      Um…not necessarily. Come to my neck of the woods, and see how many “accepting” people you find. The reality is we don’t have many true friends here, because we simply can’t be that close to people who are so fundamental. There’s no way to avoid religion, as it come up in every damn conversation, no matter what it’s about.  But, no, there aren’t plenty of accepting people just waiting to befriend us in this area. I can only imagine how difficult it would be for someone who grew up here, or who couldn’t leave (we’re leaving in a year), to lose everyone they socialize with. It’s lonely enough even having a support system at a distance. Without one….I just can’t imagine the isolation of being an atheist here. 

      • BeeMe

         I know exactly what you are saying.  I too live in a fundamentalist controlled area that houses one of the largest fundie schools, college and book publishers in the states.  I was  even forced to attend the school K-12.  Never have I felt as though I fit in anywhere, and have always wanted to move, but my life has not taken that path and I’m still here all these years later.  Although I have never had a large social life, I have extremely good and supportive friends, some here, some on the internet and have even managed to stay friendly with a few of the fundies in the area.  I suspect they either view me as a challenge to “save” or pity me for going to hell.  Since  I enjoy a good debate, whatever their motivation, I enjoy needling them on occasion.  I refuse to hide that I am an atheist and I proudly display my lack of belief in bumper stickers, which I replace on a regular basis. (I buy them in bulk).  I have encountered discrimination, lost jobs, opportunities and had my fitness as a mother questioned, and yes, lost friends.  But would I do anything differently?  I can’t.  I am an atheist–I can’t make myself believe that there is a supreme being running things, that my life is pre-determined to his liking.  The christian beliefs literally makes my skin crawl.  So I have to be true to myself since I know I can live honestly no other way, regardless of other’s opinions or actions.

      • compl3x

         I’m sincerely sorry to hear that. I guess where I come from it is easy to come across people who won’t condemn you for your disbelief.

        I hope wherever you leave for is more accepting and welcoming :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/claire.m.binkley Claire Marie Binkley

     Atheism is one thing, Communism quite another… :|

  • http://twitter.com/TimidAtheist Timid Atheist

    I don’t actually care about coming out to my family.  Most of them wouldn’t care and those that would I don’t have a relationship with anyway.

    The reason I hide my atheism is simply because I could lose custody if I didn’t.  There are still states that look at the spiritual fitness of the parents when deciding custody.  And I won’t take that chance with my child.  Call me a coward all you like, but that’s the way it is.

  • C Thomas

    I think this could be presented in a much better light. the audio cues are awesome, but the visual tone of this video almost purveys a dark, tattered, dirty, depressed life that the religious believe we are… :/ needs to be redone before i could share it.

    • amycas

      I think the point of the video was to show the harm that comes to some people simply for coming out as atheists. So the dark, tattered, depressing vibes are kind of useful in portraying that.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ORRVVC5R2QWLTXEM6SX5L6BORE Jay Arrrr

    I never had that many friends to begin with, and I relocated to an area where if they didn’t go to grade school with you, you’re a stranger and will always be a stranger. If there’s other Atheists around here, they’re in the closet.  I’m very fortunate in that I haven’t lost my job or had my tyres slashed over my lack of belief in a sky faerie.

  • Fsq

    When I came out, I was made the pariah of the town I grew up in. I saw first hand the cruelty and hypocrisy of Christians.

    Today, I frequently wear a cap that says “atheist” and know that anyone who shuns me as a result, or is offended is not worth dealing with.

    Be proud, be loud. Let the world know we exist and we vote.

  • Pickle77

    Most of my friends (that remained after I came out) don’t seem to care or are atheists, themselves. There are a couple of people in my social circle, however, that are cold and at times out right rude to me now when they weren’t before. Unfortunately, we have friends in common so it’s a bit difficult to cut them out of my life completely. Still have to see them at weddings and baby showers and such.

  • Moribund Cadaver

    Part of the image problem that atheism has, involves the notion that it’s strictly about rejection. This allows people to be afraid of it more easily, seeing it as a “movement” that is about destroying things and taking things away. (Taking “god away”, etc)

    Philosophy has largely avoided this stigma because it doesn’t seem – to the layman – to have an adversarial relationship with all belief systems that aren’t it. Which is where the problem for atheism may be rooted… that it – or at least many atheists – frame atheism as more or less completely incompatible with every other belief system humanity has devised. Contrary to the stereotype some atheists have about all forms of religion for example, not every religion, and not every spiritual belief system, is monotheistic and inherently hostile by design to all other beliefs. Some, even many, can by design accept a plurality.

    Thus, for many people atheism can come across as being very hostile and rejecting. It also doesn’t help that a lot of atheists express themselves in terms of “I got smart and the rest of you are all just stupid or crazy”. Bad publicity there.

    I’ve known some card carrying philosophers who don’t believe  in any god, but wouldn’t call themselves atheists. Of course, their view also might fall into the vein of feeling the term “atheist” itself is superfluous and even misleading, but is required right now to demonstrate an alternative to religious beliefs. Essentially, it is a somewhat useful but imperfect and sometimes frustrating label. We could do better.

    • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

      Contrary to the stereotype some atheists have about all forms of religion for example, not every religion, and not every spiritual belief system, is monotheistic and inherently hostile by design to all other beliefs.

      I’m a little confused by your statement. I don’t know of any atheist who would argue that all religions are monotheistic. And even though many forms of religion are hostile to other belief systems, not all of them are. However, atheism is still incompatible with any religion that claims deities are real.

  • Susan Henry

    There are atheists all around you, even if you feel alone. You can find each other online–look for a local chapter of AHA or just go on meetup.com and look for atheist or secular humanist groups. If one doesn’t exist, start one! Joining an atheist group, the Humanist Community of Central Ohio, was the best thing I ever did for my social life.

  • http://twitter.com/norcalbeerguy John Heylin

    How about a “it doesn’t get better” video compilation for Atheists.

  • Heather L

    As several others have said, a LOT of this depends on where you live.  I grew up in a conservative, religious community in the Midwest, and my atheism (among other things) has created a situation where I barely ever speak to my parents anymore.

    However, I now live in a major city on the East Coast, and in my office of about 75, it’s the norm to be an atheist or agnostic.  Last year when that pastor was predicting the rapture, we joked about having a rapture party.  The idea died when we realized we couldn’t think of anyone to invite who would definitely be raptured if he was right.  :-)My point is, for those who are in places where being an atheist seems to be social suicide, don’t give up hope on being able to find places where you can openly be yourself.  Not only do they exist, but they’re filled with caring, supportive people who will gladly be “family”.

  • Xeon2000

    It’s hard to say what effect it’s had on my life. Generally, all my family and friends know I’m an atheist. I’m not shy about it on Facebook. They all seem to be relatively accepting (many atheists themselves).

    Probably the worst effect on my life is that I just recently became an uncle. However, my brother, sister-in-law, and her entire family are hardcore fundementalist Christians. I am already an outsider in that group. I feel that I will be allowed very little chance to interact with my niece as she grows up, and that makes me sad.

  • m1n4

    This video hit me in the nerve.
    I haven’t been able to tell my parents about my long time atheism. 
    Most of my friends know and I’m quite open to them, but coming out to my parents it’s a no-no still.
    (Even though I’m married and have children)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Feather-Farms/100002302570159 Feather Farms

    I don’t think I’ve lost any friends over it. Generally I find if you’re cool about, other people will be cool too.

  • Cristero

    Who cares?


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X