Why You Should Wear Your Atheism on Your Sleeve

American Atheists President Dave Silverman recently filmed a segment for Chris Johnson‘s multimedia book about atheists and what gives them joy and meaning in life.

In the segment below, Silverman talks about how there’s good reason for already-out atheists to be public about their lack of faith:

(via The Atheist Book)

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.

  • http://rrlane.blogspot.com rrlane

    Heh. I’ve never been accused of refusing to wear my atheism on my sleeve.

  • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ Bubba Tarandfeathered

    I’d like to see his list of shirts and vendors.

  • Sean Lissemore

    I agree. I think pretty much everyone that I know knows I’m an atheist.

    • Sean Lissemore

      I come from the South mind you

      • Tweekus

        Yeah, as I’ve said in many other discussions on this site, i’m in a part of the south where gays get dragged and atheists get lynched. The few people who know i’m atheist are cool with it. but it’s one of those areas where a place will fire you for being gay or atheist Sure they’ll use different terminology, but it’s easy to see.

  • http://twitter.com/the_final_pope Ben Roy

    I’ve been an “out” Atheist for nearly four years now. I literally live in an area where bars can’t exist because of the blue laws requirement of a minimum of five hundred feet from a church to a bar. We have Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, Free Methodists, Pentecostals, Wesleyan Pentecostals, Lutherans, Prespertryians, and five or six non-doms. This is all in a town of maybe two thousand people, and a county of pushing five thousand. It’s rough here, but those who know me, know better than to try and proselytise me. I’m known to at least one church as a “unholy blasphemer” which is okay with me.

  • indorri

    I’ve never really given any external indication I’m an atheist. My atheism isn’t something that I’m not particularly proud of – not in the sense that I’m ashamed of it, but that its importance in making up my identity is relatively small.

    However, I can see the point in Dave’s story. Atheists have been subject to relatively systematic discrimination, and being out and proud is a good way of connecting with others and giving them hope.

  • Dane

    Wow, what does an evangelical atheist have to offer anyone? A devout atheist is so “happy” that he devotes his life to bullying religious people, forcing them out of the public square into a box, telling them that they are against reason and intelligence, and then he dies, leaving a legacy of hatred behind him. But he doesn’t have to worry about going to hell because not only does he not believe in hell, he’s such a good person that he borrows from Christian morals and cherry picks what he likes. Way to be morally consistent! Any honest person here would admit that atheism is an increasingly militant, bigoted religion of its own completely devoid of any moral framework. I suggest you guys jump ship.

    • JohnnieCanuck

      Jump ship? Why? Why abandon reality for your promises of a ghost ship? There’s nothing out there but ocean, far as the eye can see. Really.

      All you’ve got to offer is a mirage that you’ve been promised will be yours after you’ve died. It’s not a co-incidence that churches don’t have to worry about people coming back and complaining about the empty promises made to them.

      I’m tempted to Fisk all the rest of your assertions, but perhaps someone else will instead.

    • Liz

      Substitute the word Christian where you used atheist and you’ll have something more accurate, Dane. Oh, and replace Christian with Bible.

    • GCT

      Wow, what does an evangelical atheist have to offer anyone?

      Reason, logic, a better way, a way out of the psychological torture of religion…

      A devout atheist is so “happy” that he devotes his life to bullying religious people, forcing them out of the public square into a box, telling them that they are against reason and intelligence, and then he dies, leaving a legacy of hatred behind him.

      It seems you are the one filled with hatred. How does an atheist bully religious people? By asking for secularism where everyone is equal and has equal protection under the law? Your religious privilege is showing. Sorry, but you don’t get to have special privileges for being Xian. And, that’s not bullying. What Xians do to atheists is bullying.

      But he doesn’t have to worry about going to hell because not only does he not believe in hell, he’s such a good person that he borrows from Christian morals and cherry picks what he likes.

      How insulting. Not only do you cherry pick that which you like, indicating that so-called Xian morals come from a different source than god or the Bible, but I would not call myself moral if I followed the majority of “Xian morals.” I don’t hate gays, women, or atheists, so how could you accuse me of using Xian morals?

      Any honest person here would admit that atheism is an increasingly militant, bigoted religion of its own completely devoid of any moral framework.

      Militant about what? Atheists are called strident and militant for voicing opinions (OH NOES!!!!) while theists are only militant when they are brown and fly planes into buildings. Again, your religious privilege is showing clearly.

      Bigoted? The one displaying bigotry here is you.

      Religion? Um, no. We reject religion, which does not constitute a religion in itself, although I do like it when theists spit about how atheism is another religion in this way, implying that religion is bad. Nice own goal.

      Devoid of moral framework? Please. Where in the hell do you think you get your morals from? It isn’t god and it isn’t the Bible. Atheists are just as moral as anyone else, and we don’t have to believe that some sky police officer is up there forcing it upon us.

    • Psychotic Atheist

      Almost all the definitions pertaining to the word evangelical pertain to Christianity, as it is a Christian movement. Their enthusiasm has lead to an alternative meaning which you are using here. I’ve not seen evidence of regular cultural bullying from atheists. They often disagree, and some of them are unpleasant about it. But I don’t tend to see tyres being slashed, or threats against welfare being issued over minor religious points. This is something that seems to occur regularly in America against atheists. You cite no evidence to change my mind.

      Likewise, atheists are less in the public square than Christians quite obviously. Government meetings, official mourning ceremonies, high schools and even in the private workplace – Christians are regularly represented and have their view freely aired. Atheists are trying to fight for their part in the public square, and fight to keep the government from explicitly or implicitly endorsing one particular religion be it Islam or Christianity.

      Saying someone is unreasonable is not bullying. I’ve not heard, as a matter of regular argument, that Christians are ‘against intelligence’, and you cite no evidence for me to assess.

      We all cherry pick the moral principles we like. Christianity cherry picks all the time, as evidenced by the not stoning of disobedient children or homosexuals. As evidenced by the fact that Christians don’t immediately accept liability when sued by another Christian. As evidenced by the fact that most Christians think that divorce is acceptable.

      The increasing ‘militancy’ of the atheist movement consists of atheists writing books, appearing on TV etc., and taking their grievances to court. You fail to provide a reason this is intrinsically a bad thing.

      Again no evidence of a higher prevalence of bigotry within the atheist community.

      No justification for calling it a religion, but the implication that being a religion is somehow a bad thing is at least on the right path to correct thinking.

      Atheism has no moral framework. Atheists do. Just like not believing in unicorns has no moral framework, but people that don’t believe in unicorns regularly do.

      The only way to ‘jump ship’ would be to acquire the belief there is a God. People who I suspect are wiser and more capable of fashioning an argument than you have tried and failed, but you’re always welcome to try.

      • baal

        After not-believing in the supernatural for so long, it’d be really difficult for me to ‘jump ship’ (i.e. start believing in magic). I’d need evidence and convincing proof that a supernatural being is pulling the strings (and that it’s not satin or thor(pbuh) or cthulhu (eat me first!*)).

        *if it turns out cthulhu is the deity behind the scenes, he’s got hell beat by a mile and just to be on the safe side, I think I should beg him to include me in the early devoured.

    • Bdole

      sigh…

    • Birdie1986

      Dane – Ethical behavior doesn’t derive from religion, so what “morals” would Dave be cherry picking from Christians? Do you honestly think that before Moses allegedly brought the tablet down from the mountain that nobody believed that killing people was bad? Do you think that before Jesus allegedly said “Love your neighbor as yourself” nobody thought it was the right thing to do to care about your neighbors and help them? That the literally billions of people who had lived prior to Christ allegedly walking the earth didn’t have any morals? Christian “morals” are more along the line of “homosexuality is a sin” and “a woman should be subservient to her husband.” I don’t think Dave would be cherry picking any of those.

  • Little Magpie

    I would like to point out that this isn’t actually wearing atheism “literally on one’s sleeve” (as I think Silverman more or less said) – since generally, the printed part of the Tshirt is on one’s *chest* :)

  • liu

    The only reason atheism is important to me is because other people can’t keep their religion to themselves. If it weren’t for the various people trying to push theism on me, my atheism would be a relatively inconsequential part of my identity.

    • Dale MacDougall

      I’ve always been an atheist, but growing up and living in Canada it was no big deal. I think of myself as being an ‘apathetic atheist’ then. Since I’ve moved to the US, first Louisville and no Fort Lauderdale, I’ve become much more outspoken and aggressive to counter the religiosity down here.

      Everyone at work and my neighbours know I’m an atheist because religion comes up so much and I’m sure to tell them what I think :)

  • SeekerLancer

    I’ve never really been a fan of shirts, bumper stickers or any other outward display of my political and social views while I’m out trying to live my daily life. This extends beyond just my being an atheist. I don’t feel like I should give people a symbol to judge me before they even say a word to me.

    I know that I unfairly judge people when I see them wearing a punny Christian t-shit or having a snarky conservative bumper sticker on their car. I admit to this because I’m human and we all do it. I don’t like it when people feel the need to engage in a political, social or religious argument when it’s not the time and place for it so I don’t want to wear something that makes me look like a welcome target for such arguments.

    I get what Dave’s saying, and I appreciate that there are people who do wear atheism on their sleeve because it does give us a louder voice, but it’s not something for everyone.

    • Bdole

      “a punny Christian t-shit”
      Sorry I couldn’t read past this without stopping to comment. This made me laugh, even though I’m sure it was unintentional.
      It sounds ike something really awful…and painful.

      • SeekerLancer

        I mean t-shirts with stuff like “Intelligently Designed” written on them.

        It is pretty painful.

  • sswaan

    Like a lot of Hemant’s posts, my reaction is that this might be an issue in certain areas of the country, but I live in Boston, where being an atheist isn’t anything special. Rather, it’s the default status in my social arena. I don’t feel a need to announce it every five minutes.

    I hear the point about traveling and the importance of visibility in other parts of he country. But I’d bristle at a t-shirt announcing, “I’m a Christian.” How is an atheist t-shirt any less annoying?

    • GCT

      Because atheists are a minority. Even though the Boston area is rife with atheists (including me), we were still denied a place at the memorial event last week. We still have to put up with national politics and issues that make us second class citizens, etc.

      • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

        that really pissed me off. imagine the uproar if christians had been excluded. but it’s perfectly ok to discriminate against atheists.

    • Pureone

      I think they are less annoying because they often use terms and labels given to non believers by the religious and turn them positive. I like my “Heretic” t shirt precisely because theists call each other and non-believers that. Same goes with my “infidel” (in English and Arabic) shirt. They don’t necessarily mean I’m an atheist, but I am so I enjoy the poke back at religion.

    • Birdie1986

      As someone else said on this or another thread on here, I have always questioned the existence of a god, but I was fairly apathetic, maybe a little agnostic. Then, I moved to Texas, and, shall we say, all “hell” broke loose because I just couldn’t stand being bombarded, nearly constantly, by religion. “Have a Blessed Day!” People wearing “I do all things through Christ, who strengthens me” shirts in every 5K or other race I was in, and if I was pacing just behind one of those, it drove me nuts! One of the first things people ask you when you meet them here is often, “what church do you attend?” My son told me, yesterday, that when he mentioned that his mom didn’t believe in Jesus to some school friends, they all gasped and became afraid. It’s enough to drive anyone to be an atheist, even if they were not, like me, already leaning that way.

  • Gus Snarp

    He looks good without the beard.

  • Bdole

    A friend reminded me a short while back to “say it loud and say it proud” when I whispered the word “atheist” more than once while we were talking about religion and politics in a public place. I realized what I was doing and stopped it.

  • Valorie

    I think the more people see Atheists as normal, everyday, nice people, the better. When I do wear my t-shirts I am on my best behavior which is kind of ironic…

  • Robyman4

    I don’t have any atheist shirts but I’m extremely vocal about not being a Christian. Living in Texas, this does pose the occasional (okay, frequent) possibility of an argument but at least I work in a place that has no shortage of widely disparate viewpoints and thankfully won’t get fired for voicing my ideas (I know a few who’ve gone through that s–t). The bottom line is that we must stand up for ourselves. I will speak when I want to, I will say what I think, I am not afraid, and I will not allow any religious person to shout me down or shut me up.

  • http://www.buytshirtsonline.co.uk/t-shirt-printing-embroidery-i37 custom t shirt printing

    I like to wear atheism on sleeve because I’m an atheist. I also see plenty of people who wear atheism on daily life.