This is How the Viral ‘I’m Actually An Atheist’ CNN Segment Came About

Granted he has much more time to interview her, but Seth Andrews does a much better job of presenting Rebecca Vitsmun‘s story than Wolf Blitzer ever did:

Maybe it’s just more effective when the host realizes he’s not the center of attention.

The part about the infamous CNN segment begins at the 7:54 mark.

(via TheThinkingAtheist)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • LizzyJessie

    This presentation makes me think of a line from Shakespeare’s ‘The Twelfth Night’.

    “…be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them”

  • Shawn Thompson

    What an amazing story, glad to see her and her family, including the furrier portion of it, all turned out alright. That was such a great video to watch after having seen the original clip where she outed herself on national television.

  • Atheist Diva

    This is the first time I’ve heard this story, but I find it difficult to respect someone who names a cat Piddle and keeps using whenever incorrectly, not to mention living in a tornado zone and rebuilding there? But I suppose she’s nice enough, in fact button cute, and so why not? But explain to me why we need an atheist infrastructure to help people just like the churches have? That’s nonsensical to me.

    • A.L.

      Having an organization would help individuals help, in general. Transportation, teamwork in the field, support, and, in your case, awareness. (If you are just now hearing about this story you must not have television or regularly involve yourself with news online…. maybe emails sent to unaware people when help is needed would be a good idea)

    • karlt6

      First, nobody asked you to respect anyone. Your respect was not requested nor required. Should I refuse to respect you for using a question mark at the end of a sentence that does not pose a question?

      As for ‘Why’ the infrastructure, I’ll assume you must live somewhere where being an atheist is a non-issue. If you live in a highly educated community such as Cambridge, MA, being an atheist is no biggie. But if you live in a strong believer community, it can be a major issue. There are church groups who WILL refuse to help atheists. There are even church groups who WILL refuse the help of non-believers. A soup kitchen in Spartanburg, SC, is presently doing so.

      BTW- I’d love to know where you live that is apparently impervious to natural disaster.

    • awoman

      Ever occur to you that maybe she didn’t name the cat? Also, what does it matter what a cat’s name is? I have a friend whose cat’s name is Shitty kitty and that cat is very loved.
      Also, did she say where she was rebuilding? Doug Stanhope said she’s moving out of the area.
      How can you want a world without religion without understanding that they are currently taking up responsibilities that we aren’t and that we will need to fill those responsibilities if we want to move forward?

    • KelpieLass

      Interesting point. People shouldn’t live in tornado zones. I’m mean really. Likewise, earthquake zones and hurricane zones.

      However, the logistics of moving the entire populations of California, Oregon, Washington, Oklahoma, Kansas, Arkansas, and Florida to “safe zones” approved by you, along with large portions of Texas, the gulf states and other midwest states might just maybe prove a little bit of a problem.

      People live in Oklahoma. I don’t think there are any current plans to evacuate the entire state. Are you saying you have extra room at your house?

      Maybe people would like an infrastructure available so that they can help out their fellow beings in need. Is that really such a bad thing?

    • JET

      You can’t respect someone who named their cat “Piddle”? Are you also not able to respect someone who painted their living room a color you don’t like?

    • NG

      A tornado can occur anywhere in the world at any time of year, so the entire world is a tornado zone. In areas like Oklahoma, people are aware of the dangers and how to react so the storms don’t usually kill as many people. More people die in areas where they’re not as common. Why did people rebuild in the same places after Superstorm Sandy? Do you hold them in as much contempt? Frankly, I’d be more concerned about rebuilding there because of rising sea levels and changing weather patterns but it doesn’t change what I think of those people.

      • FTP_LTR

        While a tornado can theoretically occur anywhere, any house in an area known as “Tornado Alley” would seem to have a pretty strong chance of experiencing, you know, a tornado.

        It doesn’t change what I think of the people either, though, but it does make me think they must have some economic or social reason to put up with it.

        • mdoc

          The ENTIRE STATE of Oklahoma is in tornado alley. The individual odds of your house being destroyed or you being hurt are small, but it is there.

        • Feminerd

          Oklahoma is quite cheap to live in, there are some jobs there, people have family there. Also, it’s extremely unusual to find a location that doesn’t suffer from any natural disasters- earthquakes, fires, floods, droughts, tsunamis, hurricanes, sinkholes, landslides, avalanches, blizzards, tornadoes- why does anyone live anywhere?

          • FTP_LTR

            Very true. My – badly expressed – point was that there has to be some reason why people would live in a place renowned for, and named for, the natural disasters that strike there. :-)

            • Feminerd

              Named for?

              • FTP_LTR

                Named for = named after. (Surprisingly I’ve just discovered that ‘named for’ is more common in American English than in British English. My BrE phrasing is becoming AmEised.)

                • Feminerd

                  Nah, I know what you meant lol. I meant I wasn’t aware Oklahoma was named for tornadoes! It’s in Tornado Alley, sure, but so are Kansas and Nebraska and South Dakota and Texas down to Austin. If people avoided Tornado Alley altogether, they’d be avoiding an awful lot of places to live (including where I live!).

                • FTP_LTR

                  My knowledge of Oklahoma is fairly slim – other than it being where the wind comes whistling down the plains. :)

                • Feminerd

                  It’s pretty boring, really. There’s a lot of Native American reservations, many of which have casinos. A few small cities, some small towns. Lots of ranches. Occasional terrifying storms.

                  And yes, it’s very flat lol.

        • awoman

          The vast majority of the people in Oklahoma have never been hit by a tornado. While this was a devastating event, it only destroyed 1100 out of millions of homes. The likelihood of getting hit there is higher than other places, but it isn’t like if you live there, you’re going to get hit by a tornado. It seems far more dangerous to live in a state like California where when a major earthquake strikes, far more homes will be lost and far more lives.
          I think the point that was trying to be made is that there isn’t a “safe place”. The events that hit Oklahoma are tornadoes, but other places have fires; other have floods. There aren’t places that are safe from natural events.

          • FTP_LTR

            Thanks for the information – I wasn’t aware of just how big an area was called “Tornado Alley”.

            • onamission5

              It’s huge. Here is a gif that shows tornado frequency in the US for ratings of F3 and higher from 1950-2006. Notice how the riskiest areas are also part of the US’s corn, soy, and wheat belt.

              The region I am from carries with it a risk of fire, flood, volcanic eruption, earthquakes, landslides, wind storms, and in the coastal areas, tsunamis. It is nowhere near tornado alley. I used to live in SW FL, and have been through the 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons, unharmed due to nothing other than sheer luck, as Wilma hit south and Charlie hit north of us. Where I am now, there’s risk of landslides, floods, tornadoes, ice storms, drought, and I also am not in tornado alley. There is literally nowhere safe on earth to live, so people have to assess their risk and do what they can to mitigate those risks with the resources they have. People with fewer resources will be able to do less. Which is why public shelters are so needed in areas like OK, where basements are almost impossible to build safely and poverty is so rampant.

    • Mario Strada

      I called my cat “Scruffy” and he slept with his cheek in the palm of my hand every night until he died. Am I worth of respect? My cats are currently named George, Ira, Miles and Ziggy. Do I pass?

      Plus, do you know how many people live in the Oklahoma area and how big tornado alley is?
      What I blame these people for is the way they build, not where. If you stop building in all the areas prone to earthquakes, floods, tornadoes and hurricanes, let alone fires and land slides, were exactly should we build?

    • RowanVT

      You’re annoyed by the cat’s name? What the hell is wrong with Piddle as a name?

      I knew a cat named Bear, and the owner’s last name was Ash!
      I have worked with dogs named Bitches, Asshole, and Nipples.

      While there are certain names I wish I could ban (Kitty, Tiger/Tigger, Blackie, Zoe, Chloe, Cleo, Shadow, Pumpkin, Sugar, Princess) because of being exceedingly common or prone to invoking the Law of Opposite Names, I don’t lose respect for folk because of what they named their pet.

      My own cats are named after *plants*. I have Rowan, Mallorn, Hawthorn and Burdock. The foster kittens are Marsh and Mallow. My dog is Alyssum. I’ve had former fosters with the names of Acacia, Sago, Divi-Divi, Saffron, Juniper, Sedge, Thistle, Parsley and Parsnip.

      • trog69

        How despicable! So much disrespect for those poor, innocent plant species.

      • allein

        I like Marsh and Mallow. :)
        My parents’ cats came home on July 3, 2006, so they became Stars and Stripes (my cousin rescued them from his boat where they were born and his kids initially named them Mitsy and Stripes; also there were Claws and Sailor who went to other homes).

      • C.L. Honeycutt

        *stands up* My name is *convenient cough* and I once named a dog “Tater”.

        I had to think fast. The family was about to name him Blackie, L’il Bit, or Bubba, like they had named at least twenty other dogs in the past.

        Also, name schemes are wonderful!

        • RowanVT

          Tater is an awesome name! :D

          And I just met a beagle named Bagel. His name was almost Typo because the owner texted his wife “I found an abandoned beagle by the side of the road and I’m bringing it home”… but autocorrect turned it into “I found an abandoned bagel…”

      • Guest


  • karlt6

    I always find it so ironic that people thank ‘the Lord’ when they survive a ‘natural disaster’ that their own book tells them was created and controlled by their god.

    She has a very cool demeanor; seems like a neat person. And I’m glad to hear the cats were ok.

  • Michael

    I have to say, the only thing I take from this is the image of her husband digging for her body.

    I hope that just means I have perspective.

  • Jason Hinchliffe

    I found this video odd, so I need to inquire as to the feelings of others. I’m 37, and began identifying as atheist around age 16. In 21 years, I’ve never felt like my rights were being trampled. I would never say I “came out” as an atheist, and frankly, I would find it very awkward to draw a parallel to the gay community like that, seeing as they have been legitimately persecuted, and I have not. Do others feel as though perhaps we are playing the victim card here? How frequently do other atheists face discrimination? I’m legitimately curious. Like I said, I can’t think of a time where I have been discriminated against in 21 years, and I’m quite candid about my beliefs. You?

    • Ashley Nasello

      I have. I am 40 and started questioning the faith into which I had been indoctrinated at around age 11. Since then, I have been afraid to say that I am an atheist in certain company because I could possible lose my job (I did lose a science teaching position. I was moved to a remedial reading class where I couldn’t foment any more trouble regarding evolution.) That is just one example of one thing that happened to me. I cannot speak for others, but I know that I am careful who I “come out” to and I hope for a day when atheists are as accepted as everyone else. Or maybe we already are. I hope not though.

      • karlt6

        I know exactly how you feel. I live in Iowa and it’s referred to as part of ‘the Midwest Bible Belt’. Heck, my boss sits in her cube and reads a Bible before starting the day and sometimes at lunch.

        I did ‘come out’ on Facebook, so many friends, former classmates and coworkers, and some family members are aware. One of my brothers is an atheist by default simply because he thinks it all seems absurd. Another brother is one who has the intelligence and common sense to question gods. I’m also lucky in that my best friend of the past 21 years is Catholic-turned-atheist.

        Anyway, I feel-out people with a joke like “Well God must have wanted North Dakota to flood” and gauge their response. Happy to have found 2 former and 1 current co-worker who are atheist, and one ‘maybe he is’….

        I do wonder if my mother knows….. She has to wonder why I’m 45 and single, and she certainly knows I am not gay. If she has asked my oldest brother about me being single, I could see him delicately letting onto to her that I am not a believer.

        Now, if anyone wants to talk fun, try dating as an atheist…. Ugh.

        • NG

          My boss said she used to date an atheist but dumped him because she couldn’t see herself with a non-believer even though she really liked him. Argh!

          • karlt6

            I’ve been told off in numerous ways. Most are polite, but I’ve had women on Match act as though I messaged offering cash for sex.

            Even had one tell me she was going to tell Match I had found out her real name and was stalking her so she could get me banned from the site. I pointed-out she had told me all this on Match’s own email section and that I’d simply let them read it and see what she was up to….

            • Hibernia86

              Maybe you could find a liberal Christian to date. I don’t plan on requiring my dates to be Atheist since only 25% of Atheists are female which would put me at a great disadvantage. I’m willing to date a agnostic or liberal Christian girl. There may be fewer of them too in Iowa, but perhaps you could find someone.

              • karlt6

                I’m open to a theist (maybe prefer a deist..) but they are not open to me. At least not so far. I am realistic about things- I accept I cannot disprove ‘God’ anymore than they can prove him. However I will not play dumb to what we are learning about the Canaanite’s god ‘El’ and logical jump to the Jews god who is has ‘El’ as one of his names. I also won’t play dumb on contradictions and errors in the Bible. I’m not aggressive about it, but most believers don’t want to hear about or face those things.

                The irony is that in the past 5-7 years Ive had at least 9 married women -mostly friends- make it known they’d like to get involved. How ironic is it that I have to be the moral one…. haha

                • Hibernia86

                  Yeah, the sad thing is that if you did have sex with any of those married women, their husbands would most likely blame you rather than their wives even though their wives initiated the relationship, something that doesn’t happen when the genders are reversed. Sad double standard.

        • barbara

          Ever considered moving to a more liberal state with more of us single atheist female dates available?

          • karlt6

            Sadly I use to be in one- Seattle, WA, but moved back to Iowa. Yes, it is something I’ve thought about. Not only for that reason, but just the thought of someplace a bit more lively.

      • Robert Cosmos

        I grew up in rural East Tennessee & the fundamentalist Christian worldview was inculcated into me from birth. No one in the community ever questioned this faith-based belief. When I attended East Tennessee State University I ran into a lot of vociferous opposition to my questioning of the fundamentalist dogma. Most of my family and friends are conservative Christians who still do not approve of my atheism even if we have achieved a detente. The work environment could be difficult when the management would allow an atmosphere of conservative Christian entitlement to dominate the workplace. Discrimination against Freethinkers is still alive and well in the 21st Century despite our best efforts to support and defend our secular Constitution. I always advise those who find themselves being discriminated against to fight back through administrative channels or by securing legal representation through one of the Freethought advocacy groups. It is a shame that we still face such arrogant ignorance but it must be confronted and stopped to end this faith-based tyranny.

    • carol9

      I am with you. I have been an atheist since 1981 and I have never felt like I had to hide it. I can’t imagine feeling like I couldn’t tell my family and friends, it’s just not even on my radar. I can’t say I have ever heard of anyone else having issues with being an atheist in my area either. Of course I don’t live in a backwards area of the bible belt either, I live in Phoenix, which may have quite a bit to do with that. Where are you located Jason?

      • Jason Hinchliffe

        I’m in Toronto Canada. I even went to a Catholic high school as an open atheist and never had a problem. They even compromised on prayers and asked that I just silently observe during prayer time and did not ask me to participate or change schools.

        • Feral Dog

          That explains it… if I’m not mistaken, the public opinion in Canada is that your religion is your own business, right? That’s not really the case in the US. Atheists don’t currently face the same level of discrimination that other groups have, but it still exists.

          I live in Washington (a very liberal state) and admitting I’m an atheist gets me funny looks, and from some of the older crowd angry questions/lectures. It’s eye-rolling, and to avoid it I tend not to bring up religion at all, which in the Pacific Northwest is okay. Atheists in the Midwest and the South tend to keep quiet because for many it causes huge problems socially and even financially- religion is a huge deal in those areas.

          One of our Big Two political parties (the Republicans) is very much devoted to religious interests, and if you read their 2012 party platform it openly states that religion should influence (or according to some of their candidates, even dominate) the government. I’ll admit I’m not aware of Canadian politics, but I am under the impression that a candidate’s personal faith isn’t a deciding factor in elections there…

          • Jason Hinchliffe

            No, I’ve been questioned heavily about my lack of belief. I’ve just never looked at it as discrimination. If people want to engage me about my beliefs, or even occasionally say mean things, or tell me I’m going to burn or that one day I will wake up or that they will pray for me, that’s fine. Its not discrimination. I have all the rights anyone else has. I don’t have a right to not have my beliefs questioned. It seems to me North American culture these days seems to be a race to play the victim card. I refuse that label, regardless of what I encounter.

            • Feral Dog

              It’s not the victim card. I believe some other people above have pointed out there can be outright religious discrimination- which I have not faced, just some rudeness as you yourself have- but it is part of the same overall social attitude here.

            • Anat

              OK, but see examples of discrimination in hiring and at the workplace above. People aren’t simply afraid of being confronted, they fear not having jobs. This does not apply equally everywhere, but the fact it doesn’t happen to you does not make it a non-issue for everyone.

              And also – there’s a difference between having an argument with a stranger and having a major fallout with close family.

              • carol9

                It’s illegal to ask about your religious affiliation at a job interview. They may be able to find out with other ways or sneakier questions but they can’t just ask you. That probably doesn’t stop some people but you don’t have to answer the question.

                I just thought of it this morning, when I was in jr high, music class (about 1977, super small town, middle class suburbs of Chicago) there was an atheist kid who wasn’t allowed to sing Christmas carols when we did them in class. He had to just sit there or go out in the hall. No one gave him any flack that I saw over it but I remember feeling a little sorry for him not being able to participate. Plus he had to explain a million times to everyone who had to ask him individually why he couldn’t sing. It was a bit of a novelty, you know how kids are over any little thing that’s different, but I don’t recall anyone teasing or ridiculing him.

                • 3lemenope

                  It was a bit of a novelty, you know how kids are over any little thing that’s different, but I don’t recall anyone teasing or ridiculing him.

                  I bet he does.

                • carol9

                  That’s a pretty big assumption. Like I said it was a really small town. It’s not like others wouldn’t notice someone being teased or harassed.
                  It wasn’t that kind of town anyway. Religion wasn’t even really a part of anyone’s life, a few people would go to church, we even went occasionally on big holidays, but I didn’t know anyone who I would call religious.

                • 3lemenope

                  That’s a pretty big assumption. Like I said it was a really small town. It’s not like others wouldn’t notice someone being teased or harassed.

                  It is fair to say, unless you are possessed of a truly remarkable eidetic memory, that the events of 1977 that you recall are, like all human long-term memories, not actual memories of events, but really more memories of memories. All but the most salient facts that made the situation memorable are, in all likelihood, just generic brain-fill, and the details that do have salience are likely to be distorted extremely by your perspective and their emotional relevance to you personally.

                  Since you were not the target (or perpetrator) of said alleged harassment, your not recalling such is not a good reason to believe it didn’t happen, since the event had little salience to you beyond the bare oddity of the kid having been separated from the rest of the class. And unless you were preternaturally empathetic for a middle-schooler, unless he was a good friend of yours there is little reason to believe you would have known if he was in distress or being harassed by others.

                  And the third element is that your description doesn’t match the behavior of middle-schoolers, well, anywhere.

                  It is *possible* that you have an unusual memory, and and even more unusual emotional sensitivity, and an even more unusual peer group, but that is not by a long shot the most parsimonious explanation. The far more likely explanation is that your memory is like pretty much all human long-term memories, that if he had been suffering harassment you in all probability would never have known it, and kids in your school act like kids act everywhere.

                  So, not a big assumption at all.

                  It’s not like others wouldn’t notice someone being teased or harassed.

                  You’re kidding, right?

                • FTP_LTR

                  Plus he had to explain a million times to everyone who had to ask him individually why he couldn’t sing.

                  My gut feel (scientific, I know) tells me that there is some chance that this felt different from the inside than the outside.
                  I’ve witnessed the rather… awkward… scene when at a school reunion someone reminiscing about the “old days” discovered that no, actually, the person they remember laughing with actually saw it as “laughing at”, and “hated every f*cking minute”. It took 20 years and alcohol for them to be able to say that.
                  (Disclaimer – I was there as a partner, not as a former student – they weren’t my school friends… :-)

            • barbara

              Lucky you Canadian. You have no idea. I’m not one to play victim but it would be naive to say I have “all the rights”.

              • Jason Hinchliffe

                Where are you from Barbara? What rights do you not have?

      • Randay

        I grew up in a religious family in the Mid-West and then we moved to California. I have been an atheist ever since I can remember, but though I think my parents know that, I have never told them outright. Most of my relatives of my generation know. In my various jobs, no one hiring me has ever asked me about religion. I live in Europe now, and certainly no one cares about that.

        I have a Christian(rather on the left) cousin who knows that when I invite her to dinner with my friends that there is not likely to be any religious people there. She doesn’t make a fuss when anti-religious jokes are made. She keeps her belief to herself. Politically, she mostly agrees with them.

        As to Europeans I know who have gone for their work to the Bible Belt, several have told me that the first question their neighbors asked them was, “What church do you go to?”

    • Brian Gefrich

      I think a lot of it depends on where you live and what sort of background your family has.

    • KelpieLass

      It depends entirely on where you live and the family you were born into. If you chose your birthfamily and place of birth with reasonable care, you probably have never faced anything like this. (I too was pretty lucky, despite spending much of my childhood in the Bible belt.)

      In many places in the south and midwest, “everyone” believes. The idea of someone willfully admitting that they do not believe Christian teaching, especially if raised in a “Christian” home, is simply unthinkable. In the eyes of the community, this would be akin to admitting you eat puppies for breakfast.

      Yes, in this world, it is completely reasonable that an atheist would “play along” and not stand up against the constant in-your-faith Jesus Jesus Jesus refrain. And yes, it would be a shock to family to find out that, actually, you think it is all just so much bunk.

    • Makoto

      I’ve been a non-believer since about 13 or so (currently mid 30s), but my family is religious, and has only grown more so over the years. I occasionally try to bring up the subject, since we live near each other and talk frequently, but the last time I did, my father said that those who don’t believe in Christ are free to leave the country, preferably tarred and feathered on their way out. This isn’t a new train of thought for my folks, just the current level.

      Of course, if you mean for jobs – most jobs in this area feel fine asking “so, what church do you go to?” during the ‘social’ part of the interview, where they can say “well, the person just didn’t fit in” as the reason you were rejected for the position, no matter how qualified you might be for it.

      As for violence, that happens, too. Not to the same level as homophobic attacks around the country/world, but I have heard of several gay or atheist beatings in my area, sadly.

      Soooo.. yeah, I tend not to bring up my lack of belief with anyone except online, not even with family or friends.

    • awoman

      I’ve lost friends. Seth Andrews of the Thinking Atheist has spoken openly of his own father disowning him. It must be nice to live the way you do, but it is harder when the circumstances are different.

      • karlt6

        Seth has no room to talk about the treatment of others.

        I was blocked from his Facebook page because the girl (Meg) he had/has monitoring it for him went-off on me because I questioned how an atheist could justify attacking believers in the same manner which they attack (us) when the simple fact is we cannot disprove the existence of god/s anymore than they can prove the existence.

        Anyway, Meg blocked me immediately and a couple of people told me I just happened to pick the wrong person to debate- one of Meg’s best friends.

        Seth’s attitude is clearly visible in his podcast; he is an angry, stewing person. In my mind there are three groups of atheists: 1) Those who simply were never told/trained to believe in gods; 2) Those who question and debate gods and their accompanying religions from an intellectual position; and finally, 3) The ‘Chip on Their Shoulder’ brigade.

        The Chip on Their Shoulder brigade feel they’ve been wronged. They feel they’ve been lied-to as though believers don’t feel they’re simply teaching what they accept as fact. They feel believers as a whole are part of some great conspiracy to control the brains of every person alive. (Fact is there are people like my 77 yr old mother who truly believe in God)

        Seth’s anger is apparent in his comments and demeanor, and if you do not agree with his “I’m a victim!” angle he has no time for you. He told me -via email- that if I agreed to just go along with things he would allow me back onto the page. I told him what he could do with his page, and how is approach seemed like that of a religion: Do as I say or else.

        • awoman

          I don’t understand how this has anything to do with the fact that his father disowned him and that is hurtful for any child.

          • karlt6

            Seriously? Seth is just as judgmental of those with differing belief as he claims they are of him. Listen to his anger and inability to maintain composure on his podcast. And when he is given the opportunity to use his position against others, he will.

            • awoman

              What does that have to do with a son wanting love from his father and being turned away because he is an atheist?

              • karlt6

                Tell me how much more plainly I can put it so you can understand it. Because at this point I fail to see how you fail to understand the point I’ve clearly made twice…..

                • mdoc

                  karl, you are bringing up a side issue which was unresponsive to the topic.

                • karlt6

                  Hardly mdoc. The issue raised by awoman was her loss of friends, with a natural assumption being due to their judgment of her life and beliefs. She then mentioned the issue with Seth and his father. Again, the natural assumption would be (it) was due to his father’s judgment of Seth’s beliefs.

                  If you are unable to connect or understand the relationship of my comments on Seth not being in a position of judging others for having beliefs or opinions different from his own…

            • NonBelieber

              “Anger”? “Inability to maintain composure”? I haven’t listened all of the episodes of his podcast, but I don’t seem to recall any part where he loses his composure. Even when he was tricked into participating in a podcast about afterlife.

              • karlt6

                He gets worked-up far too easily about things that occurred in the past and were not done with any malicious intent, as well as about things that do not happen to him.

                • NonBelieber

                  That’s interesting, would you care to provide an example? A link to a podcast or the title or something. It would be good to see another aspect of his personality. Thank you in advance.

                • karlt6

                  I stopped listening to his podcast more than a year ago.

    • Mario Strada

      I am sort of in the same boat you are. I never really was ostracized or discriminated against because of my atheism, except that in the past few years I realized that I was. I just did not connect the dots.

      Thinking back and reviewing old emails and other exchanges, I have lost several clients because of my atheism. I work on the web and I have since the early 90′s. Ever since I started commenting on atheist blogs, clients that idolized me, no longer called. Some outright told me not to call them. I thought I had done something to offend them and I was completely baffled by it, but going back over the events and especially by examining who these people were by following their trail on the web, it all became clear.

      Also, I used to have a much more “live and let live” attitude to things and I didn’t get upset when my fundie friends and associates would say things like “You are not really an atheist”. Or “You are really an agnostic” (what they consider closer to conversion).

      Keep in mind, I live in california, not exactly the bible belt. I know of uyounbg people tossex in the street by their parents. People losing their jobs of 20 years and so on.

      So, I am glad your experience has been a positive one, mine has been as well, or at least I believed so for a very long time. Frankly, I am still among the lucky ones, but I would never go as far as to discount the very real discrimination some of my fellow atheists suffer from.

      Is it as bad as being gay? I would not know. I had 2 best friends that were gay and they are both dead now. They had it rough with their families, neighbors, etc. One can draw parallels without drawing comparisons.

    • Carmelita Spats

      Admitting to atheism in my country and in my family’s social circles is nothing short of social suicide. The greatest pleasure in my life, since I was knee-high to a disturbing dogma, was antagonizing my crazy-ass Catholic Opus Dei family in Guadalajara, Mexico. Thus, I CHOSE to be the black sheep of the family instead of “going along” with their insane religious obsessions. I could have kept my mouth shut, gotten married at 21, squirted out a mewling pile of attention-deprived semen demons for the cult, become quickly and quietly miserable, gained 45 pounds and walked around in a frilly Mexican moo-moo dress. Instead, I moved to the U.S. and sought an education. I don’t feel that I am a victim but after living in a Southern Baptist Screwyouland, I have seen how jacked-up NASTY many of these fundamngelical, fundaloon, fundaliar, Christoholics are when it comes to people with different beliefs or no beliefs. Atheists in the Bible belt do lose their jobs. Listen to Christian talk radio in the American Bible belt. It’s an eye-opening experience.

      • katiehippie

        Don’t call kids, “semen-demons”. That is extremely offensive.

        • Terry Firma

          Au contraire. I laughed out loud.

          • katiehippie

            Kids are people too. Maybe we should call you a semen-demon instead.

            • Terry Firma

              I’ve called my kids (8 and 11) worse. “Satan’s spawn” is a chestnut around here. I especially call them that when they beat me at Uno or Stratego. It makes them laugh. I highly recommend it. Laughing, that is.

              • katiehippie

                Joking around with people that know you are kidding is one thing. I don’t think Carmelita is kidding in any way shape or form.

          • katiehippie

            Or how about jackass.

        • McAtheist

          I am sure the writer intended no offense.

          I think ‘semen-demons’ is consistent with the poster’s style of prose – they did refer to themself as a ‘black sheep’. The text is colourful to say the least, reminiscent of Hunter S. Thompson’s gonzo journalism. And ‘semen-demons’ is only one of many new and (at least to me) interesting words or terms contained within the epistle. Fun-damn-gelical, brilliant.

          Post more rants like this please Carmelita!

          In closing, I prefer the term ‘crotch droppings’.

          • Jim Jones

            Snot filled shit bags?

        • baal

          I agree it’s offensive but Carmelita’s rants are in a class of their own. Where I’d object to some folks being off-handedly repellant, her postings are best read as a unified screed and not for any few words or ideas in part.

      • YKteo

        Oh, and the saying “aunque no sea católico, todo mexicano es guadalupano”…

    • Jason Hinchliffe

      I find it interesting that I would receive multiple votes down and none up for asking a question and sharing my own experience. Quite the “freethinking”.

      • C.L. Honeycutt

        Would you like your victim card printed with a blue or a gold background?

        • Jason Hinchliffe

          There’s no one here capable of victimizing me honeybutt. Least of all you. Go crawl back in your hole and come out when you have an original thought.

          • karlt6

            Jason, it doesn’t matter if the audience is ‘free thinkers’ or not; people can tell an ass when they see (or read) one. That, or you’re just an ignorant person of limited exposure who is in no position to question the experiences or situation of others.

            If you lack the knowledge and/or intelligence to understand how atheists will receive vastly different reactions depending on the family and region they are in, there’s not much I can say to help you.

            • Jason Hinchliffe

              Go show me where I doubted the experience of someone else. I’ve not derided anyone’s experience.

              • karlt6

                To paraphrase the TV show Frasier, I’m sure you meant ‘victims card’ in its most positive sense.

                • Jason Hinchliffe

                  Karl, unless you’re a complete idiot (which I accept is entirely possible) the context of that statement was obviously not directed at atheists but at North American culture as a hole. So pardon me while I use a healthy dose of skepticism when someone claims they are a victim.

                • 3lemenope

                  …the context of that statement was obviously not directed at atheists but at North American culture as a whole.

                  At the risk of piling on, that makes it dumber.

                • Anat

                  Huh? You claimed you did not experience discrimination over being an atheist, then expressed how the use of ‘coming out’ as an atheist to be awkward – with the implication that discrimination against atheists pales in comparison to discrimination against LGBTQ people – and then when you ay Do others feel as though perhaps we are playing the victim card here? the ‘we’ refers to ‘North American culture as a hole (sic)’? That makes no sense. No, the simple meaning of what you wrote was that you find it hard to believe that any atheists (in North America?) experiences discrimination, definitely not anything like LGBTQ people.

                  Well, FYI a colleague of mine said she was more out about her non-heterosexual orientation than about her atheism. In a very liberal city.

    • katiehippie

      I don’t think “hardly candid” is the term you’re looking for.

      • Jason Hinchliffe

        You’re absolutely right. I mistakenly attributed some degree of discretion to the term that it does not possess. Corrected. Thank you.

    • FTP_LTR

      I grew up in an environment where religion wasn’t a factor. I’ve never lived in a community where religion mattered. I’ve never worked in a company where religion was a factor (apart from one instance where a co-worker ran prayer meetings once a week for himself and two other people, and everyone else thought he was a little… tightly wound.)

      I’ve never needed to ‘come out’, nor had the opportunity to ‘come out’ as an atheist.

      I think it’s a cultural thing – a US culture thing, perhaps.

    • baal

      I don’t advertise it at work since I need to work with some clearly evangelical types. It would create disharmony and that’d come out as a lack of COLA in the yearly performance review. Thankfully, I have an older sister who fought the battles with my RCC parents (who only got that way as they aged).

    • RowanVT

      My grandmother has told me that she wouldn’t let anyone who was not christian or jewish into her house.

      I have been seriously asked by coworkers why I don’t go on murdering rampages if I don’t believe in God.
      I was *literally* chased across my college campus by proselytizers when they discovered I was agnostic, leaning toward atheist (this was about 9 years ago now).

      I’ve had clients at my job say “Oh, but you’re such a nice person and you helped me…”

      So while not active persecution (mostly), it is a grinding level of prejudice. Facing people, knowing most of them are religious, and knowing that many of those folks would think I’m evil and deserve to be tortured for eternity, is wearing psychologically.

    • Ella Warnock

      In reading through comments on conservative websites, the christians do have a tendency to anger whenever atheism is mentioned. I’ve heard a couple of people opine that “all atheists are narcissists.” Others pile on and gleefully describe what torments await the unbeliever in the afterlife. As long as they’re not the ones paying the price for other’s sins, I really don’t know why they care so much. It seems to indicate an unhealthy amount of schadenfreude on their part. YMMV, of course.

    • dandaman

      The TSA in Houston has messed with me over the past three years, until I word a Jesus shirt, flew right through customs

    • dandaman

      I also was pressured out of my last teaching job because the director’s daughter went atheist after having me for biology. She connects the dots and I’m to blame. I am not 100% sure this was the reason for my mistreatment, but if I were to ask what were the chances I would get a straight answer (0%). I have had to face pressure to keep my teaching “low-key” for over 20 years, until i finally grew weary and left teaching.

    • baal

      Also, go listen to the video from 7:54 forward to 10:54. I don’t think that Rebecca Vitsum and the rest of us would spend years in the closet if we weren’t messaged that it’d be a bad idea to be openly atheist.

  • KelpieLass

    Does anyone know if she has ever spoken publicly about how her family and in-laws reacted to the news? She alluded in the interview that up until Blitzer interview, her family had no clue. I’ve always wondered what happened next.

  • Rabbit

    Great interview, and what a wonderful lady.

  • Brain Logic

    It was a great video, and it’s a great story, with a great ending, so far. I do wish, however, that it included Stan Hope’s amazing and immediate effort to draw the atheist community together in support, to fund the rebuilding of Rebecca’s family’s house. Maybe The Thinking Atheist is planning a subsequent video to elaborate on that… Seth?

  • Georgina

    I remember seeing this video for the first time and thinking “Thank a god for sending this tornado! Is the man insane?”

  • baal

    oh, fwiw, i hate piano music.

  • Chris Clayton

    Thanks for posting this amazing video. Rebecca is one my new heroes. She has such compassion for life and the ability to talk about deeply personal feelings with ease. She is a great spokesperson for the movement and I hope to hear more from her in the future. I am also looking forward to more videos from Seth Andrews.

  • Ingersollman

    I donated. Glad to see she is moving forward.

  • GeraardSpergen

    That was a well-done piece. I remember when this happened, Glenn Beck hypothesized that it was a liberal media set-up piece with the objective of exploiting tornadoes to broadcast that atheists really lived in the Bible Belt.

  • karlt6

    By the way, I’m I the only one who would be interested in a ‘….I’m actually at atheist’ t-shirt…..