This is a guest post written by David G. McAfee.
Coming out as an atheist doesn’t only apply to those who are new to non-belief, and it’s not just a one-off personal event only involving close family. Public non-belief means many different things to many people but, in a society that’s largely intolerant of faithlessness, it’s always an ongoing process that arises again each time an atheist is asked about his or her beliefs — or lack thereof.
While some consider coming out as an atheist to be about familial honesty, still others are more concerned with publicly rejecting dogma around friends, classmates, or colleagues. But regardless of the situation, coming out as an atheist makes it a bit easier for the next person who has to by working to change the (very false) perception of atheism as something that is anti-god or even pro-evil. Perhaps more than anything else, it gives the opportunity to educate believers — to show them that it is entirely possible to be morally good without believing that we are being policed by an all-knowing deity.
It’s important to note, especially for young non-believers growing up in religious homes, that if you’re comfortable with your current living situation, it might not be necessary to “rock the boat” until you’re older. That being said, if it’s possible to be honest with family without serious repercussions, I wouldn’t discourage it. In all cases, the decision to come out is completely dependent on an individual’s circumstances.
Here’s a list of seven tips for coming out as an atheist, inspired and excerpted from my book Mom, Dad, I’m an Atheist: The Guide to Coming Out as a Non-believer.
In early 2013, we learned that Joelle Silver (below), a science teacher in the Cheektowaga Central School District in New York who also doubled as the faculty sponsor for the school’s Bible Study Club, had no idea where to draw the line between being a public school teacher and being a representative of her church.