This weekend I introduced a person to atheists.

I spent Labor Day Weekend at a family reunion of sorts for Michaelyn’s family.  It was a lot of fun.  We camped out on her uncle’s land in rural Missouri.  There was an actual outhouse.  I used it.  Thing had a flushing toilet and running water (into a bucket).  Definitely the Cadillac of outhouses.

Anyway, at one point I was sitting with a cadre of ladies who asked me what I did for a living.  I told them I was a writer.  They asked what I wrote and I told them I wrote a blog and spoke in public.  They asked what about.

“About religion.  I’m an atheist and I address a lot of the arguments/current events that religious people use.”

There was shock.  I had been doing magic for people all weekend, including one of the ladies who then said “But you know what?  Look at all the talent god gave you.”

I responded, “Well, I don’t believe god exists so I don’t believe he gave me anything.  As far as I’m aware I practiced a lot for what I’m able to do.  It’s not like I woke up one morning and was like ‘Oh!  I can do magic tricks!  Thanks god!’  It seems to me that god gives us talent in proportion with how much we practice.”

But I said it with a smile, as friendly as I could, and the lady and I had a lovely rest of the weekend.

What I didn’t notice is that one of the women left the group.  The following day she approached me and apologized for leaving.  She had never met an atheist before and didn’t know what to say/do.  It turns out they can’t tell the difference until we tell them, but I hope I gave her a good introduction to atheists.  I think I did.  :)

I’ve found that when I resist the question of my career or religious affiliation before finally saying under my breath that I’m an atheist, almost as if I’m apologizing for any offense they take at that word, that’s when you wind up receiving a tone and conversation that forces you to defend your atheism.  But if you announce it with a smile, as casually as announcing the weather, people take it that way.  I’m glad that’s how it played out here.  :)

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About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.