This is a guest post from Erin Louis, the author of Expose Yourself: How to Take Risks, Question Everything, and Find Yourself. You can find out more about Erin Louis at her website: erinlouis.com. You can also follow Erin Louis on Twitter here: @ErinLouis666
As the light shines on the giant symbol of Christianity, hiding in its shadow are the baby eaters, the Satan worshipers, the evil-doing evil atheists. Recoiling from the cross like Nosferatu, atheists are kept at bay with this symbol of salvation and hope. Only the most brazen of the godless would dare to question the moral authority of the holy book whom so many have placed their faith in. Those without belief are doomed to suffer the eternal fires of hell. Those who have dared to express their lack of belief in God almighty will shiver in the cold of the shadow of the cross while they await their ultimate punishment.
Growing up hearing this crap, is it any wonder I kept my atheism to myself for so long? Who wants to be in the cold with the baby eaters? Having spent 22 years as an adult entertainer, I’ve already experienced more than enough social awkwardness to last me the rest of my life. To say that I don’t believe in God or an afterlife may just be a bridge too far. Exposing my naked body people can get used to, not believing in any sort of higher power? Not so much.
I never thought that I would get past the stigmas and stereotypes of my job, so I hid it in most situations to avoid the judgement and drama. It was so exhausting that I finally got to a point where I no longer cared about what people thought. I knew that what most people thought about what I did was wrong. I wasn’t a drug addict or a prostitute, I was a stripper. Simply someone whose job it was to take their clothes off, nothing more. Most people didn’t understand the definition of the word stripper, but I was done hiding it from them anyway. So, fine let them think I’m a hooker drug addict, supporting a want-to-be rock star who spends his day taking bong hits on a rent-to-own sofa. I knew the truth, and I really liked my job.
A funny thing happened, however, when I decided to stop hiding what I did, when I simply came out and said, “I’m a stripper. So, what?” Instead of standing in the corner whispering gossip, people started to ask questions. Politely even. They flat out asked if I did drugs or performed favors in the VIP. They wanted to know, “Was it really like what they saw in the movies and on talk shows?” By facing the issue head-on, I was at least able to contradict the misconceptions in my one on one encounters with people. I was able to shine a light on the reality of my job, and people listened. I may not have been able to change every mind, but I changed most. When I chose to conceal my profession, those misconceptions festered and perpetuated themselves. Most of the time it simply started with the accurate definition of the word stripper.
The word atheist can sometimes be synonymous with things like baby eaters, Satan worshipers, and all-around evil people. As ignorant as that is to freethinkers, these ideas persist largely due to atheists like me, who were afraid to simply come out and say it. Much like my job, I was terrified of what people would say and think. Would I even have time to explain the actual benign definition of the word atheist, before they spit in my face? Much like my job, the answer is usually, yes. Being open and honest and simply upfront about my atheism, has mostly produced the same results as being open about being a stripper. While not always successful, I am usually able to convince people that I’m not a serial killer, bent on roasting their children on a spit.
Finding the courage to be open about being a stripper, came mostly from my exasperation about the assumption that I was a scumbag. Finding the courage to come out as an atheist has come from connecting with other atheists. Basically, just knowing that I wasn’t alone and that I had support from others, is what brought me out of the shadows. I have now been able to make some progress normalizing the word atheist and clarifying the definition of the word itself. It’s not scary or evil, and it doesn’t mean half of the things associated with it. Once people understand that, they tend to put down their pitchforks.
The path to normalizing lack of belief in deities lies with the ones hiding in the shadows. Those of us who have found the courage to come out of the cold must provide support to ones still in it. We need to show that we understand why it can be so scary to speak up. To let them know that it’s much nicer out here in the sun. The shadow is only so big after all, there will come a point where it can no longer hide us all.
This was a guest post from Erin Louis, the author of Expose Yourself: How to Take Risks, Question Everything, and Find Yourself. You can find out more about Erin Louis at her website: erinlouis.com. You can also follow Erin Louis on Twitter here: @ErinLouis666
If you would like to guest post for me, write to me here: firstname.lastname@example.org
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