I’ve read some good essays on this subject. In this one, I attempted to present from a viewpoint of addressing someone who may be considering open declaration of no belief in gods, nor support of any religion, especially if they currently practice, or belong to, a religion. This is my first of several. I wrote one similar blog in June. You can see it here.
So you want tell people that you’re an atheist?
If you think you might want to be known as an atheist, you should know this. Perhaps your idea is that all it takes is to not believe in any god. That’s true on the inside and in your mind, not so on the outside where you’ll have to deal with other people. You may think that your beliefs are private, and not anyone else’s business. You may think that no one cares. Maybe you have the incredibly naïve opinion that no one will judge you. Maybe you foresee other atheists waiting in the shadows to welcome you with open arms. Some are. They’re not in the shadows. There are groups which you may join, but first this.
In your naiveté, you may believe that your only life change will be that you’ll stop pretending and covering up. Thus, finally being truthful about what you do, or do not, believe. Maybe you think that you’ll continue to be the same moral, loyal, loving friend, family member, and citizen that you have always been. Of course you will, but not in everyone’s eyes. And, I’ll bet you did not know this: there is a test and there’s a penalty. A test for all, and a penalty for most.
The Never Ending test.
You have to pass a test to be an Atheist. Did you know that? And the damn test never ends – you take it repeatedly. The questions may be the same, or they may keep changing. Every answer you give will be wrong. You’ll be forced to keep explaining and justifying your wrong answers. You may be criticized by your family and friends for not choosing the correct answers. Knowledge will not help. If you try to use science, you will be told that you know nothing of science. You’ll be given a grade of F for trying to use it to explain your position. If you dare to use logic or philosophy: F. History? F! God forbid that you use religion/scripture/dogma: F-minus.
Are you willing to pay the price?
If you come out as an Atheist, you will be penalized (test results notwithstanding)– up to and including the death penalty (unlikely, but possible). At some level, you may be ostracized. It may be by people close to you, some group that you belong to, or perhaps at your job.
You can forget about being POTUS. Almost anyone can be president regardless of race, sex, number of marriages/affairs, baldness (or silly hair), borderline mental health condition, or creed. But, no creed at all? No cred! If you don’t believe in a god, you will not be elected. Religions with much lower percentage of population numbers, such as Muslim, Hindu or Buddhist have a better chance. But they are not atheists. (Okay, maybe some Buddhist sects are.)
If you live in the Americas, most of Europe or Asia, and are of Christian or Jewish background, you’ll probably not be killed. But, if you live in many countries, some fundamentalist religious groups, or the government, may decide to enforce the laws of god according scripture (yes, they do say that) and your ass will be dispatched into the fires of Hell. It happens. Even in Hebrew/Old Testament scripture, apostates must be gone. Few people continue to follow that old law of god, thank god.
An alternative for some.
For some people who don’t believe in any gods, they admit atheism, but they stop there. They refuse to take any test. They either don’t care about consequences or aren’t affected by them. They realize that no answer will ever be sufficient for most concerned believers.
The quiet, timid, in the shadows non-believer is a personal choice for many. But so is not ever fighting for or defending your rights and the rights of others. Many believers may wish you’d be quiet. Some may enjoy the fray and attempt to stump-the-chump. While a few others may be legitimately curious or some combination of all three.
Be honest and wise.
May you make wise, informed, and well-considered decisions. May you find the patience and grace to face the challenges of life with aplomb. May each day bring you joy, and may you spread that joy with love around the earth.
Note: A blog post on the test is under construction.