Why be Atheist?

Disclosing as atheist is personal. Each person’s circumstance and disclosure story is different. The real question is: why should anyone publicly acknowledge being atheist? For some, it’s best kept private. There are legitimate reasons to hide not accepting the existence of any god. The reason is always the same: believers.

coming-out2For many of us, the importance of religion is stressed from a young age–religion must be taught. Logically, we are usually taught that our religion is the correct one and all others are wrong. While atheists have a similar conviction of accuracy, it’s not the same since the basis is no god exists, and consequently no religion is right.

coming-out5

Regardless of the religion or denomination, it seems that most believers don’t understand or accept atheists or atheism without extreme prejudice. Unitarian Universalists are a possible exceptions, as well as a few others such as some pagan groups and Buddhist schools, divisions, or sects.

From my teenage days, I recall my mother telling me that she didn’t care what religion I was, as long as I had one. Mom was raised in a multi-denomination Christian family. I don’t recall Dad saying anything about it. I think he’d approve any religion as long it was “Cat-lick.” I wouldn’t risk telling him anything he might not agree with, certainly not that I didn’t believe in god.

coming-out3I haven’t had to deal with negative family or friend issues regarding my public atheist disclosure, which was fairly recent. Other than a hint or two about someone praying for me, it’s been quiet.

After reading my spiritual memoir blog, Free from Religion, my wife said, “I could have written that.” Her experience was like mine, but she remains a theist. While supportive of my decision, she wonders what our religious friends think.

I’m old and can be cantankerous, but I’m usually laid back, quiet, and friendly. I’m retired, and have outlived many of my friends and family. While I want to be liked and loved as much as the next guy, I stopped caring so much about what anyone else thought of me long ago. At least I no longer care in the foolish manner that I once did. By remembering that what others think of me is none of my business, I find that I function much better in life.

For me, accepting my atheism involved learning, personal analysis and self evaluation—all done on my own over many years. Deciding to go public required me to think deeply about it. I wondered, why bother? I’m out, but I still think about it.

coming-out4While my disclosure has been inconsequential, I’m concerned for anyone struggling with it. While the decision is personal, I think atheists should disclose (come out) as soon as they’re ready. But, preparation and timing are important, if not critical.

We should not disclose when angry, arguing, or with any motive other than share something about ourselves. Even simply answering a question, as in my case, should be at the right time.

My answers to the question about coming out, posed in the first paragraph are:

  • Honesty is the best way to deal with some of the challenges. Experiencing guilt from being deceitful is an unnecessary burden.
  • Support. Depending on where one lives, there are groups of other atheists willing to provide advice and support. Being open allows us to take full advantage of such groups. On line groups are plentiful and helpful. The names and contact information for these groups are available through blogs and books.
  • Mental health. It feels good. Along with the lifting of a mental burden, many of us feel a new enthusiasm for embracing atheism. My experience is like that.
  • Social contribution. It is good for the individual, good for society, and good for atheists and believers alike. The stereotypical view of atheism and atheists is unfair, damaging, and wrong. By allowing others to know we are atheist, it helps them to know the truth. While I’ve been incorrectly labeled an exception, my openness is beneficial to every atheist.

To deal with the idea of disclosure, I recommend the following.

This book: Mom, Dad, I’m an Atheist, by David G. McAfee

Good blog article: 3 Doubts Closet Atheists Should Have Before Coming Out (And 3 Reasons To Do It Anyway)

And another one: Why Come Out As An Atheist?

coming-out1A second book that I’ve not read, but looks promising, is Coming Out Atheist by Greta Christina.

Each of us should stand up for our rights. To do that, we need to be out of the closet. Being honest with ourselves and others isn’t easy, but there’s abundant testimony regarding the lifting of a burden that we can only achieve by letting the truth be known.

Making life changing decisions can be difficult.
Look both ways.

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14 thoughts on “Why be Atheist?

  1. I stopped “being’ a Cat-lick when I was about 23–the church had been changing so rapidly in the previous 8 or 9 years that it had become no longer the ‘universal’ church (anywhere in the world, you could join the services armed only with your missal), that I was totally annoyed by it. I don’t take change lightly, or graciously.
    I still was a Catholic, but never went back to Mass, and only set foot in a church when my dad died, five years later. But the Church and I had definitely
    parted company.

    It took a long time, maybe 25 years, before I realized that most of the apocryphal bits of the bible were just that, and that most of the saints had been patterned on Roman gods (when I finally read about that, years later, it wasn’t so much a revelation as an affirmation), and then the whole egg cracked open and I understood that I was no longer involved in religion.

    And finally allowing myself to say it out loud. Immediately I got this amazing sense of empowerment, of being out there without the shaky sticky net of religion, of God, of all the heavenly hosts Watching me. To suddenly understand that you are totally responsible for yourself, for your own behaviors, is so freeing. Right or wrong, I have to accept that I am the author, or the screw up, of whatever i do.

    I didnt so much ‘accept’ atheism, as slide into it. It was there, waiting for me to find it.
    Nor talk about it much if at all face to face with people, although I do in here. This is, after all, New England, and religion until now has always been kept at home, or in the church you attend or don’t attend. It’s no one’s business.

    I do miss the concept of heaven, though. It was very comforting to know it was there, and the idea of dying into nothing takes much more conscious acceptance than anything else.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. You can add “Mystics” to those accepting of Atheist, although we might get lumped in with Pagans. Labels, being just that, don’t ever tell you the whole story of a person and yet many are judged by a label like Atheist. Your blog on this topic has been enlightening for me and I’m sure it is helpful to many traveling a similar path. Thank you for sharing your journey.

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  3. I never think you should be humiliated, ridiculed or looked down on because of what you believe. Your honesty and general goodness as a human being has too much value- Bill. But I’m not ashamed of what I believe either. As a Christian it’s my pleasure that I’ve discovered Jesus. Although I see why someone might object that I think Jesus came so we could be saved, I don’t see the downside of actually being saved. Every good gift comes from God. Jesus and true love and grace and mercy and Heaven and the Holy Spirit to guide and comfort until I get there. To me it’s like you’re declaring yourself free from chocolate cake. Or from sweet summer days. Or from clean water when you’re thirsty. It all comes from Him- strength and cleverness, art and beauty, the five senses, the wonderful world- all of it. Why would a person want to be free from that?

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    • You are a very sweet and kind person. But you really do not get atheism. Your analogies of god (cake, nice day, or water), all real things, may be okay for a believer, but I need no freedom from what does not exist. Religion, however, does exist. And freedom from that is my gift to myself, to the degree that I can be free of it–which is not nearly enough.

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    • Winnie, I admire you your faith, but as Pluviolover said, it’s the freedom from religion that’s important here. At least to us. Our only responsiblity is ourselves, and our own personal morality. Most of the atheists I’ve ever known have a fairly live-and-let-live attitude toward other people, and I have never known of one of them who tried to ‘entice’ a person of faith off their chosen path.
      That’s their business.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. It does seem strange, essiep, but when you grow up in a strict fundie family, or a dedicated Catholic family, declaring yourself atheist means you could be disowned, thrown out of the house, or basically ostracized not only by your family but also by the community you no longer are a part of.
    It never used to be this rigid. you went to church, or not. You had the wisdom to keep your mouth shut about not believing, and just stopped going to church or went and napped, waking up to sing a hymn or feed the collection plate. . No one really got in your face about what you believed, it was as private as what you and your spouse got up to in bed.

    As far as theocracy goes, this country always claims to have been founded on ‘freedom of religion” and holds itself up to be a democracy. Wrong on both counts. We are a republic, not a democracy, and freedom of religion at the time it happened meant freedom of MY relgion, kiddo, not yours. The pilgrims came here after being persecuted in England, looking for a place to practice their own brand of worship. That did NOT mean they were any more accepting of other religions than their own persecutors had been. Jews, Catholics, and gypsies were swiiftly escorted right out of town.

    I suspect it’s our own fault, in a way. I don’t ever recall, as a kid, any adult declaring themselves to be atheist. You sort of figured they just didnt go to church, and left it at that.
    Now it seems to have become a need to talk about it. You discover all kinds of people who are agonizing over ‘coming out’ and sometimes heading right back down the rabbit hole instead.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Other Europeans have said that it is not such an issue there as it is here. More coming on this next Tuesday, but again it is focused on USA culture. I appreciate others informing us of how it is in their part of the world.

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