Many atheists, especially in the United States, do not feel safe or comfortable about being open or outspoken about their atheism. They fear they will be ostracized or shunned by family, friends, and strangers alike.
This article discusses why it is important for atheists to feel free to be open and honest about their atheism!
It can be difficult to come out of the atheist "closet". But I think it is vitally important, for several reasons.
On a personal level, being open is important because it is never healthy to feel like you have to keep part of yourself hidden. It can cause a great deal of anxiety, and it is so much simpler and rewarding when you can just be open and honest about who you are.
Most people, when I tell them I'm an atheist, turn out not to really care. This is especially true of friends. And it's a good way to find out who your real friends are! The ones who don't want anything to do with you because of what you do or don't believe... Well, I figure I can do without that kind of conditional friendship.
There is no reason that any atheist should feel ashamed about their beliefs (or lack thereof). You are the one who relies on things like reason, logic, and evidence for your decision-making. You aren't the one who believes in invisible creatures like fairies, ghosts, goblins, demons, angels, and a god who is running around reading all of our thoughts and judging every little thing we do. You aren't the one who believes in childish concepts like heaven and hell. You aren't the one who requires the threat of eternal damnation in order to act ethically.
Feel free to be confident in your atheism!
There are many other reasons that go beyond yourself to be a "loud and proud" (or at least proud) atheist.
First off, people need to know we're out here! In the U.S., we are a very large, but very quiet minority, precisely because so few people talk about it. By most estimates there are between 15 and 30 million of us just in this country! If you know a lot of people, you probably know a lot of atheists and don't even realize it.
The more of us who come out, the less reason we'll have to hide.
It's not uncommon that when someone finds out I'm an atheist for the first time, it turns out they are also. Or they at least admit to having doubts, or some sort of agnosticism. And many of them want to pick my brain.
Religion does not deserve the free pass that it often gets in modern-day society. A religious belief should be no different than any other belief. It should be open to questioning if it doesn't make sense, and it should be dispensed with if it causes harm.
(The next article on this site (Atheist Evangelism) gives many, many more reasons why you should care, and why you should consider being an outspoken atheist.)
Of course, everyone is different, and only you know your situation. There may be many reasons why, at least at the present time, it may be a bad idea for you to come out of the atheist closet. I don't think I need to go over these, you can probably figure out what they are. If it is likely to adversely affect your job or some other important aspect of your life, you may want to consider keeping quiet for the time being. Perhaps try to alter your circumstances to put yourself in a position where you feel safer or more comfortable first.
What do you do when you are ready to come out? A good start is to find support among a group of like-minded people. Check the Internet for local groups in your area. Existing groups may go by any number of names, such as atheists, humanists, freethinkers, skeptics, etc. A Google search with your city name and one of these terms should yield some results.
If there aren't any groups in your area, start one! It can be a discussion group, a book reading group, or just a social/drinking group.
Most simply yet most importantly, be willing to get involved in discussions with theists. Don't be silent, and don't let ideas that you think are unsupported go unchallenged. You don't have to call them absurd, but be willing to present alternative viewpoints. The articles on this site related to evangelism will give you more ideas on the proper (and improper) ways to conduct religious discussions. Build a repertoire of information to give to people about atheism, using this and other similar sites. (Or just send people to this site if they have questions!)
- The OUT Campaign!
- American Atheists:Coming Out
- About.com: Coming Out to Your Family
- Secular Web: Why Come Out as an Atheist?
- More links at Google!