Sunday, July 29, 2007

Who knows you are an atheist?

For my money... this is the best way to manage triple digit temperatures and bored children.

Possum#3 is packin'.

Don't mess with her.'s freakin' hot! It's so hot that I'm having a hard time thinking of stuff to blog about. And, yes. That is an ice chest filled with water balloons (one of three that the kids had access to).

Jack and I are going to try and get together tomorrow night and record the second podcast. That ought to be fun.

I had an interesting conversation with my sister-possum-in-law. She, like the rest of the family, was born and raised in a Catholic family. She, like me, has come to view the Church in a less than flattering light. I won't be so bold as to define her beliefs for her, but I think it's safe to say that she's not above questioning the practices of the institution. Why is this blog worthy? Well...because... I haven't told many members of my extended family about my thoughts. My FIL and MIL know, because they come to visit and we've had intense discussions about religion and philosophy. But, the DH and I hadn't really shared our philosophies with our sibs. I'm actually kind of sad that I didn't have more faith in my SIL --- I think, if she and I had time, we'd have some wonderful conversations.

My conversation with her made me think about how we, as atheists, relate to the world. I consider myself a pretty vocal atheist and, yet, there are still people who don't know my position. Is it the same for you? Are there certain people you don't share with? Or, are you completely open about it? I just have this feeling that we're missing out on connections out of fear. What say you?


whosawhatsis? said...

Considering the fact that roughly half of the shirts that I frequently wear bear an atheistic message more obvious than that of the shirt I ordered a few hours ago (which features the scarlet "A" that I see you have added to the left of this site), I think most of the people that I interact with on a regular basis are aware of my atheism.

Sean the Blogonaut F.C.D. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sean the Blogonaut F.C.D. said...

I still try and hide it because Australia is such a religious country...NOT!

I am open, still yet to be challenged by anyone. I where ATHEIST emblazened on my sweatshirt to the gym, shopping, to work so yeah, I am pretty open about it.

My parents know as well, don't know about my sister, she lives 2000km's away.

Interesting idea the Scarlet letter.

Jason said...

If people can't figure out I'm an atheist, then their observatonal skills are thin on the ground. Frequent 'blasphemy' follow by raucous laughter in potentially inapproproate situations may be a decent indiator...

My parents know. My dad seems not to care, my mum labours under some sort of odd disapproval which I'm highly dismissive of. She's pseudo-catholic, which I guess explains the healthy state of denial...

Still, I identify myself as atheist on my personal blog, my facebook account and anywhere else that asks for religious affiliation (yes, I know, it's not a religion... blah blah)

if it doesn't come up though, it doesn't come up.

I am however an early responder if someone else pulls up their beliefs:

Them - "I believe in god"
Me - "you're clearly insane and may benefit from psychiatric help"

Reg Nullify said...

I don't cover up my atheism at all.
My immediate family is well aware of my lack of belief and at home it isn't a problem because my sons share my unbelief and my wife is a deist. Two of my siblings are half-assed believers, they attend mass but I suspect it's more of a Pascal's Wager kind of thing.

The common social ice breaker here in the south is, "What church do you attend?". When I answer that I don't, I'm an atheist, the usual reaction is to flee from the heretic or a full court press to convert me, which I find utterly amusing. Some atheists around here won't come out in fear of losing their jobs, which is a very real consequence in the bible belt. My employer is a new-agey Depak Chopra type, looking for quantum enlightenment or something and doesn't care much what anyone believes. The only time he and I discussed spiritual matters was when he bought "The Secret" and I started giggling when I saw it on his desk.

Katie said...

I'm very open. All of my friends know, my family knows (and we discuss it regularly whenever my parents and I or my brother and I get together), I'm married to an atheist...I make no efforts to hide it.

I don't just come out and tell employers/colleagues, but if the topic of religion comes up I don't hesitate to identify myself as an atheist, even here in the bible belt. I see this almost as a civic duty or responsibility...I think that telling people who know and (hopefully) respect me gives them the opportunity to see an atheist as something other than an opponent on their religious battlefield.

Zeolite said...

I haven't told most of family because it wearies me to even think about the conversation that would follow.

I use to keep it secret out of fear that it would alienate me from the family, however after suffocating through a few supportive rants of Bush and the war in Iraq I succumbed, weaken by a strong rum and coke, to a messy verbal explosion were I told them they were all idiots. So I have already secured my status as the black sheep.

aimee said...

***sorry, turned out longer than I thought, going for a russ type answer here : )

I never really thought about this sort of question until I married my husband who is Atheist and proud that he escaped the clutches of his very christian family.

Anyway, because of him, I started to think about what my family's views were on the sky pixie. We didn't talk about god or commandments, we didn't pray or go to church, so I always assumed they were atheist like me.

I finally got up the nerve to ask my mom what she believed, I would call her agnostic at best, but claims to be christian, if that makes sense.

I don't talk much to my older brothers, but I had to opportunity where I had to drive one of them a very long distance, just the two of us, this was a few months ago actually, and I finally just blurted it out. He said that he too was an Atheist : ) I told him I was proud of him. My SIL is pretty much the same and she also comes from a very religious family.

My other brother we assume is atheist also and same with my other SIL, just because of other conversations.

It bothers me with my mom though because now she is convinced that this whole time we should have been exposed to church. She has said to me, that I might have turned out better had we gone to church. WTF!!

Then on my husbands side, they all know that we are hethens, and its all jesus all the time when we are around. I'm convinced they pour it on thick when we visit. My one BIL is a preacher and my other BIL is what I call a "convenient christian", he goes to church to please him parents when he visits, but a closet atheist I guess.

Anonymous said...

I don't hide my atheism, but I don't introduce myself with "Hi, I'm ___, and I'm an atheist" either.

I'm pretty lucky. In my family, my dad, my sister (my only sibling), and I are atheists. My mom (as I've mentioned previously) is wacko RC. Dh is atheist, and his dad and bro, I'm pretty certain, are both agnostic or atheist. His mom was religious, but not a fundie nut.

Ds#1 is atheist (he's the Skeptic-reading kid), and ds#2 doesn't understand enough to go in any direction.

Our closest friends in town are atheists, and at least half of my other good friends are either atheists or ambiguously non-religious.

We tolerate being "blessed" or "prayed for" by others, but if they press the point, we politely tell them we don't believe in their god.

We have "The End of Faith," "Skeptic's Dictionary," and the "Selfish Gene" proudly displayed on our living room bookshelf. If that and my oft atheist e-mail sig lines don't tip people off, I don't know what will. ;) I don't usually wear clothing with slogans/writing on them.

kaycee said...

Most of my friends know I'm an atheist, which is not bad considering I only made a firm decision about my beliefs about a year ago.

My family, however, does not know. They're practicing, if not incredibly conservative or devout, Catholics, and the most disliked relative in the family is my atheist uncle. Granted, the guy is an asshole and openly mocked us for saying grace on thanksgiving, which is just rude, but because of him I have a pretty good idea of what they'd think of me if I came out and told them. As it is, I'm already a bit of an outsider in this family, so I'd like to put off this final falling-out for awhile longer... at least until I am fully moved out. I'm in college and still dependent on my family for a home during breaks.

Apexmi said...

I decided to come out and be a proud atheist after my 13 year old daughter said, Dad i'm a atheist the whole god thing just doesn't make any sense. My sister is sad for me. (she's a very hardcore southern baptist for going on about 5 years now) We were raised catholic, my dad says hey you gotta believe what you gotta believe.

Skeptic said...

I was not really out of the closet until 3 years ago at about age 37. Now most in my personal life are aware(likely because of the darwin fish), but on a professional level. I try not to talk about it. If it comes up however, I will defend rationality.
Very good blog, just found you and have liked to you from link page.

Chris said...

I'm getting more and more comfortable being open about being an atheist. I've told my mom, and since it was in the middle of a fight, I'm sure by siblings heard me. Unfortunatly, since I said it during that fight, I don't know if my mom thinks I'm just being an "angry kid". Thankfully, she hasn't pushed it since.

I have cut myself from my extended family to a certain degree, though. I'm really uncomfortable around them, it's a massive preacher family. More than half a dozen preachers, and dozens of churches either started or preached at. I haven't been around them much since my mom found out, but knowing her, the news has I don't know what's going to happen whenever I meet up with some of the extended family next. I know I've gotten some flak for being more democrat, and that's a much more minor issue to them than religion and believing in the "truth" (An example of how important the "truth" is to them: I listened as my grandma told my sister, 13 at the time, not to listen / trust her friend because her church didn't believe baptism was required to get to heaven...)

As for non-family, I'm more open about it, though not directly. If anybody asks, or if it comes up, I'll tell them, but I'm generally not the one to bring it up. Yes, I have been shunned because I told somebody, so that experience put me off from confiding in people a bit.

Ginny said...

I'm totally out of the closet about it and have been for years and years. However I did hide it from my boss for a time when I learned that she had a problem with prayer not being part of the public school system. I was asked to pray for someone one time and that's when I came out to her and told her I didn't believe in that stuff.

As for friends and family I didn't hide it at all.

Chakolate said...

I think everyone I know as a friend knows I'm an atheist, but I'm a tutor, and I have to be pretty careful about which of the parents know.

Half of me feels very cowardly about that, but the other half, the one that likes to be able to pay the bills, just thinks it's wise.

Lynn's Daughter said...

I've told few people...however, I'm the GSA sponsor at our school so my religiosity is already under scrutiny. I did have a bumper sticker on my car from American Atheists. I guess I only bring it up if they do. Most people I know are too polite to bring it up.

aimee said...

What is really irritating is that people assume you are christian or what have you just because you are a nice person!

You know all too well Pmomma what this is like.

Whalehugger said...

Both the hubby and I are atheists and though we don't pronounce it to the world, we don't hide it either. If the subject comes up about religion, we will respond, but otherwise don't bring it up. Not ashamed of the fact, mind you, just don't bring it up without good reason.

One of my co-workers is atheist and she and I get along great, but we don't bring it up at all in regards to work. Everyone else is heavy duty Christian and I don't want to lose my job.

I'm a bit edgy about telling my friends about it, especially the ones I'm closest to. I don't have a lot of friends and I don't want to lose any. I have mentioned that I'm atheist on myspace page, and have a red A displayed there, so I'm not hiding it, but I'm not blurting it out either. Guess I'm a bit of a coward sometimes :)

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately for me, I work in an office of about 12 and everyone of them are believers, one of which is a total zealot. Since I have to work closely with these people everyday I can't let it be known that I'm an Atheist. There's no doubt they would treat me different. Sad but true.

Poodles Rule said...

Most everyone who knows me knows, except the inlaws, I would dread that whole "conversation".

Berlzebub said...

I'm fairly open about it, to my friends. However, I haven't mentioned it to my family. A few years ago, I might have told my mom and dad, but they've recently started going to church on a regular basis.

As far as the rest of the world goes, I'm not open about it. My wife knows, of course, and a few of my "inner circle", but I leave it up to my coworkers to figure out (make assumptions is more like it) on their own.

I wish I could be more open about it in the meat world, but when I told one friend that I was an agnostic, she started reading more into my every action and sentence than what I actually meant. It became very irritating, and I eventually lost touch with her.

The reason I'm not open amongst my family is because of my mom and dad. I think they might eventually accept it, but there are too many fundies in my family who I would expect to blame my mom and dad, and ostracize them for my lack of belief. So, in order to keep the peace in the family, which isn't that peaceful anyway, I keep the conversations away from religion. Granted, I was raised pentecostal and married an RC, and that's caused some tension, but nothing compared to what would happen if they found out I was a non-believer.

Nicest Girl said...

I am fairly open about my atheism. I don't try to hide it from anyone (meaning, if it comes up in conversation and I feel the need to join I will voice my views) but I tend not to go out of my way to talk about it. Most people I know, although disappointed to find out I don't believe in the Christian God, try to respect me for it and don't put up a fight. My family knows although we don't talk about it and I'm sure they believe it to be some kind of "phase" I'm going through (as my dad told me when I was 12 or so).

Ginny said...

My family knows although we don't talk about it and I'm sure they believe it to be some kind of "phase" I'm going through (as my dad told me when I was 12 or so).

Heh, my mom told me the same thing when I was a young adult. Mind you I've been an atheist since I was about nine years old and am still an atheist at the tender age of 41. ;)

Summer Squirrel said...

I don't volunteer the fact that I'm an atheist to people I have face-to-fact contact with. Even though I live in Houston, TX most people in my circle of friends don't outwardly discuss religion.

My extremely religious family knows I'm an atheist and I tend to antagonize them on their faith and beliefs. It's the main topic of discussion on my blog. I decided that if they feel it's necessary to discuss God within the context of an email (family group thing) then I should have the freedom to discuss my problem with it. I've stepped on a lots of toes and three people refuse to talk to me.

Fortunately, I've also discovered the other atheists within the family and they are good about offering support and extra laughs.

Shar said...

It's hard to say.

I'm still young, and still have very religious family members on my mother's side, and my husband's side that wouldn't take the news horribly well, sadly. My parents know, as do most of my friends. A good portion of my father's family knows (the ones that my mother would cry to anyway).

I still don't like stepping on most people's philosophical toes, and I feel uncomfortable telling people who I know will forever change their opinion of me. Most of my husband's family feels that we are lapsed Catholics, though I know his dad knows more than meets the eye, just doesn't like to think about it.

I hate that feeling when someone feels bad for you, starts considering giving you religious gifts... especially when they are family. I don't talk about religion much in mixed company, to be honest.

Perhaps as I age I'll get more gumption, but the potential rifts aren't worth it at the moment.

Shar said...

Generally, though, to make another comment, if I'm uncomfortable with the person asking, generally a family member, I hedge with "I'm undecided" or "I'm still figuring it out," as in a lot of ways I am... just not in a way that has anything to do with accepting Christianity or any real organized religion. I feel bad, but there are just some people I'd rather not open that can of worms with. I can just tell, if that makes sense, who'll be a git about it in most cases.

Especially people who I may have to deal with a lot but won't talk with more than a few times, whose entire opinions of me are based on a few moments of time together.

Strangers? Friends? Peers? That, I generally am very straightforward with, even ready to debate and stand up for my beliefs. Just not certain family members. Sad, in a lot of ways, I suppose.

Paul said...

[silentsanta, NZ]

I've been atheist for about a year now. I haven't broken the news to my family at all. My older brother and his wife are basically missionaries working for 'Campus Crusade for Christ' / 'Student Life', and my father is the director of the tertiary education wing of one of the largest non-denominational churches in the country. I guess I have my work cut out for me, huh?
Any advice, then? :)

Paul said...

[silentsanta, NZ]

I perhaps didn't stress quite how fundamentalist Christian the church in question is..

Ang said...

I'm pretty open about it now. I've talked about it with my mom a few times, but I usually pull the "I'm agnostic" bit - it doesn't sound as bad as the other A word. I once told her that other people could think she was an atheist because she doesn't go to church (my parents haven't attended church since I was very young and I'm almost 42). She was aghast that people may think that about her. Thinking back now, that may be when her obsession with angel figurines began.
Since both of my sons are adults now, I feel more open about expressing my views. My youngest is 18 and is starting his senior year of high school. I am sometimes concerned that he may try to make an issue about prayer at school. He would wear Atheist shirts if I would let him.
Fortunately, we have close friends right across the street with similar views. Makes life alot easier. And more fun!!