Sunday, August 10, 2008

Coming out

I got a strange e-mail this morning. I'm sure some others received it, too. The subject line read "Challenge to Atheist Bloggers". The author of the e-mail challenges people to come out and use their real names on blogs because he's found the courage to do so. He suggests that using a pseudonym on your blog is "hiding behind anonymity." It seems noble, and maybe that's what he intended it to be, but let's take a look below the surface.

1. I think it's pretty arrogant to say, "If you don't come out as I have done, then you are hiding." People here definitely know who I am. My read name has been circulated a couple of times to those who needed it. And, frankly, if this guy had read my blog regularly, then he would know that.
2. He's an author pushing a book. Well, of course, you are going to put your real name out there! Otherwise, how will people find your book?
3. He completely ignores that, for some, coming out is still dangerous. There's nothing brave or courageous in coming out if it means you will lose your job, your children, your life, or any number of things that we cherish. A reader, who can self-identify in comments if he chooses, recently went through a nasty divorce. Despite that his ex-wife was an atheist at the time their children were born, she converted after the split. She told the judge that her husband was going to force the kids into atheism and this judge decided that was reason enough to deny the husband's request for joint physical custody. Standing up for who and what you are is admirable. But, there are consequences. Boy! Do I know that?! So, to flippantly say "I came out and so should you." is short-sighted.
4. He says,...
But what about other oppressed minorities whose members have had the courage to
take a risk, to stand up for what they believe? Should Rosa Parks have given up
her seat on the bus to a white person? Should women have agreed that they
weren't worthy of the right to vote? Should gays and lesbians stay in the closet
and suffer? What about Bertrand Russell's courage?

I may be dense, but I don't see how these examples relate to his "challenge". He's using emotion to prompt someone to come out. I find that ironic because he says that he knows atheists work from a grounded position with reason. So, why appeal to the emotional?
5. His blog is fairly new with few comments on the entries. And, he has a very generic list of blogs that he reads or subscribes to. I've chatted with some of the people who also received his e-mail and they've never heard of him before now.
6. You don't have to go by your real name to have an impact.

So...I know some of you are wondering why I'm not linking to his site. I have two reasons. One, I think he's only trying to drum-up an audience for his book. I'm not going to be a marketing tool for someone I don't know or a book I haven't read. If he wants to end me a copy of the book, then I'll read it and share my thoughts. I'll post a link...if the book is good. But, somehow...I'm guessing that won't happen. Not because he wouldn't do that, but because I'm pretty sure he's not actually reading the blogs he's claiming to have surveyed. I want to see if he really reads my blog or if he just spammed the first fifty hits in Google.


Humanist Mama said...

I didn't get an e-mail but I had a comment from him on my blog. I had the same feeling that he is trying to promote his book, but he didn't really think of some consequences people face by coming out in the blogosphere. We'll see if he responds to anybody's comments.

I hope everything is well with your family and that you're all having a great time watching the Olympics :)

Poodles said...

Huh, I didn't get either, at least not yet. That's ok, I get the feeling I'm not missing much.

I say "bully for him". Now leave the rest of us alone.

Berlzebub said...

Considering the anonymity you have, and the problems you still have to deal with I think the guy is a little too self-involved.

Besides, very few on the blogosphere know my real name, and I'd like to think I've had an impact. It seems like he's making a variation on the argument from authority.

Cogito said...

First of all, I'm hiding my children behind my anonymity, thank you very much.

Second, I blog anonymously, but everyone I know pretty much knows I'm an atheist. I used to have atheist bumper stickers on my car. I put it as my "religion" on my medical forms. When it comes up in conversation, I identify myself, and not using ambiguous terms like "humanist" or "agnostic." Considering that I know a lot more people in real life than (I suspect) read my blog, I'd say I'm making an impact.

I like to use my blog to be able to be insensitive - to talk about people thinking Christians are stupid, or discuss abortion as self-defense - things I don't talk about in front of my believing friends. I don't need fruit loops like PMomma has had stalking my family because of it.

BC Cook said...

The gay/lesbian analogy is apt. I'm pleased for everyone who comes out of the closet. I am sad for those too fearful to do so.
But the choice is up to the person involved and it's not my business to "out" anyone or to lecture them that they "should be" out.

And like gays/lesbians, atheists have plenty to fear from bigots.
I am completely "out" as an atheist in my life but I would hesitate to blog under my real name. Atheists who blog openly (like PZ) have my admiration, but not everyone can do that.

The Barefoot Bum said...

As an atheist who publishes his real name, I support 100% those atheists who do choose to remain anonymous.

It is important to have as many views as possible available to readers.

Chooky said...

For the time being it is probably wise to remain behind an anonymous name. Being an athiest is considered the greatest sin amongst every religious belief. This is because science has literally proven the non-existence of a god. They would do anything (and I mean anything!) to stop us sharing our views even though they would make sense to a child (hence the need for segregation). I know that religious people would resort to extreme violence and then claim that god told them to do it. These groups are also connected throughout society so anything passing through the courts or in politics gets a rejection when you mention your non-belief in a deity. And they say we live in a free world! This blog by Possummomma also shows that rationality and reason ruffles a few feathers. LOVE YOUR WORK and please please keep it up. The more we show that atheists are moral people with a love for humanity and that the truth is truly amazing the better off this world would be!

Spidergrackle said...

I'm with Cogito. I wonder if this person has children. Once you identify on the web, every drooling bog-botherer in the world could descend on you. Those you interact with IRL know you as a person and are less likely to cling to the common anti-atheist tropes. But some preacher from a nearby suburb, looking for dragons to slay, sees you as an opportunity to strike a blow for jeebus.

If you want to come out, good on ya. But I feel no obligation to do so if I feel it might subject those around me to abuse.

cognitive dissident said...

Although I blog anonymously, I'm out as an atheist both online and IRL...and I don't see a contradiction there. Like both Cogito and Spidergrackle, I don't want what I write online to diminish the privacy of anyone around me...

(Maybe I don't need to worry, as I'm not even well-known enough to have gotten an email from him...)

Natasha Yar-Routh said...

I don‘t blog under my ‘real’ name but quite a few people know me IRL as Natasha, some only know me as Natasha. I would like to change my name legally but for personal reasons that’s not going to happen any time soon. I’m walking a line between coming out and saying ‘yes I’m a trans-women, deal with it’ and not hiding it but not announcing it. Again this is all for personal reasons.

As for my atheism I don’t announce it either but will be happy to proclaim it should any one ask. Not that anyone has thanks to the assumption by most people that if you’re white you’re either Christian or Jewish. Of course if this nation weren’t so obsessed with religion it wouldn’t matter any way.

AS for when, where or how to come out that is an intensely personal decision to be weighed carefully before going ahead. While it would be nice for various civil rights struggles if everyone could be out not everyone can and it’s their decision and theirs alone to make.

Steve said...

Using your real name on the net can have unwanted consequences, not just for you, but for your family. This is especially true, if you become popular on the net later on.

It's best to try to stay as anonymous as possible on the net, whether you just have a blog, a website, or videos on YouTube. There are people out there who simply don't respect the boundary between the Internet and real life.

Autonomous said...

I'm out in public, but I don't use my real name on my blog. Not that I have any readers since I blog so rarely, but you never know.

Knitterman said...

I'll echo what others have said: "I've not gotten an email from someone about atheist bloggers." I'm not particularly anonymous or pseudonymous about it -- I write about atheist stuff on my personal blog and knitting stuff on my professional blog. Many people of faith are involved in fiberarts and I cannot afford to alienate current or potential future customers, so religion doesn't go on the professional blog. I certainly don't hide it, I just don't broadcast it where it isn't useful to do so.

Calladus said...

I think there may be some confusion in the definition of anonymity.

I dislike purely anonymous comments in my blog. (It makes it hard to tell anon #1 from anon #2). I, like Possummomma, encourage people commenting to choose a pseudonym and comment under it.

When someone chooses to blog under a pseudonym, they can develop a reputation that can be trusted by others.

Writing under a nom de plume is an honorable tradition of developing a reputation for your words that is not connected to your life. It serves to prevent confusion to the reader, to allow your words to stand on their own (which may prevent ad-hominim fallacy attacks), and of course to protect your privacy.

Trusted pseudonyms are nothing to look down upon. And if people like Clive Hamilton, Lewis Carrol and Isak Dinesen can do it, then so can I.

And life changes - at some point many people will give away their pseudonymous identity when they are in a stronger position to do so. It would have been disastrous for James Tiptree, Jr to give away her pseudonym until late in her life.

We are NOT anonymous - we are pseudo-anonymous. We have developed reputations for our pseudonyms that allow us to show who we are, without exposing us, or our family, or our friends to unnecessary danger or disparagement.

I think that is pretty damn admirable. If you've got a problem with that, complain to Mark Twain.

Psychodiva said...

yeah I got a comment on my blog- I told him I am already 'out' thankyou very much and the reason my blog is anonymous has nothing to do with ahteism and everything to do with being able to comment freely on my work without breaking confidentiality

DB said...

I am "out" to all my friends, coworkers, and family, but as far as plastering it on the net I think that isn't in my best interests. I have had a political blog a lot longer than an atheism blog and I certainly don't plaster my name on that either.

Sean the Blogonaut F.C.D. said...

This guy posted several times on blogs that I read. A few of these people we very open about their atheism. I passed him off as just spruking his book and being a little impolite in that he did not bother to really get to know the authors of those blogs enough to know that they were open or that like PM have good reasons for being anon.