Hemant Mehta, the Friendly Atheist, is being harassed by the Illinois Family Institute for the egregious crime of being both atheist and “out of the closet”. Laurie Higgins, leader of this wretched hive of scum and villainy, has implemented a smear campaign in an attempt to get Mehta fired from his position as a math teacher — ostensibly because being an atheist makes one unfit to teach children.
I still have a lot of problems with coming out to friends and family and co-workers for exactly this reason. The religious have co-opted the word atheist to mean all manner of vile and fallacious things, and it’s gotten to the point where jokes against atheists are laughed at on television with nary a person taking umbrage. A similar joke aimed at any other minority group would raise the hue and cry, and advertisers would be targeted, but with atheists, it’s perfectly okay to insult and demean them because belief in a deity is endemic to being human and we are therefore subhuman. It’s for this reason that I’m always very careful letting co-workers know about my blog, as if it becomes public knowledge where I work, I might get targeted for this same kind of harassment from intolerant religious folks. I don’t know whether my boss would much care about my lack of belief in deities, but having someone outside the company complain widely to people inside the company and higher up on the food chain than I am might lead to a great deal of unmerited discomfort.