How “out” are you?

I have to admit, as an atheist, I spend a lot of time in the closet. I feel like I’m surrounded by conservative Christians, especially at work. I mean, they don’t call it “Holy Toledo” for nothing. I don’t know any Christians who are afraid to announce their beliefs publicly, especially since almost everybody in the room feels the same way they do. I sometimes envy that freedom. If someone were to point-blank ask me if I’m a Christian I would say “no”, but oftentimes people assume that I am and I painfully go along with it. Revealing that I’m an atheist — or anything other than Christian for that matter — could start a confrontation or at the very least some uncomfortable awkwardness. Most days it doesn’t seem worth it. Also, I like my job and don’t want to lose it. 

It’s difficult. I know there are a lot of places that don’t have to deal with this issue. It’s not that I want to “preach” atheism, I just don’t want to feel like I have to hide something that’s important to me. Maybe with time things will improve. I’ve recently kicked it up a notch with an American Atheists car decal. No one has said anything so far and honestly, I hope no one ever does.


Is anyone else sick of hiding?


  1. StonedRanger says

    No, Ive been out for most of my life and Im 65. I can understand how you feel, Ive been in the same situation at work many times. The best way to avoid it is to just not discuss religion at work. No one can force you to talk about things youd rather not. Anyone that insists is an asshole. As I got older I just didnt care what people think about my being an atheist cause frankly its none of their business. And if the are assholes, and they do insist then I just ask them to prove their god is existent and until then they can just leave me alone. And if they pull out their bible card I tell them the bible is nothing more than the big book of assertions and anecdotes is not the plural of evidence. That usually shuts them up and they leave me alone. YMMV.

  2. says

    Is anyone else sick of hiding?

    I don’t feel that stress, but I don’t actually have to talk about religion to anyone if I don’t want to do so.

    So… if no one is talking about religion (which is my norm in British Columbia), the fact that I don’t talk about non-religion is … boringly normal.

    Sorry if I’m not able to commiserate. But I can sympathize, and maybe it’s worthwhile to know that in other places not bothering with religion isn’t seen as out of the ordinary.

  3. says

    Last year I was getting my hair cut by a hairdresser I had gone to for years. Somehow the conversation went to she says something like “Of course as Christians we blab, blab, blab. I too was getting sick of being undercover so I replied “Actually, I am an atheist so I have a different take on blag, blag, blag.

    Her lips tightened, she stopped talking to me, and then gave me the worst haircut I have ever had. I went back next day, on her day off, to speak to the manager, just about the haircut. She looked at me and then said “Oh, you’re the one. You upset *****, what did you expect? If you don’t like your haircut, don’t come back.
    Nice to know that being an atheist is a super power that can make “true believers” scream and run away, and small businesses drop steady customers.

    BUT over the last years, when the conversation turns that way I do now say “As an atheist…” There’s quite a few discussions about “No I don’t hate GAWD”, “No, I don’t say GAWD does not exist”. I have learned to be cheerful, upbeat, and matter of fact, Surprisingly, most people are surprised, ask some questions, and after a few minutes, days or weeks, get over it and just move on.

    I do get some who seem convinced that if they only tell me a great testimony, give me a pamphlet, or recite a bible verse, I will instantly convert. After I cheerfully ask for evidence, they tend to give up. Some threaten Hell. Again I ask, in a cheerful, interested way, where hell is located, or who made hell, or where hell is mentioned in the bible, and they go away. I think most people in my circle have found to their quiet surprise it doesn’t actually matter to them.

    Good luck to you, but do stay safe.

  4. anat says

    I’m not hiding, but it doesn’t come up much. I work in a non-profit that does bio-medical research, so I tend to assume most people around me are some flavor of non-believers or at most people who ‘believe in belief’, or just adhere to some traditions for fun, or perhaps reflexively. I know one colleague maintains ties to the religion of his upbringing for strategic networking purposes. I do know one colleague, a very rational person otherwise, has a very sincere belief in some vague version of Christianity because he believes the Voice of God told him how to solve some personal crisis years back. And for another former colleague it was very important to raise her children as Catholics because how else would she teach them good values? (yes, this one had me floored).

    Outside of work, again, it doesn’t come up much. I have one friend in a political activism group for whom religion is important, so I just nod when she tells me that when she has trouble sleeping she prays for various people.

    Then there is my son’s partner who was raised in some conservative church and has been moving towards more liberal interpretations of Christianity. I just listen to them working things out for themself.

    The most difficult part for me is when people know I’m from Israel and start asking me for a Jewish POV on whatever – there isn’t *one* Jewish POV on anything, and whichever it is, I don’t actually believe the mythology of it nor do I follow the customs.

  5. Katydid says

    You have a young daughter, so I’m sharing something that happened back in the 1990s, when my oldest started kindergarten. Preschool and before that, daycare, had been in a small group in a building attached to my husband’s office and everything had been just fine, so I was completely floored when my brand-new kindergartener came home the first day of school upset. “Mommy, I don’t want us to go to hell!” Where did that come from? A child in kindergarten told my child that anyone that didn’t attend the right church (a fundy nutcase whackjob church) was going straight to hell.

    I showed up at school the next day to talk to the teacher, who blew it off, so I made an appointment with the principal, who looked me right in the eye and said, “You may want to change churches if you don’t want to go to hell.”

    This was in a PUBLIC school. I wish I could tell you that was the only stupidity, but for the next decade through several children, I found myself surreptitiously pulling down religious posters, scooping up and throwing away religious tracts, and refusing permission for my children to be subjected to before-school, lunchtime, and afterschool proselytization from “good news”-type child evangelical groups. My feistiest child threw away bibles handed out in class. Yes, we were school pariahs.

  6. Dr Sarah says

    Oh, goodness; makes me very glad I don’t live in the USA! In the UK nobody really seems to care either way; if I told people I was an atheist, I think the only thing that would surprise them would be that I was talking about religion at all.

    Anyway, I’m actually on here for another reason; I realised you might not have heard the FTB bloggers are starting a kind of online social hangout on Sundays (think it’s due to start in just over an hour from the time I post this). If you want details, drop me an e-mail; you should get my e-mail on this. Take care.

  7. blf says

    Not really a concern here in France, no-one seems to be bothered in the slightest (with the exception of a few nutcases). What there is too much of is bigotry towards various cultures or believers(-of-some-other-religion) — plus racism — e.g., antisemitism, anti-Islam, and anti-Roma are all sadly far too real (that is not a complete list, but are some of the most(?) common I can think of (or, perhaps, am aware of)).

    And there is Le Pen’s nazi party — teh le penazis as I call them — who have been winning far too high a percentage of votes in both national and some regional / local elections. Locally, in the S.France Mediterranean seaside village where I live, which unfortunately is also a le penazi “hot spot”, they have an office right on the main pedestrianised shopping street. It’s usually empty, looks rather pathetic, and has been repeatedly vandalised. (There are no le penazi elected officials in the village, fortunately.)

    The second round of local elections — postponed due to the pandemic — is now scheduled for later this month, and unfortunately, the le penazis seem to be in with a chance of taking control of a large(-ish) city here on the Southern coast, Perpignan (near the Spanish border; I’m closer to the Italian border). All(?) the opposition parties in Perpignan have formed a fragile anti–le penazi alliance.

    There’s also a peculiar angle to France’s bigotry and racism: There not only are no official statistics, it’s illegal to even try to obtain such statistics. The problem is France claims to be officially “colour-blind” with various laws to supposedly enforce that. Hence, in that peculiar sort of reasoning I called “French logic”, measuring the extent of bigotry is not “colour-blind” and therefore illegal; Furthermore, since France is “colour-blind”, there is nothing to measure. From memory (I cannot find a reference at the moment, sorry!), very recently, in response to the BLM protests, a Minister reconfirmed this “colour-blind” myth and insisted(?) there would be no change about the illegality of statistics.

    There have been loads of proxy measures (e.g., two identical CVs (résumés) except for the names — one apparently Arabic and the other apparently not — guess who is more likely to be invited for an interview…). The pandemic has made clear — e.g., disproportionately more deaths, etc., in minority communities — there is a real & serious problem. (Because of the problem of no “official” statistics, the “disproportionate” is, as far as I know, based on common-knowledge of where poorer / minority communities live.) Also see ‘Black and treated as such’: France’s anti-racism protests expose myth of colour-blind Republic.

    “When you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meager and unsatisfactory kind; it may be the beginning of knowledge, but you have scarely, in your thoughts advanced to the stage of science.” — William Thomson (Lord Kelvin), 1883.

    • blf says

      A follow-up to my previous comment (which, as I type this, is still in the moderation queue).

      Apparently, Germany has a similar problem as France (as far as statistics go), albeit for a different and perhaps less-fictitious reason. According to France and Germany urged to rethink reluctance to gather ethnicity data, Germany also doesn’t collect such data. Germany used to, but the real nazis then used that data in the Holocaust, so it’s now basically verboten. (And, apparently, here in France, the vichy collaborationist “government” also abused what data existed.)

      That article, as an aside, confirms my memory: Two (unnamed) French government Ministers, and the President, Emmanuel Macron, have said very recently they are against collecting the relevant data.

  8. TGAP Dad says

    I am, as I say, knockin’ on 60 as I write this, and I was one of the fortunate ones in my generation to have never been raised with any religion. So I don’t have any cool apostasy stories, about seeing the (lack of) light, etc. What I DID have was a public school education, mostly in middle-class suburbia, in which the school tried to slide religion in under the door in every year of my schooling. The “free” concerts, Gideon’s bibles, mandatory assemblies, sex ed (abstinence-style, natch), and on and on. I had classmates assure me that my getting bullied was punishment from the lord. From the occasional teacher interaction, Easter and Christmas vacations, to the peer interactions, religion was woven throughout the public schools, sometimes more obvious, other times more subtle.
    College was a refreshing change from the religious world, where religion was never discussed, either in class (excepting once in intro philosophy), or outside of class.
    The stories I find most compelling are the ones of people who grew up within a faithful household, then rejected the faith later in life. The social cost the apostates suffer is heartbreaking, made worse by their own families’ prioritizing faith over familial bonds. I could never imagine cutting my daughter or son out of my life over a belief, not even if they became republicans!

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