So here’s a scary thought — I came to this realization while working on my book yesterday about being an atheist with a mental illness:

I am way more willing to share the details of my mental illness than to disclose that I’m an atheist. Even though telling someone you’ve struggled with psychosis is some pretty heavy information, I feel I am more likely to face discrimination and ridicule as an atheist than as someone with a mental illness. It’s just the reality of where I live and work.

I wish I could be open about both — especially since being an atheist has had such a profound impact on my recovery. I feel atheists and believers alike need to hear that story.

I have schizoaffective disorder and have been in treatment for years. I have no problem telling people about my recovery, but it’s only been recently that I’ve told anyone about being an atheist.

Does anyone have a similar experience?



  1. blf says

    Not the same sort of thing at all, but nonetheless related: I’m not too keen on a one-word(-ish) label such as “atheist” or “nonbeliever” as a self-description. I’m not too certain why, but suspect it’s because I’ve gotten very annoyed over the years over specific instances when people read things into what I say or write which were not said or written. Hence, I have developed a number of phrases and habits over the years to try and avoid people adding their own meanings, interpretations, or “facts” in certain situations. Due to the culturally loaded possible misinterpretations of “atheist”, I currently suspect I’m trying a similar avoidance maneuver.

    Anyways, my own self-description varies but has been known to be along the line “Reading about, learning about, and dreaming about the various cultural myths of peoples can be fun, but I don’t presume those myths are now or ever were real.” However, “nonbeliever” is accepted here in France, so due to linguistic / language confusions, I do use that one-word self-label despite my, perhaps not very rational, misgivings.

    It occurs to me, as I type this, there should perhaps be a pithier take, loosely based on Tim Minchin’s “You know what they call alternative medicine that’s been proved to work? — Medicine.” Hum…

    It perhaps should be noted I’ve never ever been in a location or situation where people take the absurd concept of “blasphemy” seriously. In some places in the world, one can be “tried” and then executed for that. Without checking, I presume self-describing as a “nonbeliever” or referring, however indirectly, to certain beliefs as myths could, quite literally, be a lethal error.

    (And all the best in dealing with your condition!)

  2. Sean Boyd says

    Yes. 100% yes. And admitting to people I’m bipolar still earns me a fair bit of distrust. So much worse to admit I’m a godless heathen damned for all eternity to the fiery lake, or worse, Sunday school.

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