My life has consisted of a lot of closet-hiding even though I’m not from a religious family. I’m now more open than ever, but I don’t feel like I’m out of the woods yet as far as discrimination and ridicule go. My biggest fear today is losing my job or not getting future employment. However, I believe in my writing projects. Speaking out is the right thing to do so I’m willing to risk it. (Thankfully, my husband makes a lot more money than I do.)
Have you seen conditions improve for atheists over time? I’ve seen conditions improve but I think it’s only because I’ve moved around. I wonder if life has changed at all back home in the country.
I’ve been really impressed learning about atheist groups all across the country while I work at promoting my poetry book. Some have book clubs. Some have thrown out first pitches at baseball games! It’s incredible to see how well some of these communities are doing. I once thought my best chance to thrive would be to hide who I am, but they are showing me that that just isn’t true.
What improvements have you seen? Have you lived in the same place for a while or have you moved around? What’s it been like?
I live in a university town and teach at a community college. For the past twenty-five years, I don’t think I’ve ever been proselytized to be a colleague, or even heard the subject of religious belief brought up. It just seems to be an “off-limits” subject. So where you work matters a lot.
I agree. I have worked in the mental health field since 2006, and I’m used to being surrounded by religion in both coworkers and clients. I spend a lot of time walking on eggshells.
“I don’t feel like I’m out of the woods”
Come live in Europe. Figuratively there are no woods here at all.
When I was a teenager, I was an exchange student and I spent a year in Denmark. It was absolutely amazing and my experience there still influences my life today. I don’t want to move but having spent time in Denmark definitely makes me want to make where I live a better place.
Sincerely, good luck with that.
“I spend a lot of time walking on eggshells.”
I’m European but went to middle/high school in the US. I was raised atheist, as was pretty much everyone I knew, of my and my parents’ generations. So at age 13 I naturally assumed that religion was something that only really old people (grandparents) did.
Yes, I was pretty naive and a bit socially awkward, as all teens are… When I moved to the US I basically assumed all my fellow classmates *and* my teachers (and neighbours, colleagues of my parents, and any other adult I met) were atheist. I’ve broken plenty of eggshells. People are not eggs and will generally survive the experience.
As just about everyone seems to have said, yes: By moving from the States to Europe. (I didn’t move to — or more accurately, return to (I am a dual-national by birth) — Europe because of being a non-believer.) Having said, that in both the States and Europe, in “University towns”, I have occasionally been proselytised-to; locally by fringe cults (all of States origin, I think), not all of which have been xian-derived. Locally, the 7th day arsehole cult are the most obnoxious (having a den of stoopidity in a nearby city), with Utah’s moronic cult a close second; fortunately, both are rare (every other year or so?). Excepting the arsehole cult, the locals — again, not all xian — aren’t a problem. Indeed, some of the locals I’ve met have been quite open about being non-believers.
I feel like things have improved but it may be me traveling from one group to another. I’m generally quiet and keep to myself so I don’t put my views on religion out there any more than I do anything else about me. In fact my parents sent me to catholic schools from first grade to senior year of highschool. And the only reason it stopped there is because they couldn’t afford to send me to a christian college. The whole mess decided me rather thoroughly on being atheist, although I gave wicca a try first.
I never told my parents I was atheist because my desire to tell them that never overcame my desire to not tell them anything. I never felt like I could actually trust them with knowing anything of real importance in my life. They were unwilling to act responsibly about personal matters and treat me with respect so I was in the closet as much as I could be about everything. They only knew the things about me I couldn’t hide from people who lived with me.
Career-wise I currently work in Information Technology (IT) as a Linux system administrator. I’m the kind of person who might manage a bunch of computers that are hosting websites for a company. But I got started on that path by reading books and learning while doing dead-end jobs. I was literally working the night shift at a gas station when I decided I needed a change and began reading about Linux. But getting a career in IT took many years so I saw a lot more dead-end jobs first. Generally speaking, the dead-end jobs all had believers. Even the places I’ve worked since that didn’t have much of an IT staff had a lot of believers. But where there was a whole IT department and not just a few people, I found other atheists. Which frankly shocked me. I’d gotten rather used to religion being a non-safe topic. I haven’t worked dead end jobs in quite awhile so I don’t know if things have changed since the rise of the “nones” in the US (people who don’t follow any particular religion).
So overall I think atheism has become more accepted but I’ve also changed the company I keep. I have no idea how much that has affected things. I don’t have anything to do with my family anymore nor do I have many friends from my dead end job days and the couple that do remain are also atheists. I didn’t select for that, they just happened to be the ones that didn’t have some manner of dramatic fallout or kept in touch.
As a quick side note I feel like I should also mention I met one of the very few true believers in christianity while working in IT. These are people who seem to be quietly living out their lives according to the best messages of christianity. I’ve met about as many wiccans who were true believers in their religion despite having met orders of magnitude more christians. I don’t count people who loudly proclaim their beliefs in this because they’re putting on a show. And they never seem to live up to it underneath the facade, they’re always falling into the trap of judging everyone around them. But true believers are actually wonderful people to know, whatever their beliefs, because they try to actually be good people. No one is perfect but they’re really giving it a go and I have a great deal of respect for that.