How often does your atheism come up?

Just curious. How often does your atheism come up in your daily life? Do you talk about it? Do others ask you about it? 

Prior to my book being released, I was in the closet. My family and close friends knew I was an atheist, but that’s about it. I would even let people assume I was a Christian — whatever got me through the day safely. 

Now my book is out there for the world to see and I’m no longer hiding. 

I’m more open, but to my surprise, it doesn’t really come up that often. Even some of my coworkers know about my book — still nothing. 

In the past few months since my book was released, no one has debated me. No one has invited me to church. No one has told me I’m going to burn in hell.

I was expecting some serious opposition, but to my pleasant surprise, it just hasn’t happened. 

Don’t get me wrong, there’s still some fear there and I definitely don’t go looking for trouble. 

But just maybe things will be okay.

How about you? Do people talk to you about being an atheist? Does it come up in your daily life?


  1. flex says


    I’ve never tried to hide my atheism, and I was raised in a non-religious household so I never had a religion to leave.

    I had a few interesting experiences when I was a child staying overnight at friend’s houses where the family went to church on Sunday morning. I was exposed to a number of different Christian rituals, but even then there was never any pressure from those families to join their church.

    While I’ve never tried to hide my atheism, even when I have discussions about religion with co-workers (most of my friends are atheist or non-denominational), my atheism was never a point of contention.

    I had a long, and interesting, discussion one time during a 2-hour car trip with a born-again, evangelical, co-worker. He professed a literal interpretation of the bible, and was willing to argue for it. We discussed Jesus’ miracle of the fishes. My contention was that the story could be viewed as allegorical, that by bringing Christianity to the multitude he fed them salvation rather than giving them a full stomach. That the multitude had a small amount of wisdom, represented by the two small fish, but when Jesus multiplied the fishes to feed everyone he was providing enough wisdom, or salvation, for the multitude. We discussed the implications of this idea, and the fact that a literal interpretation of the bible can still allow metaphors. We also discussed the idea that the miracle in this case was not a physical miracle of feeding the hungry, but the miracle of salvation.

    I do not believe that there is any truth in the idea of salvation. But I met him on his terms, and I showed his beliefs respect. Not out of respect for the beliefs, but out of the respect for the person holding them.

    I’ve found there really are very few people who see their religion as a means to start an argument. Most of the religious people I’ve met are respectful of the beliefs of others, at a personal level. While some religious people may consider themselves superior to those who are not in their tribe, most of them don’t think about it. They know they are special, but they don’t feel the need to brag. That doesn’t stop the occasional prejudicial remark, usually not in front of their target, but most people don’t want to have a deep discussion of their religion. This was true even when I was living in Turkey and knew a number of Muslim families. Most people see religion as part of their culture, not a stepping stone to argument.

    That being said, there are people, people of all faiths (even people who lack faith), who prefer to advertise their beliefs and get belligerent when challenged or when in a large enough troop (as in “a troop of baboons”) to select a scapegoat. Religion is as good a reason to pick a scapegoat as any other (all of them are bad reasons, but religion is no worse than color of someone’s skin or the accent of their voice). I prefer to call people like this assholes, and I don’t discriminate based on religion.

    Finally, my experience may not reflect others’. I am a large, white, confident, cis-male, who has so many other advantages (like living in a liberal area in a Northern US state) that I may not be challenged for my atheism as much as others might. But I’ve never found my atheism to be an issue, or even that it comes up as a point of discussion.

  2. says

    Very rarely. I remember once going on about Christianity being shoved down throats and realized I was the one bringing it up so I made a very conscious decision to stop. I don’t even talk about it online much anymore because I don’t want to be like those very online atheists who keep bring it up when there is no need to.

  3. Bruce says

    I would guess that most authors are not really public figures in an official sense. That is, we hope your books do well and that people look to buy them when they see a new one in the store. But when you personally walk in to the bookstore, likely only your friends and the owner recognize you.
    That is, you are out as an atheist to your relatives and close friends, and by necessity also to those who you speak with personally to sell or promote your books. But there’s no reason or benefit for every worker at the bookstore to recognize you, let alone anyone at the grocery or drug store. That is, I’m guessing that becoming an author literally has you reveal your identity to just a handful more of folks than those who knew you before.
    When I visit close friends, or visit secular groups, I am open about being an atheist. Most of the rest of the time, I see no reason to bring it up, and do not. I would be surprised if becoming an author has made you have to come out as an atheist to even five people further in your whole home county, outside of any secular gatherings where you speak. And that’s just fine.
    You are promoting atheism through your books, blog, and meeting appearances, and that’s just fine. You have no obligation to be like a Mormon twenty year old, and knock on strangers doors to preach atheism while wearing a badge saying Atheist Elder Ashes or whatever. That is, only reveal yourself when it seems appropriate. It’s fine. You have to enjoy your life in peace and relative personal privacy.

    • ashes says

      I think that is a huge benefit to being an author — that even if my books become popular I won’t be recognized.

      However, I am really grateful that my poetry book has made me more open and feel like I don’t have to hide anymore.

  4. sonofrojblake says

    I had a conversation with my best friend a few months back, when I asked him to be godfather to my second son (having already tagged HIS son to be godfather to my first – he raised a good one). It was on Zoom with a couple of other friends, and they were comparing notes on how many kids they were already godfathers to – four, five, six or so. I pointed out that I wasn’t godfather to anyone – nobody had ever asked. My friend said “well, there’s a couple of reasons for that. First: you’re about the most godless person I know. Second, when we were having kids, you weren’t really the role-model type.” He’s spot on in both cases. (I’ve got a bit more “role model” since, apparently).

    When I told my (American) boss I was having my kids christened, he looked a little quizzical and suggested I didn’t strike him as the religious type. I agreed and said it was more for tradition and to fit in if they go to church schools, which is I suspect the reason for about 75% of Church of England baptisms.

    And that is the two conversations I’ve had IRL about my atheism since 2015.

  5. StonedRanger says

    I use the site Omegle. It is a video chat site and I have atheist and atheism as 2 of my 16 interests. Im on the site usually on the weekends and I talk to people from all over the world. I have conversations about my atheism at least two to three times a week. (mostly non productive) The christians are usually willing to talk conversationally about it. I dont consider it that big of a deal. The muslims who come along get very angry about me being an atheist and after five or ten minutes they storm out of the chat, which can be quite humorous. In the real world I almost never have any talks about being an atheist, but Ive never made a secret of it. Most people are very uncomfortable about the subject and they dont usually last very long once they find out I dont fear their god or dying.

  6. mathman85 says

    I’m not generally shy about telling people that I’m an atheist if they ask me, but it rarely comes up in quotidian conversation. The last two times that I’ve mentioned it publicly both involved someone making the assumption that I was a Χtian of some sort, and me politely telling them otherwise. The first was when several of my students (several years ago) asked me quasi-rhetorically if I would work on Christmas, to which I said that I would, given that I’m an atheist. The second was last November, when after the final election results came in, one of my coworkers said “Thank God” or something like that, and I pointed out that while I (probably, if I’m being honest) share the feeling of relief that they were expressing idiomatically, I don’t believe in any gods.

  7. Katydid says

    This was more of an issue in the 1990s/early 2000s in my area, where if you objected to being proseltyzed by completely over-the-top Warriors for Christ, obviously you had to be an Atheist. Some examples:

    * a coworker brought in all kinds of Jesus crap (posters, signs, cards, etc. etc.) and demanded we all display them in our cubicles and all over the office. I objected, was was immediately labelled a Christ-hating degenerate Atheist. Only the last part was true, LOL

    * one evening at home when trying to make dinner while simultaneously trying to get one kid ready for soccer practice and another to finish one of those stupid classroom projects that was due the next day, someone came to the door demanding I give him money for a whackadoodle megachurch that was being built nearby. I refused and he called me a “religion-hating Atheist”. Only half right. I told him no, I just hated him as I closed the door in his face.

    I think the Jesus-wars have cooled a bit, at least in my area. Now it never seems to come up.

  8. atomjz says

    In my cozy corner of academia (physics), I don’t think my atheism (or anyone else’s) has come up even once in the last 10 years, unless I was having a discussion specifically about religion or philosophy. Here, I think atheism or at least atheist-tolerance is so assumed, nobody ever even thinks about it. If everyone respects separation of church and state, there is almost no situation where atheism naturally comes up as a topic of discussion. Despite what my edgy “New Atheist” self of the 00’s thought, turns out the topic isn’t all that interesting, as long as we aren’t being persecuted.

    Depending on where you live, atheism is either a massive scandal, or something so inconsequential that it isn’t even worth a thought. There isn’t much middle ground.

  9. says

    For the past few years, it really hasn’t come up much. Part of it is I don’t go out of my troll religious groups or people in their spaces. I also don’t make a big deal about it at work, and I’m fortunate to be at a company that values diversity.

    A bigger part is that religion isn’t playing that big a role in most people’s lives. Younger people aren’t as religious as their parents. Which I suspect is one of the reasons why the Right is pressing “religious freedom” as a way of imposing their beliefs on others and fight against growing secularism.

    The sad part is, they might succeed if we let them.

  10. eastexsteve says

    It rarely comes up in my daily life, when it does usually some buffet Christian talking about how atheism is a belief system.
    Sometimes they ask how I became an atheist so I tell the truth. I read the book, each word cover to cover just like any other book, even studied it some and enjoyed it. I suggest that they read it too and when they finish we can discuss it, but they never do, at least to this point. I’ve had a few interesting conversations, but usually relating to the historicity questions.

    Nice poems.

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