Lady Godiva and a Forgotten Lesson about Honor

Do you recall the story of Lady Godiva?

Most people recall an image of a woman with long flowing hair, on horseback, naked. But less people are actually familiar with the legend behind the image.

In summary, the good Lady was married to a greedy tyrant who exacted painful levels of taxes from his subjects. She issued repeated pleas on their behalf, that her husband should be less overbearing and exercise pity for his subjects. He finally answered that he would agree to her request if she would ride naked through the streets—pitting her pity against her sense of personal honor and dignity. In the end she agreed to expose herself to public shame. The subjects were asked to stay indoors, and she endured the now-famous ride. According to the tale as it was told to me as a child, everyone in the district, out of respect for her generosity and sacrifice on their behalf, closed their shutters and made no attempt to take advantage of her situation, as she was, quite literally, laid bare before them.

Richard Dawkins, awhile back, headed up the now famous “Out Campaign.” The idea was for atheists to come out publicly as atheists, in order to aid the entire community in a number of ways: We could see there were more of us than we thought, let others know they were not alone, help atheists feel less intimidated by religion, let theists know they know good people who are atheists. In general, the idea was, and is, to encourage atheists to be “out,” because it benefits the entire community, but, most especially, those in our ranks who need support.

I have rarely, but occasionally, seen theists expose, or threaten to expose, atheists who work under pseudonyms, or threaten to publish private contact information of atheists who work as activists under their legal names. But it is only in recent months that I have begun seeing atheists threatening to do this, or doing this, to other atheists. And I’ve counted at least four instances, and am wondering if this constitutes some unhappy trend?

Can I ask, “What the hell is wrong with you people?”

It is very important to our community that people be able to be safely out. We have pushed hard to encourage people to be out, and promised them our support from this sort of reprisal. Has our goal now become to push atheists as far back into the closet as we can? Are we now going to make sure that any atheist who wants to work for atheist causes must do so under a false name, or never show their face, or worse, forget the idea all together? What exactly is it we’re trying to accomplish here, because I thought the goal was to encourage people to come out publicly and make sure they had as little fear of doing so as possible? Did I misjudge that message? Was that not the goal? I get on TAE, using my real name, and encourage others to be out. But I will not continue to do so if what they can expect is to be harassed at home or at work or in some other personal fashion, as soon as they have a heated debate with some other atheist within the community.

A tactic used by the anti-choice community has been to publish public information online about physicians willing to do abortions. The fact this information is often already publicly available does not change, in the least, the clarity of their motives. Generally just a home address is sufficient to put such a doctor on notice. And their efforts to intimidate have been very successful. Not many doctors want to be on an anti-choice website with their home address public—an address where not only they live, but also their families. This tactic has never been honorable. It has always been disgraceful. And I want to encourage our community to close their shutters on behalf of those who are threatened with this sort of exposure. I don’t care if they’re posting ideas that are anti-feminist. I don’t care if they’re A+ and you hate that label. I don’t care what idea they have decided to address at their blog or in comments. If you don’t like it—you post back an opposing opinion with some honor and some substance. You comment at their blog or at your blog as a response. You don’t issue threats or pull up their personal, public data in order to encourage harassment and intimidate silence.

People facing this, very often, have taken the step of coming out and putting themselves out there, publicly, on behalf of this community. The fact you disagree with them on some subject-X is not license to try to bully them into silence. It’s never acceptable, but I find it particularly cowardly when such threats come from someone using an assumed name, themselves, taking advantage of the fact that others have bravely opted to work under their actual names. If you have done this, then may shame be upon you.

Since there is no way I know of that these types of people can actually be stopped, I am putting out a call to the community to close your shutters to this when you encounter it. Responding in kind is not the answer. When a person posts such information publicly, or threatens to, or says they’ll contact someone’s employer, show your support for the person being harassed—regardless of ideological differences. State loudly and proudly that you refuse to be a party to something so petty and damaging, or to take advantage of the fact someone else bravely agreed to be laid bare in their efforts on behalf of you and this community. Make it clear you absolutely will not harass someone for expressing an opposing viewpoint, no matter how opposed to it you may be, and that you have no respect for someone who would do, or encourage, such a thing. People who are out about their atheism, who work on behalf of this community openly and bravely, do not deserve this sort of response or treatment. Nor does anyone, for that matter.

If we can’t look after our own, then what is the point of anyone bothering (or should I say, at this point, daring) to come out? Why should anyone come out and support this community if members of this community will take full advantage of that “out” status, the moment there is a disagreement, and post someone’s personal information, or threaten to harass them at their job, because the Internet has made it that easy for them to do so?

If this trend continues, I will not be able, in good conscience, to encourage anyone else to come out as an atheist or work for this  community in any open fashion.

If someone will, then, just let me know when it’s safe to come back out?


  1. RenDP says

    I agree completely, and am horrified to see what is going on. The only thing I have to add other than this needs to stop and stop now, is that the far right are extremely organized and are now in control of a good chunk of our elected offices. Seeing as how many have publicly said that atheists should not be considered citizens and have more or less said that our laws should be governed by Biblical laws and the Constitution rewritten accordingly, I would think the community would be looking for ways to work together. Safety in numbers and all that.

    Stop and think about what you are doing. If people are silent and not working together, what’s to stop laws being passed to openly persecute non-theists when we are outgunned and outnumbered? Splintering into factions and alienating each other will not only set the movement back 20 years, it could prove downright dangerous if the wingnuts do wind up calling the shots. They have the numbers now, and it’s just a matter of electing a handful more who either have a specific extremist agenda or are sympathetic to those who do.

    Not much more to say, other than the people who would make threats are nasty people, and you should be ashamed of yourselves.

  2. RyGuy says

    I say don’t hide from these people, expose them. Remember the fallout from the whole VFX & Dawahfilms vs Thunderfoot train wreck? I can’t remember which one of them finally got TF’s docs, but Thunderfoot made it well known who was trying to do what regarding his privacy and safety.

    As a result VFX was forced off YouTube for a while and DawahFilms disappeared, only to reinvent himself as a “moderate” Muslim and not some batshit crazy jihadist.

    When we come across these malevolent types in either the theists or atheist community, expose them. And I don’t mean “expose them” by dropping their docs…. but expose them in telling the community at large what these people are up to. Get screen shots of their threats, lawyer-up.

  3. Chrish says

    According to the tale as it was told to me as a child, everyone in the district, out of respect for her generosity and sacrifice on their behalf, closed their shutters and made no attempt to take advantage of her situation, as she was, quite literally, laid bare before them.

    Ah but you forgot about Peeping tom. There’s always one in the bunch with no respect.

  4. Eric says

    Upon reading this it is time for me to distance myself from the Atheist community (if it can be called that). I simply don’t believe in god. I have no interest in left wing political agendas, fabricated persecution complexes, or some made up, self perpetuated war with religion. It seems to me these are things we love to criticize about religion, yet it would appear that we are now adopting them.
    I am an open Atheist with a penchant for skepticism! I have never once been persecuted, discriminated against, or suffered injustice in any way as a result of being so. I must admit at times where I have found myself in religious conflict with others it was generally myself who was the instigator, so I can’t really judge somebody for defending their beliefs can I?

  5. says

    Question: how do you feel about stuff like the discussion a while back around whether to make Hoggle’s real name public?

    I’m not generally supportive of breaching pseudonymity, but that case seemed a little different. As I’m sure most here recall, he had made some potentially threatening remarks toward particular individuals (involving in-person stalking), as the culmination of months of obsessive and vile harassment. He was also given plenty of opportunity to make it clear whether naming his name would seriously endanger him, and even when he eventually *was* outed, it was just his name and general geographic location, not his home address or pictures of his house or anything like that. In my opinion, and in the opinions of some others, there was therefore sufficient cause to out him and no really definitive argument against doing so in the particular way that it was done.

    Because of incidents like this I find it hard to be a complete privacy absolutist. It seems to me that some behaviors do actually cross a line beyond which the person who commits them loses some level of expectation of privacy, in the same way that some IRL behaviors cross a line such that the person who commits them can expect to be subjected to legal repercussions. Of course, I wouldn’t say that mere disagreement, or even obnoxiousness, is such a behavior, but threats are another story. Would it be a fair reading of your post to say that you agree with this stance and just didn’t find these cases relevant to your point, or do you still find the privacy interest to be the more compelling one even in such circumstances?

  6. says

    I have no interest in left wing political agendas

    I take it you’re from the libertarian wing of the atheist community?

    fabricated persecution complexes

    If this refers to atheists in the US generally, then the fact that atheists are trusted on about the same level of rapists should be proof that it’s not “fabricated”.

    If it refers to the A+ division recently, then the single-minded, obsessive stalking/harassment campaigns perpetuated against Rebecca Watson, Surly Amy, and Jen McCreight should be more than sufficient evidence to disabuse anyone of the notion that the issue is “fabricated”.

    Now as to the “well, it never happened to me!” claim, then good for you. You probably don’t live in the US, or if you do, probably a less religious area (Or you’re just incredibly lucky). Your experience isn’t the same as everyone elses.

  7. tracieh says

    If someone breaks the law and you know who they are, report them to the appropriate authorities. I fully support that.

    This blog, however, deals with simply responding to a difference of opinion by threatening to harass someone at their work, or identify them publicly or post their phone number, etc., rather than an honest rebuttal. I’d rather not go off into the weeds. It isn’t that I don’t understand your point about someone being physically threatening. I’m saying none of the cases I’ve heard of have had anything remotely like a justification to account for outing someone or bringing the fight to a personal level.

    But thank you for your point.

  8. says

    Yeah, okay, that’s where I figured you were with this. Just wanted to make sure, since I didn’t see it explicitly stated in the post. I don’t have any burning need to discuss it beyond that.

  9. The Captian says

    Your absolutely right, sadly though I assumed this was going to be about what happened to Michael Payton. But unfortunately it turned out to only be bad when it’s about ya’lls friends. Too bad bullying atheist is only fine if FTB people and supporters do it to others.

  10. Andy says

    It is very hard to hear and see what is happening within the community, but I can’t say that I am completely surprised. Within communities there will always be issues of contention and disagreements, and there will always be individuals who just can’t behave in a reasonable mature fashion when they suffer a narcissistic injury. I don’t mean to pathologize, but I just can’t help myself, so. . . Hell hath no fury like cluster B personality disordered individuals scorned.

  11. nohellbelowus says

    The Coming Out campaign is naive. It’s a mistake. How can one know the consequences of coming out beforehand?

    One cannot.

    And the consequences for some, myself included, have indeed been dire. Can I count on financial support from the atheist community when I’m ostracized from jobs because I was overheard discussing my views by a do-gooder Christian in an adjacent cubicle? Don’t make me laugh.

    Never again in public, unless I’m with like-minded people, and probably not even then.

  12. see_the_galaxy says

    I do think that there is a place for right-wing atheists to work with left-wing atheists to fight for secularism and the separation of church and state. There’s also a place for us to part company. I most certainly am interested in the left wing, and damn proud of it.

    I have no interest in left wing political agendas, fabricated persecution complexes, or some made up, self perpetuated war with religion.

    …makes no sense.

  13. tracieh says

    Certainly I am sympathetic toward those who suffer for coming out. Making an estimation is based upon the person’s own knowledge of their environment, and must rely on their own expertise of their own situation. It doesn’t help you at this point, but had I been around to advise you previously, I’d have advised that the workplace is off limits for religious discussion. Professionalism in the work environment is always the best policy. I never discuss atheism at work, nor do my coworkers discuss their own religious perspectives.

  14. nohellbelowus says

    With all due respect, Tracie, I think that answer is also naive.

    What if your boss is an evangelical Christian? It’s not a hypothetical question, in my case, and it’s not uncommon in my line of work. I don’t choose my corporate bosses… do you?

    When boss man asks me if I want to attend Bible study with him after work, do I simply smile and say “No, thanks?” Then what about the next invitation, the very next week?

    My social life also involves many co-workers, because it’s where I spend nearly 65 hours per week. One slip of the tongue, and it could be the unemployment line.

    Perhaps I should start hanging out only with atheists, because as recent events have shown, they’re such an inclusive, friendly bunch.

  15. says

    NHBU and I are not exactly on good terms, but I still want to respond to his comment for the benefit of others who might be reading.

    The situation he’s describing does suck, and it’s a reminder of the sad reality that far too many of us can’t even safely resist the pressure to pretend to be ardent theists, much less come out as atheists. So I *am* sympathetic to the quandary he’s in, but I’m not sure how this is a strike against the Out Campaign, seeing as how the whole point of the campaign is for those of us who *can* come out to do so, with the hope of making atheism seem more normal and more acceptable, which will in turn ease situations like his in the long run. It’s not going to solve the problem overnight, but if we actually want the problem to be solved instead of all of us having to just grimly tough out lives of frustrating crypto-atheism, I don’t see any reasonable alternative.

    I’m also not sure how the supposed naivete of the Out Campaign relates to Tracie’s point that, regardless of what goes on in the larger culture, our own communities ought to be safe places for atheists to discuss our views with other atheists. We can’t control what people in the outside world do, but we can at least try to police ourselves. There’s no excuse whatsoever for people in our community, who ought to know better than anyone else that being out as an atheist can actually be a pretty damn risky thing, to deliberately impose that risk on other members of the community simply as a tactic to silence dissenting voices. And there’s also no excuse for so many of those who *are* able to lead the way in coming out to be penalized with interminable campaigns of incredibly hateful harassment from *within our own community* merely because some people don’t agree with every single thing they’ve ever said.

    I like that this is a community that, for the most part, is fairly tolerant of relatively rough-and-tumble debate. I think that’s one of the strengths of our movement. But there seems to be an unfortunately very vocal contingent of folks who just don’t know when to stop. At the very least, I want those people to know that what they are doing is not okay, and that those of us who aren’t hate-shriveled little assholes aren’t going to put up with their bullshit any more.

  16. Warp says

    Maybe this is quite cynical, but if you are so harassed and ostracized in the US for being an atheist, then just move out. Come to Europe. Here nobody cares if you are an atheist, a christian or a hare chrisna. (In fact, in many countries, especially the nordic ones, people are assumed to be atheist/secular by default, and the religious people are the odd out ones.)

    It’s a win-win situation: You will end up in a country that doesn’t care if you are an atheist and will certainly not discriminate you for being one, and your brainwashed compatriots will be happy to see you go. Everybody’s happy. If they want to create a totalitarian theocracy, let them rot.

  17. nohellbelowus says


    You’re missing my point. How does anyone know for certain what the consequences are going to be, when they come out as atheists in public for the first time?

    They simply can’t know, unless they are mind readers, or unless they know intimately the beliefs of everyone who will hear their announcement, either in-person, or through the grapevine.

    If you can predict the future, and are always surrounded by open-minded people, then more power to you. I live in the real world.

  18. nohellbelowus says


    Come to Europe.

    I don’t think it’s cynical one bit, and believe me I’m thinking quite seriously about it.

    I appreciate the positive input. Thank-you. It’s been a while since I’ve heard anything constructive on FtB.

    I’ll buy you a Guinness when I get there.


  19. Ryan says

    Because it’s so easy to just pack up, leave your entire life behind, and move overseas to a foreign country. Don’t be so naive.

    Yes, in some parts of the US, the situation is crappy for atheists. But instead of letting the US devolve into a Christian theocracy, wouldn’t it be better if things changed? And who better to change things than the people who are living there?

  20. David says

    I think an important point is being missed here: outing in the atheist community can not work the same way as outing in other areas.

    As an atheist I can easily hide my atheism and there is no way you could prove otherwise – in fact, as we know, an atheist probably would make a more convincing theist than a real one. So I can “go native” which will do far more damage than the short term good that can be achieved by the outing in the first place. How easy would it be to shrug it of with a “I used to be an atheist” line.

  21. sharkjack says

    Well those places exist, I live in one of them, but I’m sure they exist in the United States as well. but even if you don’t live in one of them, it’s not like coming out is an all or nothing decision. You can come out to your family without coming out in other places, you can go to atheist meetups without letting other people know you’re an atheist and slowly build up a network of people who are atheist as well. If you feel you’ve built up a strong enough safety net then you can be more open about your beliefs to the rest of your community. It also depends on how much your work and personal life are connected.

    If you want to see how someone might react to your atheism you could always use another religion as a point of reference. The stronger a theist dissaproves of other religions or demoninations of the same religion, the stronger they’ll dissaprove of atheism. Generally being of a different denomination isn’t something people get fired under. If you already know they’re too liberal for that to have any effect you could always go for something like hinduism or even buddhism. But like Tracie said not discussing religion is kind of part of professional work environments, so it shouldn’t be too much of an issue there.

    But anyway this call was more for people who already feel free to be out as atheist but don’t do so because they don’t see the point, to actually come out so that people can see that there are actual atheists out there in their own daily lives. People tend to accept things more easily if they’re exposed to it like that.

  22. John Kruger says

    It saddens me when common courtesy issues like this need to pulled front and center. I would like to think that we are all decent people who are above such nasty things. Any time someone needs to resort to threats in an argument, of any kind, they abandon any kind of collaboration, communication, or attempt to further their understanding. They become a stupid thug that is happy to incite fear in order to keep from having to defend arguments. It no longer matters which explanation works best, it only matters that the explanation they already have “wins”. Nobody who has a sincere interest in having beliefs that are actually true can ever have a good reason to resort to this kind of tactic. This is part of the most basic requirements for operating successfully in a group. While we are spelling things out, do not assault your friends and dispose of your biological waste properly.

    Do we need apologists like William Lane Craig or Ray Comfort to stop making arguments in order to refute them? No. They even do a lot of the work for us by speaking up and presenting the bad arguments. If your position requires certain challenges not to happen in order to be upheld, chances are the argument really sucks. I would hope people think about this before resorting to silencing tactics with threats or anything else. If your argument loses, then change your damn opinion. Do not get threatening so you can quell opposition and remain in fantasy land.

  23. Jason Rebelato says

    I don’t think you have to go as far as Europe to find critically thinking people. Up here in Canada, particularly BC, no one cares what color your skin is or what beliefs you do, or do not hold. Obviously there are exceptions as we do have our Jesus freaks here too, but I have been an outspoken atheist for 10 years and never had any problems.

    If my boss were to preach his religion to me at work, he would be getting a call from labor relations so fast, HE would be the one threatened with the unemployment line. I sympathize with anyone in a so-called “developed nation” who feel that they cannot express their true feelings without consequences.

  24. Chrish says

    And just to be sure, the versions that include him, he was struck blind. 😉

    I was going to put in something about that, and karmic watchdogs coming back to bite people in the ass, but decided against it.

  25. Andrew says

    Might I also add that it would suck pretty badly for the whole world if the country with the largest economy and most well-financed, nuclear-armed military devolved into a Christian theocracy.

    I don’t think there’s a high chance of that happening, but still.

  26. tracieh says

    I didn’t specifically name anyone, and that was for a good reason. A couple of the people I’ve heard about this happening to recently have been on the “other side” of feminism, which is why I wrote this (did you happen to read this part?):

    “I don’t care if they’re posting ideas that are anti-feminist. I don’t care if they’re A+ and you hate that label. I don’t care what idea they have decided to address at their blog or in comments. If you don’t like it—you post back an opposing opinion with some honor and some substance. You comment at their blog or at your blog as a response. You don’t issue threats or pull up their personal, public data in order to encourage harassment and intimidate silence.”

  27. tracieh says

    >I’m not sure how this is a strike against the Out Campaign…

    Neither am I. If anything, this story is another reason the campaign is necessary. On TAE, we sound like broken record, telling people in bad situations that they need to sit tight and do what they have to do in order to avoid problems until we can make things better. We’re working as hard as we can, but we don’t have a magic wand.

    My response indicated that the person in the situation has to gauge what is best. What the writer described was being overheard talking about atheism. My advice is not to talk about it at your office. And if you are in a situation where your job could be lost, and you are AWARE of that due to your boss’s irrational religious leanings, then why on earth would you bring up your atheism? Didn’t I advise that you should consider the worst, realistic ramifications possible, and consider if you can cope with them, before you come out?

    Who on earth has told anyone to come out, offend your boss and lose your job? I assure you, it wasn’t me.

  28. tracieh says

    Because we have a system of governance set up to accommodate changes in process. If fixing the issue was a lost cause, I would move. But it’s not. Our political process is set up to self-correct, as long as enough people want that correction. I don’t believe the wingnuts have the numbers–but I do believe it’s going to require more people interested in separation of church and state to activate for some positive change. I haven’t moved because I have not yet given up hope.

  29. tracieh says

    >They simply can’t know, unless they are mind readers, or unless they know intimately the beliefs of everyone who will hear their announcement, either in-person, or through the grapevine.

    The person situated in the environment is best able to make the most informed estimate about the reactions they will receive if they tell others they are atheist. It isn’t as though the attitudes of the people you’ve been surrounded by your whole life are a black box. Really, you can’t tell if the woman who raised you will have a bad reaction to “I don’t believe in god?” She’s never given you the slightest indication of what her own position is on that topic? If that’s actually the case, then my guess is she isn’t really concerned with your position about it, wouldn’t that be a reasonable assumption based on that evidence?

    I’ve never heard anyone write us back at TAE and say “I have zero concept of how any of the people in my life will react to this.” You might overestimate a reaction or underestimate it–but you should have *some* idea about how the people who matter to you in your life–those most intimate with you who you’ll be outing yourself *to*–are going to feel about this revelation. I really can’t imagine someone having no clue whatsoever about how their familiars think about nonbelievers…? You’d have to not know the people closest to you in your life at all.

  30. tracieh says

    In fact, can you show me anywhere in this article where I indicated anyone ever has license to do this to someone else?

  31. says

    Maybe this is quite cynical, but if you are so harassed and ostracized in the US for being an atheist, then just move out

    Why shouldn’t we strive to change the behavior, rather than run away to avoid it? Some of us can’t afford to simply up and move to a foreign country. Many of us have ourselves rooted in the places we live. Most of us would rather not give harassers that power by caving and running away.

  32. nohellbelowus says

    Thank-you for the information, Jason. I’m sure living in Canada, and being able to publicly express my views without retaliation, would feel like I’m on another planet!

    I’m not a fan of cold weather, but it has to be better than rows of cubicles populated with frozen minds.

    Anne C. Hanna:

    Please find somebody else to play with. You’re boring.

  33. nohellbelowus says

    And if you are in a situation where your job could be lost, and you are AWARE of that due to your boss’s irrational religious leanings, then why on earth would you bring up your atheism?

    How would I know in advance if my job is at stake? How would I know in advance what my boss’s religious leanings were? It’s not like these things come up in the interview, or even in the first few weeks.

    Talk about missing the point.

    The Out Campaign is naive. I’m done taking the fall for atheism. It isn’t worth it. There’s no support system in the real world for the average Joe.

  34. Question Everything says


    Um… weren’t you just talking about your boss asking you to attend bible study every week? That might be a hint…

  35. Me says

    Nobody forced you to take the fall for atheism in the first place. I’m sorry it turned out badly for you. I don’t know your particular situation or what you were risking, so I can’t speak to whether that was a wise decision on your part or not. Certainly nobody is asking you to keep taking the fall if it turned out badly the first time. The whole point of the campaign is to ask those of us who CAN be out to actually BE out in order that people like you might someday not have to worry about it.

    It is very possible to test the waters with people of influence in your life before you tell them that you are an atheist. I certainly did that with my boss before I told him. I made damn sure that I knew as much as I could about the risks and was willing to live with the consequences before I came “out”. No movement can do that part for you- that is up to you, and you alone are responsible for determining if it’s a worthwhile risk for you to take. The movement is not naive… although people who jump into it headfirst without understanding what they might be risking or what the reception is likely to be certainly are.

  36. Me says

    Talk about naive… as if the cost of actually moving to another country wasn’t prohibitive enough for a lot of people, there’s the issue of finding jobs, leaving behind friends and family, abandoning investments made here, and generally starting over from scratch. It would have to be a bigger issue than largely unlegislated religious bias to get people to abandon everything like that.

  37. nohellbelowus says

    Question Everything:

    I didn’t know he was going to bible study until he asked me to go with him. It’s not like he announced it at weekly meetings.

    He was trying to smoke out my belief system. The industry I work in has every possible ethnicity, and every possible religion you can imagine.

  38. says

    He was trying to smoke out my belief system

    How do you know that that’s what he was trying to do? Can you read his mind?

    In case that’s too snarky, let me be more clear: you’re nitpicking to the point of irrelevance. If you don’t think you can safely be out, then don’t be. Nobody’s twisting your arm about this.

  39. says

    Geez, NHBU, can’t you get your reply depth straight even one single time?

    Anyway, yeah, I’m real sorry for happening to have commented on the same post that you later chose to comment on and thus, once again, noticing your crap trolling.

    But in any case, what I take from your response here is that, in fact, you have no explanation for what this particular bit of whinging has to do with Tracie’s post. I have every sympathy for needing to stay closeted, but I have absolutely zero sympathy for shitting on the Out Campaign just because you personally have decided that you aren’t a candidate for participation. Those who are out are doing it for you too, you know. And nobody’s saying you ought to participate if it’s not safe for you to do so.

    I also have zero sympathy for your random derailing. Why are you complaining about the supposed naivete of the Out Campaign *here*? What on earth does it have to do with the question of whether it’s appropriate for atheists to engage in harassment of other atheists? Have you decided that the Out Campaign is harassing you somehow?

  40. Curt Cameron says

    NHBU, I gather that you work in a corporation in the US? Our corporations in the US are typically very tolerant of all different religious views, ethnicities, and sexual orientations, so I’m surprised that you feel so uneasy about letting your atheism be known.

    In my experience, when you work with people for a while, you tend to learn some about them personally, including their religious views. I know the religious status of several of my coworkers, and several of them know that I’m an atheist. There has never been a problem involving anyone that I know with religious harrassment, and as a safeguard, corporate policies are very strict about that kind of thing. If there ever were a problem, the corporate HR would be all over the perpetrator.

    I’m sorry about the situation you’re in, but in my experience (29 years working in corporations), yours is the rare exception.

  41. Warp says

    From what I read, in many places in the US it’s not just “largely unlegislated religious bias”. It’s people being treated in the same level as child rapists, being harassed and ostracized, being fired from their jobs, their lives being threatened, and overall being treated like subhumans, not for anything they have done, but for the simple reason that they have dared to express the opinion that they do not believe in any gods.

    This is worse than many third-world dictatorships, yet it’s supposed to be a country where human rights and freedom of speech and opinion are considered sacred and the cornerstone of civilization. Would you really want to live in such an environment?

  42. tracieh says


    There are two different ideas above. One concerns someone who brought up religion and his boss heard, and there was reprisal. The other is someone who posted that their boss is/could be highly religious and directly confronting them.

    In the case where the boss has not discussed religion at work—then why is atheism being discussed at work? A work place should be free of this type of discussion, in my view, and I noted I would advise people to not raise the issue of religion at their work unprompted.

    Where it is prompted, by religious coworkers—especially where one is confronted by an overbearing religious boss—how could one NOT recognize the danger of outing oneself?

    I did not miss the point. Two different points were raised, and I replied to them separately and with different advice, relevant to each respectively.

  43. tracieh says

    >Those who are out are doing it for you too, you know.

    In my case, it isn’t just for him “too,” it’s for him primarily. I have an article awaiting publication where I discuss this in more detail:

    I’m not brave being out. It’s easy for me. I risk nothing consequential. I don’t have any reason to be out—other than what it can do for others. Nobody in my immediately circle cares. I’m out solely because others can’t be. With any marginalized minority, if change is going to occur, that includes making this minority status as recognized as possible. It’s like a less drastic version of what is happening with gay rights. As people who have less to risk become more “out,” it makes others around them more comfortable. “Tracie’s atheist, and she’s OK,” translates to more people, who may not have ever met a self-labeled atheist, gaining a positive or even benign view of atheism and atheists. As it becomes less sensational, it becomes harder to paint atheists as villains. “I’ve been to some parties at my friend’s home. She’s an atheist, and her atheist friends were quite nice. I don’t think atheists are as bad as you’re claiming.” That sort of better informed reaction, spreading—albeit slowly—will help remove obstacles other atheists face, who aren’t able to out themselves. So, for me, there has been no friction; but I view that as the reason I am obliged to be out: It’s no sacrifice for me to be open, and it helps others, like me. In my situation, I would actually have to justify not being out.

  44. tracieh says

    My article isn’t really about “outing” people as atheists. There are two situations I’m referencing:

    1. An out atheist works under an assumed name, and someone outs his real identity.

    2. An out atheist working under a real name has their personal contact information published as a method to encourage harassment of them by others.

    In either of these cases, the person is openly working on behalf of atheism and would not be able to claim “I’m not an atheist any longer”–because these outings occur within the context of their work in atheist activism.

    Just to clarify what I’m describing.

  45. tracieh says

    >They become a stupid thug that is happy to incite fear in order to keep from having to defend arguments. It no longer matters which explanation works best, it only matters that the explanation they already have “wins”.

    This is it in a nutshell for me. I no longer have an ounce of respect for anyone who does this. I sat watching someone on Youtube who claimed to be reading a letter I wrote–filled with some of the most vile, hateful, bigoted, anti-gay statements I’ve ever heard. And when I confronted it, I protected their identity, and further asked that they not be harassed if they were identified (as they were openly doing this, and making themselves a potential target by doing so). In the few instances where we discovered other atheists in misguided attempts to defend me, asking that this person be harassed, ACA/TAE actually took steps to ask such people to please remove such requests/statements and not make the situation any more incendiary than it already was. This resulted in a very minor blip on the radar that did not escalate into some sort of insanity. I did not reply by linking to the video and lambasting the person and calling them out and stirring it up further, even though I believe just about anyone would have sympathized with that response.

    If I can survive open, horrible slander and maintain an honorable response and not respond in kind and raise the level of unnecessary drama, then it proves it can be done.

  46. Micheal49 says

    Let’s try for courtesy, respect, and reciprocity, three cardinal founding principles for an ethical approach to life and living. Without those, how would “we” be any better than “them”?

  47. Quinn Martindale says

    It’s very important to separate the concept of harassment from the question of coming out. It’s obviously wrong to harass or intimidate others, or to unjustifiably try to get them fired by bigots. But coming out is as vital for the atheist movement as it was for the gay rights movement.
    Harvey Milk said it best: Come out!

  48. Quinn Martindale says

    Coming out is important not because it is easy, but because it is hard. Every person who comes out makes it easier for the next person. I don’t know what you mean by “ostracized from jobs,” but if you were fired for being an atheist you should contact an employment attorney.

  49. John C [Daemon6] says

    you initially responded to the post by calling Tracie naive; this, in my opinion is inaccurate. My initial response upon reading your posts was to classify it as ironic, but I believe that it would be more accurate to say that it’s myopic.

    The Out Campaign is meant to make life easier in the long run, by demonstrating that atheists are normal people, and not the monsters they’ve(we’ve) been caricatured as for so long.

    Your circumstances should make extremely supportive of the movement, even if you can’t do so yourself. Instead you come to a safe place to be out, and criticize others for doing what you cannot…

    Consider what would happen if people stopped coming out. Do you think that that would make your situation easier?

    Try and think outside of your own personal troubles and see the big picture.

    -A guy who can’t come out because it would mean losing his apartment, and potentially more.