This past Friday (December 3rd) David Silverman, president of American Atheists, made an appearance on Rhode Island station WPRO-FM on the Matt Allen Show for an interview (you can download the podcast from the show’s home page). To my knowledge, this was the first time an atheist was interviewed on this radio station.
It started off simply enough, with the age-old, tired question, “Why are you attacking Christians?” followed by “Why not live and let live?” David Silverman did a great job answering these questions, and more, but I had to chime in with a blog post when Matt Allen expressed utter incredulity at the fact that there are closeted atheists in this country. He was simply not convinced — why in the world would an atheist pretend to go to church? Fear of ostracization, alienation, and disowning? That can’t be!
I went onto Matt Allen’s Facebook page and posted a link to the story about an agnostic father who lost custody of his kids because of his religious beliefs (or lack thereof). Of course, it goes without mention that a Fox News station website said that the father “claimed” that his agnosticism was the cause.
But it’s events like this, and even the fear of such events, that makes some atheists afraid to “come out of the closet”, as it were. Asking why they would do that would be like asking, “Why would a gay man choose to live a lie and hide his homosexuality from family and friends? It makes no sense!” There is most definitely the fear of being alienated from family and friends, as well as the reality that some atheists in this very country are ostracized for their denial of gods and their lack of beliefs.
Furthermore, a recent study showed that atheists are the least trusted group in the United States, even behind homosexuals and Muslims. Upon hearing you’re an atheist, some people will automatically assume that you are evil. Let me say that again — some people immediately assume that all atheists are EVIL people. Homosexuals may simply be doing something immoral in their eyes, and Muslims may simply be terrorists to some of them, but atheists? Oh, we’re pure evil.
So if a person is in a group that many people consider purely evil, you’d damn well better believe that he or she may choose to hide that fact from family and choose to live a lie, going to church just to appease family, keeping quiet about their own opinions during religious discussions just to appease friends. During conversations about religion, God, the Bible, the Pope, and Jesus, I tend to keep quiet and not say a word, so as not to offend anybody. Most of them know I’m an atheist, but if I say anything I’m just the guy that’s full of hate; the guy that is too negative; the guy that won’t live and let live.
And don’t get me started on the crap about living and letting live. Once Christians and all theists stop trying to make their beliefs and religious doctrine into government LAW, then maybe we atheists will “let live”. Until then, we will fight to reinforce that wall between church and state, and keep religion out of government decisions.