It’s often said that coming out as an atheist is one of the most powerful things that any of us can can do for the the movement. Coming out is viewed as such an important contribution that there’s an entire campaign dedicated to the idea of standing up and being counted.
Counted. To some extent, coming out is a numbers game: the more people who identify as atheists, the easier it will be for others to come out. It will become more common to know an atheist coworker, neighbor or friend, and it will be harder to discount us and vilify us when we have greater numbers.
So yes, coming out to increase the numbers of visible non-believers is very important. We can be inspired by surveys that show the increasing number of Nones in this country, and by data from the Secular Student Alliance which show that the number of student groups (i.e., interest and ability to participate in such groups) is dramatically rising.
A slide presented at the Freethought Festival this past April in Madison, Wisconsin showing the rapidly increasing number of Secular Student Alliance affiliate groups.
But there’s another reason to come out. And I’m talking to YOU reading this right now, you beautiful, individual, unique person.
People are very different. When more people identify as atheists, it follows that more types of people become visible in the community(ies) of people who call themselves atheists. Atheism stops being an identity and becomes an idea.
Atheism isn’t what defines any single one of us. As more of us embrace the label “atheist”, the idea of who an atheist is gets fuzzier. Our individual personalities, our politics, our activism or lack thereof, our race, sex, intelligence, education, our families, our jobs, our geographical locations, our ideas for today and the future, our social status, economic status, abilities, dreams, skills and hobbies… these will be more diverse within the group of people who identify as atheists. We are good, neutral, bad, lazy, active, shy, outgoing – no two of us assured of being the same. All of the things that makes each and everyone one of us special will stand above or alongside our identity as atheists.
We each know that we are more than our atheism, and the more unique people there are who identify as atheists, the more this will become apparent to everyone else.