I’m an atheist.
Those words used to be difficult for me to say to people in casual conversation. I grew up believing that God is a fact, and that everyone believes in God. Even after I made a conscious decision that gods aren’t real (except for Thor. Thor can be real. As long as Thor is Marvel and Chris Hemsworth), even after being an Atheist On The Internet, those were some deep feelings to shed. And knowing that “atheist” is a naughty, eye-widening word for many people, a word that gives some a warped sense of justification to judge, that can also make it a hard word to claim in mixed company. But it’s gotten easier* and I find myself coming out as an atheist more often and in more types of situations. I’ve stopped minding that people might not want me – an atheist – around them and settled into the comfortable space of not wanting them if they don’t want me for such a crap reason.
I was recently considering supporting a local charity. Upon learning that it was originally founded as a faith-based charity, I asked deeper questions about which faith it came out of, the use of money, whether there was any evangelism or proselytization either to those who used the charity’s services, or to the volunteers, whether the charity was used to promote a particular church. As I wrapped up, the woman with whom I was speaking looked at me curiously and asked, essentially, why I had so many questions. I said “I’m an atheist.” I told her that while I would work with faith-based groups to promote causes that are important to me, that I was particular about not supporting religions or churches. She looked quite shocked and then squealed, “I’m not religious either! Oh my gosh…you don’t run into many people who are so open about being…you know…an atheist!”
That’s always gratifying.
If you feel like sharing: What is a time that you’ve taken a chance about coming out atheist and it made you happy?
*Of course, living in a big city, surrounded by a supportive community, in a country in which atheism isn’t illegal – these things make it easier too. /understatement.