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1/04/2008                                                                                       View Comments

Deciding to come out as an atheist

By Psiemens

First, I want to thank all of you for your positive comments and suggestions regarding my recent thoughts on Madelyn Murray O’Hair. As a result, I have written a letter to our local editor regarding religion and politics and am starting an Atheist Meet Up group later this month here in Beloit, Wisconsin. Again, you have helped me find courage to move forward. Thank you.

Lately I’ve been reading comments about the Richard Dawkins “Coming Out” campaign. I get the impression that many, who have been atheists for a very long time, don’t quite understand a whole new subculture of atheists which I’ll call “blue collar” atheists. Many of us do not represent the educated elite. We are middle class, paycheck to paycheck, struggling Americans. Religious indoctrination, which began when we were very young, has succeeded in keeping us ignorant and in the dark. Because of these long held religious beliefs we have shunned much of science, in particular evolution, and we have much catching up to do. We are very busy, everyday kinds of people who are desperately hungry for knowledge and want to try to catch up, but find little time to do so and few who support our new “ideas”.

Most of our “support” groups have been from our churches. Now that we embrace atheism we find ourselves having to break away from church and family members who see our changes in thinking as being “blinded by Satan”. Years of service to the church get summed up in pat phrases like “they must have never really been Christians after all” by people whom we looked up to and called friend.

The issue of completely “coming out” is not a trifling sort of idea for us. This choice will bring a great deal of upheaval to our marriages, our family lives, our social lives, and for some even work lives. Most of us know no others who are atheists and are hungry for like-minded friends with whom we can confide and share. I would suggest that those who have been fortunate enough to have been atheists for most of their lives, who are well educated and versed in atheism ideals, help us who are just starting on this journey. We need mature role models, teachers, and leaders. We need to develop friendships with fellow atheists – I know for me, this would be the greatest gift you could offer of yourselves.

I think we can change our world. I feel that the time is right to reveal ourselves – to finally start to be ourselves. Those of you who see all this as “old hat” – please don’t shrug off our coming out as something passé and of no importance. We need your help.

11 comments:

Micah Cowan said...

TalkOrigins did much to help me reorient myself scientifically (and to piss me off at how many blatant lies I'd been fed from Creationist authorities). Given that it's much, much cheaper (i.e., free) than a book, it's also probably the most inexpensive way to get an introduction to exactly the sorts of science I was "protected" from growing up.

Dawkin's The Selfish Gene studies some fascinating topics in the realm of evolutionary genetics, and is quite accessible to lay people.

tjadenhors said...

First, congratulations for breaking away from the control of religion and realizing, through your skepticism, intelligence and study what nonsense the belief in a deity is. I realize how difficult it must be for you. Be aware, however, that most of us had to struggle with the same issues you mentioned. I believe that you have already made a wise choice in starting up a local athesit meetup group in your area. I belong to such a group in Orlando and find it intellectually stimulating and that it gives me a strong sense of community realizing that there are many other like thinking individuals out there. Perhaps, through your bravery in coming "out", you may find that there are more of us in your home town then you realized. Don't be dissapointed if your initial turnout is small, it will grow.

Paul T.

stronger now said...

"Many of us do not represent the educated elite. We are middle class, paycheck to paycheck, struggling Americans. Religious indoctrination, which began when we were very young, has succeeded in keeping us ignorant and in the dark."

I second that, and I love the term "blue collar atheists". I think there are more of us than we realize. At least, I hope so.

I don't have all the time in the world to read the works of Ingersoll and such. I try to read a little every day, but life takes precedent. This site has been a godsend...I mean...well...you know.(teehee)

It took months for me to come to grips with my atheism. It took many more for me to be able to seek out other atheists nearby. I cannot say it is "old hat", for me it is new and scary.

I'm embiggened by your cromulent viewpoint.

freethinker05 said...

First Psiemens, Congrats on starting a group up, I wish there was one in my hometown, or pretty close.

The second thing i'd like to mention is, besides causing trouble for everyone and eveything in your home town, do you or anyother non-beiever's groups ever worry about someone, (probably christian) coming to one of your meetings and shooting everyone in site?;
If so, what kind of precaustions do you take to make it a safe meeting place? Peace, Roger, A/A P.S.If you don't want to give out that information over the internet,I understand

SEO said...

I run the local Atheist Meetup Group in Anchorage. The site that runs the meet-up system is fairly controlled…you first must be on the look out for such a group and then you must request to join the group…I don’t believe that my group is in any more danger than a Hunting Meetup Group is in danger of having a greenie vegetarian showing up and mowing people down.

Anonymous said...

I would be interested in knowing about any atheist group in Anchorage, I am in Eagle River. I didn't know one existed in Anchorage as Alaska is mostly fundies. I'm sure Alaska is a mostly fundie state and I didn't think an atheist group existed here. Any info would be greatfully appreciated

SEO said...

Anony, If you are truly interested...go to Meetup.com...plug 'athiest 581' into the Search Box.

You should be able to find us from there!

Optimalist Thinker said...

I think it is good to start groups to help those leaving religion, but take care in what you do. Atheists can be as fanatical as fundamentalists. What we should hope for is a world where religion does not matter. If such a world existed, most religions would die out. For example, if someone wants to believe God made the world, that's fine for me, but if they start saying that a particular God did it in a way that defies common sense or known evidence, there's a problem. Sure, they still need God as a crutch, but at least the world is peaceful and logical. Basically, we should all be skeptics rather than hardcore atheists.

Regardless, tt was nice to hear your story. I work as a college professor, but I can never tell others about my atheism. Having grown up in church most of my life, I have to put off coming out until I can leave the part of the country I am in.

SEO said...

I hemmed and hawed on reaching out to other non-believers…why would I need other people? I’m not like those co-depended bible-thumpers. I’m a freethinker and independent. I am an atheist.

While I consider myself blue-collar, as a child, I had the World Book Encyclopedia instead of a Bible. I’ve always been a live and let live kind of a person but a few years ago I learned that there were people who still believed that the world was only 6,000 years old and that dinosaurs and humans lived together. I was shocked. Shocked at my own not knowing that some people believe that the story in Genesis represents that best possible explanation of our origins. I started to read sites like the Assertive Atheist, Exchristian, the Godless Bastard and FSTDT.

What scares me the most is there are too many people out there waiting (pushing) for the end of the world in support of mythology.

Still this isn’t what motivated me to start my meet-up. To paraphrase Richard Dawkins: “We are lucky to be here and the universe is fantastic.”

I am not Satanist. I am not a Hedonist.

My atheism is only the declaration of disbelief.

I do not have to be quiet about it.

I can have a need to have others in my life without being co-dependent.

I can want to have like-folks around me without wanting to start a church.

Here is my Meet-up Group description:

"It vexes me when they would constrain science by the authority of the scriptures and yet do not consider themselves bound to answer reason and experiment." _- Galileo Galilei

So, has being a naturally selected, social animal left you with a longing for a fellowship with like-minded folk?

The Anchorage Atheists Meetup Group comes together once a month to celebrate the natural, intelligible universe with food and drink.

We have room at our table for freethinkers, agnostics, non-theists, and, of course, atheists.

Hope to see at our next meeting!

Shannon

AtheistToothFairy said...

SEQ said"
We have room at our table for freethinkers, agnostics, non-theists, and, of course, atheists
----
I was thinking of that stubborn xtian we had here recently, that lives within your area.
I have wondered if such atheist meetings ever have open debates with theist or whether those local meetings are just for non-theist types?

While we see many such debates in youtube video's, it doesn't seem local groups would have an interest in such debates, but rather are meant more for like-minded folks to share their ideas and just find folks who don't have the crutch of religion governing their lives.

Just curious about how such meetings usually go, is all.


ATF (Who thinks we've been too silent, for too darn long)

chucky jesus said...

Let's not talk on open forums about rabid gun-toting fundies showing up at atheist meetings pulling Columbine-like antics -- they visit sites like this; let's not give them ideas! But yes, it's something I've been concerned about for a while.

BTW, small matter, but Madalyn is spelled without an e.

Regarding catching up on science. I recommend watching some of the cable programs on the Science Channel -- you also find some excellent documentaries on the History Channel and some other channels. Also -- slightly dated, but I believe "Cosmos" with Carl Sagan is being rebroadcast on the Science Channel at 4pm central time starting Sunday the 6th.