One thing I’ve heard from a lot of other atheists is that it’s hard to make your views public, because you feel like you’re surrounded by people who would instantly break off any social contact with you if they knew what you believed (and what you didn’t). We can often feel isolated, as if there are no like-minded people around us.
This is why I think it’s important for us to self-identify. With the atheist population in America growing in numbers and becoming increasingly vocal, we can be nearly guaranteed to meet another atheist every day, though the likelihood of us recognizing each other is pretty low. That’s one thing the religious have on us – they have common symbols they can use to tell each other apart.
I’ve recently put a few bumper stickers on my car that make it quite plain what my theology is:
Today as I was leaving Starbucks I noticed a couple looking at the back of my car and writing something down. At first I was afraid that they were going to deface my stickers, but as I walked out they moved away from my car. I walked past them, opened my car door, and got ready to get in, when I noticed the woman coming back to me.
As it turns out, they were atheists, too. They mentioned that they liked my stickers and wondered where I got them from. They told me that they often felt like they were alone in a world full of people who disagreed with them, and it was a relief to finally see that they weren’t. I told them that they’d be surprised how many atheists were in the area, and mentioned our Meetup group.
This, I think, is vital to getting the sort of recognition that atheism needs in America. People need to be exposed to us. It’s not enough for us to just speak out online anymore; we need to be willing to be public with our disbelief, so that we can start to disassemble the myths that theists (especially Christians) have built up about us. The world needs to realize that a disbelief in the supernatural is a perfectly respectable and rational position, and that we shouldn’t be ashamed to stand out.
I encourage anyone who reads this to seriously consider coming out of the atheist closet. The more of us that are willing to stand up and be counted, the more we’ll be accepted by the mainstream of society.