Category Archives: Coming Out

Capital Pride Festival 2013

My meetup group, Capital Region Atheists & Agnostics, will be at this year’s Capital Pride Festival on June 9 at Washington Park in Albany. If you’re in the area, drop by and say hello! I’ve got a bunch of atheism and LGBT-related goodies to give away to people at the event.

Last year, we had a few delightful religious nutjobs protesting the Pride Parade. One of them was even someone I recognized from the Reason Rally! The kooks sure do get around.

P.S.: I’m still alive! I don’t update this nearly as much as I ought to because I’m getting most of my atheism-related frustration out on Reddit nowadays…

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We’ve got a highway!

Our local atheist meetup group has adopted a highway. More specifically, 2.6 miles of highway just outside of Cohoes, New York.

highwaysign

That’s me on the left there. (Many more photos here.) We just wrapped up our first highway cleanup event. Eight people showed up, and over the course of half the full route, we went through over a dozen trash bags. Lots of litter… mostly plastic cups, cigarette packs and butts, beer cans, energy drinks, and random bits of paper and foam packaging.

Things we learned today, as said on Facebook by Rick, the event’s organizer:

  • Apparently, high proportions of the nation’s dwindling number of smokers are drawn, irresistibly, to Cohoes, NY, much in the way that visionaries flocked to Devil’s Tower in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
  • Litterers exhibit a strong preference for Budweiser, Red Bull, Five Hour Energy and Newports.
  • Unlike love, Styrofoam is forever.

I got a nice sunburn, and I’m looking forward to doing this again – with a bigger group so we can split up and do the whole route.

An atheist godfather?

My cousin is an Episcopalian, which he describes as “the American version of Anglicanism, which is the British version of Catholicism.” He has a beautiful new baby son, who will be baptized in just over a month. And he’s asked me to be my new cousin’s godfather.

Being raised a protestant, I really had no idea what this meant. The whole godfather/godmother thing was totally foreign to me. So I decided I’d ask around at work. I’m surrounded by Catholics here in New York, something else that was foreign while I was growing up in the Midwest.

Apparently, to be a godfather means several things:

  1. That you’re expected to give the biggest gifts at birthday parties, graduation, etc.,
  2. That you’ll take responsibility for being a parent for the child if anything happens to his real parents, and
  3. That you’ll help with the spiritual upbringing of the child.

Oh, dear.

You see, my cousin asked me over the phone, and I pretty much said yes right away without bothering to find out what it meant. And the vast majority of my family – namely, anyone who isn’t my parents or doesn’t look too closely at my Facebook profile – doesn’t know I’m an atheist.

So… what do I do now? How do I let my cousin down easy? I certainly wouldn’t feel comfortable helping to raise his son as an Episcopalian, but still – the fact that he’d consider me for such a job tells me that there’s something about me that he respects, and I want to show him that I’m grateful that he’d consider me for such a role. Not to mention that telling him I’m an atheist would likely mean that I’d be outed to that entire half of my family… which is something I’m probably due for at this point.

Part of being named as a godfather also means that I’d have to attend the kid’s baptism, which is (in my mind) inextricably tied with the beginning of an indoctrination into Christian dogma… sigh.

Getting the Word Out

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:

and
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.