The Power of Coming Out As An Atheist

Coming Out As An Atheist

It’s hard to come out of the closet. This is, of course, largely how Christianity maintains itself: "through fear"

I like arguing about god’s existence. I think it’s productive and, I hope, I’ve gotten pretty decent at it over the years. But I often get emails from people lamenting their inability to effectively argue, and they wonder what they can do. 

There are a lot of answers to this question because there are about a gajillion things a person can do to further the Atheistic cause. 

But there is one thing you can do which, I think, is more powerful than all the others. Come out of the closet. The words, “I’m an Atheist,” in the right circumstances, can be a more powerful argument than anything I have ever written. 

Faced with a person who thinks Atheists are pathological to the extreme, it will take the best debater time and years of developing their skills to get that person to budge. 

But that same person may not be able to think that their own son is wicked, or their daughter, or their parents, or their friends. 

This is why the coming-out movement for the LGBT community has been so effective. With gay people being encouraged to come out of the closet, many Americans are realizing (many for the first time in their lives) that not only do they know gay people, but that they like, and often love, gay people. 

This is a power to alter minds that is unavailable even to Richard Dawkins, but which potentially rests in the hands of swaths of non-believers. I know, it’s hard to come out of the closet. 

Believe me, I know. This is, of course, largely how Christianity maintains itself: through fear. 

You can see it all along America’s highways. How many billboards do you see promising an escape from hell (or threatening unbelievers with hell)? Lots. How many do you see saying, “Come to our church, we have evidence!”? 

None. But fear is not merely how Christianity exerts control over its own followers, it is also how it exerts control over Atheists. 

Fear of hell doesn’t work on Atheists, but fear of social consequences does. It is no secret that many Atheistic teens live terrified of being ostracized from their families, of having their tuition revoked, even of being booted out of their homes should their parents discover that they do not believe a Canaanite Jew rose from the dead. 

Adults fear mistreatment in the workplace or even termination, should it come to light that they do not share the same myths as their coworkers. It’s hard to come out of the closet. I know you’re likely afraid if you are faced with this choice. 

You should do it. Realize that part of the reason it is so hard for you is that generation before you stayed quiet. With every Atheist who makes their disbelief known, more religious people are forced to confront the negative notions of Atheists that have been pounded into them and reinforced by other believers. 

Think not only of yourself but also of the young people growing up right now who may one day face the same social consequences. 

Do for them what you wish would have been done for you. This is what you can do to support our movement. 

In the end, this is what we will have to do in order to gain equality in the minds of other Americans. Your life belongs to you. 

Those close to you are fortunate that you are sharing it with them. If you love them, do not share a lie. If they are to love you, let them love you. Let them love somebody who trusts them with the truth. 

I could sit down and reason with those you love to the fullest of my abilities for days on end, and perhaps never sway them one inch closer to the fact that Atheism does not corrupt people. 

But you, in one sentence, might be able to do more than I ever could. This is the power of honesty, and it can change the world. 

I know this may result in losing the love of a lot of people. But if they love a character that you are playing for them, if they love someone who isn’t you, then that love is already dead. I know that’s horrible to hear, and a part of me feels cruel typing it. 

But it’s the truth. There are people in the world, closer than you think, who will love you for who you truly are. 

We have Atheist communities in pretty much every town and city in this country now. Coming out may be difficult, but hop on or attend an Atheist conference; it will quickly become apparent that you will not have to face this choice alone. 

There are even people sitting next to you in the pew who share your dilemma, but don’t have the bravery that you have to face it. They are waiting for someone like you to be their example. And, if you are out of the closet, don’t consider your work done. 

Reach out to the closeted Atheists you know and support them. This is how we change minds. This is how we change the world.

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J.T. Eberhard

by J.T. Eberhard

J.T. Eberhard is the co-founder of the Skepticon conference and served as the event’s lead organizer for its first three years. His blog, What Would J.T. Do?, is at

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