Are You Still in the Closet About Your Atheism? January 1, 2009

Are You Still in the Closet About Your Atheism?

***Update***: ABC is no longer doing this story, I’ve edited the post to remove the contact information

A while back, I posted about a reporter wishing to do a piece on atheists who have not come out to family/friends yet. Or you have come out and suffered because of it.

Many of you responded and I sent your contact information to the reporter. (Thanks!)

It looks like a few more people are needed.

Here is an email from the reporter. You can respond directly to her:


I am a Producer working with ABC News: 20/20 who is investigating a possible story about being an Atheist in America.

I am trying to learn as much about people who are in a constant struggle with their communities, families, friends, and perhaps even with themselves — all in an effort to be true to their atheistic beliefs within a mostly Christian society.

A few months ago, over the summer, many of you may have responded to a [posting] from Hemant Mehta which was asking if anyone would be willing to discuss their experiences with us.

Currently this segment is only in the early investigative stages, and therefore we are not filming any interviews right now. We are simply looking to speak with people right now to learn about their lives. At some point we may eventually wish to interview those of you who are willing to share their compelling stories with us.

Again I am interested in hearing from people who are in a constant struggle just for being an atheist. Therefore if you have lost your job, friends or family, or have openly faced ridicule in your town, or if you suffer everyday from not telling anyone you’re an atheist & are strongly considering coming out to family, or even if you live in fear of anyone finding out you’re an atheist, or if have any other experiences you’d be willing to share — then we would be very interested in hearing from you.

I can be contacted via email using the information below!

Thanks very much!


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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • I’m not a good candidate because I don’t meet the requirement of needing to be in a constant struggle just for being an atheist.

  • I’m somewhat annoyed by these types of articles. What about all the happy atheists, who are well adjusted in their lives and aren’t in a constant struggle? Feeding articles like that just enforce the image of atheists as grumpy, ill adjusted people. I’m proud to be an atheist. I’m happy to be an atheist. I’m not ashamed to tell anyone. I think people should focus on what is good about atheism instead of everything always being so negative.

  • vincent

    yeah, she makes it sound rather like she’s looking for people who fit her hypothesis, not a general overview of atheist experiences.
    I’ve never lost jobs or family over my atheism. I have not told most of my family, but as they live thousands of miles away not much of a struggle there.

    Sounds almost like she has the story written and is looking for examples to prove her point.

  • I tend to agree with Vincent. Having been in the business, the story comes first, then people are found to fit the story. Since Atheists have been cruising under the radar for more than two thousand years, it will be difficult to tell the real story of how Atheists survive in America without exposing more intent than offered in her solicitation. For example, most of us are not struggling. That is one of the delusions. Except for those who live in a volatile community like the deep south where anything “different” will struggle, we really have no complaints.

  • If anyone’s story needs to be told, it is Dan Silverman’s. His story is quite saddening and it truly brings to mind Jesus’s claim that he came not to bring peace but a sword to divide families.

  • So I guess this would be a way to come out to your parents … and the country since there’s a chance that you’d be interviewed by ABC.

  • truckboattruck

    From Ia Robinson’s email…

    … all in an effort to be true to their atheistic beliefs within a mostly Christian society.

    Uh, atheistic beliefs?? What does that mean?

    Tom: “I believe that a cosmic Jewish Zombie who was his own father can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree.”

    Bob: “I don’t believe that.”

    Is Bob spouting one of his “atheistic beliefs”?

    This sounds like the start of the way too common I-work-in-TV-so-I’ll-do-a-story-on-anything-without-knowing-what-the-eff-I’m-talking-about.

  • HP

    Vincent and Anton have expressed my views also. Neither myself nor my friends who share my lack of belief in a supernatural being are “struggling” or “suffering”.

  • Uncle Harley

    Sounds like “cherry picking” to me. But how can we blame her when the Office of the President (Bush, 43) risked the security of the free world on cherry picking evidence of WMD and other dubious threats?

  • Perhaps a number of us happy, friendly, well-adjusted atheists should contact her and tell our stories. If she is a good reporter, then she will include that perspective as well.

  • Marta West

    Well I guess I would fit the profile of being a non-believer ( hate the word Atheist since people have given it so many evil connotations)
    I’m a US citizen born and raised in Venezuela been hapilly married for 14 years with a US non-believer and have 3 kids, which we decided not to indoctrinate into any religious belief system but letting them know religions in gral. Just this Christmas we had the worse moments of our lives when attacked by all my “religiuos in laws” finding out through my 11 year old son that we were ATHEISTS for sending him to Camp Quest. We’ve definetelly have been in the closet for over 14 years, and can’t deny that I fear letting everybody else in this little town know in Ky what we are all about since my children could be harrased or bullied at school, but certainly it is amazing the agresivness I’ve lived here fenomenom unique to the US, and would not doubt that we could have serious consequences in regards to our jobs. Marta Maristany West

  • Marta West

    I don’t see there is a problem by admitting that atheist do suffer repercussions..As stated before my husband and I are being offended,insulted,screammed at,etc…by his religious fanatic family. We are the happiest people you’ll find ( I’m from Venezuela were we love to dance,drink,sing, play guitar and party)my husband loves it too. So I don’t see why take offense at the fact that unfortunatelly it is a reality that we are the most hated minority in the US and this has forced us to keep quite b/c it’s true that here in this tiny town 99% of my neighbors will cut relationships/busyness if they just knew our belief system and my kids could be really hurt in the process. My in laws ( familly) are furious & have put distance( which have hurt my kids to be separated from their cousins, missing all the fun)what should we expect of a non-relative ?? Marta M West

  • StoneQuarry

    Everyone is quick to jump all over this person.
    He/she is a reporter.
    Their job is to find human interest stories.
    He/she is not suggesting all atheists are constantly struggling with their beliefs.
    She says:

    I am trying to learn as much about people who are in a constant struggle with their communities, families, friends, and perhaps even with themselves — all in an effort to be true to their atheistic beliefs within a mostly Christian society.

    The last part is true – we do live in a mostly christian society – check the latest religious surveys.
    Saying this reporter is ‘making it look like all atheists are struggling’ is a classic ad hom fallacy.
    All he/she wants to do is learn about people who DO struggle with it. Some do.
    I personally have kept it from my immediate family for personal reasons. Maybe I am a good candidate.

    Do you people just hate reporters that much? >:-/

  • John Connolly

    I used to have problems with people`s fixed idea about atheism when I first came out of the closet, since they picture us as nihilists who are against so called god given morality. It´s important that we change that mis-perception.

    I tell them I am writing a book about religion and when they say, “how interesting,” I say, “yes, I`m against it! Look at all the terrible things that have been done in the name of religion.” and then I`m off to a far better reception of my supposedly radical ideas.

    I really don´t like the way we emphasis the word atheism because it doesn`t convey the positive side of our free thinking. We are mostly Humanists with a rich philosophy that goes back before Christianity, but we seem loath to attach a label to our individualistic philosophies. As a result, we leave the door open to misunderstanding of our rejection of mythical gods and blind faith.

    Let´s talk more about the marvelous capabilities of mankind, and how everyone needs to reach his or her potential through self responsibility, without the threats and guilt of religious teaching. We need to learn how to share our good fortune with all humanity, and not try to control how other people want to live their own private lives.

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