‘We Are Atheism’ Campaign Launches August 19, 2011

‘We Are Atheism’ Campaign Launches

One of the hardest (and most important) things we can do as atheists is come out of the closet and let people know what we stand on the god hypothesis.

We’ve seen studies that show that prejudice against atheists decreases as people know (or even just think) there are more of us out there.

We’ve also seen billboards with messages urging those who are already atheists to make themselves known — instead of trying to “deconvert” people who are religious.

Now, there’s a video campaign with the goal of encouraging more people to speak up and speak out. It’s called “We Are Atheism.”

Co-Founder Adam Brown made this video, which captures the idea of what this is all about:

Here’s a video from one of the other co-founders, Amanda Brown:

I made a video, too. They asked me to share my coming out story, so here you go:

They also have videos from Greta Christina, Edward Tarte, Heather Buchanan, JT Eberhard, and others.

I know not everyone can participate in this project for a variety of reasons… but if you’re able to openly talk about your beliefs, they need your testimonials. Make a video. Upload it (and follow these rules so it can be tracked). Let people know you’re an atheist!

How many videos can we get up there? If you make one, please leave the URL in the comments so we can watch it!

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  • CoffeeLovingSkeptic
  • Christian von Kietzell

    It’s sad that a campaign like this is actually necessary. The videos are so surreal, especially yours. Don’t get me wrong, not trying to make fun of you. I can relate to much of what you’re saying there – except in a different context. Replace atheism by homosexuality and the video still makes the same kind of sense.

    I don’t know if atheisms being in the closet is a US-specific problem. But I’ve never had any strange reaction when I told someone I was an atheist.  The most common one you get over here  in Europe (or at least the part I live in – East Germany) is, ‘so what?’

    The US seem to be so far away from that.

  • Anonymous

    Silly aesthetic side note: You could pass along to WeAreAtheism that you can actually choose the image that shows up before the “play” button is pressed. As I recall by default it’s the frame from the middle of the video. In your case, it gives you a sad-puppy frown. Other options are available during the upload phase.

  • “The US seem to be so far away from that.”
    So true, my friend. Another world.

  • David McNerney

    “Resistance is futile”?

  • Trina

    The U.S. is not ‘atheist-friendly.’  I hope it will be, someday.  I’m ‘out’ as an atheist with most people.  I’ve gone through being ‘out’ with mental illness, and atheism is harder than that to admit, especially to people  like my 96-year old aunt who sincerely believes I’d go to hell and would worry.  With her, I demur when the subject arises. 

  • I really liked your video.

  • Anonymous

    In England it isn’t even worth mentioning when someone does or doesn’t believe in gods.  Despite actually being an actual Christian nation hardly anyone cares unless you’re a complete nutter about your views.  Then they just back away and leave you to your views while they go and have a nice cup of tea.  Possibly a scone too.

  • Anonymous

    I’m conflicted. I feel strongly compelled to make a video, for all of the reasons stated in the videos above, but it’s also the fact that atheism is NOT my entire identity. I love to bake and cook and go on bike rides and read books and listen to jazz and metal and glitch-hop and write mediocre poetry and read English Journal and shoot necromorphs and play Settler’s of Catan. I’m an English-teaching-bike-riding-yoga-doing-farmers-market-shopping-volunteering-urban-hipster-nerd-atheist…there are lots of parts of me that are not popular and mainstream.

    My S.O. and I JUST came out to our respective families last week; for me, that was an incredibly traumatic and emotional experience and I run the very real risk of destroying my relationship with my mother and father (not sure if that actually will happen or not – only time will tell).

    I’m just fearful that really getting out there on the internet – posting video, writing more atheist-related blog posts, sharing things on Facebook, etc. – will be, to my parents, as if I’d dropped trou and shat on them. I don’t even care about converting them, exactly – it’s just that I want to maintain a relationship with them for the future.

    I’m curious; has anyone else gone through something similar, or had the same internal conflict (I know youuuu’re ouuuut theeere)? If so, what did you do and how did you decide?

  • I don’t recall your nom, so maybe you are new here?

    Search the archives, there are many, many, people who have similar stories to you. Search the Ask Richard entries especially.

    Atheists and the LGBTQ community often overlap, so many of us know hard it is to come out.  Many of us have very personal stories to tell, I hope you are able to find some to relate to.

  • Brian Wilson

    asmallcontempt, your story is exactly why this sort of thing needs to be done.  We need to be out about who we are.  There is nothing to be ashamed of.  The world needs to be educated to remove the stigma associated with not having an imaginary friend, and the only way that will happen is if people speak out and inform their parents/siblings/friends/neighbors/co-workers that the people they’ve known and liked (or loved) happen to be atheists, and that they are still good people.    You are the same person your parents loved a month ago before they knew you were atheist.  You are the same person you’ve always been.   That idea needs to be reinforced in their consciousness.  Once the public realizes that we are just like everyone else and that the people they know and love just happen to be non religious, the stigma surrounding atheism should dissolve.   But it won’t happen if we are afraid to come out and be honest about who we are. 

  • usclat

    I really respect and admire you and your website Hemant. I so look forward to opening your site each morning (ironic huh?) BUT I must nitpick with you … You WERE born an atheist! You just didn’t know. At any rate, great job! 

  • Anonymous

    I guess you’re right. Actually, I KNOW you’re right. It’s the just that the emotional suffering and heartbreak that comes from falling out with religious families is not an easy thing to justify (I kind of inwardly groan when I came to the realization that I was going to have to deal with these crazy turds every. family. gathering. from here until death.).

    But the greater good that’s done by people coming out, I think, outweighs the cowardice that stems from emotions. I just need to grow a pair and DO it.

    Luckily, I live in Chicago, so it’s not as if I am without resources here. I just need to tap into the communities that DO exist. My ability to speak out will, hopefully, help others. I just hope that the negative ramifications won’t come back to bite me. (I’m an education graduate, and I am convinced that being a public atheist could have some serious negative consequences if it fell into the wrong hands if prospective employers/school board members look me up online, etc. Actually, Hemant, as a teacher as well I wonder how you handled that?)

    *goes off to grow a pair*

  • True – but being English and free to be (mostly) secular is just the tip of a religion dominated planet where human rights atrocities and the non-teaching of ‘real’ knowledge are being committed everyday. Fight the good fight dear chap 😉 

  • Anonymous

    Is all the profanity necessary? I prefer that we make our points without it. It just sounds more compelling.

  • Austin

    I wish I could, but as stated, for a couple of reasons I can’t at this moment.

  • MariaO

    Atheist societies are probably necessary in places like the US, which is permeated by religion, but it is really a very strange concept. After all, you are a collection of people who are unified by something you are not, rather than around something you are. It’s like having a society for all those who do not have a pet snake or rabbit who meet to discuss the care of their various pets. (Or maybe even a society for hairdressers of the bold – using a metaphor seen here a couple of times?) Would it not be better to collect in groups that actually have some philosophy of life in common? Epicureanism or humanism or something else that contains positive ideas and guidelines the members mostly agree on. “Atheist” says what you are not, but does not give any clue to what you are! A society with contents other than “null” could also be easier to accept for those who believe in more gods than you do.
    But I speak from a country where the prime minister (conservative!) is an atheist and in a just released poll 55% of citizens said they do not believe in god and 18% say the believe in god but have not attended church or prayed during the last year. There is need for the majority to organize itself, of course. But then we had a state church until 2000 – the best way to draw the fangs of a religion is to make its priests state employed bureaucrats for 400 years!

  • FNW49

    My first marriage took place in 1970 in a Methodist church.  My wife to be, wanted it to take place in a church.  It didn’t take long during the interview for the Methodist minister to understand that I was an Atheist. 

    My second marriage took place in 1986 in our home.  The first minister approached, chose not to.

    I’m an Atheist living in “God’s World.”

  • FNW49

    My first marriage took place in 1970 in a Methodist church.  My wife to be, wanted it to take place in a church.  It didn’t take long during the interview for the Methodist minister to understand that I was an Atheist. 

    My second marriage took place in 1986 in our home.  The first minister approached, chose not to.

    I’m an Atheist living in “God’s World.”

  • Anonymous

    They actually cover that in the “follow these rules” that Hemant linked to in the post.

  • Anonymous

    I fully agree with the last sentence. Giving churches such wide ranging freedoms and outright exemptions from following the law in many cases has actually caused the US to become a de-facto theocracy.

    Sure, there are aspects where having the state  sponsor or pay for religion is annoying, but in the grand scheme of things it actually keeps them in check

  • Anonymous

    While I support the “coming out” effort and the comparative campaign of “it gets better”… I have a difficult time comparing a lack of beliefs in deities (an epistemological claim) to a sexual orientation (personal identity).  This makes us (atheists) look weak and as if we are supremely “disadvantaged”… even though we’re actually a larger minority than Jews and Buddhists… combined.

    Oh… you poor thing for losing contact with your father/mother, or extended family for telling them what you do not believe… cry me a river, and then please, with a cherry on top… stop whining that you have to “deal” with crazy fundies.

    We (humanity) have bigger problems, and should have bigger goals.  Like getting atheists elected to a myriad of public offices, pumping the national science education budget, eliminating blue laws, setting up community organizations that are secular and a lot more.

    Awareness is great, but this just seems a little silly.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t see how the two aren’t inextricably intertwined. Often, the “crazy fundies” that make up our families are involved in our communities and in our politics. It horrifies me that my mother is, at once, the president of the local school board and an advocate of turning this country into a theocracy.

    We HAVE TO deal with individuals at home AND in the public sector. One without the other doesn’t even seem possible, quite honestly.

    And you can’t tell me that the real and present fear of alienation and being ostracized isn’t a big deal – that’s why so many are closeted! I can’t imagine having de-converted while in high school – I think I would have run a very real risk of being kicked out of my own home (and I know that that is a real concern, depending on the kind of environment kids are raised in).

    When I student taught, I had ONE openly atheist student in the entire 9th grade class. This poor kid was mercifully bullied, scorned, and mocked (though never while I was leading the classroom – I made it clear that such behavior would not be tolerated in any capacity) by the Christian students that espoused love for ones neighbor, the need for justice, and, most ironically, the need to end bullying in high school. I overheard one girl, as they were walking in to class, ask this kid if  “was, like, the Anti-Christ or something?”

  • Resident Iconoclast

    In the video, “we” were not making “our” points in order to compel “you.” Amanda was telling her own story in her own words. If you object to her language, by all means hit the mute button and flee for your life. But don’t set yourself up as the official Language Police and dictate how “we” can best adhere to “your” arbitrary rules.

  • I don’t want to diminish your concerns but I think they are based more on fear then anything else. We have it rather easy in Chicago. Hemant couldn’t be much more public about his stance and look what he has accomplished. Jerry Coyne,  a professor at the University of Chicago, and author of “Why Evolution Is True” does very well. Eric Zorn, of the Chicago Tribune, also publicly voices his opinion and his readership is not affected. I could go on and on. Plenty of blogs describe the hardships that others around the nation must deal with.

    Regarding your religious mother on a school board: Don’t you feel a liitle guilty knowing your mother has a strong influence in her community and is choosing to use that influence to–I’m going to assume you are likely suggesting promoting creationism in school, among other religious ridiculousness–literally work towards weakening the future of her community while you choose not to question her position out of concern that you will publicly offend her?

    I think we have the responsibility of standing up and making our voices heard. We should not let any group–especially those that make questionable contributions to society–dominate the path that this nation follows.

  • Anonymous

    “Feel a little guilty”? No! Absolutely not. Anger? Yes. Sadness? Absolutely.

    I have made it explicitly clear to her (and the rest of the nut-job fundies on the board) that I think their opposition to sex ed, promotion of Christianity and denigration of any other religions, denial of the existence of LGBTQ students, is silly and very, very poisonous.

    I don’t have any more power over my mother’s choices than I do over yours. The best thing I can possibly do is try to give her a new perspective and firmly state, in exact terms, how her choices can (and sometimes do) make students and faculty suffer.

    Guilt is a useless emotion unless it accompanies action. Guilt wouldn’t lead to that small, rural, white high school becoming more liberal and accepting; my conversations might. 

    And OF COURSE my reluctance to come out publicly (over the internet, I mean – my family already knows) stems from fear! What is not to be feared in a world like this: http://atheists.org/blog/2011/07/29/fox-news-facebook-page-on-911-cross-generates-death-threats-against-atheists

    But I think fear is legitimate. Fear may lead us to make judgement calls that are in our own best interest (like an atheist preacher staying in the pulpit until he can find another job, or a high school student waiting to come out until college, when she doesn’t fear being kicked out of her home). Sometimes they don’t work for the good of the group, but sometimes there are very real, damaging consequences to coming out atheist that other atheists shouldn’t sweep under the rug. There’s been a lot of talk in the atheist community recently about making atheists feel comfortable coming out and having safe communities to turn to; telling people their fears are petty is NOT an effective way to do that.

    I’m slowly getting over that fear. I’ve already written publicly on my blog about atheist issues. I may very well make a video. But I am lucky enough to not have to deal with or live with these crazy fundies, and I’m lucky enough to have a spouse who is on the same page as I am and supportive of the drama that my family will constantly insist on bringing to the table.

    Yes, I’ve been whining. Yes, I just need to get over it…but I think it’s important to not paint this issue with such a broad brush.

  • Stickmanstoner

    I used “we” and “our” in the context of a group of people who are attempting to get across a common point of view. Excuse me for assuming that this would be a group that I would want to associate with and that Atheists would want to be viewed as decent human beings.

    I’ve heard language of that type and am not personally offended by it. But in a public forum coming from the co-founder of the “We are Atheism” group it seems a bit counterproductive to use it here.

    As atheists we need to overcome the incorrect impression that we are immoral, godless heathens. I thought this was the whole point of “coming out”. But if you think that using language that some may find immature and offensive then you had better get your head out of the sand. This does more harm to the cause than it does good.

    I was policing nothing, simply offering my point of view. I would be interested in hearing a response from Amanda.

  • I’m sorry.

    I don’t consider your concerns petty.  And I didn’t see a link to a personal website, so I thought, based on the comments I read here, that you are still very much anonymous, even within much of your family.

    “I don’t have any more power over my mother’s choices than I do over yours.”

    I agree but you have the ability to speak out as loudly as those with damaging perspectives that are public and influential. My point is that we live in a rather tolerable, if not accepting city, and that your public voice is needed.

    Regarding  those http://atheists.org/blog/2011/07/29/fox-news-facebook-page-on-911-cross-generates-death-threats-against-atheists

    These people rank extremely low on my own likely-a-real-threat list.

    After talking with my wife and with her support, I went public a few years ago after repeated vocal and written threats to education by a local pastor in my area went unanswered by my neighbors. We were unsure what to expect, but were surprised when we received as much support as we did, even though much of it was acknowledged very quietly.

  • FNW49

    Excessive use of profanity could be the sign of a very limited vacabulary, or if not, it may be the sign of a self-imposed closet. Regardless, it’s use suggests or exposes something of the user that may be found to be annoying – as preaching is. 

  • Radigis

    “After all, you are a collection of people who are unified by something
    you are not, rather than around something you are. It’s like having a
    society for all those who do not have a pet snake or rabbit who meet to
    discuss the care of their various pets. ”

    I understand what you’re saying about being a collection of people who have an ‘absence’ of something being a bit odd … but this gets turned on its head when you accept that for a very long time it was not only the norm to be a believer but to be in real physical danger to NOT be a believer.
    In those places where atheism is still far from being the norm there is a great deal of comfort in linking up with your ‘tribe’ (like-minded folk) and being able to speak your truth without feeling like an ‘outsider’.

  • Oo! Neat! I may make a video, but it’ll probably have to wait until my weekend when I have a little more time. I’ll post it to my blog come Tuesday or Wednesday so anyone who wants to check it out can look there then. (I’m pretty sure my name links straight to my blog.)

  • Limeyspicegirl

    “english-teaching-biker-riding…farmers-market-shopping…urban-hipster-nerd” You’re me!! haha

    I came from a very secular background where ‘bible bashers’ were frowned upon. No one I knew was ‘hard core’ but we all vaguely were christian (more ‘cultural christian’ than anything) My parents went to church (episcopal) but my brother and i went to Sunday school when young but never went to church.

    Quite frankly, i never really ‘bought’ the whole god thing and was rather dubious from a young child. It all sounded rather silly and implausible, but it was so intertwined with everyday culture, that a lot of it kind of passed as culture. 

    Around 10 years ago, at 30 years old i officially became a vocal atheist since living in the US involves a lot of frustratingly asinine god conversations, wishy washy explanations for life and much meddling in politics from the religious right.  My outspoken came as a response to the overt religiousity that i saw around me and the resentment i felt for the reverence for such absurd, impractical and poorly thought-out views about how humans ought to interract with one another.

    Christopher Hitchens was instrumental in rousing up the bile i already had supressed for many years regarding religious beliefs. Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins also solidified my insistence on always speaking out against absurdity and irrational views and always saying i didn’t believe in god, regardless of what people would think of me. In fact the aforementioned trailblazers made the relish the opposition i was sure to meet.

    Hearing about this project, ‘we are atheism’ has really inspired me to do something to help other people see the varied faces of atheism and to allow others who feel they’re the only ones who are aware of that huge white elephant in the room we call religion see that others too are of the same mind set.

    Regarding others views of your atheism: I really don’t want to be friends with anyone who is so ignorant to think that having a brain and using reason is a bad thing. If your desire is to ignore reality, pretend life is something it isn’t, disregard science, facts and critical thinking, you’re really not someone i want to be friends with. So, if people like this defriend me, i kind of already defriended them in my mind anyway.

    Life really is too short to not help bring about a much-needed push towards clear, practical thinking and let the rest of them know that these qualities don’t sublimate feelings, awe, inspiration and love, but rather, increase it.

  •  MariaO, I find that there is a good analogy to resistance movements to occupational regimes, if one takes care to point out the lack of actual militancy in the atheist movements. While being a member of a resistance doesn’t tell you something specific about someone other than their opposition, that doesn’t mean the resistance structure has no goal, or no purpose.
    There is a general societal taboo regarding the questioning the existence of gods.  “Humanist” and “rationalist” are good labels, but there are theistic humanists and rationalists. These and similar terms distract from the main issue, that of disbelief in gods.

  • Drew M.

    She used profanity?

  • Drew M.

    Does anyone else think Hemant’s video still looks like Comedy and Tragedy?

  • Stickmanstoner

    Yep….Unnecessary use of the F word. See between 2:35 to 3:20. Amanda has a good message otherwise. 

  • Thin-ice

    46 years as an evangelical & missionary before I de-converted. My brother and mother are fundamentalists. I don’t care if my brother knows, but I don’t want to ruin my 88-yr-old mother’s last years by “coming out”. Pretty much share your reasons for holding back. So, no video yet. I have to wait until she’s gone to do that. (Though I was interviewed on the local ABC TV affiliate evening news during that “left behind” frenzy in May, but the town I live in is 400 miles away from my mothers, so I figured I was safe.)

  • Thin-ice

    46 years as an evangelical & missionary before I de-converted. My brother and mother are fundamentalists. I don’t care if my brother knows, but I don’t want to ruin my 88-yr-old mother’s last years by “coming out”. Pretty much share your reasons for holding back. So, no video yet. I have to wait until she’s gone to do that. (Though I was interviewed on the local ABC TV affiliate evening news during that “left behind” frenzy in May, but the town I live in is 400 miles away from my mothers, so I figured I was safe.)

  • Thin-ice

    Brian, I’m perplexed by your militancy on this. Do you not think it is a valid reason for not outing himself, that asmallcontempt stated (and my situation is similar), that he wishes  to take into account elderly believing parents? I’m not going to cause my 88-yr-old mother emotional distress and trauma just to prove a  point with her.

    What about the VERY REAL possibility that many of us atheists face, of losing our jobs and livelihood, especially in the South and the Red states, if we reveal our worldview to our employers? If you’re responsible for feeding and sheltering your family, I certainly would not judge someone who can’t and won’t play the role of atheist martyr, for economic reasons.

  • Nazani14

    This looks a lot like the “…..and I’m a Mormon”  campaign, so I think I’ll pass. 

    When the topic comes up, I just say “I don’t see any evidence for anything souls or anything supernatural, so I don’t bother with it.”  I suspect that meeting a decent person and finding out in the normal course of events that they’re atheist is more effective, because the religious person doesn’t have the chance to prejudge you.

  • Nazani14

    In my case, as in thousands of others, it’s the jargon I got used to in the Army. Far from having anything to do with closets, it’s simply the way many groups of people, from cops to video gamers talk.     We need to find a better word than “profanity,” since nothing is “sacred” or “profane.”  Let’s just call it emphatic language.

  • Thin-ice

    I agree. Before I de-converted at the age of 60, swear words were not part of my vocabulary. Now I have no problems with that kind of language, and use it where appropriate (mostly when I’ve inflicted pain on myself with some kind of garage tool, or heard another story about Rick Perry!).

    But if one of our intended audiences is the theist crowd, it makes no sense to use language that we KNOW they will find offensive. Why give them an excuse to stop listening before they’ve even had a chance to listen to the core message?

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