Yes, There Are Atheist Nurses February 27, 2012

Yes, There Are Atheist Nurses

This article by Christina Feist-Heilmeier was brought to my attention over the weekend, though I’m not sure how old it is. How many lies can you spot?

Of all the hundreds of nurses I have known, I have never known one who is an atheist. Just as there are no atheists in fox holes, there are no atheists in nursing.

It doesn’t get any better from there. You can try to leave a comment at the website but there’s no telling if it’ll go through.

We know there are atheists in foxholes. There are organizations for them. The Rock Beyond Belief concert is paying homage to them next month.

Atheist nurses exist, too. You would know that with even minimal effort. If you’re one of them, please make yourselves known in the comments below!

(Thanks to John for the link!)

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  • Zahnarzt

    They sure do exist. My wife is one!

  • Kennedy Terra

    I am an atheist nurse and know many, many others.

  • Her article only exposes her own extreme ignorance.  I would not want to have any nurse that is this ignorant caring for me, regardless of their religious delusions.

  • Michael Caton

    Not only do they exist, if you want to meet others, there’s a group on Atheist Nexus for medical atheists in general.

  • Sue blue

    This woman is full of shit.  I am an atheist RN.  There is a site dedicated to atheist medical professionals over on Atheist Nexus and there are nurses posting on it all the time. also has posts about atheist nurses.   She must not have gotten out much, or had any in-depth conversations with the “hundreds of nurses” she claims to have known.  Nurses usually don’t parade around wearing their beliefs or lack of them on their sleeves, because it just isn’t good nursing.  The patient’s needs take precedent, and we’re too busy to have religious debates at work.

  • This is absurd. It’s like saying there are no Christian nurses or Jewish nurses or black nurses or Asian nurses. None of those things have ANYTHING TO DO with professions, & you can find people of all backgrounds in all professions, period.

  • Andrew Wilson

    Hah! And it’s written for a magazine called Nursing Together. So much for unity.

    She also quotes mother Theresa as an inspiration. A woman who didn’t treat people because she thought suffering brought you closer to god.

  • Amy

    I completed my first year of nursing last year befire deciding I wanted to switch my academics to sciences. I have been an atheist since I was 14 and I am now 22. I don’t see why belief in gods should dictate whether we should help one another or not. But sadly that is the way many religious people think.
    I’d rather be taken care of by someone that genuinely wants to help people, not by someone who is only doing so to avoid going to “hell”.
    There are many atheists in many professions whom are constantly workng to better health, to better society, to better the environmenr, etc.

  • I feel it would be remiss of me not to use this moment to mention, in the hopes that my fiancée might post there more often if she gets some more visitors.

  • My wife is an Atheist nurse. We live in Florida and are careful with who we tell….

  • Rieux

    I’m an atheist non-nurse, but a good friend of mine is an atheist nurse.

    Keep sticking it to Feist-Heilmeier’s prejudiced dishonesty, all.

  • Michael

    I like the comment by Cindy W who is a religious nurse who points out she has no idea what religion her colleagues are and it wouldn’t change her opinion of them either way.

  • Ms. Feist-Heilmeier displays not only her ignorance and intellectual laziness, but her self-righteous and self-perpetuating sense of privilege as well. The letter in one of the linked posts shows not only that atheist nurses exist, but also why they tend to keep quiet about it. 

  • My comment on their side:

    “No atheists in foxholes” is one of the most offensive things ever spoken – pure religious bigotry and blatantly untrue. This “no nurse is an atheist” claim is the exact same thing.

    You’ve met atheist nurses, you just didn’t know it because they weren’t going around preaching it to everyone.

    Let me try it: computer science (my field) requires logic. Therefore, there are no Christian computer scientists. Except of course there are and that’s no indicator either way of their job performance. Do you understand how offensive this is? How rude and dismissive of a human being?

  • Jeffrey Handy

    Is it any wonder what the author would write? Her book? “Nurses Are From Heaven”

  • Gunstargreen

    Just because they’re not lining up to tell you that they’re atheists doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Unless you ask every nurse you meet what religion they are like some kind of freak.

  • The Captain

    My GF is an Atheist nurse and so are all of her 7 co-workers I’ve meet also atheist nurses.

  • I’ve tried leaving a comment on the nursing website via both Firefox and Safari. Sometimes on these magazine-style blogs one works but not the other.  But my comment has not appeared on the site. Is there a delay, or have comments been shut down?

  • Is this RN referring only to the U.S.? Because I know two RNs and an LPN who are atheists. I’m Canadian.

    Also, I wonder if her statement wasn’t so much a declaration of faith and more of a warning. “If you’re an RN, you had better never EVER state you’re an atheist, or it’ll go badly for you.”

  • Anonymous

    I am pretty close with the medical world and have family and friends who are atheist nurses, doctors (non surgical) and surgeons.  I know multiple people in each discipline.  The above article is simply foolish.

  • Anonymous

    When I am assaulted with Christian preaching (or any preaching, though other kinds are rare), or any proselytizing for a cause that does not have immediate and recognizable value, I am likely to nod and smile, rather than return in kind, except when they come to the door.  At work, I prefer to be polite rather than counter their claims.
    I suspect the nurses she meets do this too. 
    If medical personnel are caring for someone with religious needs, part of the care includes supporting the patient’s beliefs, even if they don’t share them.  The problem at hand is the patient’s health, and challenging their faith except as it applies to the required care, has no benefit, and might well become a detriment.  Atheist or not, a courteous person is likely to let the evangelist have their say without contesting it, and the evangelist is delusional if they  take silence for agreement.

  • Anonymous

    Fuck her and double fuck “Mother” Teresa.

  • LucyS

    As an atheist nurse, it is difficult to support your patients when they assume you are religious and ask you to pray for them or say things like “Thank God for nurses like you”. You just smile and take it. As nurses, we are there to support our patients and make them feel better, no matter their beliefs and routes to wellness.

  • I hate comments like the one that said, “She was just expressing her opinion!” No, she wasn’t. She was making a claim about a matter of verifiable fact. “Opinion” is not synonymous with “thing I say because it makes me feel good and I really don’t give a shit whether it’s true or not.”

  • Irishbass63

    I’m an atheist respiratory therapist and my fiance is an atheist nurse. And I know others as well.

  • Stephica

    My best friend has a BS in Nursing and a MS in Biology. He is currently working as a nurse in Las Vegas, and is frequently commended for his talents. He is an atheist.

    This article really angers me.

  • Steve

    I am starting nursing school this year, and I am an atheist who wants to practice science based medicine – I was a little worried that I might be alone in the workplace. I’m glad to hear the positive comments about atheist nurses.

  • Erik Cameron

    “Except of course there are and that’s no indicator either way of their job performance.”
    Is this a positive claim? Can you provide evidence?

  • Gordon Duffy

     Monster Theresa

  • FSq

    Really? You really believe there are no christian computer scientists? You really need a citation for THAT?

    That just won the myopic vision award for February 2012.

  • FSq

    This type of overt bigotry and stupidity really does suggest that the christian right is desperate and beginning to show its last gasps of relevance. Couple this idiocy with the statements made by the remaining GOP candidates and you can smell desperation. 

    The christian right is a severely wounded animal, and like all animals when injured and cornered, is trying to attack and save itself with any means necessary.

    Their feet are under the fire. Keep them to it and let the christian influence die out as it should. 

  • Anonymous

    Except when they claim Catholic Hitler was an atheist and that all Nazi’s and Soviet Communists were as well. Which claim will they stick with? Or will they say they weren’t really in foxholes? Or all undocumented foxhole conversions?

  • Bethie521

    I hate the assumption that this women has made…it is an assumption that I have heard before. It’s offensive, ignorant and clearly not evidence based. Religion is not the sole basis of morality, compassion or empathy…being human is. I’ve been a nurse for almost 10 years and an atheist for nearly 15 and my drive and passion comes from my desire to help my fellow humans.

  • Liz Heywood

    My daughter is a twenty-two year old skeptic and certified nurse’s aid currently training to be an RN. She is the most concientious, skilled and comapssionate young medical professional I’ve ever seen. Anyone who has ever worked with her or been her patient will tell you the same thing.

  • Retroresale

    My husband is a MALE nurse and also an atheist…It’s kinda like spotting bigfoot!

  • Rebs

    He didn’t ask for a citation that there are christian computer scientists, he very clearly asked for a citation for this claim: “Except of course there are and that’s no indicator either way of their job performance.” 

  • I know a *lot* of computer scientists (in the broadest sense –  programmers, theorists, etc). A lot of them, I find out after knowing them (or knowing of their work) weeks, months, even years after the fact, go to church and are active in their religion. Absolutely no prior tipoff via somehow inferior work whatsoever – and why *would* there be? Do you also worry that Hindus make worse programmers? Because a lot of code is being written by Hindus, let me tell you.

    I actually *WAS* a young earth creationist when I first became a programmer. It didn’t impede my ability to program at all. (The remarkable thing about religion is that it is compartmentalized in the brain from everyday reality. For most of us, anyway. The people who fail to make the compartmentalization are the ones out on the street corner raving about demons in our action figures possessing little boys.)

    It’s not like my employer or other major employers of programmers are  keeping stats of job performance by religion, since that would be, you know, highly illegal.

  • Lisa Kelly Burr

    I’m an atheist nurse.

  • TiltedHorizon

    To have Feist-Heilmeier state that there are no atheist nurses is an attempt to claim a patent on altruism as if such qualities can only be found in theists. It is a disgraceful claim and completely dishonest. How is such hubris not recognized as the vanity, hence ‘sin’, it truly is?

    Matthew 6:1-2

    “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. ”


  • Kc

    I’ll second that there are many atheists in the medical field, this hospital pharmacist being one of them!

  • Jayneseo

    I have never meet someone from Austraia, therefore no one is from Australia.

  • Jayneseo


  • Annie

    I think it is safe to say that Feist-Heilmeier isn’t a big fan of research, in even the simplest sense of the term.  When there is someone I admire, I enjoy reading about that person and finding out about their life.  It doesn’t take long to find out about the true Mother Teresa, and not the caricature. 

  • Guest

    I’m a male in my 2nd year of nursing at McMaster University in Canada. There are at least three of us in a class of 100 and we stick together. We are definitely in the minority and it’s nice to know that evidence based science tends to rule in this program. Homeopathy is loudly questioned at every opportunity. Don’t worry Steve we (atheists) are everywhere!

  • guest

    Atheist nursing student here. Attending a Christian nursing school, because it’s the one that admitted me first. We learn about evidence-based practice one minute, and pause for prayer or a bible verse the next. It’s a trip, I tell ya. 

  • I left a comment:

    “You know who else aren’t in foxholes? Chaplains OR nurses. See? I can make sweeping generalizations too… but mine are actually true, unlike yours.”

  • David Dunn

    I am a 57 year old gay RN from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, who has been out both non-religiously and w/r/t sexual orientation for almost 35 years. I have never had direct negative feedback concerning either attribute, and I try to spread tolerance and understanding as assertively as I can. Nonetheless, I am still quite amazed at the ignorance of the general population about LGBTQ and Atheist/Humanist issues.

  • What an ignorant, bigoted ninny she is.   She’s a nurse just because she wants to “practice her faith” and please her god?  There are no atheist nurses because one has to want to “practice a faith” to have a desire to care for others?    That shows how very self-centered faith really is.  If you need a god and/or a faith to make you give a damn about your fellow humans you’re pretty depraved. 

    My sister is an atheist and a nurse.  I’ve spent my entire adult life in human services as a direct care worker.  We both do our jobs because we enjoy helping others, and we think it is the right thing to do, not because we want to please some mystical being or “practice our faith”. 

  • Miki

    My ex-partner is a gay black female atheist RN, BSN.  She’s also in the military. 

  • Gwen

    I’ve been an ICU nurse for over 20 years. I am black. I am an atheist. I do not ‘pray’ over my patients, I use critical thinking skills, knowledge and science to keep them alive.

  • Anonymous

    I’m also an atheist nurse, it doesn’t look like we’re even all that rare.

    I’ve wondered what it’s like being a fundie nurse on a palliative floor, doing everything you can to make your pt comfortable, knowing that as soon as they die they will be going to hell to be tortured for eternity.
    Must be quite strange.

  • Rwlawoffice


  • Annie

    But wait!  There’s more!

    I clicked on her bio and saw that she has written numerous articles for this website.  In “Lady Liberty’s Labor Pains”, she not only brings her religion into her nursing advice, but also her politics.  Just what ailing people need.  But she truly crossed the line when she compared Catholic bishops to my beloved Tolkien characters:

    chivalry is not dead! American Catholic Bishops have united to speak
    out for This Lady and her nurses. Like Tolkien’s “Fellowship of the
    Ring”, these men are exhibiting the bravery and chivalry of the
    characters of the Fellowship: Frodo, Sam, Merry, Pippin, Aragorn,
    Gandalf, Gimli, Legolas, and Boromir. The recent “fellowship” of
    Catholic Bishops is generating a kind of solidarity among Catholics that this country has never witnessed before. ”

  • Cindy

    Atheist nurse here in Alabama! Don’t go around talking about it much though. After I retire, and no longer have a child in public school, I will speak my mind. 

  • Anonymous

    The comments to Christina Feist-Heilmeier’s article tend to disprove her hypothesis: it seems there are no, or very few, religious nurses. 

  •  It looks like they’re moderating in chunks; a whole lot of comments were added not long ago.

  • =O They’re not? omg by this flawless logic, I am no one. I don’t know how to feel right now.

  • Lisa Blair

    Yet another atheist nurse, and in the Bible belt, too. I work with critically ill babies, and haven’t even eaten any of them. Imagine that. 😛

  • Critical Care RN signing in…very atheist.:)

  • David Shores

    I”m a nurse …  and an atheist.  The woman who wrote this needs to get out more!

  • FSq

    You? Asking? For real?

  • hmmm doesnt sound so different from where Im at, and its a public university…  well no direct prayers, but plenty of references to god and jesus and nursing being a calling.  Granted this is Louisiana and they kinda take everyone being religious for granted

  • depends on what part of the country your in, down here in Louisiana there seems to be an overwhelming majority of very religious nurses.  

  • Kat

    My sister is an atheist nurse, and my mother is an atheist nurse at a Catholic hospital. Add two more to your count.

  • 4th level BSN (RN) clinical student soon to be an atheist RN.  Theres another student in my class whose not religious but more the doesnt think about it kind.  Just about everyone else is very religious, and all of the professors are definitely religious and let their opinions show.  That said theyer mostly really good, it just doesnt occur to them that anyone wouldn’t believe.  The rest of my class is just finding out Im not religious, but Ive been telling them Im agnostic to make things easier.  Im fairly certain if I said athiest a lot of their heads would pop.  

  • Borax

     I’m also a male atheist RN. I also work with 4 other atheist RNs all on the same 24 bed unit. Considering I work in an 800 bed facility, I would say we have many more atheists hanging around the hospital.

  • Borax

     Thanks for the link.

  • Rebecca

    I am  nurse and an atheist. Practical, rational, clear thinking and compassionate. I know who I’d rather have looking after me x x x

  • Thanks for sharing this, Annie.
    Bishops are generating solidarity among American Catholics as never before?? Really?? Oh, how droll. Ms. Feist-Heilmeier really is living in a fantasy novel, though one not nearly as beautiful as Tolkien’s. Bishops protecting pedophile priests, trampling on women’s rights, obstructing gay rights, misappropriating funds, threatening politicians with excommunication, yeah, they’re  a real force for solidarity.

    Let’s see, what analogy would work here, hmm…

    Bishops solidify American Catholics the way dynamite solidifies bedrock.

    Keep up the good work, Your Excellencies. Fire in the hole!!

  • Ruffwoodranch

    I’m a long time atheist and a nurse for 28 years. STFU .

  • Anonymous

    The thing with computer science is that it requires formal, mathematical logic. That’s not the same as logic in philosophy

  • Yes, I’m an atheist. Yes, I’m a nurse. People aren’t shocked when they find out I’m an atheist nurse. They’re more like “ohhhh… that’s why you like science so much. That’s cute.” I feel like the only skeptic in a so-called evidence-based world.

  • TiltedHorizon

     “I work with critically ill babies, and haven’t even eaten any of them.”

    Such self control.


  • It’s just because the ICU doesn’t stock hot sauce, isn’t it?

  • Samantha

    I’m an atheist student nurse here in Canada. At first, I was nervous about the prospect, but now whenever a patient brings up faith, I turn the question around on them, saying something along the lines of “your faith must be something important to you.” I have had one incident where my group was invited to attend a “washing of the hands of the healers” at the hospital. I just declined the invite while my classmates went. It’s a silly ritual, but not really the time or place to discuss its merits.

  • Pureone

    I’m not sure about the Nurses part. You may be mistaken on that one.

  • Nurse Haylz

    Count me as another Canadian Atheist Nurse! 

    I couldn’t keep my faith in a kind and loving god in this profession… because bad things always happen to good people. Newly diagnosed MS in a twenty year old medical student, crippling chronic pain afflicts a successful business man, dementia slowly stealing a beloved parent… it’s not an easy thing to watch day in and day out. 

    Nursing has shown me, up close, that we ARE our brains, and how damage to specific areas affects a persons motor skills, personality, or interferes with their ability to experience reality like the rest of us. After seeing someone completely convinced by their wild hallucinations, it made me think that maybe St Paul, Joan of Arc, and many biblical figures, if they did exist, perhaps suffered from temporal lobe epilepsy. As an atheist, i know that all we have is here and now. If I can make a fellow human being have a better day, feel less pain, or have more dignity, for just one day, I’m happy, and feel I’ve done my job well. 

  • Anonymous

    My mother was an atheist and a nurse……..and was a bottomless well of caring and compassion for her patients, who adored her for it.

    Feist-Heilmeier owes an apology to every atheist nurse she has ignorantly maligned and dismissed.  She should be ashamed of herself. 

  • David McNerney

    haven’t even eaten any of them….. yet.

  • David McNerney

     I’ve never met Christina Feist-Heilmeier – therefore, she doesn’t exist.

    Problem solved.

  • Piet Puk

    I am an atheist and First aid volunteer, does that count?

  • Mairianna

    I work with an NP who is super.  I have never heard her discuss religion or faith as any part of her practice.   Yesterday, I heard her telling another nurse about helping a cancer patient through her journey.  I have no idea whether this NP is faithful or not, but it doesn’t matter as long as she doesn’t shove it down her patients’ throats.  Then, I also work with a research nurse who is always wishing “God Bless” on everyone.  Over the holidays, she must have pissed off at least 6 Jewish patients by wishing them a “Merry Christmas”. 

  • Anonymous

    I’m a:  Male.  Nurse.  Atheist.    Why should that surprise anyone?

  • Xeon2000

    Reading comprehension FAIL.

  • Jasel

    I’m an atheist and a nurse. Guess I shouldn’t be surprised people believe nonsense like that.

  • Although I am not an RN, I am a Certified Veterinary Technician, which is kind of like a nurse & physician’s assistant in one individual. And I don’t just work on one, or two, or even three, species. 

    I am a proud atheist. But for some reason, my colleagues tend to be of faith or at the least, spiritual. I have yet to meet another atheist or non-believer professional colleague in my area. 

    I find myself compromising frequently on my true principles to aid believers in very difficult decisions or to reassure them when they are guilt-ridden or afraid. 

    I never pray for my patients, but I do sit with them and a few cases are heart wrenching in their intensity. I find that when it comes to our animal companions, I do not need faith to perform my duties with sincerity and compassion… but I do know that my clients need to have faith in me when entrusting their loved ones to my care. 

    Roxanne Sitarz, CVT

  •  I know exactly how you feel, Travis. I’m in my final semester in Arkansas. My clinicals this semester are at a Catholic hospital. They pause for prayer over the intercom every morning! Well, that said, almost everybody ignores it. Which makes me smile and roll my eyes a little. Atheists are everywhere. in hospitals. In foxholes. In walmart parking lots. Call us Legion, for we are many!

  • Both chaplains and nurses might find themselves in foxholes. Probably pretty frequently, too. I appreciate the sentiment, but you’re doing the same thing she is 🙂

  •  I think we can pretend she is referring only to the US; her bio says she’s served as a nurse “from sea to shining sea”. But regardless. Even if she’s only referring to the town she lives in today, or to just a single hospital, she’s still completely, utterly, laughably wrong.

  •  LOL, I posted that same thing in a comment on her article. 🙂

  • @ungodlynews

    Late to the party, again. I’m a male atheist RN working in an OR setting. I am quite vocal about my atheism with my peers. I am not inclined to discuss much of my personal life with patients, and I follow the rules in respecting their wishes regarding religion. I have never prayed with a patient, and if they ask me my religion (which is none of their business), I usually say I was raised Lutheran and that seems to satisfy their curiosity. I put up with a lot of nuttiness, people believe all kinds of wacky things regarding medical care. Everything from holistic medicines, “healing hands” to freaking magnets in their shoes!

  • Have you seen Elvis lately?

  • Jenn

    I’m not yet a nurse, but I will graduate from nursing school on June 8th 2012 and I am an atheist!

  • Thank you for the correction. After doing some research, I realize that there aren’t chaplains in foxholes but nurses can sometimes be in foxholes. You get the point, though!

  • Krysten

    I am an atheist nurse! Feist-Heilmeier’s assumption is asinine! I do have to say that, like in every other facet of life, we are in the vast least in America.

  • Erik

    I’m also a nontheistic RN.  I’ll allow my patients to pray and will remain silent and respect their wishes, but I sure don’t pray over them, with them, or for them.   It can be so hard to bite my tongue sometimes.  Some of my colleagues know that I am nonreligious, but when a patient brings up religion I have no choice but to change the topic.  The crazy part is that nursing school focuses heavily on critical thinking and the “nursing process” (which is a modified version of the scientific method, for those of you unfamiliar).  Yet most nurses are definitely religious and/or superstitious, despite our education.

  • Patiencevirtue

    Not a nurse, but a CNA; and trust me, we are the ones in the trenches with our patients every day, providing the personal care and caring for many of the needs (and bearing a good deal of angry and frustrated patients too). And if atheists were really that afraid to get our hands dirty, to deal with the real-life grit of people’s suffering and human emotions, most of us would never come out of the closet at all. It seems like there’s this idea that atheists are all holed up in some university somewhere plotting the demise of the world as we know it but not actually involved in life at all. As if we don’t have families and work jobs and have friends and a social life. *rolls eyes* We aren’t people to a lot of people, but a bad idea like “those gays” or those “liberal hippie feminazis.” It hurts to be branded and then ignored.

  • Monado

     You mean we *should* be to busy have religious debates. This one probably squeezes them in to the detriment of actual medical practice and the blood pressure of her atheist and other-faith patients.

  • Monado

    Feist-Heilmeier is a self-centered ninny who is trying to grab all the “Nice” points for her team and tell everyone else that they shouldn’t even be playing. That’s very privileged, off-putting, and unprofessional.

  • atheist student nurse

    Atheist nursing student here.  There are 3 others in my class of 35.  And we have the 4 highest GPA’s in the class 🙂

  • i am an atheist nurse and have been for over twenty years. i have also been in icu and e.r. for my full career and have never seen any need for religion, nor have i seen it in any way helpful in medicine or nursing.

  • prairiemoon

    I am in my first semester of nursing school in Colorado and I am an atheist.  Haven’t met any other people in the program who are atheists yet.  One is agnostic.  So glad to know that there are other people like me out there!

  • another student nurse

    Congrats! I wish I wasn’t the only atheist is my class but I’m pretty sure I am; it’s a Christian school. I also have one of the few 4.0 GPAs in the class. Coincidence?  LOL 

  • Angelo

    How can someone write that??  We are a profession over 2.5 million people!  Of course there are atheists.  I am certainly one.  I, like most nurses, respect their patients religious inclinations because that is what we are supposed to do:  respect others.  I am an atheist trauma nurse who works in an OR.   Be happy if you get me if you are in need of trauma surgery….the few extra minutes or seconds some nurses might pray for you, I am actually performing functions that will save your life.

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