I've been an atheist for around 8 years, most of which I've spent in the religious closet, so to speak. Before that, I was an agnostic, searching constantly for answers but not positive that there wasn't some kind of god out there that created everything.
In all that time, I kept my godlessness relatively private, telling very few people. Mainly I wanted to avoid confrontation. I didn't really know how to debate or defend myself, so I felt it was a personal issue and kept it to myself.
In the last 8 years though, I've watched this poor country polarize itself in politics and religion to an alarming degree and wallow in gross ignorance. I've realized relatively recently that being in the closet wasn't helping anything.
I couldn't be myself when talking to people because being a skeptical atheist is a huge part of my life. I guess when I fully and finally sloughed off the dead weight of god, religion and superstitions, I also lost a large part of the foundation of my belief system. It really rocked me. I realized a lot of what I believed was nonsense and lies.
So I've had to rebuild what I believe in, my atheist worldview, so to speak.
The thing is, being in the religious closet has only served to isolate me from other people of like mind, as well as keep ideas limited to just what I read or experience personally. Then I discovered the atheist and skeptical world. I realized I wasn't alone, and I finally came out of the damned closet.
This is a lot of what Heaving Dead Cats is all about. A coming together of people asking tough questions, searching for real answers, sharing and growing and learning, and hopefully having fun in the process. It's also about coming out and being proud to be an atheist.
There's nothing wrong with being an atheist. In my opinion, if you're smart and if you think for yourself, it's a natural progression. Of course religious people are quite threatened by godlessness, so it does mean that there will be conflict.
There definitely is a terrible stigma attached to atheists. I think it's easier to be gay in most places than godless. But if we all hide away and let the religious automatons run this country into the next dark ages, it's our own damned fault.
Not everyone has to go the full "Dawkins" path, but if theists realize there are many more atheists and freethinkers out there, if they have to defend their nonsensical lies and bullying tactics of manipulation in politics and society all the time, in every walk of life, maybe as a whole we can get things back on track.
We can't expect the Four Horsemen to do all the work for us. We can't expect a select few thinking people to defend our rights all alone. We have to take personal responsibility for ourselves. We have to stand up and be proud that we use our brains to think and reason.
It's not an easy choice. I have to be honest, I am not aggressive when it comes to being an atheist. But I do walk the walk and talk the talk. I don't get in peoples' faces when they talk of their faith. But I don't lie or try to hide my godlessness. I try to appropriately address issues with reason and common sense.
It doesn't always work. But if we ALL do it, ALL the atheists, agnostics and freethinkers, it makes it easier for ALL of us, lessens the burden, helps us all share the workload.
Honestly, we can not afford to stay in the closet any longer. I am not suggesting that when everyone bows their heads in prayer at christmas dinner that you should stand up and say, "WAKE UP, YOU SHEEP! RELIGION IS BULLSHIT!" No, but be honest with yourself and be honest with other people appropriately.
Religious people need to see that we're intelligent, thinking, ethical, rational people who still love life. They need to see that we are everywhere, that there are more of us than they realized. They need to hear even small snippets of reason when they spout out lies. It doesn't have to be a huge amount of information. It can just be a tiny dose of reality and common sense in the face of their crazy nonsense.
You're not alone. We don't have to be alone anymore.
So there is this Survey for Atheists. It is open till December 31, so take it today. It says it takes about 20 minutes, but I think I finished in less time than that. Dr. Tom Arcaro from Elon University wants to know about "coming out" of the religious closet. Once this survey is done and analyzed, it will be published in a trade journal but also online and in a magazine for all of us to see. When it's published, I'll be sure to let you know.
We can all make a difference together. So please take the survey if you're an atheist. Share it with other atheists, and if you are still in the closet please consider coming out soon. It doesn't have to happen all at once, but we all need each other to make a difference.