The official blog of University of Missouri Skeptics, Atheists, Secular Humanists, & Agnostics
Coming out as an atheist can be a tricky. Some decide not to come out because of the possible social consequences like losing friends and the support of family members, where others decide to be more open. I personally didn’t have a real bad experience coming out. A few of my friends were confused and my mom didn’t understand, but it could have been worse. No friends were lost and I didn’t lose the support of any family members. However, there are still times where I will not come out as a non-believer with certain people, mostly because I know an argument will arise that I want to avoid, or they will look at me in a negative way.
When I first became a non-believer I worried that certain people would find out. As the years have gone by, more and more of my friends have come to know me as a non-believer. It doesn’t change the fact that every year many face the fear of losing friends, being thought of as immoral, and being disowned and kicked out of their house for simply coming out as a non-believer. Now, I worry more about accidentally letting people know who my non-believer friends are rather than myself.
There have been several times when I have talked to someone who was likely friends with a member of SASHA. I would ask if they knew my friend from SASHA. After they replied yes and then asked how I knew them, I always regretted asking in the first place. I always attempted to answer the question without referring to SASHA in some way. Some of the answers were more honest than others. I felt sad that I had to lie and felt ashamed that I had to cover for my friends simply because they were non-believers like myself.
There have been many cases when I did not know if my friends were out as non-believers or not. Even if they were I would still not feel comfortable telling my mutual friends that I knew them through the atheist group. If I’m open and still would not want certain people to know me as a non-believer, than I would not feel comfortable telling others that a friend was a non-believer even if they were good friends, especially if I did not know if my non-believer friend wanted people to know or not. I know a few members of SASHA have no problem telling friends they’re non-believers, but at the same time don’t want their family to know. In this case I wouldn’t tell anyone that my friend was a non-believer simply because I wouldn’t know if they knew my friend’s family.
I have lied to people telling them that I knew friends from SASHA through random ways instead of through SASHA. For all I know, if I told them I knew my friend through the atheist group, they could have responded by saying they were atheists as well and wanted to know when we meet up. Studies from the University of Minnesota, University of British Columbia and the University of Oregon, among countless others show that atheists are the most mistrusted group in the United States. This is why it’s important for members of secular groups to be careful with whose name they throw around when talking about secular groups.