The official blog of University of Missouri Skeptics, Atheists, Secular Humanists, & Agnostics

Protecting Non-Believer Friends

I heard your friend's an atheist!

I heard your friend’s an atheist!

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 MinnesotaUniversity 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.


About jllfh3

Jeremy Locke is a graduate of the University of Missouri where he earned a Bachelor's in biology. He graduated in May 2013 and is currently taking a year off before attending graduate school. His interests include evolutionary biology, increasing the understanding of science, and waiting for the St. Louis Blues to win the Stanley Cup. Feel free to contact Jeremy at with inquiries about science, general questions, or visiting to give a presentation!

7 comments on “Protecting Non-Believer Friends

  1. Timid Atheist
    July 12, 2013

    As a closeted atheist you have my thanks for doing this for your friends. I know lying is not ideal, but it means a lot to me that you care enough about your friends to keep this information to yourself. Have you, after having these kinds of conversations, gone back to the atheist friend in question and asked them how they want you to handle situations in the future? Might be less trouble for you if you find out that you don’t need to hid your friend’s atheism.

    I have carefully revealed my atheism to a few chosen friends and family members. I hide it mostly because my ex is a stalker in the worst way and likely monitors what I do on the internet even now. He would absolutely use this against me in court if he knew. So I keep it to myself for the most part.

    • jllfh3
      July 12, 2013

      Sorry you have to mostly keep it to yourself. Hopefully one day you will be free to be more open about it. I personally haven’t gone back to my atheist friends, but I should. It’s more of a general guideline when referring to friends that are non-believer friends for me personally.

    • rocketkirchner
      July 14, 2013

      Timid , if you dont mind me asking , how can someone use something like this in court ? from what i see it is not against the law to be an atheist . if you really are an atheist , why back down from your convictions . your real freinds will not forsake you .
      why should anyone be a closet anything ?

      when i had my conversion to christ alot of my freinds left me , but they were not really my freinds . many of my freinds today are atheists . we have very interesting conversations . i know what it is like to have christophobic shadow laid on me from bigots , but most people that i know are cool about my faith .

      so take heart my freind — and dont be afraid to be yourself , LOL rocket

  2. Rory
    July 12, 2013

    Ive been quite open about my lack of beliefs for some time now, and i speak pretty honestly when relevant discussions arise. Though i still tread carefully at work, where many of my co-workers are less open minded, than the more liberal student population.

    • Rory
      July 12, 2013

      Lol, speaking of relevancy, i totally missed it there.

      Because i am so open about my atheism, i tend to force out the people that would disapprove and judge, and i think that pretty naturally keeps my nonbeliever friends relatively safe from accidental outing.

      • rocketkirchner
        July 13, 2013

        J — no man should be ashamed of what they believe . period . when christ bursted into my life 39 years ago i havent shut my mouth up since. i think that if one is an atheist ( and i mean a real one , and not just a fad ) , why hide it ? be who you are . let your falg fly and the cost be damned . turht is more important than social standing . that is why i am such a big fan of christopher hitchens .

      • Rory
        July 25, 2013

        Unfortunately it’s not always just about shame, Kirchner. Often times it can put your employment at stake, and sometimes your life, or family’s life.

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This entry was posted on July 12, 2013 by in Author: Jeremy Locke, Skepticism and tagged , .
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