Tract #33: Can I Keep My Atheism Secret?
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Can I Keep My Atheism Secret?
If you are an atheist, are you morally or ethically required to tell other people that you are an atheist? What if you know that your atheism would change how they think about you, for better or worse?
Many atheists find themselves in situations where they are in the company of people who are very religious or who might have a bias against atheists. This might be a workplace, a school room, a community event, a neighborhood — anyplace at all. If your supervisor is a vocal Christian, you might worry about not getting a promotion because she thinks that atheists can’t be trusted. If your neighborhood is largely religious, you might worry that parents won’t let their children play with yours if it’s known that you are without religion.
These are very real situations and very real problems. But at the same time, an atheist might feel that he or she is not being true to him/herself by keeping silent.
To help you through these situations, keep these principles in mind:
Your personal beliefs are nobody else’s business. Other people being vocal about their beliefs does not imply that you have to be vocal about your own, and another person’s expression of faith does not compel a response.
If you do not let people know you are an atheist, they may assume you are not an atheist. That’s not your problem, unless it is making things uncomfortable for you. If you are being made uncomfortable but still don’t want to discuss atheism, you can ask to be left out of discussions and demonstrations of religion in general.
But if you are feeling harassed, that’s a different story. If someone is offending your sensibilities and won’t stop, or suspects that you are an atheist and is badgering you, you need to stand up for your rights.
Even if you are remaining silent about your atheism, you shouldn’t be made to feel like you have to do anything that is against your beliefs. You can respectfully decline to attend a religious function, say grace, or hang a religious symbol near your desk while keeping your reasons private.
You should not lie about your lack of faith. If there’s a cute guy who only dates Christians, don’t pretend you’re Christian. If your child wants to join a club that requires a statement of faith, find a morally acceptable way around the statement or find something else for your child to do.
Most important of all, be a good example of atheism. One of the best weapons against those who are bigoted against atheism is behaving well and living a good life. When the time comes that you feel comfortable sharing your atheism, those who know you will have to admit that, even though you are an atheist, you are a decent person. If, after that, they stick with their bigotry and treat you poorly, then they are the ones who have a problem and who can’t trust the evidence of their own experience. You’ve done everything you can.
In: Atheists' problems, Dealing with religious folks