Sunday, September 28, 2014

does atheism make believers uncomfortable?


salon |  Why do so many religious believers want atheists to lie about our atheism?

It seems backward. Believers are always telling atheists that we need religion for morality; that we have to believe because without religion, people would have no reason not to murder and steal and lie. And yet, all too often, they ask us to lie. When atheists come out of the closet and tell the people in our lives that we don’t believe in God, all too often the reaction is to try to shove us back in.

In some cases, they simply want us to keep our mouths shut: when the topic of religion comes up, they want us to tell the lie of omission. But much of the time, they actually ask us to lie outright. They ask us to lie to other family members. They ask us to attend church or other religious services. They sometimes even ask us to perform important religious rituals, like funerals or confirmations, where we’re not just lying to the people around us, but to the god they supposedly believe in.

Why would they do this?

When I was doing research for my new guidebook, “ Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why,” I was shocked at how often this happens. I read over 400 “coming out atheist” stories to write this book, and in the stories I read, this theme came up again and again and again.

You see it a lot with parents and children. When kids and teenagers tell their parents that they’re atheists, parents often respond by insisting that their kids keep up a religious charade. Alexander came out as atheist to his family in fourth grade, and was met with hostility and confusion — and quickly went back into the closet. “True to form,” he says on his Scribbles and Rants blog, “my parents dropped the matter as long as I went through the motions and didn’t bring it up myself.”