U.S. atheists to have ‘coming out party’

July 30, 2008

baptism-2.jpgAmerican atheists are holding a “Coming Out Party” in Westerville, Ohio, this Saturday in a bid to encourage non-believers to publicly declare their conviction that God does not exist.Frank Zindler, president of American Atheists, told me many U.S. atheists felt marginalized in a country where levels of religious belief are high and that the social and family pressures to profess a spiritual faith were huge.”I get an enormous amount of e-mails on our Web site from young people asking me ‘how do I tell my parents?’ It causes a great deal of anguish,” he said.Saturday’s events will include a “De-Baptism” ceremony, which organizers say “will be a fun way for people who feel under pressure to conform to religious orthodoxy to make a statement about their newfound intellectual independence.”According to a comprehensive nationwide survey conducted last year by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, only 1.6 percent of U.S. adults identified themselves as atheists, while 2.4 percent said they were agnostic, or do not know if God exists.Just over 12 percent of adults surveyed said they “were nothing in particular” and atheist activists believe many fellow non-believers are in this group. They also maintain that many Americans who claim a religious affiliation are in fact secret atheists.”I think there are a lot of people who may say that they are religious, who in fact are not,” said Ashley Paramore, a board member with the Secular Student Alliance, who is organizing Saturday’s event.  What do you think? Do you think there are lots of “closet atheists” in America? And are Americans under pressure to profess a belief in God? Or are these pressures minimal and complaints on this score overblown?


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

Well considering the fact that we all are born into this world atheist, yea there’s a lot of us around.

Posted by Jim | Report as abusive

De-baptizing… I love it. Always wondered how to get that darned holy water out of my hair…
Actually it’s funny that even atheists feel this need to go through rituals in order to make their ideas more “real” but then perhaps that’s just something hardwired into humanity.
But good for them. Being atheist is not easy in the U.S. I think though in Canada it’s not that big a deal.

Posted by Lynn | Report as abusive

Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life said only 1.6 percent of U.S. adults identified themselves as atheists.

This is a truly shocking statistic to us here in the UK.

Imagine what the USA would have been able to achieve over the past decades without any interference from religion? It beggars belief.


Posted by Victimlesscriminal | Report as abusive

I was a closet atheist for 7 years, so yes, I know of at least one!

Posted by wes | Report as abusive

The Jewish News Weekly published an article last October authored by Rabbi Stephen Pearce, titled “Militant atheists are getting it all wrong”.

Rabbi Pearce discussed many of the recent popular books by Dawkins and Hitchens. The article examines the sort of charges that have been made against religious people and responds with learned quote that both literalists, and skeptics are wrong:

“Unlike these authors, Judaism has long read the Bible metaphorically, taking it seriously but not literally. In his essay “Law and Love,” Hebrew poet Chaim Nachman Bialik suggested that both literalists and skeptics are wrong because they only read the text literally and not as a metaphor with a deeper and richer meaning.

Furthermore, strident atheists do not address today’s rising tide of spirituality among most religious groups, proof that people continue to seek deeper religious meaning especially because atheism does not replace lack of belief with a viable rational alternative, leading to what Michael Novak calls “a leap in the dark.” ”

The article goes on to discuss Mother Theresa and her personal doubts about God. There are plenty of religious people who doubt or struggle with faith. The fact remains that non belief offers nothing to replace the social community structures that churches provide, or the personl spiritual intimacy with a higher force many people feel. If there is no God then there is nothing to fill the void. That void can seem like darkness where there was once light for a “former” believer.

Posted by Subodot | Report as abusive

Its takes a real coward to believe in god that threatens to torture you if you dont love him, especially when this god is imaginary

Posted by DoctorE | Report as abusive

Of course many people don’t believe in God, but they believe in `the people’. Their belief in religion is actually belief in the people. They’re never gonna suffer for God, e.g. change their intimate life to suit their Church’s teachings, but they want to look moral. And, even more important, they want that people around them are moral. What the closet atheists themselves do not believe they try to sell to others (so that these others get weaker).

Posted by adx | Report as abusive