Monday, September 3, 2012

New Poll: Do you tell people you're an atheist in public?

The Wife, Will and Ali (10 and 7 years old), and I were at a cookout yesterday afternoon. The event was being held by one of the families whose kids attend the same dojo (karate school) as ours. They were kind enough to invite everyone and so we schlepped over with a bucket of homemade chili and 7 wonderfully flavored pumpkin beers.

I was able to avoid talking about politics and religion for about twenty minutes. In my defense, I did not start the conversation. Rather, I was talking with an accountant about the tax code and, hey, that naturally lead to discussing the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism), Larping (live action role playing) and the upcoming Jewish holidays (he and his wife are Jewish) . My wife began complaining about the Christmas and not liking some of the Jesus music that the kids sing for the holiday concert.

That lead to the natural question from our new found friends,

"Are you Jewish?"

I want to point out that my wife is also an atheist, but she is not so public about it. She paused for a moment.

"We're atheists."

Yeah, that was me saying that. Once I started saying "I'm an atheist" in public years ago it became easier to do so every time since. (In fact, I recently did a reading at a library in Quincy, Ma and introduced myself to a room of strangers as the writer of an atheist/comedy blog.) The people we were chatting with responded along the lines of, "We think our kids need some sort of guidelines to live by." I chose not to respond to the implication that by not having our children raised with religion that somehow they lacked moral guidance. What I didn't do is paraphrase the John Cleese line about being a good person "Don't hurt other people and read a book now and again." I simply smiled politely shrugged my shoulders and said, "Well, if my kids really want to look into that sort of thing when they're 13, then they're free to." The conversation drifted onto different topics after that.

Interestingly, I was still chatting with him when the head of the dojo, "Mark" came over and somehow the topic of faith came up again (I find many theists like talking to me about religion). Mark smiled and said while he doesn't agree with my atheism he did say I knew more about Catholicism than he did. After having drunk four beers I was more than happy to add that atheists are some of the most Bible literate people around.

Good times.

That got me to thinking about creating a poll to see how many readers of Purgatory identify as atheists in public. You will find it on the upper left column, and feel free to add any comments below.  


  1. I voted for most of the time, but not all of the time. Let's see...if death is involved and, like, a mother is grieving over her slain child and keeps sayin', like, "S/he's in a better place right now" while totally sobbing then I probably won't mention that there were many dying and rising gods before her chirst and that the gospels are written by anonymous peeps. Other than that, I wear it. Awesome buddy,


  2. Sometimes but more so in the last few years - that is in public.

    I have a great ability to piss people off without even knowing I did so anyway.

  3. I'm a "sometimes," and I think that has more to do with where I live than anything else.

    1. The small town where you grew up? Same here.
      Oh, maybe you be the bible belt.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. I wonder what that means, to be "Bible literate." You know where to find a certain topic? You know what Jesus taught? What does that mean? Does the guy to says "the gospels were written by anonymous peeps" think he's Bible literate?

  5. I'm around a bunch of religious people, but they accept my lack of belief just fine. Have a few jokes about it even. That made it easier for me to say it to anyone. Usually get tons of questions. I encourage telling people if it comes up.

  6. Generally I'm a 'yes', but then I exist in the weird bubble of space/time that is a University campus; views, creeds and ideas are tolerated far more where I live than they might be out in the real world.

    Oh, graduating is going to be entertaining.

  7. "I'm not religious"

  8. Yes, and even more so since moving to the south, where people get all freaky on me. I am sick of the people who don't say anything, as it leads people to think atheists are horrible people, as someone once told me, when I was "coming out" to her.

  9. Next time someone asks me what religion I am I'll tell them I'm "Pastafarian". I'll bet you 99.99% of the people I know, don't know what a Pastafarian is. If they ask, I'll tell them to read my book on "The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster." They'll either laugh or read it and if they're smart enough figure out it means I'm an atheist. Being an atheist, even in Canada is like having leprosy! People tend to stay away. Now, if I went to Sweden, France, Denmark, Republic of Czechoslovakia, I'd fit right in, as long as I didn't try to speak their language. LOL

  10. I never say the word "atheist", but I say I'm irreligious, and that we (my husband and I and 2 children) don't attend any church, nor plan to. No one has asked me what that means yet, as far as beliefs. Lots of people here (suburbs in Texas) don't go to church but do have spiritual beliefs, so it is a little bit of a cop out- but I am worried that my children would get some blowback if I were 100% "out".

  11. No, I respect you, and I'm also not afraid or whatever to say I'm catholic. I have many friends protestants, jewish, even budhist, with many degrees of commitment, from the extreme to the almost atheist (non practitioners), and I think I respect all of them.
    Everybody needs to be fully informed, that why I read your blog, and I think that's why you read the Bible.
    And you don't offcially need to go to church to be a good religious person. It helps, but IMHO opinion is not necessary if you abide to your religion fundamentals (no, I don't feel I'm a hypocrite)


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