Question from Larry:
What’s the key to surviving in this country (USA) as an atheist?
Answer by SmartLX:
Statistically speaking, your literal survival in the United States is not significantly jeopardised by your atheism. A couple of nutjobs have made it their mission to murder atheists (like Arthur Shelton), but members of most religions have been targeted in the same way at some point. I will say, however, that as an openly atheist American citizen you are likely to be subject to bias and prejudice, from your local community right up to powerful politicians.
The most straightforward way to avoid this is of course to hide your atheism, which can be as simple as not mentioning it. No doubt this has already occurred to you, and you understandably wish to be accepted as you really are. Another option is to avoid contact with the religious believers who tend to be the most prejudiced against atheists; again, you’ll have thought of this, but you want or need to deal with such people.
Firstly, you are very unlikely to be alone where you are. The Web can guide you to local atheist groups wherever you are, and you’ll find people who know exactly what you’re going through. Start with this list of groups, which as you’ll see are hardly thin on the ground. Even if you’re in the middle of nowhere, there are online communities aplenty.
Secondly, even the prejudiced know that the enemy of prejudice is education. This is why anti-gay groups lobby to prevent children from learning of the existence of homosexuality, and why billboards that do nothing but announce the existence of atheists are routinely opposed. Those in your community are likely under false impressions of what it really means to be an atheist – they might think that you don’t have morals, that you’re a Communist, that you want to take children away from religious parents or even that you worship the Devil.
You can do a great deal to dispel these misconceptions, either by putting yourself in a position to answer the relevant questions or just by appearing in society and being the good person that you are. (I can’t immediately find a clip, but there was an atheist woman on Wife Swap who proved very educational to the Bible study group she joined.)
We always like to know what works and what doesn’t work in more detail, so we’d welcome any stories you can tell about all this as you make your way in the world. Let us know how you go, and best of luck to you.
Question from Larry: