Question # 1: What Kind Of Atheist Are You?

I’ve decided to start a new category of posts here at Spanish Inquisitor, in an attempt to be a little truer to the second half of my moniker. I’ve already disclosed that the first half has absolutely no bearing on my heritage, having not a shred of the Hispanic in me whatsoever. A little inquisition is good for the soul, if you believe in souls, and even if you don’t, it’s good for this blog. So, rather than having you suffer through more of my blather about matters that strike my fancy, I’ll turn the attention on both of you who read this blog. I could have done this from the beginning, when I first initiated this blog, but back then I had no readers, so the comments sections would have looked forlorn and empty, leading to further depression and thoughts of suicide on the part of yours truly, and perhaps even an abrupt termination of the blog. Now that I know there are people out there who might actually respond (is the guilt trip working?) I’m hopeful to engender a lively discussion. So, on with the question.

What kind of Atheist are you?

That’s a fairly general question, and I’ll be happy with a general answer, but allow me to give you a little insight into what caused me to ask the question. I was reading Ebonmuse’s recent post entitled “Living the Humanist Life“, in which he gives his personal advice of nine suggestions for doing so. One of them was volunteering, getting involved with outside activities, community outreach, etc. The point was to get out, don’t be so introspective, actually engage with your fellow man. Social interaction makes for a better person and a better humanist.

I’m an atheist and a humanist, and my job requires a certain amount (OK, a lot) of social interaction, but not as an atheist, as opposed to simply a human being who is also a lawyer. I interact with other atheists primarily over the internet. I don’t belong to any atheist or humanist organizations, and I specifically know of few people locally who actually are atheists. For all practical purposes, I’m a closet atheist.

Do you atheize (I just made that word up) primarily to yourself, or are you a joiner? Do you socially interact as an atheist, or is your atheism simply incidental to your everyday life? Are you outspoken about your lack of belief, or do you keep it to yourself unless directly asked.

In short, are you an extroverted or introverted atheist?

When answering, please feel free to make use of spreadsheets, diagrams and the overhead projector. Lurkers are welcome, in fact are encouraged to respond.

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26 thoughts on “Question # 1: What Kind Of Atheist Are You?

  1. I was a closet atheist and, in many ways, still am. I haven’t stood up on a hilltop and shouted my beliefs yet, but I’m getting closer. Some of my friends know where I stand, but others (who are religious) have not been told anything, yet.

    However, I do want to be out and loud. The media is still pandering to the religious and gives little time to those of no religion. How often is a social problem put on the news and then debated only by policy-makers and religious leaders? Why is a devout atheist (humanist, freethinker, etc) not required to be on the panel?

    I believe that the media is grossly misrepresenting religion and giving people the impression that religious ideas are still in charge. My small, local newspaper has two columnists that write about religion to inspire but none who write specifically from a secular viewpoint. I’m considering contacting the paper to provide a purely secular column myself.

    Non-theists have been persecuted, bullied, tortured and killed by the religious for far too long. I sincerely believe that we have to speak up and speak out to end this repression. Religion still has a strangle-hold on public policy and it’s time to finally fight back.

  2. I’m what might be called a casual atheist, or an atheist by default. I never believed in God and the concept of God or religion as something one had to make a decision about hardly registered with me until I was almost 20. Atheism is no more major a part of my self-definition than the fact that I don’t watch TV or don’t believe in unicorns. If it weren’t for the fact that I live in a society where people sometimes pester me about religion in public places or try to get religious taboos enacted into law, I would hardly ever think about it.

    This is why the concept on an “atheist community” has always struck me as rather absurd — like the concept of a non-unicron-believing community. “Community” implies a set of commonalities that simply aren’t there. If you took all the people on Earth who don’t believe in unicorns, you’d find that there is nothing that unites all of them except the fact that they disbelieve in one particular thing. The same is true of atheists.

    I talk to other people about being an atheist about as much as, and in the same way as, I talk to them about the fact that I don’t watch TV — I mention it if the subject comes up normally in conversation, but it very rarely does. (And you’d be surprised how many people think that not watching TV is the weirder of the two.) I have no particular interest in arguing with people about it or in endlessly rehashing all the arguments for why the existence of deities is implausible — though the malevolent effects of religion on society are a different matter.

  3. I’m a loud/proud atheist. Most of the people who know me would put a definite emphasis on “loud.” However, I seldom have an opportunity to proclaim my godlessness, because almost all my friends, relatives, and in-laws are atheists, too.

    I never proselytize, and hate the concept of preaching. But I do make it a point to proclaim my freedom from faith whenever religion comes up. I have to admit that occasionally I might even give that subject a conversational nudge.

  4. Wow, well this could take days to explain. Way to throw out an easy question.

    First, to groups. In a perfect world so to speak, I wouldn’t need to seek atheist groups but this isn’t a perfect world. In many parts of this world, and here in the US, it’s not always a-ok to be an atheist so one seeks a group for strength and support. This is where the “non-unicron-believing community” analogy falls flat. Nobody is demanding their candidates be strong unicorn believers or adding a nod to unicorns in the Pledge of Allegiance or challenging children’s science beliefs with unicornalism.

    Second, introvert v. extrovert. It might surprise you to hear me say I’m an introvert atheist. I say that because, as my blog title points out, I’m made to speak, just as I’m made to join groups. If there was no big deal about who you worshipped, how you did it or if you passed on the whole worshipping altogether then I wouldn’t necessarily be seeking atheist company. I might, but I wouldn’t feel compelled to. In fact, I might actually seek religious company to, as Ex says, “get my rocks off” arguing with them. I could just as easily find people who thought PC was better than Mac, Max better than Maya (3D thing), Conservative better than Liberal, too.

  5. I am what could be termed a Feminist Atheist- I first turned away from established religion because of the way it treats women, I looked into Paganism because of that and found that it also treats women badly even tho it purports not to.So now I blog mainly about the treatment of women by religious men and religious groups.

    I am also quite militant in my Atheism- I grew up with the British Army and life on army bases can be harsh when you don’t want to follow the flow- i got kicked out of Guides because I wouldn’t swear to a god of some description- refused to attend school assemblies and religious education, and almost lost one of my many jobs with the army by declaring myself to be an atheist – long story 🙂

    Anyway- I am quite vocal about my atheism and do not let passing comments pass me by- such as a student social worker who stated she went to see some Moslem children- I corrected her and made her say ‘Children of Moslem parents’- I too work in a profession where I have daily contact with people- I am a counsellor, psychologist and nurse – this is the only time when I will bite my tongue about my beliefs as I think it is neither appropriate or professional to bring my beliefs into my work with troubles children and families – after all, I condemn those ‘faith groups’ who do 🙂

    I grew up as an agnostic with very (surprisingly for the army) free-thinking and liberal parents who let me read anything I could lay my hands on- I did the same with my two kids and now they both profess to be atheist.

  6. While I’m not an in-your-face atheist, I’m definitely not shy about it. Once, when doing waiter work at a hotel, I had to serve a religious gathering. I walked in the room at one point and this woman, with a glazed look on her face and her hands waving around, got in my face and asked if I was saved. “No,” I said, “and please get out of my way.” You would have thought I slapped her. Considered it.

    Hiding your atheism is hiding yourself. If people don’t like what I believe or how I live, they can kiss off, because the alternative is to live my life on their terms. I value people who accept me as I am, the whole package, not just the parts they approve of. (Alright, I can hear the wisecracks already…)

    Christians expect us to shut up and hide. They think we are evil or misbegotten or godforsaken. Do we go along to get along? Do we give them a free pass on their nonsense? Not this misbegotten misanthrophic mean old s.o.b.

    Now if you’ll excuse me I have to start working on this year’s Easter Bunny trap. Let’s see, leg hold or drowning… decisions, decisions.

  7. I’m a strong atheist, a raionalist, a materialist, an anti-theist- the works. I am fanatical whan it comes to sanity. I probably stand out as being one of the few atheists who uses the “D&D” arguement. I don’t count as an angry atheist as much as an evangelical atheist- how can you be so blind that you refuse to see reality! Thanks to the eloquent atheist I have the urge towards the more poetic.

    My brother would be the clown. He likes making fun of religious beliefs. To him the reason that religion is nonsense is it doesn’t answer the quesion it claims it does- “why is there something rather than nothing?” It says how, not why.

  8. I am a quiet atheist (though I am learning to be more outgoing). I guess that part of me still tries to avoid arguments (at least at the face-to-face level).

    I am definately a naturalist atheist. Every phenomena has a natural explanation. We may not have found it, yet, but that doesn’t mean any god is infolved.

    I am also anti-religion (make that anti-organized religion (so being a Unitarian is still okay)). The lies, power trips, authoritarianism, sexism, sadism and masochism, racism, bigotry, homophobia, etc. of organized religion makes me want to scream (which I did today (more about that tomorrow on my blog (shameless plug))).

    Ric: My wife’s reaction to “Are you saved?” is: “Yes. I’m an atheist. My mind is saved.”

  9. I hesitate. First you start answering the inquisitors questions then, no matter what you say, you end up on the rack. It’s a short trip from there to the stake.

    I’ve been a largely introverted atheist for over 30 years and only since I started blogging become actively involved with other atheists. I don’t actively participate in community organizations.

    Introverted in THAT respect, but extroverted in that I’ve never hesitated to give an honest answer to the question, “what religion”?
    That’s led to some interesting conversations. Some of them on-going, for years!

    I’m with those who say they don’t go around trying to win converts, but I do enjoy it when someone who is a theist wants to seriously engage me in a battle of ideas. I’m also with those who say that it is the results of certain religious beliefs that truly concern me – and not simply whether the other person believes in the supernatural.

  10. I’m an atheist from New Zealand. That means religion isn’t nearly so strong a part of the local political life, and atheism is much more common in the country as a whole (just under 50%, I believe). As such, I’ve never had to hide my atheism and, indeed, am not unfamiliar with social situations where a declaration of belief is liable to be responded to with (respectful but visible) hesitancy and suspicion.

    I have never joined an atheist group; I always had the impression that the reason we got away with being atheists was by very, very quietly increasing our numbers as people fell away from the church without ever presenting the religious with a proper target to attack. It feels like there’s a tacit truce: we won’t call you stupid if you don’t call us evil. Now let’s quietly believe what we believe in our own separate corners and try not to draw attention to the way the nonbelief trickles ever upwards . . .

    I am also, however, an atheist who has lost something personal to religion, and I am not sure how that affects me. Certainly I never expected to start blogging about atheism. I never thought of it as an issue. If it wasn’t for the eloquence of Ebonmuse, I wouldn’t be here, chipping into this conversation. As things stand, I’m startled by the trouble some American atheists have and I add my own sympathy to your movement.

  11. I’m a closet atheist. I was on my way to becomming a full time preacher when I was stopped cold by a stroke. The stroke rewired my brain and I soon discovered I had no more faith and I didn’t care. I wasn’t paralyzed but I have been in constant pain for nearly ten years now. To this day I have received no support, compassion, or even a flicker of interest from two different churches which I was a member of. That motivated me to reconsider everything I believed and to stay away from church. The first thing I noticed was that I got away from guilt. I had never realized how loaded down with guilt I was while attending church and trying to be a true believer. Once free of that, I was able to look at criticism of the bible and see that it wasn’t perfect, that it was full of contradictions. My concept of time is horrible but it took awhile to finally admit that I had wasted twenty years of my life trying to serve god. The only person who has listened to me and understood what I’ve been saying about this is my daughter. My wife and my friends still think I’m just confused about god temporarily; no one could possibly walk away from him willingly. That’s the extremely condensed version. There doesn’t seem to be any reason to try to get anyone who still associates with me to believe me or even listen to my story.

  12. I’m an apathetic agnostic, mostly. But what I don’t care about is the possible existence of a god, not the existence of religion. I don’t seek out the religious, but I do answer them when they start it. What I’m mostly concerned with about religion, I suppose, is the way it imposes itself onto our politics and our science.

  13. As far as I know, I have been atheist my whole life, going on fifty years now. I do not hesitate to say it, even in AA meetings. I manage a recovery home and have ample opportunity for smart ass interjections, but have no problem restraining myself. Live and let live at the personal level, then, unless I am being abused by religionists, even abstractly. I always feel insufferable when I think it, but most of the god people I encounter are so much less compassionate and really concerned with other humans than I am. Not to paint myself as some sort of secular saint, because that ain’t the truth. But the obvious discomfort that pod-people feel for ambiguity, individuality and the possibility of never knowing somethings compels them to refuse to step out past their fear. They would refuse it, but they have my pity.

  14. I’m a militant atheist online. Besides my own blog (which has been sadly neglected due to illness these last 2 months), I also visit other blogs and religion sites and get into it with theists from time to time. Religion was never all that important to me as a theist. As an atheist, it seems all-consuming. Maybe it’s just a phase I’m going through after deconverting 3(?) years ago.

    IRL, I am a member of the local humanist society, which meets 2x a month – I help out with meetings, wrote the business plan, and have been trying to help the group grow. I am also involved with another freethought organization, for which I do the website design. It’s been nice getting to know other atheists in real life. It feels comfortable.

    Aside from a couple of friends and some members of my family (not even all) and the humanist group (which is almost all atheist), most don’t know I am atheist I guess…religious beliefs never seem to come up. The one time I discussed religion with my mother in the last couple of years ended with her banging on the table and shouting, so I won’t be bringing that up again. LOL With other friends and family I would probably ask some leading questions but wouldn’t push too hard.

    Call me a split-personality atheist.

  15. Dang- you should do a quiz or an encyclopedia- What kind of atheist are you?

    We have
    Closet and coming out
    Default, thinks community idea is funny
    Scientific Materialist
    Naturalist anti-theist
    Hurt with an “atheist experince”
    Not a person who cares about metaphysics
    err… Humanist?… nah; sane dude
    militant with the web, quiet in the world.

    Wow… that is a large varity.

  16. Well there should be a variety. It’s a position on one thing. I think lots of different types of people can share the same opinion on one thing. I might have the same opinion on chocolate, coffee, welfare and the Nation’s infrastructure with a fundie. None of those positions dictate what kind of person I may be.

  17. Well there should be a variety. It’s a position on one thing. I think lots of different types of people can share the same opinion on one thing. I might have the same opinion on chocolate, coffee, welfare and the Nation’s infrastructure with a fundie. None of those positions dictate what kind of person I may be.

    This is very true — and was the exact point of my “non-unicorn-believer” analogy.

  18. And as I said, the atheist issue is different because unlike innocuous positions like unicorn existence or chocolate over vanilla, there are very real social and political actions taken by theists to not just disrespect our position but to attack us for having it. THAT factor I think prompts the behavior of joining groups and being outspoken about atheism, but all things being equal I’d say yes, your analogy holds Infidel753

  19. This is good, SI. I’m enjoying reading each person’s condensed versions of their atheist experiences.

    While there are pieces of each story that I personally relate to, there is no one who experiences it exactly like me. I suspect each of you feel the same. That’s pretty cool.

  20. By day I’m just this guy, you know. That I’m an atheist doesn’t enter into it.

    By night I’m promoting my solo show which is very much about religion and atheism, etc., so that part of my life comes out then.

    It’s like anything. I’m a father, but while I’m working that’s not really my concern. I’m a writer, but when I’m playing with my daughter we’re usually not writing. I’m straight, but when I’m at my desk, alone, working on a project, that’s irrelevant. I work a lot, but when I’m out with a lady this isn’t important.

    It’s all dependent on the situation.

  21. I’m essentially closeted, except online and with some close friends and family I’ve shared my atheism with. I think that’s in part because I’m surrounded by folks who would be somewhat taken aback by it, but also because I see atheism as a “middle ground” as SI put it in another post. Atheism is where I sit, because there just isn’t any proof or evidence that god exists. As Ex put it, then why prosyletize (sp?)?

    Even if I were more outspoked about it, however, I’m not sure I’d ever be much of a joiner, since that’s not exactly in my nature.

    It’s been interesting to see how different folks feel about this and live out their beliefs (or lack thereof). Clearly a pretty darned diverse community!

  22. I don’t go around introducing myself as an atheist…yet. But, i am definitely outspoken when provoked or even slightly nudged.

    I haven’t joined any atheist groups, but I’m not opposed to it. I don’t read a lot of books concerning atheism. I don’t feel like I need to confirm my lack of belief. I’m an atheist, and even though I’m outspoken about it, I don’t think it’s what defines me as a person. If you were to ask someone what I was like, I don’t know that the first words out of their mouth would be that I was an atheist. I think they’d describe me as a nutcase first, and the fact that I was an atheist would be around the middle of the list.

    OK, I’ve answered your question, is it time for the rack now?

  23. It’s difficult for me to answer this because, on one hand, I want to say I’m a strong atheist. I am, after all, but that doesn’t seem to do it justice. Sounds rather stereotypical and one dimensional. To me, it’s more like I’m this rational humanist. I think it’s blatantly obvious a god does not exist, and even if one does, it’s this vacuous concept devoid of any effect on life anyway. I’ve yet to experience otherwise.

    However, yet in the same vein, I’m also quick to try and deconstruct religious thinking that appears in even the most secular of places. In fact, last night, my not-so-religious friend made a comment that perhaps it isn’t destiny (or “God’s will”–I forget what she said) for her to get pregnant, so she was going to give up trying to conceive and completely avoid in vitro. I obviously pointed out how she can control her life (and whether she gets pregnant) to the extent that it is humanly possible, that she isn’t this passive observer of her own life. That seems to be the mentality that religious thinking promotes.

    I think that type of victim-based mumbo-jumbo thinking that does have its roots in religious belief (or is it the other way around?) is the cause of much unneeded suffering.

    So do I wear t-shirts that scream “atheist”? No, not really. But do I try to deconstruct bad thinking when I’m presented with it? Yes. I’m not afraid to tell others I’m atheist, but I don’t think one has to let it be known for no other reason than to let it be known. (And plus, trying to wade through the stereotypes people hold of atheists is tiring after awhile.)

  24. Well, I gotta say that as an experiment, this one was a success. A lot of nice, in depth, thoughtful answers. I’ll have to try this again, when another question pops into my tiny mind.

    It appears that common perceptions of atheists as people who are individuals, running the gamut through all corners of society, rather than a monolithic god hating crowd, is true. We’re shy, outspoken, militant and reticent, joiners and wallflowers. We find atheism important and defining to our life, and a relatively insignificant, peripheral aspect of it. We want to tell everybody, and we want to keep it to ourselves.

    I guess we are a herd of cats.

    Thanks to everybody who responded.

    My last car had a Darwin fish on it, which I stuck there during the Dover trial, to let people know my position. When I traded it in (a 96 Camry) for a new car, I didn’t get a new one, because I said all I wanted to say, but also because it was a new car, and I didn’t want to invite vandalism. I think that says a lot about me, but more about the perception of atheists in the mind of the theist.

  25. Late to the party but I’ll add mine. I’m an obvious atheist. Outside my blog I don’t go around challenging every religious idiocy I come across – for one thing I live in South Carolina, so if I did I’d never have time for anything else – but I do make sure that everyone who knows me is fully aware that I don’t subscribe to the common delusion, and that if they want to take me on in debate I’m willing and ready to meet them on any topic.

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