Would you admit you are an atheist??

Dec 6, 2012

Discussion by: voiceofarabi
Majority of people on this website seems to be well informed and pioneering, which drove me to ask a question thats burning inside of me…   here goes.

If you lived in a country were rejecting your religion will results in certain rejection by your community and family and possibly death, if not officially, then on the hand of mobs…  Would you admit you have lost your faith?, and become an atheist? Or would you rather keep that secret burning inside of you, as moving country or dying is not a attractive option?

111 comments on “Would you admit you are an atheist??

  • 1
    QuestioningKat says:

    I think that depends upon the individual. One person against an entire culture needs to be as strong as steel and have the ability to handle much emotional strife, rejection, and hardships. I personally could not do it. I think I would find a few people with similar views and confide in them – of course I would make a safe leisurely comment or ask a question to test their reaction first.

    Good luck to you. 

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  • It would be very, very difficult to do in a scenario such as you present – it would really be almost suicidal.  That is why I admire immensely those individuals who dare to speak out in those countries. However, I prefer to think that united effort of intellectual communities such as RDF, or influence of any other groups (such as Facebook), might have a greater impact than individual action.  My advice would be similar to that of QuestioningKat – find people with similar views, confide in them, and work with them to erode the religious intolerance slowly from below rather than make a heroic but suicidal stance on your own.  Easier said than done, I know, but we need brave atheists free and alive rather than martyrs to the cause.  

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  • No, I would admit to being an atheist as long as the consequences were not too severe.  I can handle some shunning, ridicule by religious people, even hostility, but I rather like living and believe that this is our only shot at it, so I would not risk my life or be beaten.  I’d seek out like-minded people as safely as possible and always remember that I control my own thoughts and worldview.  Nobody will force me to accept their mythology as reality, even if I must keep my ideas and viewpoint to myself.  It is unfortunate, though, because religion seeks to silence all dissent and force compliance, and sadly it is often successful.

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  • 4
    papa lazaru says:

    In the (alleged) words of Galileo, “And yet, it moves”. 

    Personally, I would not care if this means broken friendships and repudiation. If me expressing my free will is all it takes, then that friendship or ‘respect’ are not worth a damn in the first place. 

    But there is only so far I could go. Especially if other lives depend on my compliance. Then sure, I’ll play along, up to a point. Coercion voids any kind of meaning. And if they think that’s all it takes, like reprimanding a naughty child, then the more fool them.

    I find this especially weird in the context of blasphemy, religions or political struggles. Why would you feel the need to defend your beliefs and ideas with violence? Can’t it stand up for itself? That insecure, huh? When there is belief, there is doubt, Which is a good thing. The ones who don’t doubt are the nutters you want to be weary off.

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  • 5
    SurLaffaLot says:

    I would not let it be known that I am an atheist, if the likely consequences would be too high – like widespread ostracisation or even worse death. That is UNLESS that admission can make a difference to the society in which I was living. I might be willing to pay a high price in promoting a particular cause, but my actions must make a difference. The intellectual price of being an atheist in secret might be high, but it has to be balanced against any other consequences from going public.

    It is way too easy for me to make this reply, because I am not faced with your dilemma, voiceofarabi.

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  • 7
    sdelsolray says:

    Sure, but it doesn’t come up often.  Usually, if I am asked what religion I belong to, I simply say, “None of the above”.

    I can’t address your hypothetical. I live in a place where religious affiliation doesn’t seem to matter much (Portland, Oregon, USA).

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  • “If you lived in a country were rejecting your religion will results in certain rejection by your community and family and possibly death, if not officially, then on the hand of mobs…  Would you admit you have lost your faith?”
    No I wouldn’t! Would you?

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  • 9
    Grimace says:

    I firmly believe that wherever you are
    in the world that you need to behave in a manner consistent with your own
    personal safety.

    I live in a country (Australia) where nobody really cares about your religion
    and where to be an atheist is to be one of many, so any shunning, ridicule or hostility
    I encounter is of only minor inconvenience. I assume that Papa Lazaru also has
    the good fortune to live in such a place which makes it more difficult for he
    and I to provide helpful advice.


    I agree with the comments made by most of the posters here that
    it is generally ineffective and imprudent to make a martyr of yourself. As
    QuestioningKat and Henme  point out, in
    most instances it is much more effective to work for gradual and incremental
    change within the existing environment.


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  • 10
    Pete H says:

    There’s a great sci fi short story about this:

    Stanislaw Lem: The Star Diaries.

    In one chapter the hero visits a rebellious planet populated by human hating robots in an attempt to find out what happened to the numerous successions of previous agents sent to investigate the planetary unrest but who disappeared without trace. Turns out that the entire population are the missing human agents but disguised as bloodthirsty human-killing robots, each pretending to hate humans in order to avoid being found out and destroyed by the other human’s, who are also disguised as robots trying to blend in with the crowd to avoid being discovered as a fake robot. Each fake robot thinking they’re the only human disguised as a robot.

    Aspects of this story appeared in an episode of Futurama.

    To some extent the phenomenon is a bit like gay-bashing. Those who are most aggressive are those who feel most threatened. Perhaps they lack self-confidence owing to their peculiar upbringing and are possibly driven to seek the comfort of conformity, despite their weak personal belief. Belief sometimes follows action, rather than the other way around. Some people want to choose to believe irrational things as a way of blanking out what they might be afraid of in themselves. And doing irrational things that seems to conform with irrational beliefs they wish to acquire or preserve seems to be a path to strengthening their sense of security.

    You not so much dealing with a difference of opinion that can be rationally discussed but with the powerful human instinct to murder members of rival tribes. I’d definitely keep my head down. I know this because I already do in other areas. It’s simply not pleasant to have people regard you as either mad or evil. Just because you don’t go along with their pet fantasy, regardless of its popularity.

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  • Although I am from the West I have lived in your area (not too tricky to guess given your name) most of my life. The legal and social pressure you face is immense and you are right to think carefully about your future choices because, at best, you face a collapse in your quality of life from both direct and indirect persecution. At worst….well you already know the deal. So, what to do? Sacrificing your life in a flash that will barely be registered makes no sense. You will achieve nothing for yourself nor for the sharing of your wider ideals in a way that will inspire and help others. Running away is nearly as poor an option. Whatever the beliefs of your friends and family you will no doubt have strong emotional ties to them and ‘home’. Plus trying to gain asylum and actually trying to live another country that is alien to all you know is hugely challenging to say the least. One of the hallmarks of Atheism, for me, is the rational application of logic to problem solving. Looking at how societies like yours have evolved in other parts of the world (Europe was there once for example) inevitably shows that the pace of change will always be glacial. This parallel suggests you have to be prepared to work for the long haul and that in your lifetime you will probably not be able to publicly exercise your legitimate right to freedom of, or from, religion. That does not mean you can’t work to move things along in the background so that the generation to come have better options than you. The internet allows you to connect with others of a similar background and if you look carefully (very carefully) you will no doubt find more of them than you think in your country. Similarly you can gently open the discussion about ideas that need not result in open confrontation. Evolution is a great topic in this regard but the advancement of science in general will do nicely. Additionally, when raising your own children you can try to teach them to be openminded, to question and doubt (everything and not just religion), and to respect the views of others etc. Even if they turn out to be religious they will have moved on a long way from out and out intolerance. It may not be particularly glorious and it will be frustrating but working behind the scenes is absolutely vital. I think your short term goal should be acceptance your secret will likely have to be lifelong. However, you have a wonderful opportunity to spend many years subtly influencing all around you. You can leave a fulfilling  legacy that sacrifice or running will never achieve.

    Easily said. Hard to do. I really do wish you the best of luck whatever your choice…

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  • 13
    branimir says:

    I come from a very primitive,conservative and religious society where it’s dangerous to express your worldviews that differ from the majority. To be an atheist in my case is not so extremely dangerous as to be life threatening, but it has serious consequences. As atheist to them I cannot be patriotic, moral, and am not considered to be true citizen of my country which is fanatically catholic. I admitted having atheistic worldview, thus resulting the discrimination in school where I was seen as inferior not by the students or my friends, but by my professors. I live with that results and I am proud of my worldview and am sure that no fairy tale will change my mind. But if my life was to be endangered I would take a more subtle course of action, and would not declare my atheistic worldview in public. I would be more stealthy.

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  • It is an interesting question. Honestly, I have no desire to lynch me or imprison … I’m not a martyr. Probably my beliefs remain secret, or if I’m young consider the option of migrating to a civilized country.

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  • 16
    SaganTheCat says:

    probably not. the threat of persecution is not attractive, in particular since maryrdom is only an understandable option if you don’t believe in death (kind of oxymoron but face it, if dying for your beliefs was a fast-track to eternal paradise you could harldy consider someone heroic for doing it). it would seem a pointless waste of a perfectly servicable life. under some circumstances however I might. if for example it was between that and stand silently and watch another innocent being persecuted.

    pretending to believe is not difficult, i think much of the success of religion is down to the fact it’s so easy to fake

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  • 17
    Pauly01 says:

    You could have options , if you are a skilled worker then you could look to get a visa to a western democracy. If your atheist beliefs make you a target for violence and ostracisation should you potentially go public with them , then to my mind you should look to improve your situation. If you should go public with your belief system and not seek to move , then I personally think its unreasonable to persue that course of action.

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  • 18
    Terry2cans says:

    I don’t believe there’s any reason to “admit” to being an atheist.  I am proud to be an atheist and will happily tell any god fearing person that I simply don’t believe that their god exists.
    I think if you are a true atheist it is a simple decision… as Prof. Dawkins would probably agree, it’s as simple as asking if someone believed in the fairies or father Xmas. To say no to either of these would be expected, but to say ‘no’ to believing in god is somehow astounding to the masses.  

    God needs to be kept out of politics. Out of school. And out of government.  The sooner well informed, intelligent human beings control this planet the better.

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  • 19
    This Is Not A Meme says:

     Officially sanctioned death, no. Oddly, I would at the hands of the mob. I have faced personal injury for not censoring myself in the Bible Belt of the US. While one is not likely to be murdered for atheism in the US, gay and trans people get lynched a lot, and though I am a hetero that doesn’t protect me from being lynched for my views on sexuality. They see no difference between gays and those who don’t hate them.

    For me, it made leaving the area an attractive option. I now live in the godless Bay Area, and my occasional excursions inland remind me why I left. I can’t suffer the flagrant promotion of absurdities. Crosses are soaked in blood. That upsets me. I didn’t realize that until moving away. The constant intrusion of insanity is harmful, just like pollution. Leaving the area is an effective protest. When people leave, they take their talents and labor with them.

    While I will endure threats, I won’t make others suffer. I lie to my grandmother because if she thought I was hell-bound she would cry. I suppose if I had kids that could be affected by it I might censor myself, but otherwise I consider it an honor and an opportunity to speak truthfully. Many have died for that right.

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  • 20
    Apeman says:

    Can I add Medicine to that list of places which should be kept secular?  I have heard some awful religious claims from my GP.  I’ve been told my family is cursed and that God initiated The Big Bang, all whilst I was trying to get medical treatment/advice.

    Am I duty bound as an atheist to report this Quack?

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  • 21
    Nunbeliever says:

    Well, this is one of those question you can’t really answer unless you’ve been in that situation. Much, like “would you sacrifice your life for your loved ones” or “would you intervene if you saw someone being severely beaten although you would most likely risk your own life”. The only honest answer is that I don’t know, and I hope I will never have to find out for myself.

    I like to think that there are things in this world that I would risk my life for. I think that if a person has nothing to die for, then that person really has nothing to live for either. I really can’t see any plausible scenario where I would have to die for expressing my beliefs. But, I have at times wondered how I would have reacted if I was a young man living in Germany in the mid thirties. I think the problem with fascism is that people tend not to realize what’s happening before it’s too late. I think the current situation in USA is actually quite interesting in this regard. It started with the patriot act. Now, they are considering drone surveillance. Private prisons are lobbying for harder laws in order to get more people in jail. The government is utterly corrupted. The Occupy Wall Street movement was considered a gang of fanatics and harassed by the police and the government. Poor and colored people are much more likely to be sent to prison than rich people who can afford good lawyers. Christianity is making it’s way into the political and judiciary spheres. Science denialism is thriving. Nonetheless few Americans seem to realize this is a text book example of a fascist society in the making. Will, they wake up and revolt before it’s too late? 

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  • 22
    magicsteven says:

    There is no call to proselytise necessarily embodied in atheism. Stay alive. Hypocrisy is a small price.  Lots of theists practise it simply for material advantage rather than preservation of life. Of course, they are to be despised. However, you will not go to hell for pretending to say a prayer.

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  • 23
    canadian_right says:

    If admitting I’m an atheist would almost certainly lead to a beating, much less death, I would keep it to myself. It is irrational to get yourself harmed to others irrational beliefs. I no more want to die for not believing in god than I want to die for not believing in the tooth fairy.

    I wouldn’t take part in any hateful parts of the local culture, and I’d work to move people to more moderate beliefs – as long as I could do it without having a strong change of coming to dire harm.

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  • 24
    SomersetJohn says:

    It is very easy for me to say I would proudly declaim my Atheistic beliefs. I have done so, when asked what my beliefs are, or what church/sect I belong to. Here in England I am most unlikely to be lynched for doing so. On occasion, someone might turn their back on me for my (lack of) beliefs. More often, indeed much more often, I have become involved in some very interesting and sometimes quite enlightening discussions. 

    I very much doubt I would have the courage to act as I do here were I in some other countries. Certainly not in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia or possibly some areas of the USA. I am amazed and humbled by the courage of many minorities, not just Atheists, who are prepared to declare their difference in places where their very lives are thereby in jeopardy.

    I am not a hero.  So many of these people are.

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  • 27
    maria melo says:

    I think Professor Richard Dawkins once adviced people living in such communities to be prudent.

    (I think I am too “coward” and I wouldn´t, but if I were a teenager, I am not sure about it, not even fear of death I am afraid…would make any difference)

    Lately, almost daily, I see a couple of teen girls kissing each other and being so passionate to each other and I wonder and think to myself that I would  be capable of that behaviour too, if I were a teenager -and was in fact- not anymore, why ? just because of  fear of social rejection I think.

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  • 28
    NotDeluded says:

    Change doctor without delay.     There could be all kinds of other medical conflicts between you and this one in the future.  Been there.

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  • 29
    Draytonian says:

    People indocrineated as children or as adults into belief in the supernatural have not acquired those beliefs through rational discourse and so cannot be argued rationally out of them, as is the case with prejudices. As George Bernard Shaw put it, “Don’t confuse me with facts, my mind’s made up!” In the social situation described, prudence would seem to be the adviseable policy. Perhaps forging underground links with like-minded individuals for mutual support might be the first step in a long-haul trek to the rational enlightenment of such a society.

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  • 30
    Modesti says:

    In this society as you described, no, I would not admit that I am an atheist. Anyway, I am not free in my society from many other reasons. Fortunately, no one is going to murder me or similar in my country if I say that I am an atheist, but I get rude comments, and I do not get to be consider as a person, a normal human being, and perhaps not get a job that I want. In my opinion there is very small percent of free people in this planet. We have sacrificed our freedom, in order that we can not be judged in any aspect of social (and personal of course) life. I am afraid to love, …to openly show my love towards same sex because I might get beaten to death, so no I am not free also. :). 

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  • 31
    GlenNeuro says:

    Personally I would however due to the punishments that follow apostasy I know many Muslim friends especially in Egypt who are hesitant to

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  • 32
    LJofSpades says:

    I wouldn’t admit to being an atheist but I would make my criticisms of religion clear – taking the “you can believe in God or be ‘spiritual’ without this false and harmful religion nonsense” path. I would hope that that would affect change of hearts and minds without ostracising myself too much.

    Of course, I really have no idea and chances are I’d just keep quiet…

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  • 33
    Freethinker3000 says:

        Stay safe, as an atheist I think life is absolutely wonderful and risking it wouldn’t be a very wise decision. Maybe have un-directed discussion about religion and see if you could bring up some evolutionary points. See how they react. If they react in a negative way than thats a warning sign if it is greeted with an open mind than see what their views are. Seldom will you get through to their thick skull as being raised in organized religion is very hard to let go of and only the very few open minded intelligent beings get the opportunity to be a free thinker. 

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  • 34
    OHooligan says:

    I have heard some awful religious claims from my GP.  I’ve been told my family is cursed

    Suggested responses:  if I wanted to consult a witch doctor I’d have gone to a qualified one.

    Or better, report him to a qualified Witch Doctor for practicing without a license, see how he likes getting cursed….

    Meanwhile a complaint to his GP medical body sounds in order.  Perhaps he’s unqualified in that field too.

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  • 35
    Barbara Necker says:

    I would move to another country, as I see no benefit to anyone from dying & I’d hate to masquerade as a religious person.

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  • 37
    Peter Grant says:

    Yes, I probably would. Not that I’m incredibly brave or anything, just terrible at keeping secrets and would most likely blurt it out in a moment of anger or frustration.

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  • Well, this is one of those question you can’t really answer unless you’ve been in that situation. Much, like “would you sacrifice your life for your loved ones” or “would you intervene if you saw someone being severely beaten although you would most likely risk your own life”. The only honest answer is that I don’t know, and I hope I will never have to find out for myself.

    This, really. I feel it depends on a lot of things, too. Perhaps if I was still a teenager I’d be more loud about it, but now that I have a partner and a child, I’d be more careful with risking my and their health like that, especially for something that is so entirely meaningless.

    Perhaps if atheism actually meant something I’d be more willing, but really, it’s just “absence of faith”. Not something to get killed over. An hour of prayer is a small price to pay.

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  • 39
    Modesti says:

    Dear Plu,
    I don’t totally agree with your opinion : “Perhaps if atheism actually meant something I’d be more willing, but really, it’s just “absence of faith”. Not something to get killed over”.

    It is a question of freedom. Someone personal freedom is not something to be refused so easily. Also, it seems to me that atheism is more than absence of faith, especially in religious states, it is standing by with truth, common sense, and a way to resist primitivism. But I understand when you say it is not worth of declaring your atheism if it means that your own family may be at life risk. Probably atheism does not mean much in atheistic society. 🙂

    For me atheism is a question of freedom.

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  • 40
    Angry high IQ atheist 2514 says:

    There have always been those that question and punder exsistens and therefor reach the only logical conclusion. Most likely there always will be or at least so i sensearly hope. 

    your question is not so much a question as it is a paradoks. I suposse it would depend greatly on what i got out of it. But considering my some what obsessive need to think logically and talk about the big questions. My awnser would be yes in 8 out of 10 times.

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  • 41
    Openminded says:

    Wow such thoughtful comments… Personally speaking today in your situation, I would NOT ‘go public’ with my atheism. Maybe in my 20’s I would have been reckless enough and thought I could change the world. They can only think they control your mind! I would try and start a dialogue about having a dialogue… pretend to be the ‘required believer’ and try and encourage dialogue about how as believers we shouldn’t be afraid of non believers and shouldn’t require enforcing our beliefs because if they are true then they will stand by themselves without the need for enforcement. You can always quickly apologise and retreat back to the hard line if necessary.

    Obviously you want to do something about your atheism, so try doing stuff that isn’t too threatening to the status quo, and that you can back away from without consequence. Try doing whatever you can with anonymity… well crafted words are a powerful tool and don’t need an author to be effective.

    You are not a coward for wanting to survive, and that survial instinct is very great. If you do decide to make specific stands make sure you let as many people know as possible, so you can get as much support as possible and hopefully garner as much attention as possible… I would never go into the wilderness without letting people know where they can find the body!

    I am amazed at people like Gandhi and Martin Luther King but these people were at the head of an already active and self sacrifical movement… many of their group had already sacrificed before them. I haven’t studied their history / life stories enough, and I really don’t know how these movements start and succeed. Without a free press you will always have a hard time.

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  • 42
    Stephen of Wimbledon says:

    “Would you admit you have lost your faith?”


    But I would emigrate first.  Almost any country would be more attractive then the one you describe, wouldn’t it?

    If I couldn’t emigrate, I would toe the line and live a lie.  I admire brave people partly because I just don’t think I could do it.

    If statistics are any guide, very few people are brave enough to stand up and be counted.

    I might be brave if someone else led the way.  This is quite common, there’s an area of psychology that covers it.


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  • I consider “freedom” and “atheism” two completely different things. I would be far, far more likely to stand up and complain if we’re talking a religious regime where women who show their face are stoned or people are whipped and imprisoned for wanting to get an education.
    But I consider that a different thing from being at risk for saying you are a non-believer. The one does not neccesarily imply the other.

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  • 44
    ATomico says:

    As far as I can remember I have never believed in a God, I have put Atheist in the (about) section on Facebook and if some one asks I will tell them, when the Johovas Witnesses knock at the door I tell them politely that I’m an Atheist, saves alot of time. but If my life depended on it I would fit in to the religion of my country and keep my views to myself.

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  • 45
    El Rico says:

    How many Muslims in strict Islamic countries ACTUALLY believe ? – I suspect a lot of them don’t and simply go through the motions to satisfy the lunatic dogma. And even further……during  those prayers, made several times a day, how many of them keep their heads down, stay indoors and ignore all the wailing from the minarets ? After all, how does anyone check on whether every person dutifully performs their prayers ?

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  • Religious people have to keep in mind that it is PEOPLE, who implant thoughts about the existence of God, gods, supernatural and paranormal into their heads. It can never be God or Jesus themselves first since they are a figment of human imagination. 

    When it comes to religion, it all boils down to whether you trust PEOPLE with what they are telling you. Once a religious idea is implanted in your brain, you start imagining other people’s fantasies as real since the brain is highly suggestible in lot of people, and actually may end up seeing things that are not there due to the power of suggestion.

    Take, for instance, the story of Jesus. Supposedly, he managed to convince few people of his divine nature through performing miracles that no human could perform. However, the alleged witnesses could not convince everybody else that they actually saw Jesus show them the “TRUTH”. Therefore, he got crucified before getting ridiculed and mocked because the pharisees did not believe those witnesses, and Jesus refused to show miracles to those pharisees as well. I guess, it was his own fault, since coercing people to simply believe is wrong. If you show proof to some people, you cannot deprive the rest. Plus, if people are known to be conniving and deceitful, then  passing the truth through them is probably not a good idea, which means Jesus was imperfect, and, therefore, cannot be what he claimed to be. 

    When I use my own judgement in assessing the environment and the world around me, I can’t help but come to a similar realization as that of Richard Dawkins before I even read his books.

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  • I forgot to mention that I am not afraid of people and openly state my atheist position. If they attack me, I simply remind them of their animalistic nature, which is a scientific atheist concept, and guess what – it does make a lot of sense.

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  • 50
    Saint Martin says:

    I have not lost my faith. I grew up in the London suburbs, people rarely talked about religion and nobody was bothered that my parents were atheist and my family went to church only for weddings, funerals and other special events. 
    If I grew up where the community was religious and conformity was expected of each person, I cannot imagine losing religion. I can see conformity might vary from passionate to hardly noticeable as El Rico describes, but not missing altogether. If it was, like others here, I see no point in throwing away my life, or being violently rejected by my neighbours. Martyrdom is a form of human sacrifice for religious purposes, and of no value to me.

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  • @rdfrs-7c25b2a7d7b22fef2412fdb3560b3214:disqus Saint Martin

    “… I see no point in throwing away my life, or being violently rejected by my neighbours. Martyrdom is a form of human sacrifice for religious purposes, and of no value to me.”

    Who told you that there was such thing as God and Jesus? Wasn’t it people first? You know that even the Bible, which was obviously written by people, ironically, states that you CANNOT trust people with anything. How could you  allow yourself to fall for what those people told you about this world?

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  • If I had witnessed the Jesus myself firsthand, if he indeed existed, 2, 000 years ago, and if I got absolutely convinced that he was, who he claimed to be, it would be a totally different story. However, when religious idiots come up to me and try to convince me to trust them with what somebody told them, who was also told by someone else and else and else that they witnessed Jesus, it would be like trusting those assholes, who claim to have encountered aliens or run into Big Foot. How can you trust people with something like this knowing that a large percentage of them are vile conniving douchebags! They pretty much coerce you to believe PEOPLE that there is such thing as God and Jesus. Yeah, right… people wish they were trusted and believed!!!

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  • I live in Pakistan, and I come from a religious family. Some of my friends are atheists too, but they don’t dare to tell their families, not so much for the fear of rejection, but for the fear of giving them extreme shock and pain. I have decided I can’t live my life with a lie. So, my family knows I’m an atheist (that’s a huge accomplishment, really, to let the family know this, in my the society I live in). That once created an emotinal scene when I was openly criticizing religion and my mother (someone I love the most) cried. Since then, I’ve limited my discussion of religion at home, but they know who I am. Apart from that my friends know for sure. All the other people I interact with, and everytihng I do on facebook, almost cries out loud that I’m an atheist, tough I haven’t stated in explicitely for security reasons. My twitter account is anonymous (kind of) at the moment, and there I campaign against the claws of blind faith in my society even more openly. But I’m always in a danger of being killed now that most people know I’m an atheist, because of my status updates condemning religious extemism and stupidity, arguing against the existance of God, and posting qoutes from writers like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris etc. I also have argued against the blasphemy laws and the ‘blasphemy’ youtube video with colleagues at office, to their horror, and subsequent unwelcome reaction. I think in such stone-age societies, there is no need to go out in front of the crowd and say ‘I’m an atheist’. Smart thing would be to try and make a change in a less obvious way. For example, I keep books like The God Delusion and The Blind Watchmaker easily accesible to anyone who may want to read them, and I’ve discussed the God issue with my nephew and neices. I didn’t impose my ideas on them, but told  them it is okay to doubt anytihng. So in a way I am an open athiest who hasn’t officially declared the fact in front of the society, but everything I do or say reflects who I am. Yes, there is risk, but I will, if worst comes to worst, die being myself than live giving an impression of belonging to a belief system I detest..

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  • I’ve learnt it the hard way, now I do control my worldview, but if someone is talking shit like ”this flood is the result of God being angry with us”, I can’t resist giving them a doze of better sense.

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  • Not an option for me!!! Leaving your mom, dad, and every loved one just to ‘go public’ with the statement ‘I’m an atheist” is not an option for me. But the day I realize I can’t live a life of freedom even partially (as I’m doing now, bravely enough), then I may want ot quit—Pakistan.

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  • 59
    Nodhimmi says:

    Must give you sleepless nights when Islamists promote their religion with violence and murder- be careful, go without God! You have the blessing of a very good education and an inquiring mind, not the norm in your country…

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  • I live in the US, work in a scientific and high profile field, and still wear my “A” pin proudly. Currently in the US there are repercussions that can afflict those of us who proclaim reality over divinity.

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  • 63
    clouddancer says:

    Living in the secular UK it is very easy to shout loudly I am an atheist. But God forbid (like the pun) I lived somewhere less tolerant. Then being an atheist could mean no job or worst no life. I not sure if I would have the courage

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  • 64
    Willowb says:

    Well there would be no loyalty to that culture so I would keep it secret and move away. Then announce to those back at home I am atheist so as to be out of the physical firing line. That way I have a chance to show others in this dogmatic culture the error of religion. A dead or silenced atheist doesn’t contribute to humanity’s potential progression.

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  • 65
    anhedone says:

     What about a supposedly tolerant, secular country where there’s still significant prejudice against atheists? For instance, if you were offering testimony at trial for a serious crime, do you choose to affirm the oath instead of swearing with your hand on a bible, knowing that to do so would likely prejudice the jury against you or cause them to disbelieve your statement?

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  • 66
    theamazinghannab123 says:

    Even here in the US (I’m a California resident) I sometimes have a hard time admitting I’m an atheist. And where I live is a pretty accepting environment. I cannot imagine the inner turmoil one would go through to admit atheism in a country where one would be ostracized from their community. The idea scares me. Moving would be my first thought, but being in high school like I am would make that nearly impossible. If there is an individual that the person in question could confide in, seek them. Good luck

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  • 67
    zengardener says:

    Ask for a bench trial if you are innocent. The more highly educated judges are more likely to view the evidence in a more objective manner. If you are guilty, put your hand on the bible, swear your oath, and add a sincere, “So help me God.”

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  • 68
    brighterstill says:

    I would see no problem at all with lying to save my own life.  The religious like comforting lies anyway, so why not give them one more.  It will make it all the more surprising when everyone realizes one day no one’s telling the truth about believing anymore.

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  • 69
    forestdweller says:

    I have been an atheist since I was 22 and, from day one, I have never hesitated when asked to say I didn’t believe in a god. There’s a way of sharing that info that  isn’t offensive, if you know how to do it.

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  • 70
    andy walker says:

    I think it’s difficult to say what someone would do in a repressive or dangerous enviroment for atheists unless they actually find themselves in it. I am fortunate enough not to have to face such a dilema living in the UK. I guess that while I might not openly admit to being an atheist in such a scenario, I would certainly hope that I would not assist or condone the actions of those who would maltreat atheists in order to fit in / protect myself.

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  • 72
    MAIDENax3 says:

    I Agree with Questioningkat as well as Henmie. It would be (as Henmie pointed out) suicidal. on the other hand I think atheists who may be living in secrecy must stand together and fight. as more and more atheists unite, others who may have fear will have the courage to come out. Strength is in Numbers.

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  • 73
    Trondesson says:

    You have not “lost your faith” when you realize that you are an atheist, you have “gained insight”. As for the matter of outing yourself as one, it depends whether the people you tell are worth it and will support you. As that seems not to be the case where you live (you even speak of dying), you will either have to live with your newly-found knowledge or accept the consequences and leave the country after all, which is a difficult decision. But as you have stated that even your family puts religion over relation and would turn from you, I in your place would probably do it.

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  • 75
    Trondesson says:

     As atheists are not “duty-bound” to their lack of beliefs in any way, I guess you’re not. But you should certainly shun him in the future, and possibly warn like-minded friends not to go to him either.

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  • 76
    Trondesson says:

     Technically it probably isn’t martyrdom, as an atheist would not die for his own beliefs but for his lack of those of others.
    For an atheist, the question arises: can he continue living with himself if he submits to something he knows is wrong? I’d say no, he can’t and shouldn’t. There are only two options: Stay and die or leave and live. But do not stay and live with a lie.

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  • 77
    hueman0un says:

    i have….unfortunately i have a heavily religious background..the backlash has been awful…ive had some serious hate rhetoric thrown my way and the most radical religious theology crammed down my throat…oh the church really does brainwash people..they use conditioning…if you dont believe you are bad and receive abuse…the only way to make the abuse stop is to accept christ ,the church, and every piece of supernatural religious nonsense they preach..its sick they cause delusions…dont even waste time getting into a debate with mostreligious creeps its usually just a situation in which they go for low blows and try to hustle you..obviously they preach nonsense..obviously..there are many many athiest priests and pastors because they dont believe what they preach but they mak other people do so.  they  are like transmitters of a disease which they have an immunity to

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  • I would not reveal it as there seems to be nothing good that can come from revealing it in these circumstances.  To me it is a personal belief that I would choose. I simply would not mention nor practice anything religious.

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  • 79
    WillHerbert says:

    Living in America, it is sad that I would fear for my safety if I became an outspoken atheist within my community. It frustrates me so much that I cannot tell anyone of my beliefs for the fear that I will be ridiculed for my beliefs even though that’s exactly what religious people complain about atheists doing to them. Because I am still a teenager and living with my parents, I am still forced to go to mass with them, so every week I see things that are blatantly ignorant and bother me to the point where I excuse myself to “go to the bathroom”. I fear that once I am an adult, it will be harder to find someone to be in a relationship with and eventually marry because of the fact that I have no religion. To give an example, one day at the lunch table I shyly confessed that yes, I was in fact an atheist. Bear in mind that this was to a small group of close friends. The first response I got was “Woah, dude, atheism is such a weird religion. Why would you believe in, like, the devil?” Right away I explained that no, I was not satanist, I was atheist. I just didn’t believe in a god. This confused them even more because apparently they did not realize this was an option. For months now this has bothered me because this is the 21st century…children should no longer be indoctrinated the hate atheists by their parents. I will not do it and I will put a stop to it if I see anyone else doing it. Things like this frustrate me beyond belief. So to answer you question, no, I would never again admit I was atheist to anyone because America has still not progressed far enough to view atheism with reason. 

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  • 80
    Functional Atheist says:

    If at all possible, I would emigrate.

    The principle of freedom of conscience is too fundamental to my conception of human rights for me to find it tolerable to live in a nation where being openly atheist would place me in significant physical danger.  So I would move, only partially out of a sense of self-protection, but even more out of the principle that I would not want my labor, and my taxes, to support such a barbaric society. 

    In other words, I would be so offended on behalf of other potential victims of such intolerance, that my own potential victim-hood would be just an added factor in my overwhelming determination to leave such a place.

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  • 81
    ProudAtheist88 says:

    This is an incredibly difficult question to answer, mainly because you have to be a person of such courage – in environment where your life could be at risk or where fear if rejection haunts you – to speak out. I’d like to say I would but one wouldn’t know until placed in that situation.

    The problem is for me is that your condemning yourself to a life of imprisonment within a belief system you feel to be false, but also, if you agree with me and feel how deeply furfilling rejecting religion and opening your eyes to reason and science is, then you are also complicit in keeping others imprisoned in the same way. You could open their eyes as yours have been.

    Again this is easy for me to say, I live in a fairly easy place to believe what I do. So wouldn’t like to judge others situations.

    In saying this, we should look to the young girl from Pakistan who was shot by the Taliban to note how courage can be found in all sizes.

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  • 82
    Martin7374 says:

    Thankfully I live in a country where I can freely believe whatever I like without fear of punishment but I have to say that I doubt I would be brave enough to openly denounce religion if my life were at risk. Im ashamed to say this but its true Im afraid

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  • 83
    AndrewHoward says:

     I may not live in a “community” in which Atheists or non-believers of the religions are considered “outcasts”, however in my family – Mother’s side to be specific, even saying a word against God is a mistake in their eyes. I for one remain cautious around the members I know are religious, and I respect their right to believe on a personal level. However, more than once, has an argument erupted thanks to typical Christian loud-mouthing.

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  • 84
    rblauer says:

    It would really depend on the situation but in general, If asked, I would tell them that I am not religious. However, I still don’t know what I would do when I need to renew my ID as they always put a person’s religion on the ID card – have no idea why such information is needed on an ID card!. There are only 6 choices provided (Islam, Catholic, Christian, Budhist, Hindu and Kong fu tze) on the ID form and the law did state that you have to belong to one of these religions.

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  • I’d try to communicate the contradictions and absurdities of religion without saying it explicitly. I’d choose my audience carefully, too. However, I don’t think it’d be maximally useful (let alone sensible) to be an out atheist in a country like that, unless you have a lot of money or power so you can have body guards, etc. An alternative is to work towards a culture that values reason, or at least values those who reason and rejects the worst excesses of irrationality. I suspect many countries where such risks exist are not as far from that as some think and (undermining my suggestion of cultural reform) kept from it by things other than cultural constraints.

    I guess there would be scope for underground, pseudonymous contact with other local atheists if the govt is genuinely indifferent (and doesn’t, e.g., have radical elements in the spy agencies or secret police)

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  • 87
    truthreality says:

    I am an Atheist. Actually… I don’t think of myself as belonging to any belief system. I just try very hard to evaluate all information through the lens of logic and the scientific method, without prejudice. I feel as Sagan does (and I paraphrase badly) – there are far too many awe inspiring truths in this Universe to bother with religious fairy tales. That said, I would never ever admit my “Atheism” publicly; for fear of violence to my family and myself. I live in the USA, where ironically religious freedom is our raison d’être. Unfortunately, I also live in an area where a good old boy would probably shoot me for not “ceptin Jesus”. 
    It seems to me that over the past decade or so, spurred on by conservative media and fear, America has spiraled downward (and backward) into a very aggressive fundamentalist form of Apple-Pie-Christianity (e.g., Fighting the war on Christmas??). I believe this has been enabled by declining educational standards, exalting ignorance as a fashion statement, and rabid anti-intellectualism in our elected officials. Essentially creating a self reinforcing reality where faith is the only acceptable answer to every question (why bother asking…). Since this fascism is draped in the good old red white and blue, the indoctrinated tend to think of themselves as good Christians and patriots. And ironically they freely mock foreign religious zealots. From my perspective the behavior is exactly the same. There are times when I stand next to my neighbor listening to their words, and wonder… how it is possible for two humans in the same locale, breathing the same air, in the same moment, to see the same world so differently? Dismayed.

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  • 88
    GospelofJudas says:

    I don’t, usually, but it has little to do with any fear of persecution (which I understand is a very real danger for many people in many parts of the world, even here in the USA), but because I don’t like to define myself by one catch-all phrase. Atheism has a connotation, good or bad, and I’ve found that when someone states “I am an atheist” it conjures an image in the mind of the listener based wholly on pre-conceived notions, much like how someone might internally groan when a person introduces themselves by saying, “well, I’m a Christian/Democrat/Republican/vegan/whatever”. Please don’t interpret this as disparaging any particular group; rather, what I wish to avoid and hope others can as well is improper labeling. Yes, I am an atheist; I do not believe in a personal god or gods. I still consider myself more of a Buddhist (as I don’t find any conflict between the two), and I find that what people seem to think when they here ‘Buddhist’ is closer to my personality than what many people think when they hear ‘Atheist’. 

    In order to avoid these problems altogether, I find it more useful to engage someone in dialogue (which I’d be prepared to do, if I knew them well enough to discuss my religious views with them at any length). Asking questions and leading them to conclusions, perhaps opening their mind if even just a tiny bit, is more constructive that assuming a contrary position off the bat in my experience. A few simple questions can make just about anyone start to ask questions about a personal God to themselves, and it’s easier to infer your beliefs from that. Does this sound like a cop-out? It may. I’m more interested in seeing people THINK, however, even if they don’t draw the same conclusions, and being open to other people thinking. While gathering those who label themselves in a specific fashion does offer legitimacy in the eyes of many, it also can be polarizing.

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  • 90
    LaurieMann says:

    Good question, and I admit, I’m not sure.  While I’m reasonably out-of-the-closet about being an atheist, I don’t talk about it to family members due to their beliefs.  Imagine living in some Muslim countries today where people are still executed for “heresy,” or a few hundred years ago in Europe or America where the same happened.

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  • 91
    SnarkyCanuck says:

    This post highlights once again how lucky I am to live in a country where I can be open about my lack of belief in religion without (much) risk of being killed or shunned for it.

    I don’t really think I’d have the courage to speak out if my life was in real danger. I’d like to believe I would, and I admire people who do have that kind of courage very deeply, but I am inclined to think I wouldn’t.

    My hat is off to the heroes of the world who risk there lives in hopes of making a better world.

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  • 93
    StickyWillie says:

    It’s hard to imagine what you’d do if you lived among the Taliban, leave or button it I suppose.I keep quiet about my own position anyway so not much would change. You find that unless you actually are in a screwball, talibanesque country, there are always enough people who think like you do for there to be an unwritten protocol of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ with regard to your faith.
    I have head-banger Christian neighbours (nice, but pray a lot) but they leave me alone in that regard because I reckon they’ve worked out instinctively that if they start picking at me on the religion front (I never bring it up) they’ll open up a conversational can of worms that’ll expose the holes in their own faith. On the one occasion that the bible and morality was mentioned when they first moved in, they got it back gently from me with a learned response on old testament carnage.
    My experience of the bible belt in the States is that everybody just goes along with it for the quiet life. America will grow up one day.

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  • 94
    LordPengwyn says:

    You should always be true to yourself and your beliefs, or lack thereof!
    I would like to think that I would act upon that conviction, were I in the situation you sketched…
    Of course, I live in the Netherlands and can say with a great deal of pride and relief, that we take freedom of religion (or a lack thereof) very seriously here. People don’t even flinch here if you put on pirates regalia and exclaim yourself a Pastafarian! Atheism has no negative sentiment here whatseoever. I have never even come across or heard from any negative reactions to myself or people I know after they declared themselves atheists.
    It is astounding to me that this is obviously not the case in otherwise regarded as “free” western societies like the USA and Great Britain, to name a few.
    In the Netherlands, it is almost the other way around; people are almost embaressed to admit they are NOT atheists… Religion is an archaic leftover from less enlightened times. As the way people think evolves and more of us get better education in the facts of life, the universe and the rest, more and more will come to the realisation that -much like the flat earth-, religion was just the result of misinformation and it too WILL be shelved under “superstition and quaint habits of our forebearers.” Where it belongs!

    So, returning to your original question: If you ARE in such an environment, find thinkers of a like mind and beliefsystem and keep true to yourself, just… be careful… Eventually even the most tenacious theocratic societies will realise they were following a delusion all along and reject Religion for reason!
    Remember that every revolution started with just one person stopping, saying “Wait a minute, this is not right!” and then telling others of his/her realisation…

    Wishing you all the best of times during the holidays and tell all your friends to follow this website.


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  • Call me an egotist, but I would not risk my own life. Instead, I would opt to migrate, even if migration was an unattractive option. I would, however, gladly risk communal rejection.

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  • 96
    FreeBirdinCage says:

    Living in a muslim country  ,this hits very close to home .
    Of course I’m not willing to die for just expressing my nonreligious views, I prefer to live ,thank you.
     I’m very afraid to tell anyone that I’m an atheist ,I’ve been living in a lie quite a time now, and it’s very depressing sometimes not to be able to tell your opinions especially when you’re constantly surrounded with religious nonsense all the time , even in scientific institutions and universities  where you might expect to find  some reason and plain science . 
    I’m counting the days when I can  literally “escape” to a free secular country .It’s true , you’re probably going to let down the persons that love you, where the love disappears when god comes in the middle but I’m willing to take the risk and start a completely new life.
    No money No family  No reputation Nobody , I just want Freedom .  

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  • I see there’s an interview with Richard Dawkins coming up on Al Jazeera. Let’s hope it’s widely seen in the Muslim world.

    Mehdi Hasan interviews evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins at the Oxford Union and asks: Is religion a force for good or evil? Can it co-exist with science? Is science the new religion? And why if god does not exist, is religion so persistent? Dawkins on religion can be seen from Saturday, December 22, at the following times GMT: Saturday: 2000; Sunday: 1200; Monday: 0100; Tuesday: 0600.

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  • 99
    AwesomeFrog says:

    The person is the most important aspect of this scenario, but there are tons of factors that come into play in this scenario- and in every case of this too. Most people I know who are closeted atheists have one of two (or both) good reasons not to reveal their lack of faith openly, they are:

    *The person doesn’t believe in God, but they are not a particularly free-thinking or deep person, so it’s not really important to my daily function/work/social circle, but it (might) result in some backlash, when it’s “really not all that important.”

    *I would love to be able to speak about how I’m an atheist, but the problem is that I would be ostracized by a religious and/or close-minded family, my colleagues, friends, just enough people where it wouldn’t be worth the hassle to say so.

    (Sorry I wish there were bullets for comments)
    But to answer the discussion’s main idea, I would say. It depends on specific criteria.

    If I was killed, arrested, or abused for revealing who I am. I would just keep it to myself. I can’t preach free-thought easily in intensive care, prison, or death.
    I would consider things carefully: Would the risks outweigh the benefits? If a few relatives who aren’t that close (for differences or by family structure), avoid me forever? Meh. It’s their loss, I feel. But if I lose my livelihood, my family, opportunities to do anything in life at all, my reason to live. I’ll have the general foresight not to speak my mind if it will do THAT MUCH harm. So, in most cases, yeah. I’d tell people who I am. Close-minded people never get along with me in any context anyway, so why bother with the terribly misled/hostile bigots and religious sheep?

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  • 100
    voiceofarabi says:

    Hello everyone..

    Thank you for contributing to this discussion, and you have helped me make up my mind.  I feel it is only fare to share with you my decision.

    Since this is the only life we get, it makes sense to try to live it to the best you can, and since dying, or emigrating will reduce the quality of life considerably, keeping the status quo is best position to be in.

    The hardest challenge for me is to accept religious people, regardless of thier religion or how deeply religious they are.  If you think about it, there is hardly any difference between “Obama” and “Osama”… They both believe in fairies and live in fairly land, the only difference is the shape and size of fairy..

    It is possible for any “Obama” to become an “Osama”, and I have seen this in many walks of life.  When sensible people face trauma, sometime they become religious nuts!!

    The biggest challenge now is, to take my doctor, pilot, scientist, etc seriously, when i know they believe in “Santa” still!!!!!

    Thank you people…. Live long and prosper….

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  • 101
    Bruvvamoff says:

    Hi Arabi.

    Personally, if the consequences were such that I might die then I would certainly keep it to myself.
    I wouldn’t feel any less of an Atheist as a result.
    There are no doubt countless closet Atheists in such dangerous countries and I think one of the best ways forward is to create safe havens for such people. Places they can meet up and share ideas under a ‘secular’ banner.
    As for family rejection, that wouldn’t bother me. Not because I don’t care what they think, far from it.
    But any family or friends who can so quickly jettison a life long relationship was never really a loved one in my opinion.
    Most of my family are Atheist. If I became religious they would certainly stand by me, despite my beliefs.
    This is true love.

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  • 102
    Bartheist says:

    Born as an atheist and raised as an atheist I never gave religion too much thought. However, at the age of nearly 50,  after working several years with two religilous colleagues I changed my mind. There is a limit to the amount of respect one can have for someone’s insane thoughts about the real world. Since my colleagues didn’t bother to keep their ideas about the age of the earth etc… to themselves, I though I shouldn’t do so either. The most disappointing experience was to find out how little they actually knew about the world they live in when confronting them with their own words and opinions. It was hardly worth the effort to confront them with their ideas because they wouldn’t accept any scientific proof whatsoever. Anyway, I don’t avoid the discussion any more out of respect because religion doesn’t show much of respect to the rest of the world either.

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  • 103
    Kendra says:

    I would assume it would be difficult under any situation. Well..if your living in religious conditions. I’ve already told some people that I’m atheist and they have drawn away from me, and some actually try to convert me. That gets tedious to deal with. My grandmother disowned me until I agreed to attend her church on Saturdays. I’d much rather be true to myself though and speak with facts and science as opposed to fantasy.

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  • 105
    Rory McNicholas says:

    A community and family aren’t worth having if they don’t respect your religious views. As for me against the state/mobs, that’s not a battle worth fighting on my own. As said many times below, confide in those with similar views.

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  • 106
    intuitionella says:

    I think that conformity to the group happens whether a person is religious or not, so for example, if a future society based on atheism became the majority, then the same problems might well happen, look at the former USSR or China?  In China, people practicing spirituality were imprisoned and same in USSR, it was illegal, to put this into perspective. Jewish people in the past were forced to convert to Christianity, the Spanish Jews became Marranos, secret Jews, while outwardly practising Catholicism, because if they didn’t they would die. Perhaps a minority of people would die rather than lie about their religion.

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  • 107
    Glenn_Swart says:

    Thank you for highlighting one of the major problem areas of religion (tolerance).  I am sorry but your position has no easy solution, I would be very careful about what I say and who a talk to if I was in your position.  Good luck, I hope it works out OK 🙁

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  • 108
    Jim Jones says:

    Damn hard question! Taking into account the scenario you presented, it is quite unprobable that many people would claim themselves as atheists. Well, I would rather keep it secret and do the best I could to leave the country.

    Good luck and be careful!

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  • 109
    Anthony says:

    Ive been reading the posts to your question and admire every single opinion.  Here’s my clumsy attempt:  Too many people (valuable human beings) have stood their religious ground in defence of their belief…the price being their lives.  I dont think you serve anyone by sacraficing yourself.  If it means survival, lie, and live to benefit your friends, family and fellow man another day.  Dont waist your special and intelligent concience on those who seek to hurt you no matter what you do or dont belive.  I wish you the best wherever you are.

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  • 110
    astrophysics says:

    An interesting question…
    I actually am in almost such a situation.  I don’t think I’d be killed if I came out, but I would be kicked out of my parents’ home.  So I don’t think that before I find somewhere else to live (e.g., college) I’d take the dumb move of volunteering such unsolicited information.
    However, if someone were to try to force me to state that I believe in Judaism, I would be willing to die.  When I was thirteen, a teacher forced me to declare belief in the principles of Jewish faith, and I will never forgive myself for doing it.  Though I guess I didn’t really have any other choice.

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  • 111
    evogelic says:

    If you seriously oppose your religion, and have the desire to make it known, then perhaps immigrating to another country should be your move. You mentioned that it is not an attractive option, BUT is it in fact an option? Decide which is less attractive, and choose the other. Good luck to you!

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