By Jay Wexler
The first time I remember openly identifying as an atheist was when I announced to my high school freshman English class that I didn’t believe in God. Later that day in gym, I broke my collarbone playing dodgeball. Was it God’s revenge for my blasphemy? I didn’t think so, but for a while there, I kept my atheism on the down low just in case.
Not anymore. Although I have an affinity for Asian religions like Buddhism and Taoism and even have a master’s degree in religious studies from a divinity school, I’ve been an unabashed atheist for my entire adult life. I’ve taught First Amendment law at Boston University for nearly 20 years, am a strong supporter of the separation of church and state, and have recently published a book called Our Non-Christian Nation, which is about how atheists and other minority groups are demanding their equal place in public life alongside the Christian majority.
As part of my research, I traveled around the country and talked to leaders of minority groups to find out how they felt about the Christian dominance of our nation’s public life. I watched an atheist give an invocation before a town board she had previously sued for violating the First Amendment, attended a Veterans Day ceremony held by a pagan priestess who successfully sued the federal government to approve the Wiccan pentacle for placement on national cemetery headstones, and sat on a 9-foot-tall bronze sculpture of a goat-headed occult figure that the Satanic Temple wants to put up on government property someday.
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