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  • Courtney Heard

3 Times People Ditched Me IRL Because I’m An Atheist




If you ever need to clear your mind, go swim laps for an hour. You can’t take your phone, you don’t know if anyone’s calling or texting and you can’t listen to music or podcasts. Unless you have some of those fancy waterproof headphones, but why would you ruin it, you monster? The kids can’t ask you where their headphones are, your partner can’t drown out your inner voice with his hockey game. It’s just a great way to be alone with your thoughts. So, while I was flailing around in the deep-end obnoxiously early in the morning a couple of days ago, alone with my godless thoughts, it struck me: I think I exaggerate how little people think about religion around these parts.


You know how I’m always yammering on about how religion is really kind of a non-thing here in Canada, especially where I grew up and where I live now? I often say most people around here are either non-religious or don’t talk about their religion at all. No matter how much my loud mouth babbles about it, no one cares that I’m an atheist. I think I’ve said this a lot in my time writing this blog.


It just hit me that morning as I was dodging the manswimmers that I could think of three times since I began to publish this blog that I was tossed aside by people in my real life because I’m an outspoken atheist.


So, maybe Canadians aren’t the evolved, tolerant Care Bears I had myself convinced they were. Some of y’all suck. Sorry.


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There was the time I was dumped by a friend and former co-worker. She was a pretty awesome human, genuinely concerned for the welfare of people around her. She and I worked in an addiction recovery program, her as the counsellor and myself as the marketing director. We became good friends, bonded over the criticism of our workplace and care for the people it was treating. I knew she was religious. She talked about the Seventh Day Adventist Church to which she belonged. I recall one morning we were discussing one of the people who had been in recovery at our facility but who had recently left and then gone missing.


“Are you a praying person, Courtney?” She asked me.


“Nah.” I shook my head.


“Would you pray for him with me, anyway?”


And she prayed while I stood there, holding her hand and keeping my mouth shut like a good little atheist.


Despite the fact that I didn’t like this, and the fact that she did talk about her religion from time to time, we were still good friends. We’d go out for dinner, or make perogies from scratch at my place, attend music festivals in the city we lived in, etc. The fact that we had differing worldviews didn’t get in the way of our friendship.


That is, of course, until I started talking about mine.


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Shortly after I began this blog, she unfriended me on Facebook without a word. You see, it was perfectly fine for her to talk about how she felt about religion, but as soon as I did the same, there was zero tolerance.


The second time, it was a couple we’d met when we lived in Mexico. She was from Jamaica, he was from Canada. She was devoutly religious but that never got in the way of us having a good time. She’d cook the most glorious Jamaican curries for us and we’d happily gobble them down without a care in the world that our positions on religion didn’t line up. They moved back to Canada just a little while after we did, only about an hour away from where I live now. We looked forward to catching up with them when we moved here, but it didn’t happen. Somehow, they discovered my blog and ghosted us.


The third and most recent time someone dropped me for being an atheist, it was a potential copywriting client. He got in touch after a friend referred him to me. He needed help with his website content so I responded asking for details. I think I might have had something in my email signature that pointed to my position at International Association of Atheists because he responded with one line:


“I think I need someone with more imagination”


I knew right away he was talking about my irreligiosity but at least the guy had the good sense to admit his beliefs were all imagination.


But more imagination? Really? You don’t get anyone with more imagination than a Cleveland Browns fan, but I digress, the fella was an asshole.


In fact, all of these people are assholes but I’m thankful for each of these incidents. It’s helped me to illustrate the most common discrimination atheists still face. Religious people can talk about their beliefs in public, to strangers, knock on doors, send out literature, leave their books in every hotel room from here to Tatooine. They can go on and on and on about it and no one sees any problem with it. They are defended with bullshit like, “respect other people’s beliefs” and “don’t insult their religion.”


But when atheists speak about our feelings on religion? We’re angry. We’re hateful. We’re intolerant.


Of course, we know why. We are a threat to their ability to cling to their faith. We are the personification of their own buried doubts, and when we’re around and we don’t keep quiet, we force them to face those doubts. If they’re not ready to do that, it kinda pisses ‘em off.


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They want the old world back. The one in which the nonbelievers faked their way through life, hiding their disbelief and keeping their mouths shut. The world where everyone around them validated their delusions. That world is gone, and so are these three intolerant assholes who will only associate with those who stay in line.


The thing is, the only time mommy really stays in line is when she’s swimming. So, adios, bon voyage and fuck off.


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Have you ever been ditched, dropped or disowned because you’re an atheist? Tell me about it in the comments!




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