For my birthday recently, I designed myself a hoodie in my shop and ordered it. Yes, sometimes I pick out my own birthday gifts… it’s either that or settle for a closet full of low-cut Edmonton Oilers t-shirts. I wouldn’t mind a low-cut Browns shirt, but I digress. I bought the hoodie and was so excited when it arrived. For the first few weeks, I wore it at home or when I was sure we weren’t going to be out and about in front of lots of people. I didn’t want to bring attention to my godlessness. Not in this town of 11,000, where my young son goes to school.
I loved the hoodie, though. I love the hoodie. It’s the perfect hoodie to wear to the beach in the late evening, hovered over a fire making smores. It’s perfect for that post-swim chill I get if it’s an overcast day. I started wearing it to the pool. Then to the beach. Then I just gave up caring about where I wear it. It’s just, too comfortable not to wear.
Yesterday, I was wandering the lakefront with my boy before we had to go pick up his Daddy from work when a strong wind picked up. It’s been hot here lately, so my little guy just had a t-shirt on. When it got windy, though, he began to get cold. The only thing I had was my atheist hoodie. So, I wrapped it around my little boy and we kept walking along the shore. If the hoodie was ever going to offend anyone, it would be when an eight-year-old boy was wearing it. I prepare myself for anger. I expected it. I was sure it was going to come.
It didn’t. No one gave one singular ounce of a shit that my son was wearing a hoodie that had “atheist” emblazoned on the back. No one has said a word about me wearing it. No one, not a single person is this tiny, Canadian farming town full of churches, cares at all.
I was expecting it, but it didn’t come. I think maybe… just maybe… the internet has skewed my expectations of reality. I get so much hate, so much misunderstanding from so many people every day. The assumptions pile up like dung on a cattle ranch. I can’t help but feel like wearing an atheist hoodie out there in the real world would prompt some people to feel like it was a personal attack on them. I can’t help it, because that’s how people on the internet react to me every single day.
They think I call myself godless to get under their skin. They think I hate religious people. They think I just want to live outside the rules. As an outspoken atheist on the internet, most of what I do is misunderstood. So much so, that I expect those same misunderstandings in real life.
So, I thought I would clear up five of the most common misunderstandings about outspoken atheists, once and for all, while I sit here sporting my atheist hoodie. No, I am not wearing it to spite you, god-botherers. It may come as a shock that my wardrobe choices rarely take into account your feelings, stranger.
Without further yammering, here are 5 things people don’t seem to understand about outspoken atheists.
1. Not all atheists are outspoken.
You’re not considering closeted atheists, which I would venture to guess, make up the vast majority of our numbers. There are atheists saying grace before every meal, hoping no one notices that they don’t believe. There are atheists who have only ever thought about the fact that they don’t believe in god, and never uttered a word out loud about it. There are atheists leading congregations in church, and atheists praying to Mecca five times a day. There are atheists who don’t even know they’re atheists like I didn’t growing up. A very small minority of atheists are talking openly about it. As far as atheists “always” needing to tell the world that they’re atheists, that’s just not true. I think you know that, too.
2. Although some outspoken atheists are making fun of you, most of us are not.
Comment from my Instagram account.
We’re poking fun at religion, which is a set of beliefs. It’s a little like you making fun of a television show that I love. Just because I like it, and I hold it in high regard, doesn’t mean it’s exempt from being made fun of. This may be a hard pill to swallow, but what I say about religion has nothing to do with you. I know that growing up believing that some all-powerful creator has put you at the center of his universe makes it difficult to understand that not everyone acts with your reaction in mind, but it’s true. I poke fun at religion without care for what your reaction might be. I poke fun at religion because, well… it’s fucking goofy as shit. I kinda can’t help it.
3. We’re not talking about god. We’re talking about religion.
Even if we mentioned the word, “god” we’re talking about the idea of a creator deity. We’re addressing the claims asserted by religious people for thousands of years. We’re discussing an issue that has shaped the world around us for as far back as our history goes. Outspoken atheists do talk about religion a lot because our world is filled with it. We see it every day, all around us. Why wouldn’t we talk about it? If you don’t want atheists to discuss your religion, keep it out of our lives, and we’d be happy to live without the influence of religion. That’s kind of the entire point to us being outspoken.
4. We don’t say what we do just to get under your skin, or to convert you.
What we say as outspoken atheists are our genuine thoughts and feelings on the topic of religion.
Once again, this may be shocking, but we have just as much right to talk about how we feel about religion as believers do. When we talk openly about how harmful we believe religion to be, we’re doing nothing different from you expressing how beneficial you think religion is. They are opposing viewpoints, and if you have a right to talk about your stance on the issue, so does the person who holds the opposite position. This is how the real world functions, so pull up your big boy pantyhose and get used to it. People are going to disagree, and they’re going to say it out loud. Them’s the goddamned breaks. #NoHoly.
5. We’re not trying to push our worldview on anyone.
Not all of us, anyway. I post on my personal spaces. If I was trying to push my views on people, I would be posting on their personal spaces. I’m just discussing how I feel about religion with my fellow atheists and you happen to have stumbled across something I said for their benefit, not yours. If you don’t like it, I really don’t understand why you’re here.
If I say religion is harmful, I am exercising the same right you have to say it’s a force for good. If I say that belief in god is silly, I am exercising the same right you have to say belief in god is great. If I wear my new atheist hoodie or let my son sport it at a trip to the beach, I am exercising the same right you have to wear that hideous execution device around your neck or buy one for your kid.
If, what you actually expect, is that atheists will never speak about their opinions on religion, not even amongst themselves, well, I’m sure having put it that way, you now understand how fucking ridiculous that is. We will express our opinions on religion, as is our right, just like it’s your right, too.