Coming out of the closet as a non-religious person

Digby’s back to her usual quotable self today, lamenting why it is that the religious get all of the respect.  With respect to a doctor’s concern with his freedom to treat women in a Catholic hospital according to his professional judgment, Digby writes:

He points out that the Catholic Hospital system has been growing as they take over more and more community hospitals around the country. He also points out that they receive many millions of taxpayer dollars to do it. So, what about my conscience? It is truly offended by this behavior and I’m not being facetious. Why does this only go one way?

This isn’t just about lady parts, although they are as obsessed with them as ever. This is about dying with dignity as well, another extremely personal decision that these religious people take out of the hands of individuals and their families and insist on their own religious practices, regardless of the medical necessity among other extremely personal issues.

I find that story morally reprehensible and I deeply resent contributing to such practices. Maybe it’s time for non-believers and those of other faiths to seriously start challenging this with their own arguments. Many of doctors who’ve been forced into these institutions chafe at what they are required to do as well. Perhaps they should invoke the Hippocratic oath and stop doing harm as well.

[...]

Maybe we should be thinking about ways to change that mix.

Well, there’s always The Reason Rally that’s coming up on March 24. Richard Dawkins and Adam Savage will be speaking there.  The rally is intended to be a demonstration of the growing numbers of secularists in America.  You don’t have to be an atheist to attend.  You just have to want to protect our secular government and the separation of church and state.

But now that I’ve brought it up, how many people have come out of the closet about their religious beliefs?  The podcast, TheThinkingAtheist, hosted by Seth (whose last name I can never find), takes calls from many people every week who have come out to their family as non-believers and get a similar reaction to coming out as gay.  Their families reject them or treat them as sub-adult.  What’s really annoying is that the religious refuse to confer the same respect for the non-religious believer’s worldview that the religious demand from everyone else regarding their belief in God.  Some out of the closet non-believers have been disinherited.  You can even lose your job or custody of your children if you’re an atheist.  In many respects, it really is like being gay.

But the numbers of non-believers is growing and there is some safety in numbers.  I’ve really been surprised by the number of non-believer outlets out here that have sprung up in just the last couple of years.  There are worldwide conferences as well.  For some strange reason, Australia seems to host a lot of them.  Maybe that has something to do with their single, white, female, atheist prime minister.  But even here in the US, freethought societies and atheist associations are springing up all over the place including the south, where being an atheist might be hazardous to your health.

This new cohort of non-believers are all ages, all sexes, all socioeconomic groups.  There are more women and they’re not the Madelyn Murray O’Hare types of the 60′s.  They’re people like Annie Laurie Gaylor of FFRF, Cristina Rad, and atheist minister Margaret Downey.  And Seth gets calls from young and old, cosmopolitan and good old boy.  Suddenly, it’s getting safer-and apparently a lot more popular, to be a non-believer.
This bunch of non-believers are not rejecting God so much as thriving in a naturalistic worldview without God.  It’s a return to nature.

We’re not a majority.  The religious still outnumber us by a wide margin.  But our numbers are not insignificant anymore and we are a growing voting bloc.  Whether this is a natural evolution of the human condition, part of a step from totems and anunna spirits, to polytheism, to monotheism, to something else, or just a reaction to the non-stop, shoving of 13th century BCE traditions down our throats to the point where they have a choked the life out of our modern American culture is a question that will only resolve over time.  But whatever it is, it’s not going back in the bottle.

So, what’s the membership like these days?  Can we get a show of hands? (BTW, there’s no way for me to know who you are if you respond to this poll.  Your secret is safe from me)  

My resident atheist was mildly curious about my recent interest in the atheist community.  “Are you ready to come to the dark side?”, she asked with a grin.  “We have cookies.”

I have to admit that the prospect of hot chocolate chip cookies and a glass of cold milk is very tempting…

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