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Come Out! - Comments

AmericanHumanist's Avatar Comment 1 by AmericanHumanist

I'd love to sport the scarlet letter, but I'd be fired under some silly pretense.

An atheistic school administrator in Georgia? Not under this theocracy....

Sat, 28 Jul 2007 19:03:00 UTC | #56116

tb22's Avatar Comment 2 by tb22

I like the idea. I bought a black medium. I'm going to wear it around Atlanta. High five supporters. High one constructive critics. Low negative 10 unconstructive critics.

Sat, 28 Jul 2007 19:03:00 UTC | #56118

JackR's Avatar Comment 3 by JackR

A-men, PZ. I'm a Brit who has been living in the States for over five years now. Back in my relatively godless homeland I wouldn't see much point in this, but over here I definitely do. I'll be ordering one.

Sat, 28 Jul 2007 19:17:00 UTC | #56121

JackR's Avatar Comment 4 by JackR

By the way, I particularly agree with you about those who are worried that the symbol is too prominent. Lordy, isn't that the point? You don't "come out" by trying to be unobtrusive and hoping no one notices!

I still have a fondness for my old Negativland T-shirt, which says in great big letters: "Christianity is Stupid. Give Up". That goes down well in the south. :-)

Sat, 28 Jul 2007 19:21:00 UTC | #56123

BAEOZ's Avatar Comment 5 by BAEOZ

I just posted the link to the scarlet letter on my myspace site. If they hadn't already realized I was atheist before; with the Richard Dawkins, PZ myers' and Charles Darwin being amongst my friends and my select quotes about evolution and such, they don't need to be deluded anymore. :)

Sat, 28 Jul 2007 19:30:00 UTC | #56124

Enlightenme..'s Avatar Comment 6 by Enlightenme..

"I still have a fondness for my old Negativland T-shirt, which says in great big letters: "Christianity is Stupid. Give Up". That goes down well in the south. :-)"

I sell Cradle of Filth T-shirts to the kids in my shop - some great slogans on the back, such as;
'metal forged on the heat of wanking nuns', and the notorious 'Jesus is a [c-word]'.

Sat, 28 Jul 2007 19:40:00 UTC | #56129

maton100's Avatar Comment 7 by maton100

Alright, but if I get my ass kicked by Bubbalicious and the Do-Right Charlies...I'm gettin' a sponsor at TED to pay for the medical claims processing.

Sat, 28 Jul 2007 20:07:00 UTC | #56140

BT Murtagh's Avatar Comment 8 by BT Murtagh

Just a note to those who tremble to wear an A because it's too dangerous - get real!

I'm in South Carolina, one of the reddest Bible Belt states there is. Today I'm wearing a t-shirt listing "6 Impossible Things to believe before breakfast: Santa Claus, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, Pink Unicorn, Spaghetti Monster, God." Yesterday it was my "American Atheist" jersey with those words and a big bright red-white-and-blue Atheist Atom symbol. The day before it was "Fine, I evolved, you didn't" with the Christian and Darwin fish. Before that it was my faux-Listerine label "ATHEISM: Rinse away religious beliefs and superstitious nitwittery. Kills Dogma on Contact!" Before that... well, you get the picture.

I have atheism-related t-shirts for every day of the week, and I wear them all the time; I'm about as "out" as it is possible to be without tattooing it on my forehead. My major complaint about this A t-shirt is that it isn't obvious enough. I prefer to go straight toward the frankness-bordering-on-offensive end of the spectrum.

Did I mention that I live in South Carolina? You can hardly spit here without hitting a fundamentalist church. You know I'm offending the hell out of these people every day, and twice on Sunday.

I have never gotten worse than a dirty look from any of the fundies I am totally surrounded by. So can we please tone down the "I'm afraid to wear a big red A, because they might string me up to the nearest lamppost" rhetoric? Yes, there's prejudice against atheists, but get a grip, they're not lynching us for it.

(I will admit I'm damn glad I'm not gay as well!)

Sat, 28 Jul 2007 20:48:00 UTC | #56153

montiff's Avatar Comment 9 by montiff

If only this came in a necklace form....

Will someone please design the big red A. So I can show it off to my cross bearing friends.

Cheers from Texas.

Sat, 28 Jul 2007 20:55:00 UTC | #56155

GoodbyeGodNZ's Avatar Comment 10 by GoodbyeGodNZ

Yippee!!! I've just ordered a T shirt and will soon be rolling it out in the streets down here in New Zealand.

Like Montiff above, I'd really love something that I could hang around my neck on a nice necklace chain.

Sat, 28 Jul 2007 21:24:00 UTC | #56168

Summer Seale's Avatar Comment 11 by Summer Seale

I just posted in the previous discussion, but I'll post here again: I'm not against the campaign. I just never have felt unwelcome because I am an atheist.

Seriously has like...anyone else?

Everyone, even evangelicals, know my views and talk to me often about it, but they never, ever, have been angry with me at all, or called me names or threatened me in any way, or even mentioned "hellfire" and all that crap. None of them. And I go to a lot of "Red States". So is it just me...? I've never been religious, and even religious people seem to just respect my views - debate me sure but never in a bad way.

All these stories about atheists feeling unsafe...maybe part of that is in your minds? I don't know. Maybe it's just as bad as that but it doesn't sound like any part of America that I know of or have ever experienced...

Sat, 28 Jul 2007 21:45:00 UTC | #56171

tb22's Avatar Comment 12 by tb22

I've been pretty subtle about it, and I've never felt threatened. I don't doubt that if one decides to be less subtle... and/or travels to certain areas of the country (probably not cities), it could be relatively easy to run into some trouble. I can easily imagine situations where I would feel unwelcome with people I know if I were to speak as bluntly as Dawkins or Harris do at times (which I feel like doing, and feel that I should be able to do).

Sat, 28 Jul 2007 22:13:00 UTC | #56178

Summer Seale's Avatar Comment 13 by Summer Seale

I do all the time...nobody has threatened me ever - in the south, the midwest, and the southwest. It's just...never happened. Maybe they just don't wanna hit a woman? =)

Really tho I've never, ever, had a problem. I do believe the people who say they have but I've never seen it and I'm *really* outspoken about my ideas. I'm a loudmouth who won't shut up on any topic I like to discuss. =)

Sat, 28 Jul 2007 22:35:00 UTC | #56180

Rieux's Avatar Comment 14 by Rieux

nobody has threatened me ever - in the south, the midwest, and the southwest. It's just...never happened.
Then I think you should consider yourself lucky!

A few years ago, there was an article in Free Inquiry magazine on the topic of discrimination against atheists--and the writer had found ample evidence that it's widespread. Take a look: .

A few other cites (and sites) that are more recent, and very much on topic:

Law review article finding that non-religious parents routinely lose custody of their children, because of the parents' lack of religion, during divorce cases:

Sociology article documenting the degree to which atheists are a despised minority in the U.S.:

And the long-standing "Would you vote for an X for president" poll, in which we've been coming in dead last for decades:

I dunno--given the evidence from sources like these, I think the "Aw, is there really a problem with bigotry against atheists?" sentiment risks being severely insensitive, if not outright dangerous.

I'm in favor of out-and-proud tactics. If scarlet-A t-shirts make us a more visible, stronger minority, I'm all for it.

Sat, 28 Jul 2007 23:01:00 UTC | #56183

Beachbum's Avatar Comment 15 by Beachbum

After reading the info from the links posted by Rieux, by the way thanks, besides the T-shirts I may get a Tatoo.

Does anyone know who makes Large shipments of Red paint to Hawaii?

Sun, 29 Jul 2007 00:48:00 UTC | #56195

hcholm's Avatar Comment 16 by hcholm

Not too happy about this one. Atheism isn't just another ideology with symbols and uniforms. Atheism is about non-dogmatism and freedom, but with symbols like this one, it becomes too easy for critics to say that atheism is "just another religion". The same goes for the "Brights movement", which fortunately looks like it has flopped. The lack of organisation and uniformity may be one of the weakest points of atheism, but at the same time, it's one of the strongest. Please leave it like that.

It's like the famous Monty Python quote: "We're all individuals". In this case, I'm not.

Sun, 29 Jul 2007 01:07:00 UTC | #56197

sanjiv's Avatar Comment 17 by sanjiv

I'm from India - a very religious and superstitious country. Also a very violent country when it comes to religion being attacked. Nevertheless, I'm as Out an atheist as they come. I never lose an opportunity to undermine religious faith. My style is more in the form of planting seeds of doubt. A 'God bless' or 'Thank God' from religious folk is always accompanied by 'Which God?' and a smile from me. I never miss an opportunity to reply to religious chain-mails to sow my seeds of doubt.

But.....(sorry PZM and RD, I've got to use the 'but' word), I don't have a bumper sticker or wear T-shirts proclaiming my non-belief. No, I'm not afraid of being attacked. 'God' is a common noun. Most people won't attack you for attacking the common noun 'God'. Most people I know would be content to accommodate atheism as just another religion but without a God and not debate the issue. No debate, no discussion, is precisely what's bad for the growth of atheism and helps religions.

I'm not against grouping or having a symbol that bonds us, but it should be effective and work towards achieving the end-result of replacing un-reason with reason as a way of thinking to deal with our fears and uncertainties.

I don't think T-shirts or bumper stickers are going to cause much damage to religious beliefs unless they sow seeds of doubt and makes people entertain questions about their beliefs. The most they may achieve is bond like-minded people – and I am one of your like-minded people – very atheistic, very free-thinking.

The Out campaign is a welcome initiative. I support it and will join it when I find something that fits my style of attack on religion. In the mean time I encourage all those who wear the T-shirt and sport bumper stickers. Each one to his own style of attack on religion. Our Four Musketeers – Sam, Daniel, Richard and Christopher (also Ayaan, Salman and many others) each have their own style and I agree to a large extent with all of them and applaud their efforts. Similarly I applaud all those who sport atheistic T-shirts and bumper stickers but let's not forget those who contribute to furthering reason by just not taking part in religious rituals or quietly undermining religious belief. The population of the latter is a lot greater, so let's not undermine their quiet efforts. They will 'come out' in their own time.

We are a widely dispersed team with a common objective. Let's support each others efforts

Sun, 29 Jul 2007 01:30:00 UTC | #56201

AdrianT's Avatar Comment 18 by AdrianT

Like the logo, and will definitely be seen doing gigs with it - the A fits perfectly in my case!!

Sun, 29 Jul 2007 01:36:00 UTC | #56204

BMMcArdle's Avatar Comment 19 by BMMcArdle

Out, nowadays, has conotations related to hidden homosexuality.
A large "A", also known as the scarlett letter, is punishment for aldulterers.

Looks like something Jerry Falwell would have come up with.

Sun, 29 Jul 2007 02:01:00 UTC | #56207

BT Murtagh's Avatar Comment 20 by BT Murtagh

There's no doubt that we're a widely despised lot, and I can't blame people for being hesitant to "come out" as atheists. They can expect to be shunned and distrusted, and possibly may face illegal job discrimination and the like. If they put atheist bumper stickers and the like on their cars those may get vandalized.

There seems to be a perception floating about that we're in constant danger of actual physical assault, though, and it's that aspect of it - and only that aspect - which I am asserting has been greatly exagerrated. The only physical assault I know of an atheist suffering (it's listed in one of Rieux's links) is a kid in high school being bullied by other high school kids.

As I said above, I'm a very out and obvious atheist in a very fundamentalist part of the country (plus I'm a physically unimposing guy) and I've never had so much as a hint of violence offered me. I don't think physical violence is a danger in America under any but very exceptional circumstances. I could be wrong, of course, but I don't think I am.

Sun, 29 Jul 2007 02:17:00 UTC | #56211

jonjermey's Avatar Comment 21 by jonjermey

Sanjiv -

It's always easier to hold on to a belief when you don't know that other beliefs exist. It's always more comforting to believe something when you feel that everyone around you believes it too. It's always harder to change your beliefs when you don't know anyone in the world who believes differently. Wearing a t-shirt may be no big deal to anyone, but enough people wearing enough t-shirts is going to gradually get the message across - atheists are here, and we're not going to be ignored any more.

Sun, 29 Jul 2007 02:30:00 UTC | #56215

The author's Avatar Comment 22 by The author

"A for Anarchy" - that's what people would think here, not that I care.

Sun, 29 Jul 2007 02:32:00 UTC | #56216

flyingscot's Avatar Comment 23 by flyingscot

I think the T shirt is great. The logo is eye catching and it advertises a great site.

Sun, 29 Jul 2007 02:49:00 UTC | #56219

Rieux's Avatar Comment 24 by Rieux


Out, nowadays, has conotations related to hidden homosexuality.
Indeed. And, as Dawkins (among many others) have noticed, gays and lesbians have lately been fighting a very successful campaign to (1) promote humane treatment of sexual minorities and (2) convince society that homophobic speech and actions are wrong and should be discouraged. One major tactic in this struggle has been public campaigns to "come out." I suspect the tactic is only part of the reason, but regardless, the attempt to improve societal attitudes toward gays and lesbians is succeeding mightily. I wish we were doing as well!

A large "A", also known as the scarlett letter, is punishment for aldulterers.
It was, at least, in one novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne, yes. But, er, so what? I think that's cute--it gives this T-shirt an amusing literary tie-in. We're mocking the attitude that atheism is (like adultery) something shameful that one would only make public if one were forced to do so.

Looks like something Jerry Falwell would have come up with.
Maybe. If so, I don't think he would have liked the result. We'd have shoved those scarlet A's right down his theocratic throat.

Sun, 29 Jul 2007 03:51:00 UTC | #56229

gcdavis's Avatar Comment 25 by gcdavis

The idea behind this campaign is flawed and some of the reasons have already been aired, A = anarchy, OUT is completely associated with Gay issues. The other problem is geography, in the UK being an atheist is not an issue publicly, politically or commercially. In parts of the US and the wider world it obviously is a big issue. Paradoxically although church and state are separated by the American Constitution you have seen a greater corruption of politics by religion than we have in the UK. Here although we do not have a written constitution with any such guarantees, our body politic is not corrupted by religion, just a little tainted perhaps by specific issues like the state funding of a small number of faith schools and our archaic system where the Queen, our head of state, is also head of our "official" religion the church of England. Nobody gets fired for being an atheist here.

Atheism is an absence of faith, it isn't any thing else! It is illogical to mount a campaign and contrive logos to defend and support an empty space. Rather the campaign should be opposition to religious privilege, influence and corruption. What we are is secularists, that is a tangible and real position to hold and our primary effort in each of our countries should be to shore up and defend secular institutions against an assault by religious authoritarianism and stop trying to "get off" on being atheists.

Sun, 29 Jul 2007 03:52:00 UTC | #56230

Rieux's Avatar Comment 26 by Rieux

BT Murtagh:

The only physical assault I know of an atheist suffering (it's listed in one of Rieux's links) is a kid in high school being bullied by other high school kids.
Well, there is the incident described here ( , bottom of page), too. And I would bet heavily that there are many more incidents of schoolyard beatings similar to the Calgary case you read at one of my links ( ).

Otherwise, I agree--assault is not the primary problem atheists face. But (as I think you recognize) other things, like employment discrimination, custody discrimination, family shunning, etc., are very real problems.

Sun, 29 Jul 2007 03:58:00 UTC | #56231

Rieux's Avatar Comment 27 by Rieux


OUT is completely associated with Gay issues.
But, as I just pointed out, the analogy is nearly perfect. Society understands what it means to be "out," "in the closet," and so on--and it tracks almost exactly with the experience of being an atheist in a fundamentalist society. (Plus, GLBT rights movements happen to be winning right now.) That similarity is good, not bad.

The other problem is geography, in the UK being an atheist is not an issue publicly, politically or commercially. In parts of the US and the wider world it obviously is a big issue.
Well, thanks a freakin' lot. What do those of us who live in places where it's a "big issue" need to do in order for you to allow us a little attempt at community-building? Should we bow and scrape a little more? How nice it must be for you that you don't have to worry about atheophobia in your life. Shame we all aren't so fortunate.

Atheism is an absence of faith, it isn't any thing else!
And "gay" is a sexual orientation, "black" is a (basically undefinable) range of skin pigmentation, "female" is a mater of chromosomes and gender identity....

What all of those words have in common is that they describe categories of human beings (and obviously they're not an exhaustive list) who are frequently subject to oppression by people who don't like them. Like it or not, you belong in a subset of humanity that is detested by a much larger subset of humanity merely because your "absence of faith"; we're a class because much of the world treats us that way. For those of us who aren't lucky enough to be able to escape oppression by living thousands of miles away from it, banding together can be a vital survival strategy.

I suppose someone here can put the whole point in Selfish Gene-ish terms....

Sun, 29 Jul 2007 04:12:00 UTC | #56234

gcdavis's Avatar Comment 28 by gcdavis

You're missing the point; sure you can wander around with a big A and an OUT slogan on your shirt, you will probably labelled as a gay anarchist but what the hell. My point is the "fight" should be between secularism and religion, this is a political and human rights issue. To say look at me I am an atheist is not enough! Education should be free from religious bias or bigotry; this can only be achieved by political action and social activism.

Sun, 29 Jul 2007 05:27:00 UTC | #56244

Henri Bergson's Avatar Comment 29 by Henri Bergson

I think I am one of the ones labeled a 'nay-sayer' by PZMyers (see my rebuttal of his arguments in the previous article).

Indeed I am a nay-sayer with regard to this. The following points still stand:

- Theists say atheism is a religion. By making a symbol for atheism you're playing into their hands.
- The symbol is a common Zapfino font (dull, over-used, already trade-marked).
- Wearing something that tells people what you do not believe in is defensive - showing a lack of confidence.
- It's simply unstylish, sad.
- 'A' will be quickly re-labelled 'Asshole' (as PGFM points out). Combined with it being called 'The Out Campaign', you will obviously give the general public the wrong idea.
- By making atheism a more coherent group, you may actually proliferate religion: instead of questioning their own beliefs, theists may question atheists' 'beliefs' (now that it is a symbolised system).
- Moreover, by creating an atheist 'sect', you may make people turn to religion as they simply see it as a matter of sides rather than a matter of reason.
- You're turning Dawkins – peace be upon Him – into some kind of political prophet.
- Imagine a load of political atheist activists in a group all wearing this t-shirt, next to the uniformed Scientologists. Don't degrade yourselves; just like evolutionists shouldn't degrade themselves by engaging in public conversation with creationists. Degrading.
- Uniformity and symbolism are the worst aspects of religion and nationalism.

You're creating a visible target rather than disarming the enemy. This approach will fail.

Sun, 29 Jul 2007 05:40:00 UTC | #56247

gcdavis's Avatar Comment 30 by gcdavis

Henri Bergson
Well said
Your first point sums up the issue fo me. The proof will be in the pudding, I cant see Hitchens, Harris, Grayling, Dennet etc sporting the T-shirt, in fact I'll be surprised if RD dons one.

Sun, 29 Jul 2007 05:52:00 UTC | #56251