This site is not maintained. Click here for the new website of Richard Dawkins.


← Coming Out Is Fun

Steven Mading's Avatar Jump to comment 19 by Steven Mading

Comment 15 by Cartomancer :

First of all, I like to point out that the first stage of coming out isn't telling other people, it's admitting it to yourself. I found the hardest part coming to terms with my sexuality in my own head. Once I had that tacked down I told all my friends the day after. Sure, I had sexual feelings, but I found them so difficult to reconcile with my personality and self-image that I locked them away and ignored them for six years, avoiding anything sexuality-related like the plague.

(First, thanks for sharing your story.)

I sometimes wonder about the official figures for atheism in the USA because of this very phenomenon. Similar to being gay, there is a large unfair stigma associated with being an unbeliever, a heretic, a blasphemer, etc. It is associated with evilness in so many people's heads that I wonder how many people there are (especially in areas of the US where the stigma is strongest) who are in this sort of "won't admit to themselves that they are" sort of stage. Someone who thinks, "Obviously I must be a believer because I'm not a horrible person, therefore I believe in god... right? I do, right?...I must be. This must be Satan trying to influence my thoughts. Go away Satan!"

Consider the ubiquitousness of the argument tactic, when the question of god existing or not comes up, of immediately switching gears to talk about whether or not people would be moral without belief in god. I don't think people are consciously switching topics when they defend theism this way - I think this is really the thought process going on in their heads. I suspect they don't count themselves as believers because they really believe it. They count themselves as believers because they think they'd have to admit (to themselves) that they are bad people if they admitted unbelief. (Similar to the position of the closeted gay man brought up in a homophobic religious belief system who, upon feeling sensations of gay attraction, attribute those sensations to demonic trickery trying to "tempt the righteous".)

We often talk about how many atheists there might be who are afraid to admit it because of external consequences, but I wonder how many there are who are at the prior stage, of fearing their own "internal" condemnation, to the point where they keep shoving their doubts down whenever they surface, and falsely attributing those doubts to outside influences. "I am a believer - I must be - because if I wasn't I'd be a bad person." <-- this is, when you think of it, not really belief.

Sun, 25 Sep 2011 17:37:00 UTC | #875045