It's still snowing and here I am at work. Just me and Meanboss. Good times.
I thought I'd discuss the phenomenon of "passing"* as it relates to being an atheist/agnostic in the US today. A woman wrote to the Freakonomics blog with the following observation:
We are agnostics living deep in the heart of Texas and our family fakes
Christianity for social reasons. It’s not so much for the sake of my husband or
myself but for our young children. We found by experience that if we were
truthful about not being regular church attenders, the play dates suddenly
ended. Thus started the faking of the religious funk.
It seemed silly but it’s all very serious business down here. We don’t
go to church or teach or children one belief is “right” over another. We expose
them to every kind of belief and trust that they will one day settle in to their
very own spirituality. However, for the sake of friends and neighbors, we
pretend we are Christians. We try not to lie but rather not to disclose
unnecessary information. As the children are getting older, this isn’t so easy
for them and an outing is probably eminent.
I wouldn't call this "pretending to be Christians", I would call this "passing as Christians", which is something that, in my experience, the majority of atheists/agnostics do. I do it. I don't tell people I'm Christian, I don't claim to go to church, I just don't discuss beliefs I don't hold. I just don't say how I really feel. I allow religious conversations to flow over me. If forced to make some sort of observation, I go with "interpretable any way you want" vague.
Is passing necessary? Absolutely. The writer above isn't the only atheist I know who had playdates for the children cancelled after they were outed. I'm not the only atheist I know who has been fired after being outed.
The comments to this article are quite telling:
I am so tired of the anti-Christian bigotry in the mainstream media,
especially the liberal media like the NYT.
How do I know it’s bigotry?
Because I know for a fact that the NYT would NEVER do a story entitled “We
Pretend We Are Jews/Muslims/InsertAnotherReligionHere”.
btw, I faked reading
“Freakanomics” for a polsci class one year. Passed with flying colours.
Hey, Jackass, you know why nobody in the US passes as Jewish or Muslim? Because 75% of Americans are Christian. If this article were about Israel or Pakistan, then yes, we would discuss passing as a Jew or a Muslim. I know for a fact that a certain number of Iranians are passing, but that's not the discussion here.
I completely understand where G.D. is coming from. I too am deep in the
heart of Texas, where the mere mention of atheism causes folks to break out in
hives. Evangelical Christianity is pervasive in every aspect of life here,
including the workplace. Where else would you get a talk about finding the Lord
Jesus Christ in an employee review? (I’m not kidding, I was told this right
before I was asked to resign)
If you don’t “…teach [your] children one belief is ‘right’ over another,” how
far does that go? Is stealing OK? Lying, cheating, murdering? How about just not
being altruistic? If your kids decide that some of those things are “right” for
them, will you teach them otherwise? Relativism doesn’t work, folks. You’re
setting your kids up for disaster, and robbing them of years of their lives that
could be spent getting to know the God of the universe and understanding His
love and power.
And that's why we pass.
I had to fake it for 12 years of private Catholic school. We had mass every week
at school and my parents made me go every Sunday. At mass, I had to go get
communion, even though I didn’t believe the bread was actually God. In
Catholicism, receiving communion without believing it is God is very seriously
frowned upon, but no one knew I didn’t believe and going up and eating bread at
every mass was easier than the torment that would await me had I chosen to stay
seated during the ceremony. One time a girl in my class didn’t want to go
because she wasn’t sure she believed and wanted to be safe and not make God
angry. She was ridiculed for 2 years for it (devil worshiper, witch, etc.) and
had to switch schools. I kept my mouth shut and head down until I moved away for
Been there, too. I faked Catholicism for years, including taking the eucharist every Sunday, even though it was blasphemous to do so. What I love about this one is the "devil worshiper" was being honest and respectful of the Catholic faith- and was crucified for it.
So I was raised totally muslim, yet now probably count as an agnostic. Although
truthfully I just don’t think about religion at all. But being in the army for
the last 6 years. I would lie lie lie about it to avoid all kinds of problems
and lectures. These included, with held promotion, deferment of favors and
awards even when documented, and a general feeling of being watched at all
I don't blame him. I do find it shameful that a man willing to die for our country has to lie in order to avoid discrimination.
I faked being a Buddhist for years because of the social stigma that’s
associated with being an Atheist. I had a few run ins with die hards, but it
seems that having a religion is enough to stave off of the majority of rabid
theists. I’d been hiding under my cover for so long that when I finally dropped
it and joined a local Atheist group that friends of mine corrected me and
explained that I was a Buddhist.
That's not uncommon, either. While evangelicals view Catholics, Hindus and Buddhists as being devil worshippers, they do seem to prefer devil worship to no worship at all.
I don't know what I'd do without the internet, without this blog. Here, I am allowed to be honest, while in real life, I hide. Some days I just want to have I DON'T BELIEVE IN GOD tattooed on my forehead, I'm so sick of it. Then I remember that I need to do things like eat and pay for heat and go online to be real.