I am Jane Doe, and I am an atheist August 29, 2008Posted by Teen Atheist in Uncategorized.
My decision was due to a comment from my book agent, who asked, “What are you afraid of?” I had no good answer to that question. There was just a vague, unsupported fear of persecution and harassment from the religious extremist. [...] Oppression is a state of mind, and it takes both an oppressor and a cooperative victim for a human to be truly oppressed. Don’t be a victim, be a courageous atheist.
Of all of my readers, dozens know what country I’m located in.
Six know my real name.
Four know what I look like.
Three went to the same high school as me.
I have no intentions of increasing any of those numbers. And I still think I’m a courageous atheist.
I am the only one in the room who doesn’t fold my hands in prayer like everyone else, even at birthday and Christmas parties. I’ll bring up my atheism when the topic is relevant. I never lie when somebody (regardless of where they fall on the scale of religious extremism) asks me what religion I belong to. My social networking profile (yes, I have one, no, you’re not allowed to look for it, but you can add me at Atheist Nexus) states “atheist.”
Majority of the responses on Mr. James’ post are on the negative side. Internet atheists are reticent to give up their anonymity for various reasons: crazy people on internets!!!, I don’t want this to affect my family, I live in the South.
Based on what I’ve read in the comments section, I have it a hell of a lot easier than people who live along the Bible Belt. Practically everyone’s a Catholic here, but they’re not nearly as horrible, which gives me a bit of a brighter view of my country. I don’t think we’ve ever had a “God Hates Fags” picketing here (although gays are treated as sexless, played-for-laughs Queer Eye stereotypes), I haven’t experienced discrimination in terms of career (but Mother Dearest is hinting that I, despite good grades, was rejected by Dream College because I put “atheist” on the application form), and other than my immediate family, I have not gotten particularly adverse reactions upon disclosing my beliefs to people.
I suppose that despite the fact that religion’s wormed its way into everything here — government, media, you name it — my countrymen were raised to be polite and effusive, so maybe they’re just too “nice” to emulate God’s, er, warriors in Southern America.
Despite that, I’m still not telling you what my real name is. I’d agree with Larro FCD’s take on the issue:
Yes, the key word is PUBLICIZE. It’s one thing to tell an acquaintance you have a different world view. It’s quite another to broadcast yourself in a way as to draw attention from anonymous strangers.
But as far as you and I are concerned, whether or not you know my real name doesn’t matter. It could be Kelly Devine or Brianna McFadden and it wouldn’t make a difference in the least. My point in setting up this blog and using a broad moniker like Teen Atheist was not that I was looking for internet fame of any sort, but that I had a difficult, painful story that I wanted to share with people all over the world.
My name doesn’t matter. My country of origin doesn’t matter. My views and experiences do.
The message of this song – and of the whole show – is that we all go through these bad times. In a very real sense, none of us is ever really alone. None of us is ever the only person to have ever gone through a particular crisis. And our salvation comes through community. It is through telling our stories and listening to others’ stories that we find the strength to go on. The most important lines in the show appear in this final song: “Hear my song — It was made for the times when you don’t know where to go. Listen to the song that I sing. You’ll be fine.”
In other words, look at how these ordinary people all survived their extraordinary ordeals, and know that you can too. We all find ourselves in new worlds from time to time, in situations where the rules we’ve always lived by no longer apply. We must all know that we can survive and even thrive there. And that’s not just the theme of this show. It’s the reason for theatre in general. From prehistoric people telling stories around the fire, to the biggest techno-spectacle on Broadway, theatre is about telling stories, stories that unite us, that show us our commonality. It’s significant that at the end of the song, the line “You’ll be fine” has been changed to “We’ll be fine.” It’s about community. It’s about shared experience. And it’s about the fact that as humans we are all forced to go on new journeys, into new worlds, over and over again throughout our lives.
Moving on to a slightly less lofty point, had I initially published this blog as “[insert name here], the Teenage Atheist from [insert Predominantly Catholic Country here]” rather than just “Teen Atheist,” I wouldn’t be able to share as much with you as I have. Fred got upset just because I let you all know what he thought of gay people. So imagine, what would’ve come of it if Nikki found out that I’d exposed her lies to the reading audience? If Carl discovered that I’d let everyone know he was cheating on his wife? If Murray (who is a good friend now, by the way) learned that I thought he was a gross, lecherous old man? If Mr. Mackenzie knew that I wanted to push him onto the conference table and run my hands…um, wait, never mind.
But since I’m just T.A. and I could be anybody, you get more of the story.
So, Mr. James, while I’m happy that you’ve found the courage to reveal your real name to little backlash, I’d appreciate if you wouldn’t call the rest of us cowards, or accuse us of taking the sacrifices of great people like Bertrand Russell for granted.
We’re not cowards, we just have lives. Please respect that some of us don’t want to compromise our careers or education or physical well-being for the pride of calling ourselves “courageous atheists.” Good on PZ Myers and Bertrand Russell to be able to survive, and sure, they can spearhead the movement, but nobody ought to be shamed into coming out.
As for me, I’d rather have a root canal than have to go back to feigning Christianity, but I retain my moniker because it keeps in accordance with my original intentions.
I’m content enough that through the internet, we can establish a community for fellow atheists where they can feel accepted, the same way this web community gave me a way to connect to people at a time when I was (am) living in a house full of people who rejected me for what I believed in. I can appreciate sympathy and empathy, and stories shared, be it from Gavin Taylor or Godless4492.