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I am Jane Doe, and I am an atheist August 29, 2008

Posted by Teen Atheist in Uncategorized.

Holy Prepuce forwarded me this plea by Craig A. James (The Religion Virus), for all internet atheists to “come out” and post their real identities.

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.

Scott Miller explains it best in his analysis of “Hear My Song” in Songs for a New World:

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.



1. Agersomnia - August 29, 2008

Thank you for explaining quite well why most of us over the internet are not precisely open about our religious beliefs or lack thereof.

So here’s a dude called Agersomnia who is very proud of sharing stories, jokes and a bit of irreverence with you, TA, and everyone else that hangs around enough.

2. John - August 31, 2008

In your country they ask your religion on a college application form!?! Repugnant.

3. Teen Atheist - September 1, 2008

Agersomnia: Thank you. πŸ˜€

4. Teen Atheist - September 1, 2008

John: Yeah, pretty much everywhere. Birth certificates, job applications, and I’m not 100% on this, but I think it’s on the driver’s license, too.

5. the Shaggy - September 3, 2008

Teen Atheist, how DO you be so awesome? For real! I’ll be finding you on the Nexus tonight, I have no friends there and feel lonely.

6. Teen Atheist - September 3, 2008

Fierce! I love that site — atheists now have their own JDate!

7. Anonymous - September 7, 2008

Way awesome. In my day to day life, I have absolutely no issue discussing my religious beliefs (or more correctly, lack thereof) when it comes up. I don’t go shouting from the rooftops or anything, but if it adds to the conversation in any way, or I am asked, I have no issue with saying “Atheist.” On the other hand, I don’t necessarily feel comfortable divulging my name on the internet in any case. Especially with something that could potentially get people with neurotically crazy enough religious fanaticism to hate me and even go to the trouble of find me or send me hate mail or something else. It is a stretch, of course, but still. People have lives and identities to protect, and in a world where atheism is not always accepted, it is in many cases safer and more practical to keep your identity hidden.

8. theShaggy - September 11, 2008

Man, I totally added you on the Nexus, TA, where are you? Oh man I only have one friend on it, too, and she’s a fellow protester against a fundie creationist. Gahhh. Give me more atheist cred! πŸ˜›

Honestly, I find that site to still be really awkward and unintuitive in just about every way. But something makes me want to go.

9. Teen Atheist - September 12, 2008

Anon: Yeah, exactly. And not just religious fanatics, but people you know, too, who previously might not have been privy to such personal opinions and experiences.

10. Teen Atheist - September 12, 2008

Added you back, Shaggy! Just been busy with work lately. πŸ˜€

Yeah, it’s still a pretty small site, but I signed up for moral support.

11. the Shaggy - September 16, 2008

Woo we’re now Nexus friends πŸ™‚ You’re totally friend number two. I’ve got reams of atheists in my social circle but none would dare join such a site!

I just wish they’d let you search by location… the search function seems to work a whole bunch of not at all.

12. Arthur Brash - September 16, 2008

Sadly, these days open atheism is often a political stance. Religions on mission to tear down the separation of church and state (where available) have made it so.

While I think that doors can open with “coming out”, there certainly are others who’s locks will become so crammed with dogma, they will never open again.

13. reynor - September 16, 2008

Arthur, the separation of church and state was established in order to protect religion from the state and not the other way around (like what most people thought it was). it is there so that the citizens will have the freedom of religion. the church will be the last to tear it down if for some odd reason of which i could not think of any that it would even wish to tear it down.

14. Teen Atheist - September 16, 2008


Sadly, these days open atheism is often a political stance.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

However, I still think it’s worth the price of open freedom from religion to be out as an atheist, despite the stigma attached. I was just speaking in terms of my dual life as T.A. and Jane Doe in the Real World.

Atheists are not required to be militant about their beliefs; in fact, there are many different kinds of atheists, none more apolitical than yours truly. And Craig A. James did have a point: the more of us that are out, the easier things will be for us in the future.

15. Teen Atheist - September 16, 2008

El Shagadocio: What a pity! I mean, I know social networking is pretty lame in general, but it’d be great if we could have more people on the site — it’s great to be able to connect and share thoughts with PLUs.

Drop by the chatroom from time to time! It’s so empty, I’d love to be able to talk with more people.

16. Arthur Brash - September 17, 2008

[quote]However, I still think it’s worth the price of open freedom from religion to be out as an atheist, despite the stigma attached. I was just speaking in terms of my dual life as T.A. and Jane Doe in the Real World.[/quote]

Agreed – but I understand that for some folks the price is higher than others.

There are plenty of places in the world where open atheism can leave an individual to the sole task of pushing up the daisies, and there are other more ambiguous outcomes also not worth the price. Each must decide for themselves.

17. GDad - September 26, 2008


Good to see you posting again.

18. Arizona Atheist - October 1, 2008

Very well put. I couldn’t agree more. I do use my first name and state that I live in, but that hardly would allow anyone to identify me.

Besides, Arizona Atheist sounds so much cooler than just Ken.

: )

19. Craig A. James - October 26, 2008

I think many, including perhaps you, misinterpreted my call to “get out of the closet.” I guess I should have worded it a little more carefully, because any number of people seemed to be offended by my blog, and that certainly wasn’t my intention.

I wrote the “Get out of the Closet” blog trying to strongly encourage people to reevaluate their need for anonymity in their blogs. Yet, I truly do understand that many simply can’t. And I never intended to call anyone a “coward,” or even imply it, because they can’t. I live in a big city in Southern California, and all of my business associates, as well as many of my friends, are scientists; as a group, they’re mostly atheists or agnostics. My original fears over blogging as an Atheist were not about my personal circle of friends and associates, but rather about harassment that might come from the internet. Happily, nothing like that has happened.

So, unlike you, vjack, and many others, I have no personal problems with my Atheism. My friends and family are either atheists or are very accepting of everyone’s beliefs. It was easy for me, and I know it.

I have enourmous respect for those of you who live in the midst of the intolerance that you describe, yet somehow find the courage to break from the tremendous social pressure and find the road to rational thinking.

I hope that if you re-read my “out of the closet” post, you’ll see that my words were intended to encourage, not to disparage. That was certainly my intent; perhaps in the future I’ll craft my words more carefully.

At any event, thanks for your long and thoughtful response. If nothing else, I certainly got people talking!

Best regards,

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