Closet atheist

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Sam Harris advocates that atheists no longer call themselves atheists.[1]

In many religious countries and even irreligious countries there is a stigma related to atheism and as a result many atheists are reluctant to: call themselves atheists and/or be outspoken atheists (see: Views on atheists).

Atheists in religious countries or religious subcultures often face family and social pressure to be silent about their atheism and for many young people the thought of telling their parents about their atheism causes them a great deal of anguish.[2] It is not uncommon for Muslims who become atheists to be disowned by their family and to sometimes receive death threats.[3] See also: Persecution of atheists

The We Are Atheism campaign was launched by atheists to address the widespread prevalence of closet atheism. David Silverman (ex-president of the American Atheists) mentioned the issue of "closet atheists" in a publicity piece promoting the campaign.[4]

A Eurobarometer poll in 2010 reported that 37% of UK citizens "believed there is a God", 33% believe there is "some sort of spirit or life force" and 25% answered "I don't believe there is any sort of spirit, God or life force".[5] See also: British atheism

Yet, in 2015, the Christian Post reported in a story entitled Atheists Widely Distrusted, Even Among Themselves, UK Study Finds:

Distrust of atheists is "deeply and culturally ingrained" among people, and even many atheists are not able to trust each other, according to a new study carried out by the psychology department at Nottingham Trent University in England.

Published in the International Journal for The Psychology of Religion, the study, "The Robustness of Anti-Atheist Prejudice as Measured by Way of Cognitive Errors," was conducted with 100 participants from the U.K. ....

The study shows that "anti-atheist prejudice is not confined either to dominantly religious countries or to religious individuals, but rather appears to be a robust judgment about atheists."[6]

Sam Harris is one of the founders of the New Atheism movement. Sam Harris is quite aware of the stigma surrounding atheism and has even advocated that atheists no longer call themselves atheists.[1] In fact, Dr. Harris has said concerning the label of atheist, "It's right next to child molester as a designation."[1] See also: Atheism and social outcasts

Due to the stigma of the label of atheist, it is common for atheists to choose to call themselves skeptics, nonbelievers, humanists and freethinkers[7] Individuals of Jewish descent often call themselves secular Jews or simply Jews rather than call themselves atheists.[7]

Various atheists have attempted to rebrand atheism, but there efforts were largely unsuccessful (see: Attempts to positively rebrand atheism).

Reluctance of many atheists to tell others about their atheism

According Pew Research:

In the 2014 Religious Landscape Study, self-identified atheists were asked how often they share their views on God and religion with religious people. Only about one-in-ten atheists (9%) say they do at least weekly, while roughly two-thirds (65%) say they seldom or never discuss their views on religion with religious people. By comparison, 26% of those who have a religious affiliation share their views at least once a week with those who have other beliefs; 43% say they seldom or never do.[8]

Although American atheists may experience some social ostracism for telling other about atheism, hate crimes against atheists are extremely low in number (see; Atheism and social outcasts and Persecution of atheists).

American atheism and closet atheism

Dr. Ken Eisold wrote at Psychology Today about American atheism: "The FT reporter commented: 'As I found out when I travelled across the US last year, atheists live in isolation and secrecy all over the country.'"[9]

Western atheists lack of overseas evangelism in religious countries

African children who received Manna Packs of rice from the Christian relief organization Feed My Starving Children. Atheist activists have engaged in very little evangelistic efforts as far as Africa. See also: Atheism and charity and Western atheism and race

The current atheist population mostly resides in East Asia (particularly China) and in secular Europe/Australia primarily among whites.[10] See: Western atheism and race

Doing overseas evangelism/outreaches in religious countries often requires significant criticism/persecution and western atheists by in large have been unwilling to endure such criticism/persecution in order to spread atheistic ideology - especially when compared to Christians and their efforts to spread Christianity (see: Western atheists have not done a significant amount of outreach to poor countries).

On the other hand, apathy and a reluctance to endure hardship in poor countries is another reason for atheists lack of overseas evangelism (see also: Atheism and apathy and Atheism and hedonism).

Atheist indoctrination

See also: Atheist indoctrination

Rather than rely on the personal evangelism of atheists, often atheist indoctrination has been used to propagate atheism.

Atheism as a stealth religion

See also: Atheism is a religion and Atheist worldview and Evolution as a secular origins myth

The Canadian anthropologist Paul Gosselin has written that evolution is a secular origins myth.[11]

The intelligent design advocate John Calvert wrote in his article Atheism: A Stealth Religion:

Atheist don’t wear crosses, burkas or yarmulkes, although more and more display Darwin fish on their bumpers. So how does one recognize the practice of their religion, one that eschews God and His wisdom? When does one know Atheism is at work?

The tell-tail signs emerge as soon as God or his wisdom enters the room. At that point the evangelical Atheist can’t sit still. As scientist Richard Lewontin said, our commitment to “materialism is absolute, for we can’t allow a Divine Foot in the door.”

Imagine a generic conference on how to improve K-12 education where a wide range of subjects are discussed,including the biggies: Where do we come from and how should we live? One day one of the participants named Glen walks in with a poster of the ten commandments and a roll of tape in his hand. He wants to tape it to the wall as they have something to say about many of the subjects covered in the on-going discussions.

The ears of a closet Atheist named Bob, perk up.

Bob can no longer sit still as the Divine Foot is kicking at the door.

But Bob is in a quandary. His Atheism is most effective when invisible to others. If he objects as an Atheist, his cover will be blown and he knows he’s not going to be effective appealing to his own anti-God religion. He can’t say, we can’t have the ten commandments for I don’t believe in them. Nor can he say that the precepts mentioned in the commandments are bad ideas, for then he invites a discussion of them, the very thing he cannot tolerate.

Bob has many Christian friends in the room for they find reason and science consistent with many of their non-scriptural views. They probably don’t even know Bob’s an Atheist. So, rather than raising his flag, Bob pulls aside a “mainstream” Christian buddy named Tom, at the coffee break.

He says: “Tom, you know the primary rule of our forum is that it remain secular and non-controversial. Although Glen is a nice guy, he’s obviously violating the rule. What do you think ‘we’ should do?” After the break, Tom takes the floor after a nudge from Bob, and says: “Well, Glen, I appreciate your idea, but we have this rule that the discussion will remain secular, and not religious. When you bring God into the room, you violate that rule. So, we think you need to keep your scriptures at home.”

In this way, the Atheist never reveals his true religious objection to the commandments. Instead of discussing their substance, he focuses on a rule of procedure that everyone can agree with: “Let’s avoid controversy by keeping the discussion secular, not religious.”[12]

The stealth agnosticism/atheism of Charles Darwin

The evolutionist Charles Darwin was a weak atheist/agnostic (see: religious views of Charles Darwin) .[13] Charles Darwin's casual mentioning of a ‘creator’ in earlier editions of The Origin of Species appears to have been a merely a ploy to downplay the implications of his materialistic theory.[14]

For additional information, see: Atheism and deception

Bernie Sanders' reluctance to call himself an atheist

See also: Essay: Bernie Sanders is a closet atheist

Bernie Sanders is reluctant to publicly call himself an atheist.[15]

In many religious countries and even irreligious countries there is a stigma related to atheism and as a result many atheists are reluctant to: call themselves atheists and/or be outspoken atheists (see: Stigma of atheism and Views on atheists).

Jon Green wrote about Bernie Sanders:

Bernie Sanders is, as he’s suggested before, Jewish with an emphasis on the ish. His Jewish heritage has informed his morality and his politics, but he doesn’t claim to be observant in any officially religious sense.

In an interview with the Washington Post published this morning, Sanders went a step further, making that point as clearly as he ever:

“I am not actively involved with organized religion,” Sanders said in a recent interview.
Sanders said he believes in God, though not necessarily in a traditional manner.
“I think everyone believes in God in their own ways, “ he said. “To me, it means that all of us are connected, all of life is connected, and that we are all tied together.”

As atheist blogger Hemant Mehta pointed out, that’s basically a really PC way of saying you’re an atheist. Sanders may have used the word “God” to describe his belief system, but it’s pretty clear that his version of God isn’t an old man in the sky. There’s no actual deity involved — no theism — just a generalized interconnectedness.[15]

The atheist Hemant Mehta stated concerning Bernie Sanders' worldview: That's basically a really PC way of saying you're an atheist. Sanders may have used the word “God” to describe his belief system, but it's pretty clear that his version of God isn't an old man in the sky. There's no actual deity involved — no theism — just a generalized interconnectedness.[15]

Deseret News declared:

Speculation about Sanders' religious views ramped up last October after an appearance on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" during which he was directly asked whether he believes in God.

It was the nature of the candidate's response that piqued the interest of some viewers.

Kimmel cited Sanders' claims that he is "culturally Jewish" and that he doesn't "feel religious" and then asked about a belief in God. He also questioned whether Sanders thinks it is important for Americans to embrace a higher power.

"I am who I am and what I believe in and what my spirituality is about is that we’re all in this together," Sanders responded. "That I think it is not a good thing to believe that as human beings we can turn our backs on the suffering of other people."

He continued, "This is not Judaism — this is what Pope Francis is talking about — that we cannot worship just billionaires and the making of more and more money. Life is more than that."

A few months later, speculation once again raged after Sanders did an interview with The Washington Post in which he said that he doesn't necessarily believe in God in a traditional sense.

"I am not actively involved with organized religion," he told the outlet. "I think everyone believes in God in their own ways. To me, it means that all of us are connected, all of life is connected, and that we are all tied together."

His brother Larry Sanders also told the outlet that the candidate was "quite substantially not religious."[16]

The Religion News Service states: "Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders dashed the hopes of some atheists when he declared he had 'very strong religious and spiritual feelings' at a Democratic town hall."[17]

Sanders denies he is an atheist.[18]

Closet atheism in Islamic countries

See also: Atheism vs. Islam and Militant atheism vs. Christianity, Islam and right-wing ideology

The number of atheists is growing in Islamic countries, but statistics on the number of atheists is hazy due due to the fact that atheists are very often closet atheists in Islamic countries.[19] See also: Persecution of atheists

Richard Dawkins' claim that Lincoln and Kennedy were probably closet atheists

See also: Atheism and historical revisionism

It is common for atheist activists to exaggerate the number of people who are atheists. The atheist Georgetown professor Jacques Berlinerblau declared about American movement atheists: "They wildly overestimate their numbers. They tend to overestimate the efficacy of their activism." [20]

One tactic that is used by atheist/agnostic activists to artificially inflate their numbers is to claim that a great number of people are closet atheists/agnostics.

The Times of India has a quote from Richard Dawkins about the closet atheist issue:

When will we see the first atheist President of the US? "I suspect we have already seen several atheist US presidents, they just didn't admit it," responded Dawkins. "I suspect Lincoln was an atheist, probably so was Kennedy. Obama is an intelligent man, so I wouldn't be surprised if he's a closet atheist". Does that make them all hypocrites? "You can't be an American politician without being a hypocrite," signed off the renowned biologist and ardent Darwinian.[21]

The book Abraham Lincoln: From Skeptic to Prophet by Wayne C. Temple is a well-research book which demonstrates that although Lincoln was somewhat of a freethinker/skeptic as a young man, he did become very religious later in life.[22]

Christianity Today says of Abraham Lincoln's religious beliefs:

Confusion about Lincoln’s religion arises from the multiple ambiguities of his life. On the one hand, Lincoln was, in the words of biographers James Randall and Richard Current, “a man of more intense religiosity than any other President the United States has ever had.” On the other hand, Lincoln’s faith was not conventional...

The greatest difficulty in coming to a clearer picture of Lincoln’s faith is the fact that his religion does not fit into modern categories. He was not an orthodox, evangelical, “born-again” Christian striving toward the “higher life” (as these terms have been used since the 1870s). But neither was he a skeptical “modernist” with a prejudice against the supernatural and an aversion to the Bible.[23]

CNN says of John Kennedy:

He was famously unfaithful to his wife but fiercely loyal to his church, even when it threatened his quest for the presidency...

As president, Kennedy continued to say his daily prayers, morning and night, his sister Eunice told historians. But “that doesn’t mean he was terribly religious,” she said.

“He was always a little less convinced” than the rest of the Kennedy clan, Eunice continued, especially his brother Robert Kennedy, who took after Rose.

Still, Eunice said John always hustled off to Mass on Sundays, even while traveling. Maier, the Kennedy biographer who called him Mr. Saturday Night and Mr. Sunday Morning, said The New York Times’ index of the president’s travels show him faithfully attending Mass once a week, wherever he happened to be.

“The popular perception is that he wasn’t all that religious,” Maier said, “but by today’s standards he would be called a traditional Catholic.”

Dallek said he believes Kennedy attended religious rituals more out of duty than desire. “This is the faith he was reared in, and something his parents expected him to do,” the historian said.

“As president it was kind of mandatory to go to church, to show that he was a man of good Christian faith. But was it something that informed his daily life and decisions as president? I don’t think so.”

Others, however, see echoes of Kennedy’s Catholic upbringing in his most famous speech, the 1961 inaugural address. In it, the new president urged Americans to “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

“The words chosen seem to spring from a sacramental background,” the Rev. Daniel Coughlin, first Catholic chaplain in the U.S. House of Representatives, wrote in a recent blog post.

“In fact, the whole speech was framed by his belief in a living and ever-present God both at its beginning and in the end,” Coughlin wrote.

Two months later, in a move that may have harkened back to meeting the Catholic missionary, Kennedy founded the Peace Corps. [24]

See also

External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Roberts, Jessica, et al. (June 19, 2007). "Interview with an atheist". News21. Retrieved on July 30, 2014.
  2. U.S. atheists to have ‘coming out party’
  3. Allah vs atheism: ‘Leaving Islam was the hardest thing I’ve done’, The Independent
  4. 'We Are Atheism': Atheists Launch Campaign To Get Unbelievers To 'Come Out', Huffington Post
  5. Special Eurobarometer, biotechnology, p. 204". Fieldwork: Jan-Feb 2010.
  6. Atheists Widely Distrusted, Even Among Themselves, UK Study Finds, Christian Post, 2015
  7. 7.0 7.1 Atheist, Humanist, Secular: Why Fight Over Labels? by Roy Speckhardt. HuffPost Religion
  8. 7 facts about atheists, Pew Forum
  9. The Fear of Atheism: One Nation Under God by Dr. Ken Eisold, Psychology Today
  10. A surprising map of where the world’s atheists live, By Max Fisher and Caitlin Dewey, Washington Post, May 23, 2013
  11. Myths of Origin and the Theory of Evolution
  12. Atheism: A Stealth Religion' by John Calvert
  13. Charles Darwin's real message. Have you missed it?
  14. 15.0 15.1 15.2 Bernie Sanders is mainstreaming atheism in American politics
  15. Is Bernie Sanders an atheist? by Billy Hallowell, Deseret News, 2016
  16. Bernie Sanders disappoints some atheists with his ‘very strong religious’ feelings, Religion News Service
  17. Sanders: ‘I am not an atheist’, The Hill, 2016
  18. Atheists in Muslim world: Silent, resentful and growing in number, Washington Times
  19. Professor Jacques Berlinerblau tells atheists: Stop whining!, Christian Century, Sep 14, 2012 by Kimberly Winston
  20. Look forward to the death of organized religion: Richard Dawkins, Iimes of India
  21. The Inner World of Abraham Lincoln, by Michael Burlingame and Abraham Lincoln: From Skeptic to Prophet, by Wayne C. Temple by ROBERT McCOLLEY
  22. The Puzzling Faith of Abraham Lincoln, Christianity Today
  23. How Catholic was John Kenney, CNN