Now Who's Being Outed? Atheists!

Quick, who comes to mind with this description: “An unforgiving control freak and malevolent bully!” If you’re thinking your boss or your old college chemistry professor, think a little harder. That’s right! This is how the world’s most famous atheist, Richard Dawkins, describes God.

In keeping with that mantra, David Silverman [president of American Atheists] recently held his Reason Rally on the National Mall in Washington DC. He told the press it was intended to give support to “closet atheists afraid of being outed.”

There’s good reason for atheists to keep their worldview private, for they continue to be “among the most disliked groups in the country” according to a 2006 study by University of British Columbia sociologist, Will Gervais. Only one of the 535 legislators in Congress calls himself an atheist, and few if any sports or entertainment celebrities do.

And yet something is happening in America that has already happened in West Europe. The number of atheists and/or non-affiliates has been spiking since the 1990s. In their best selling “American Grace,” political scientists Robert Putnam and David Campbell explain the more political conservative Christians have become, the more liberal Christians have walked away from those Old Testament condemnations of pre-marital sex, homosexuality, contraception, and abortion. “As the Republican party embraces these views, the rest of the country has been moving in the opposite direction.”

One more gap widening between us as if our society were straddling a pair of ice floes drifting apart. It may still be true there are “no atheists in foxholes,” but if the demography holds true, in another 20 years one out of every four Americans will profess no religious faith at all.

It’s clear this is yet another step toward an America unlike any we’ve known. Here’s the question: Are these steps leading us to a new sunrise or sunset…?

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