Yesterday I did a small experiment at college; it was nothing too academic but more on the lines of exposing my own personal identity.
I thought that if Muslims, Jews and Christians were able to wear items of clothing that signified their faith then I believed I would be well with in my right to done my atheist-T I bought in San Francisco last year. It’s quite simple really, just a plain black T with the Atheist A symbol with americanatheists.org at the bottom.
Now usually I’m very much “in the closet” about my beliefs and typically only my close friends know about them (most of them being atheist or agnostic themselves), but having read a post on Facebook about a guy in the states who did the same thing, I thought I may gauge reactions from people at college and since my popularity scale is pretty much non-existent anyway I figured what the hell.
After parking and getting out of my car I walked straight through the front doors and up the stairs to my class, the usual 5 minute walk was pretty uneventful but once I got inside I may have drawn a few stares. Because in a class of 20 or so everyone knows each other but not necessarily what they believe in. It was not until the lecturer arrived that I got my first proper reaction in the form of question from her asking if I was trying to make some kind of statement. My reply was “not any more of a statement a burka or a cross around the neck would make” and surprisingly she laughed. The next ten minutes of class followed a bit of a discussion on people’s beliefs and what may be considered offensive. No one looked my way or brought up atheism, it was all about God and Allah. Perhaps this white wash was to be expected but my class tends to be a bit more excepting than most or maybe just cautious of me and the apparent time bomb I had strapped around my chest.
Walking from class to class was just as I expected and perhaps now I know what it feels like to have a pair of double Ds and have everyone stair at your chest when they pass you. Yeah I’ll admit it got a little awkward in the cafeteria when someone asked me if I knew Jesus but there were a few thumbs up from the crowd that generally don’t associate with the bunch that hang around outside with their V-necks and plastic girlfriends or the wannabe gangsters who drive daddy’s Merc. So yeah I guess if I DO end up going to hell I’ll be in good company.
But what really made me do this, like I said before, was for the same reason the guy on Facebook did it. Being an atheist in a predominantly religious country puts you in a very tiny and unattractive category. That said, many people are still, to this day, “In the closet” atheists, too cautious or worried to just come out and be who they are. So when I walked around with my head up high yesterday my goal was to get other atheist thinking that no, they weren’t alone and that they are just as entitled to their true identity as any Christian or Muslim was. However, my expose’ may have done little to group us together frankly because of the overwhelming negative reactions. Perhaps we are lucky we don’t live in the states where you could get crucified for your belief or lack thereof but that will never stop the stigmatism. Why the filthy looks? The hypocrisy is simply maddening but, unfortunately, a fact that we will have to deal with.