June 7, 2009

Isolation Among Atheists

Isole di BrissagoImage via Wikipedia
I made a point to spend some time on Atheist Nexus a couple of weekends ago when I had more free time than I do now. No particular reason - I just hadn't been there in a while and wanted to see if there were new members in Mississippi I should welcome. See, I can be friendly every once in a while! Anyway, what I found in the Atheist Nexus forums really saddened me, inspiring this post.

What I encountered in post after post was pain, isolation, and fear. So many atheists throughout the U.S. reported feeling ostracized, some even terrorized, by the Christians surrounding them. I know things are rough in the American bible belt, but it soon became clear that things are not necessarily much easier elsewhere. Many of the younger atheists had stories of being condemned by their own families. Some were still "in the closet," worried about being disowned by their families.

A common theme was the pervasive sense of isolation caused by recurrent experiences of being socially ostracized for one's atheism. Again and again, I encountered people who simply wanted someone to talk to without having to worry about their safety or yet another religiously-motivated condemnation. Some noted that the Internet has become their lifeline, a link to reality in a sea of religious delusion. But for others, atheist forums, blogs, and chat rooms just weren't cutting it.

I know some atheists take pride in not being joiners, but there are many out there who are hurting and need a human connection they are not currently finding. I'm not sure what the answer is, but I am starting to think that we need one.