Being Openly Secular with Neil Carter
Openly Secular Day
Being openly secular is easy to say, but it's harder to actually be openly secular for some. If you don't know I live in the bible belt but I'm not alone. There are plenty of us down here that don't subscribe to fairy tales to explain shit that happens or to be good people. The problems is that down here in the south it's so very risky to be openly secular or openly atheist or openly anything that isn't christian.
My Experience being Openly Secular
For me it wasn't too big of a fallout over my new world view. It did cost me a few relatives before I created my Godless Engineer Facebook Page and basically used that as my profile until I decided I was tired of hiding behind it. I created a new Facebook profile and littered it with atheist and secular friends. That became my main account because it was representative of myself. I wasn't being fake anymore. Even on facebook it was liberating to be able to share my thoughts and my views without being harrassed.
Since being out and proud as an atheist and secular humanist there have been the occasional pushing of religion on me. My grandmother-in-law telling me to raise my son in the church because it's the right thing to do. My engineer coworkers talking about the coming end times. The same co-workers being confused as to why atheists need community. Other co-workers yelling "I DON'T WANT NO QUEERS IN MAH BOYSCOUTS" during a conversation they were having at work.
I consider these things to be minor though. There are many out there that face real and more severe consequences to being openly secular and working towards atheist normalcy. Neil Carter of the Godless In Dixie blog is a prime example of this dynamic.
Godless In Dixie
Neil Carter recently appeared on a CBS special report about being an atheist and being openly secular. In the video Neil discusses his past as a christian by stating while standing in front of his childhood church:
My parents were married here. My sisters were both married here. I was baptised twice here actually.
Neil was "saved" by a youth evangelist when he was just 15 years old, which he then spent the next 10 years teaching sunday school. Althought 5 years ago he flipped his world view and became an atheist. It was another year before he told his wife though and that resulted in some not so good results.
For her it felt like I had died. The Man that she had married was gone.
He had told his wife and was dealing with that but he also DIDN'T tell his middle school that he worked at, yet they found out and he suffered the consquences of thinking differently. Soon he was shuffled to different classrooms and advised not to teach religion in his History class. Next he was shifted to a math class and finally just simple not brought back on the next year as a teacher. Effectly Neil lost his job for simply believing differently than those he worked with and for. I don't know about you but that just screams #MURICA.
Now since the special report aired Neil has been having a rough time with friends and family in his area that are religious. His local paper actually ran a story about the special and that was actually a bigger deal than the Special Report. In a post early this morning, Neil confided in his profile followers some disturbing things that he has been going through since the report aired.
First, I heard from the man who's essentially been like a father-in-law to me for the last three years. He saw the local news coverage and texted me to tell me I am a "pile of shit" and that he sees me as the David Koresh or the Jim Jones of atheism, and that my true motives will soon be revealed (evidently making money). He then told me to "drop dead."
That's a really extreme comparison. First of all, no atheist follows anyone like people followed those cult leaders. I believe Richard Dawkins sums it up best in his book The God Deulsion when he says:
Indeed, organizing atheists has been compared to herding cats, because they tend to think independently and will not conform to authority
But to hear that from someone so close to you is just horrible. Can you imagine the outrage of christians if they were treated with the same level of disrespect. Honestly there is MORE of a reason to suspect that of religious people let alone Christians.
Neil goes on to say:
So I texted another family member to see if they could commiserate but they essentially defended the man's actions and said that's how any man would react if he felt his daughter was being abused. Wow, okay, thanks. He then told me that I should feel bad for my own children because this will shame them.
Seriously how can you associate with raising your children in a secular manner or being openly atheist to them as abuse. This entire situation is a total 180 degree turn from Reality. It truely is like some religious people live in a fantasy land where the news isn't littered with reports of so called "God Fearing" individuals abusing children who are either theirs or intrusted with their safty and well being. But yeah... Neil is abusing his kids by letting them believe whatever they want to and supporting them no matter what they choose.
To be quite honest, I was emotionally and physically abused when I was growing up and I could only wish to have been "abused" in the fashion that Neil is "abusing" his kids.
Personal Message to Neil
Neil we met briefly at #AAcon15 and I know you have a lot of support from friends online and so I kind of feel like a single voice in the flood of support that you get, but I feel that every bit of support is important.
I cannot begin to understand what you are going through even though I live in a state this about as much if not less religious than yours. I know what it is to be shunned by friends and family due to different views though, albeit not neccessarily religious ones. As a fellow activist and (hopefully) friend I will stand with you as being a Bible Belt Atheist and Secular Activist. I am here, like you, to help those that need help and community. I admire your courage as you actively are Openly Secular in an environment that is actively hostile to Secularism.
Here is Neil's talk at Apostacon about coming out as an atheist:
Think Skeptically. Stay Godless.