Christianity and other religions often place a great value on what they perceive as truth. Men and women have sacrificed their possessions, their families and even their lives for what they considered the truth of their religion. My own sister rejected her family as not her “true” family when she converted to the Unification Church. Moon became her true father and the “church” her true “family”. I have known people who have shunned their own children when their children’s lifestyle violated their religious principles and dogma. I have seen people shunned by friends they have known for years because they left the church, even if it was for another “Christian” denomination. I have seen other belief systems ridiculed and other believers belittled because they don’t have the one true understanding of the Bible. Recently we have even seen a “Christian” man shoot up a church, killing 2 people and wounding several others, because they were too liberal in their view of god (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/25872864/). There are also those that reject modern clothing, machinery, and electronics as of the devil. All of these stands have one thing in common, those who make them ACTIVELY take a stand for their religious truth and that stand can be a costly one. Costly as it may be, they often have the support of their “in-group” of believers who encourage them to hold the course and they have a book that tells them God will be pleased with their choice.
Atheists on the other hand pay a different price. Identifying as an atheist can be a costly choice, but where it differs from religion is that the cost is IMPOSED on us by religion. Atheists don’t seek out to shun or hate those who differ from them because a mythical god tells them to do so. Intolerance or hate is directed at Atheists by the “loving” religious community around us. I know people whose jobs are at jeopardy because they came out of the atheist closet. I’ve known of people whose spouse wants a divorce because they are unequally yoked. I know of many people whose marriages are strained, not by the atheist, but by the believing spouse who sees them as doing the work of the devil or even evil incarnate, as Dr. Bart Ehrman writes in God’s Problem: “It’s not easy being intimate with someone who thinks you’re in cahoots with Satan”.
Atheists pay a price, but the cost is what people think of us because we don’t believe in an imaginary friend in the sky. This simple rational decision can make an atheist appear to the “god fearing” community as evil and immoral. How does not believing in a mythical, invisible man in the sky change how well we do our job or suddenly make us horrible husbands or wives or somehow make us unfit friends? These consequences keep many atheists in the atheist closet. Coming “clean” with family, friends, employees and employers can have unintended consequences. Is it worth it? Only you can make that decision.