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Openly Secular: Opening Minds, Changing Hearts

April 23, 2015 Featured, Religion 34 Comments

Today’s post isn’t for everyone, but I know from past experience some of you will appreciate the message. If you’re religious fine, if you’re religious and get offended hearing others say they’re not religious — you’d better stop now.

Click the image for the official website. 
Click the image for the official website.

I learned about Openly Secular Day on the most recent CBS Sunday Morning:

“Like a light switch, it’s, ‘You’re immoral, you’re gonna raise evil children, you’re a bad parent,'” said Todd Stiefel, of Raleigh, North Carolina. A former Catholic, he leads the Openly Secular campaign. “They’re questioning your whole existence. I’d rather somebody assume I’m stupid than assume I’m wicked. It’s painful. It’s discrimination. It’s prejudice.” (Atheists: In godlessness we trust)

Many featured were once theists or like Mandisa Thomas, is assumed to be religious based on race:

It can be extremely difficult to discuss religion objectively in the black community. Many have social, emotional and financial stakes invested in this institution, so for one to even say they have doubts is like committing treason. 

To openly identify as an atheist in the midst of heavy religious influence can be next to impossible, and good luck finding other blacks who also don’t believe. It is very important to note however, that the Internet has made it easier for black atheists to find each other, and there is a large community of us online. (CNN: Confessions of a black atheist

Back to Openly Secular:

Our Mission
The mission of Openly Secular is to eliminate discrimination and increase acceptance by getting secular people – including atheists, freethinkers, agnostics, humanists and nonreligious people – to be open about their beliefs.

Our Vision
Discrimination is rampant against those who are secular. Teens are made homeless after being thrown out of their homes; young activists receive death threats; people lose relationships with friends, family, and coworkers for not believing the same. A 2014 Pew research study, for example, showed 53% of people would be less likely to vote for someone who does not believe in God. Many minority groups, such as gay candidates, were less stigmatized than secular candidates. Disturbingly, respondents were more likely to vote for an adulterous candidate than an openly secular one.

We envision a world where there are no social costs for being secular, where families and communities remain whole when some members have moved away from religion or supernaturalism.

The following videos are some of the many made for today to show you that many people are openly secular:

Most of the videos are not from the well-know, just ordinary folks.

If these messages resonate with you know that you’re not alone — many of us are Openly Secular.

 — Steve Patterson


Currently there are "34 comments" on this Article:

  1. JZ71 says:

    While I support your position, isn’t the basic concept of “Tell one person” and “Opening minds, changing hearts” bordering on the same stuff that religious people do? Religion, or a lack thereof, is (or should be) a highly personal thing. It’s when you start to tell others, to “push” your beliefs, that friction can begin. When does pushback become the pushing that generates the pushback in the first place?! The Mormon missionaries and the Jehovah’s Witnesses knocking on your door, the bible thumping Christians on TV and in politics, are all trying to “open your mind”. ISIS/ISIL is trying to make the west “change their hearts”. Tolerance and freedom is more about being left alone than in changing someone else’s thinking . . . .

    • Not the same at all, the secular are invisible. Many of the videos talk about “coming out” as secular, similar to how LGBT folks have to come out because everyone is assumed to be straight. In St. Louis everyone is assumed Catholic unless stated otherwise.

    • Tiger says:

      Entirely different. The Openly Secular campaign isn’t about trying to convince others to abandon faith, but instead to say to others, “I’m not religious! I’m still a good person! We exist!”

    • RyleyinSTL says:

      I’m atheist and agree with JZ71 on this for the most part. The religious don’t wan’t to hear about my evil Godless ways anymore than I wan’t to hear 2000 year old parables about forgiveness in the desert.

      My take is that a persons religious beliefs, or lack there of, are their own private business. Keep it at home, don’t talk to anyone about it….and PLEASE don’t mix it with politics!

      If the “faithful” can’t see the “unfaithful” as good people that’s their problem. We will outnumber them soon enough.

      • Yet we must hear about religion daily — they should be able to handle someone saying “I’m secular, I’m not religious.”

        • RyleyinSTL says:

          Ya, they “should” be able to handle that, but they can’t. Someones got to be the better person.

      • Marielle says:

        These conversations are about reducing prejudice against non-believers, not about conversion. I was raised secular and had been “out” my whole life before moving to St. Louis. I have definitely had conversations with Christians that were raised to believe that secular people were unhappy and unethical, and after learning that my family was secular, realized that being secular was not synonymous with being a bad person.

        Steve, thank you for posting this- it is a good reminder to quit hiding.

    • HMS says:

      I agree with the sentiments below, but I also don’t have a problem with religious people sharing their views. Obviously it’s all in the delivery and intent when both religious people and atheists share their views. If you feel you’ve figured out the secret to salvation, I can certainly understand wanting to share that with people (especially people with different viewpoints). I have no problem with that. Likewise, as an atheist who has dealt with the kinds of assumptions Todd Stiefel describes above, I always appreciate the chance to share with religious people that I don’t believe in God and still have a pretty well developed sense of right and wrong. And don’t have horns.

  2. Mark-AL says:

    Where I grew up, we had two choices on Sunday mornings: Catholic vs Baptist. My dad sometimes drank and smoked in open venues, so we “chose” to be Catholic. The Baptists didn’t enjoy that freedom–openly. I was a happy kid, enjoyed my life, looked forward to and was genuinely excited about my future, and so I didn’t much allow myself to get hung up on anything negative, so I said “OK” and, with a few reservations based mostly on my own ignorance and “rumors”, I became a “Catholic”. I braced myself and was relieved that I didn’t soon sprout a third ear. And while I was never formally nurtured in any “organized religion,” I was later required to study 12 hrs of Catholic doctrine and theology in undergrad school. I was intrigued because the Holy Cross priests deliberately answered very few of our questions. And the overall pursuit was certainly not a waste of time, either, as I soon realized. I learned to appreciate organized religion when I soon realized that it simply provides a venue and formal opportunity to address the fundamental questions of life–‘who’ and ‘why’ are we? Spirituality, on the other hand, arises from a constant questioning within ourselves. It is the objective of “organized religion” to set the stage for spirituality. Nothing more! Nothing sinister! Organized religion is often criticized for being too structured. But it’s like a well-organized religious empire: it has an emperor, a center of power, a code of inviolable laws, and loyal citizens. Not a bad structure in today’s world–to guide those of us who don’t consider ourselves perfect–yet!. Its main weakness–maybe– is that it is power-based and builds on numbers. So I guess nothing’s perfect. Yawn. I don’t allow myself to get hung up on some of the negatives, however inconsequential. 12 hours of theology in college opened my eyes to spiritual possibilities in my life, but unfortunately, I wasn’t exposed until after my teen years. Over the years, I’ve met some vile Catholics and unyielding Baptists, and I’ve met some negative, hateful atheists and agnostics who really couldn’t explain to me why they felt as they did about the existence of a God. Maybe they all lacked “spirituality”.

  3. Daniel says:

    I’m a Zen Buddhist, which doesn’t require a position on theism, but I also consider myself an atheist, at least as far as most people’s conception of God is concerned. Anyway I would agree that telling “one person a day” about one’s lack of religion is basically a self-indulgent exercise that is more likely to give atheists a bad name with religious folks. I feel it’s better to lead by example than by confrontation. Don’t demand respect, earn respect: then when it comes up the religious person can think, “Wow, so and so is such a great person. Now that I’ve learned they’re not religious perhaps I should reevaluate my position on such people”. In my case I’m never interested in self-identifying as Buddhist or atheist unless it is somehow specifically under discussion. As far as I’m concerned flag waving is the problem, not the solution.

    • It isn’t like that, here’s a possibility:
      “Thanks for inviting me to your church, again. I thought I should let you know that I’m openly secular. I’m the same person you know, but I just don’t share your views.”

      • Daniel says:

        Well yes I agree that’s the perfect response for that situation. My response was based on the verbiage “tell one person”, which brings to mind randomly announcing one’s atheism for its own sake. I suppose I’ve never felt uncomfortable telling people my views on religion when it comes up (like in that situation), so I guess I was missing the point.

        I should note too that I’ve lived in St. Louis for 5 years and have never had anyone assume I was religious or Catholic, nor have I ever been invited to church by anyone anywhere ever (maybe because I work in science?), so I guess I’m coming from a different experience. I have noticed that a high proportion of St. Louisans are Catholic and religious compared to where I am from, however.

        • One elected official asked me what parish I lived in.

          • Fozzie says:

            It’s a variation of St. Louis high school question. I’m not Catholic, but I’m asked that question all of the time. Why would anyone be offended? Big deal. Lighten up.

            Coming out secular — a truly ridiculous concept in the mamby-pamby world some have created. One is only stigmatized if they allow themselves to be stigmatized.

          • HMS says:

            “One is only stigmatized if they allow themselves to be stigmatized.” Hilarious bumper sticker aphorism. Do you actually believe that?

      • RyleyinSTL says:

        The problem here is someone even inviting you to their church. How presumptuous. Given the dozens of faith possibilities out there (plus none at all) why would you go around doing that? It’s rude and narrow-minded. Just practice your faith (or lack of) privately and discreetly. Leave it at home or church, don’t invite people to join along. It’s none of their business what you believe and they likely don’t want to hear about your views which oppose theirs. It’s faith after all, you can’t have a logical conversation about that….or it wouldn’t be faith.

        If someone invites you to church you just say “no thanks” and move along.

    • HMS says:

      How will the religious person in the scenario learn that the other person is an atheist in the first place? You’ve already said it is too “confrontational” to tell others you don’t believe in god.

  4. Fozzie says:

    Creating another protected class?!?

    Aside from one or two persons, these random nobodies sure are compelling and influential.

  5. Sgt Stadanko says:

    where did they dig up these ‘has been’s and people no one has heard of. if one of these a-holes came up to me and said that, i’d tell them to get a life. richard dawkins’ plastic surgeon should have their license revoked. thanks, sarge

    • Why the hostility?

      • Sgt Stadanko says:

        sorry steve – i guess i was a bit harsh. i just get sick and tired of having religion thrown in my face. why not just worship in private. even though this isn’t religion. why do you have tell someone that you are a secularist – just do it.

        • The problem with silence among non-believers is the religious don’t think we exist so they end up passing bills to make their holy book the official state book, see http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2015/04/15/tennessee-moves-to-make-bible-its-state-book

          • Mark-AL says:

            Southerners tend to externalize their religion a bit more than those who might live elsewhere. It isn’t unusual (in fact, it’s the norm) to hear “Have a blessed day; God bless you” at the Piggly Wiggly when the cashier hands you your receipt.” Or in an informal conversation with an auto mechanic (a total stranger) when he’s talking about his family while changing your oil, he’s likely to talk about “praying for God-given guidance, or for a special “nod” from the Holy Spirit” with respect to raising his family in a Christian environment. And he means it. It rolls out of his mouth naturally. And, when the dust settles, who’s really being damaged when/if Tennessee names the Bible as the official state book? It really doesn’t affect you. If you don’t like the Bible, don’t read it. I think “perspective” plays a big role in determining acceptable discussion topics. If you’re an agnostic or atheist, you obviously don’t want to acknowledge the role of a superior being in your life, and you just don’t want to hear about it–from anyone! And you obviously get angry if someone asks which parish you live in? I’m wondering if you might be as open to someone shutting you out when you talk about your husband? Or about your ‘honeymoon’? Some people are as close-minded about homosexuality as you appear to be about religion. Knowing that, you talk openly about it anyway, as you should. I wonder if the gay movement would have advanced as it has if the straight world were as close-minded about gay acceptance and inclusion as you might be about religious expression. Life is far too short to be offended over nothing.

        • As long as they’re saying their deity wrote the US Constitution and having a secular government is a problem then I must stand up as openly secular! See http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/delay-americans-have-forgotten-god-wrote-constitution

          • Mark-AL says:

            ….and does that mean that you’ll be less angry (even open to offering a simple answer or explanation) the next time someone asks which parish you live in, realizing that the question is inconsequential …?

            ….and don’t forget, a Christian believes that the source of/ inspiration for all academic achievement/success is their God….that nothing is accomplished without his guidance. That being said, in your eyes, what difference does it make in your life whether your neighbor says that God wrote the US Constitution or that Jack Benny did?

          • JZ71 says:

            “Special interests”, of all stripes, not just “Christians” or the NRA, succeed in getting their agendas put in place, legally, for three big reasons. One, they raise money and invest in sympathetic politicians. Two, they groom candidates to run, then get them elected. And three, they’re motivated, they have an issue that they’re passionate about, unlike most Americans, who are apathetic, especially about politics. People who want change keep pushing and pushing and pushing. People who are good with the way things are, with the status quo, for the most part, really, simply, don’t care, and just assume that nothing is ever going to change or will impact their lives. If you want to get a state rock recognized or require insurers to cover acne treatment or want to demand that the Plege of Allegiance only be recited in American English, guess what? Most people DON’T CARE! We get plenty of “laws” passed that end up unenforced, yet someone’s personal crusade has “succeeded”. And the fundamental challenge with “religion”, any “religion”, including secular, agnostic, druid or humanist, is that, for many practitioners, there’s either an explicit requirement or a personal desire to “share”, to proselytize, to “enlighten”, to try and convert people’s thinking, even just a little bit! Unless (and until) we can all agree to live and let live, there’s going to be constant efforts to (re)shape government more in the traditions of one religion or another. If it’s your perspective, it’ll sound like a good thing; if not, it’s an infringement. And since politicians want to be able to say that they’ve “done” something, accomplished something, during their tenure (even if nothing really needs to be done), there’s a strong tendency to “tweak” things, even if they’re not “broken”.

          • Mark-AL says:

            I attempted to “vote up” your last comment, but I’m sitting in a Mobile airport awaiting an all-clear for an inclement weather delay, and obviously the “God” who advises the FAA weathermen won’t allow it. I have faith that there’s a compelling reason why He won’t.

  6. A concerned person says:

    God loves you very much, and I’m sure you know that but its your sin that is separating you from Him. Repent of your sins and turn to Jesus Christ and you shall be saved! Saved from a life of death, death mentally, emotionally, physically, no more anxiety meds, depression meds, sleeping meds, pain meds, Jesus died on the cross that you might have life and that more abundantly

  7. A concerned person says:

    Its not about being a good person or a bad person, its about your sinful state! Everyone covers their sin to act like life is good, but in reality you living in hell on earth. God never desired you to go through that, you are born in sin, we all are because of adam, you may not believe that but if you’re honest with yourself and come to grips with the deep emptiness and longing for peace that many look for in a job, family, money, sex, drugs, the beach, or hobbies just to name a few they are just short lived pleasures that fade away like the sun set. God sent Jesus to died for your sins that you might live! Life is what you are really longing for, I don’t want to upset or argue with anyone, I’m just keeping it real.


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