Atheists come in all stripes. Chances are that if you’re a religious person, even a deeply, devoutly religious person who rarely has a kind word to say about atheists in general, you know an atheist whom you would consider trustworthy and respectable. And you probably don’t even realize it.
Most atheists don’t make their atheism the focus of their existence. Not in the way the religious so often do. We eat lunch with our religious friends, pausing our conversations to allow them to finish their quick, gratuitous prayer before eating their turkey sandwich. We nod and smile when our religious friends reply that they are “truly blessed” when we ask them how their weekend was. We pay little attention to the little New Testament, or sometimes the bigger Holy Bible, that sits openly on the desk in the offices of our religious friends. And we generally don’t discuss religion and religious views with most of our religious friends.
I suspect my religious friends know I’m an atheist. In fact, I’m sure some of them do. On occasion, one or two of these friends are curious enough to ask about my position on their god. I try not to avoid the topic if it comes up, but I also try to present my views respectfully, with an understanding that if I don’t, I probably won’t get them to hear what I’m saying.
But most of my religious friends don’t have a clue about my atheism. I suspect that, if the true number of atheists among the religious in their day-to-day lives were obvious, it would change the perspectives of the religious. If suddenly all atheists were to have scarlet red A’s tattooed on the back of the very hands that shake those of the religious, what would be their reaction to knowing just how many and who were atheist among them?
It shouldn’t matter, of course. We atheists can usually spot the religious. There’s something about religion that makes public display of piety a necessity to many (a similar drive exists among atheists to varied degrees, so this is very likely a psychological need not a religious one. Even I cannot resist a Darwin fish and an Out Campaign sticker on my car).
Order of appearance: Sergey Brin – President and co-founder of Google; Larry Page – CEO and co-founder of Google; Vincent Van Gogh – Dutch painter; Benjamin Franklin – Inventor Democratis – Founder of modern Democracy; Stephen Hawking – Theoretical physicist; Thomas Paine – English revolutionary; Ernest Hemingway – American writer; Robert Frost – Poet; Bill Gates – Founder of Microsoft; Leo Blair – Former Prime Minister of the UK, father of Tony Blair; Lance Armstrong – Professional athlete; Bertrand Russell – English intellectual; Dr. Richard Dawkins – Professor at Oxford and UC Berkeley; Clarance Darrow – Lawyer, leading ACLU member; Charles Darwin – English naturalist; George Orwell – English journalist and writer; Mark Zuckerberg – Founder and CEO of Facebook; Kurt Vonnegut – Writer; Dr. Jerry A. Coynes – Professor at University of Chicago, leading biologist; Billy Joel – American musician; James Madison – US president; Helen Keller – American activist; Ron Reagan – Journalist, son of former US president Ronald Reagan; Warren Buffet – American investor; Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) – American writer; Galileo Gallelli – Astronomer; Karl Marx – Founder of Marxism; Linus Torvalds – Creator of the Linux kernel; Woody Allen – American comedian; Andrew Carnegie – American businessman; William Howard Taft – US president; Thomas Edison – Inventor; Steve Wozniak – Co-founder of Apple Computer; Voltaire – French enlightenment writer; Susan B. Anthony – American suffragist; Albert Einstein – German mathematician, philosopher, and genius; Margret Sanger – American activist
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