As promised, here’s today’s post! Sorry for the delay!

No, I haven’t gone back in the closet – at least not the LGBT closet. I’m talking about another kind of ‘out’ today.

Today is the first day of “Out Week,” an event sponsored by UNI’s UNIFI group – and one I think is important and awesome.

But this morning, as I prepared to don my “This is what an atheist looks like” shirt, I hesitated, and eventually grabbed a lovely green v-neck instead.

See, this semester, I’m not just a student. I’m also a teacher. Whether it’s as a Peer Teaching Assistant for a freshmen class, or at the After School Program down at Hudson School, I’m in a position of… well, not exactly authority, but of… leadership? Responsibility?

And that responsibility places me in an interesting place.

I’d like to go into this in a lot more detail – and compare what I see as the differences between LGBT “outness” and atheist “outness.” But school must take precedence, and I’m a bit behind.

So I’ll be brief and just say that I didn’t feel it was appropriate for me to be “out” as a teacher, just as I don’t think it’s appropriate for a teacher to be “out” as a Christian, Muslim, Jew, etc.

If a teacher wore a “Jesus is my Savior” t-shirt to class, I’d think that was incredibly inappropriate… and so I feel like I need to subject myself to the same standards.

I guess that’s about it. Again, much more to say about this, but the work of a college student is never done. Or something like that.

Any thoughts? Could I be “out” without creating a double standard? Is a double standard okay in this instance? Why? Why not?

Let me know in the comments!

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As atheism is more a lack of religion than an alternate religion, I have to argue that it's not exactly a double standard.  Atheism is about logic and reason, and encouraging children to exercise their brains and curiosity is very different from exposing them to religious dogma.  Wearing an atheism shirt is more like wearing a shirt that says "I Heart Science."

If I were religious... I'm trying to contemplate the type of person I would be if I were religious.  I'd like to think that I would be understanding and value the exposure to alternate world views that you are providing my child.  Do you think most religious people would be bothered by having their children exposed to differing world views?  We teach them about different cultures, how is this any different?  Is atheism limited to the same social expectations as religion?

danlang moderator

@lyfling You raise some excellent points, and some excellent questions. 

I tend to think that many religious people, while they may be tolerant of differing world views, cannot be accepting of different worldviews. As a Christian, encouraging your children to explore other options would sort of translate to exploring the possibility of going to hell, in a way. The nature of Christianity (and similar religions) has intolerance sort of built in - and I mean that in a very non-judgmental way. While I think we can all appreciate religious folks who don't proselytize - in all reality, that sort of means they've just given up on "saving" you - at least for the time being. I just don't see many of them having that attitude with their children. 

That's really the tricky part of this - and could be the topic of a whole other blog post - the types of Christians that people like you and I tend to appreciate are, in reality, bad Christians. There isn't a lot of flexibility in Christianity as it's laid out - so when they're being nice/not proselytizing/accepting other views, they're either apathetic about the future of our souls (which seems pretty un-Christian, and unlikely), or they don't really understand the foundational beliefs of their religion, i.e. for Christianity (and many others), there's only one way to be saved, and it's not by considering other viewpoints. 

So... I get what you're saying. And agree. Wearing an atheism shirt shouldn't be any different than wearing a shirt that says, "I Heart Science." But for a Christian who truly understands their faith, there is a big difference. Though in reality, Christianity doesn't exactly jive with science either, so... we're really having a logical and rational conversation about something that defies logic. 

I have no good answer! I guess that's sort of why I chose neutrality. If someone asks, I'll certainly tell them that I don't believe in a god - or at least that I'm not religious. But I guess I'd rather play it safe if the question hasn't been asked.