Don’t believe in God? You are not alone.

When I first came out publicly as an atheist, my Christian friends (who rapidly disappeared, dropping away as if I had a communicable disease) told me I was being “incredibly arrogant” to have concluded there’s no god.

I found the statement flabbergasting, because it seemed to me true arrogance is in not just assuming there is a god with absolutely no verifiable evidence, but to claim to know exactly what it wants you to do, that it speaks directly to you, that it hates the people you hate and loves the people you love, that it supports your every little petty ambition in life, that it wants your sports team to win, and that you know precisely how it wants everyone around you to live and what they should and shouldn’t be doing with their sex organs.

Even so, I found that once I’d made my opinions public, promotions at work began to dry up, lifelong friends cut all ties with me, and I had people tell me that I shouldn’t let anyone else know of my offensive beliefs. It was tolerable for me to be an atheist, I was told, so long as I kept my mouth shut and stayed in the closet.

I replied then as I reply now, “I’ll be glad to keep it to myself, so long as you stop wearing your Christian jewelry, your Christian t-shirt, displaying your bumper sticker or telling everyone how you’ll be praying to Jesus for them.”

But in response to all the Christian propaganda foisted on us in all corners of public life, if I expect to be able to express my view in the same public way, I’m told that I’m being “angry” and “militant.” I’m told that merely expressing my lack of belief in God is offensive and hurtful to Christians, who are apparently mortally wounded if someone close to them doesn’t believe in their god and has the temerity to say so openly.

Again, the message is, “Shut up, keep it to yourself, and mind your place.”

My answer is no. It will always be no. Even though I have to whisper it.