Nonbelievers in America, whether they identify themselves as atheists, agnostics, humanists, or just freethinkers, are people who live their lives without expecting gods to ever intervene in any way. It’s obvious that their numbers are quickly growing. In fact, nonbelievers now make up nearly 20 percent of the American public, and since young people tend to find themselves in this demographic more than their parents, it’s extremely likely that this growth will continue by leaps and bounds in the near future.
Unfortunately, many nonbelievers just aren’t open about their nonbelief, and there are even those that actively seek to pass as part of the believing majority.
This hesitance to be open to their religious friends, families, and employers is certainly understandable, as atheists aren’t exactly the most popular people in America, and many face ill treatment and discrimination because they don’t share the dominant faiths. For those who are still very young, or who live in a place where it could be dangerous to publicly identify as an atheist, remaining secretive about one’s strongly held convictions seems the only prudent choice.
But remaining silent won’t make the problem of prejudice go away. In fact, this silence causes a number of problems for the community to which nonbelievers find themselves members. By having significant numbers in the closet, it makes the demographic look smaller in numbers than it actually is, which makes it harder for the community to fight for equal representation.