One day, a son approached his father and said, "Dad, I have something to tell you. It may upset you, but I have to tell you this."
"What is it, son?" the father replied.
"Dad, I am gay."
"Oh, thank God. You had me worried there. I thought you were going tell me you had become an atheist."
I share this fictional anecdote in jest to show how far acceptance of homosexuality has come compared to acceptance of atheism. The reality is that there are many atheists who spare themselves the social cost of that atheism by never declaring their beliefs on the matter. Being an outspoken atheist will cost you friends and family and even your career.
I regularly get emails in my myspace inbox like this one:
I will pray for you. Based on your myspace -- you are a lost soul. I am sorry for that b/c you are missing out on alot of life!!!!
As an ex-Christian, I can tell you I missed out on more as a Christian than I do now. My life would be far different than what it is now if I had never gone down the path of faith. But life isn't over yet, and I am living it up in the here and now.
I have it pretty easy as an atheist. My family has shunned me, and I am OK with that. They are a fucked up bunch, but I just try to keep working and stay social. One of the best ways I stay social is to attend the meetings of Godless Columbia. I always have fun meeting with those people, and we hardly ever talk about atheism. There's nothing to discuss. We usually discuss the social cost of being atheists, and I realize that it is very difficult to be an atheist in our armed forces. The discrimination is institutional.
In time, I think America will become more like Europe. Religion needs to die. It is stupidity. What amazes me are the new religious movements that pop up in our modern times such as Scientology or the Oprah Winfrey spirituality horseshit that is creeping out there. The monster just spouts out new heads as you chop the old ones off. But atheism will be the majority in time. Religion has tried to adapt to modern times, but people wise up in the same way they no longer believe in a flat earth.
Most people cling to religion because this was what they were brought up in. My wise friend never goes to church or anything. Religion plays zero role in his life, and he is a functional atheist. But he believes because that is what he was brought up in. He was born a theist, so he remains one. But ultimately, he could give a shit.
I think the biggest reason atheism is so controversial isn't because people think you are wrong so much as taking that stance sets you apart from the herd as a maverick and a freethinker. This is probably the biggest reason why atheism is persecuted so heavily in the military. Atheism is a non-conformist position. One day, it won't be. But for now, to be an atheist is to declare that you question authority and think for yourself. This is what people find most intolerable.