Sunday, January 22, 2012

Dinner with atheists

Times have changed. I can remember when it was uncommon to meet another atheist. It was not long ago; a few years ago at most. I would run into one or two people a year who were comfortable enough to say they were atheists if the topic came up. It was almost never in a business environment. The stakes were too high.

Flash forward to last Wednesday night. I’m in Las Vegas on a business trip. I met four other people at Hugo’s Cellar, my favorite restaurant, for an informal dinner. During the conversation the subject of religion and believe come up. The man to my right, who had been dating an over-the-top fundamentalist Christian for months, declares that he is an atheist. The husband and wife to my left, both cultural Catholics, declare that they too are atheists. The man across the table from me, a Coptic Christian from Egypt who is branded with a cross on his wrist, declares that he too is an atheist.  I add that I am an atheist. It’s almost an afterthought.

When we talked about it, I find that most of my guests have been atheists for a long time. We all feel that the ice is melting on this subject. It’s no longer a determent to your career. You can be an atheist at work, as long as you are not that obnoxious atheist who complains about every slight. That makes you no better than the obnoxious Christian who complains that Halloween is satanic and therefore must be called a harvest festival. In fact, as long as you are business oriented you will rarely have a problem. Of course, it helps that we all work for an international giant of a company.

Later in the week the subject comes up again in a different setting, and more atheists step forward. A few Christians comment on the discussion, but the comments are all supportive. It’s weird – I’ll call it healthy progress. Since I’m not the only atheist anymore, it is easy for me to feel comfortable and safe. It is a good feeling.

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