Footprints on the Web
By Eric Jayne
My digital footprint has been causing me a little stress lately now that I have joined a very competitive labor market vying for a job. Not that I’m ashamed of my digital footprint but I feel that my outspoken support for atheism, science, and civil liberties (via secularism) may be a turnoff to prospective employers who bother to do a little Google research for “Eric Jayne” in “Minnesota”. I offer this apologetic article, in defense of my online atheistic activity, to prospective employers who may have stumbled upon this piece from their online search efforts.
In case you’re not familiar with the concept, a digital footprint is the electronic trail you leave behind from whatever online activities you have engaged in. To be sure, I don’t regret my online activity that defends and discusses atheism, but with all of the negative stereotypes against atheists promoted in our culture I feel the need to persuade employers who celebrate diversity in the workplace to extend that sentiment to atheists (once, if ever, they’re identified).
If there is any doubt of the social and cultural challenges atheists encounter perhaps a recent University of Minnesota study (http://www1.umn.edu/news/news-releases/2006/UR_RELEASE_MIG_2816.html) can mitigate some of that doubt. The study shows that atheists are the least tolerated minority group in the United States. While tolerance continues to grow for race, religion, and sexual orientation, atheists are seen as being amoral, self-serving, hedonists who don’t care about community. It’s not surprising that the study shows that the more educated an individual is, the more accepting they are of atheists.
Of course I can’t speak for all atheists, but one of the reasons why I shed my Christian beliefs, after many years of careful consideration, is because I simply couldn’t get past the ethnocentric idea of us vs. them that biblical stories and religious teachings promote. My compassion for people—and the mass community we call humanity—couldn’t get past the idea of eternal and inhuman punishment based on beliefs derived from one’s cultural upbringing.
When I researched religion even further I learned that religious texts were erroneously copied thousands of times over by scribes and translated from Aramaic to Greek to Latin and finally into English before the printing press was ever invented! Before I knew it, I had established a foundation for secular-humanistic moral philosophy and rational-based skepticism.
It wasn’t until I learned about Minnesota Atheists that I was able to talk freely among other like-minded freethinkers about how frustrating it is to be ostracized by family and friends when we come out of the proverbial closet as atheists. While atheists often are accused of being pompous and condescending I submit that we atheists are often on the receiving end of anger-filled condescension from theists (who themselves claim to own great metaphysical and cosmological knowledge) simply because we reject a belief in their god. I think Stephen F. Roberts makes a great case for believer/non-believer camaraderie when he said: “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.” It’s simple, to the point, reasonable, and not in the least bit insulting.
So, whether you, prospective employer, are a private faith-based or public secular human service agency, you can rest assured that when you hire me you’ll be getting a thoughtful, compassionate humanitarian who shares in all the glory of human rights and social justice that you feel your religion promotes. Additionally, because I simply believe in one fewer god (or prophet) than is popularly accepted, you have an opportunity to make your workplace a more diverse place of employment; and you don’t have to worry about improper proselytizing because atheists don’t have any god, prophet, or religious teaching to proselytize!