Atheists Stigmatized in Friendships and Romantic Relationships

Atheists Stigmatized in Friendships and Romantic Relationships

Duane McClearn

July 2020


This essay is a continuation of a look at the Big Survey of atheists, in particular the 4,000 or so from the U.S. Many of the respondents wrote of their experiences of being shunned, denigrated, or otherwise mistreated when they revealed to friends or romantic partners that they were atheists.

First, let’s peek at a sample of atheists and their friends:

I came out to my friends [as an atheist] and I was actually told that being an atheist is worse than being a Nazi.

–Respondent 2342, a 26-year-old, male, nurse in South Carolina


I had a friend and colleague who said she could no longer be a friend to me because I am an atheist. Further, my patients often assume that I am religious (like the vast majority of people in my community) and I am certain that my practice would suffer if my beliefs were shared with them.

–R 2809, a 52-year-old, male, psychologist in Alabama


Friends that I have had for over 20 years, when I debated them (and won) on the veracity of the bible– when I admitted to them that I was an atheist, four friends that I have shared some of the best, and worst, times of our lives, decided I was no longer worth knowing.

–R 2821, a 46-year-old, male, upper-level manager in Texas


I have recently lost friends whom I believed were close to me. They demanded that I respect their religious beliefs while at the same time refusing to respect my atheism.

–R 3284, a 40-year-old male, database administrator, in Texas


My best friend does not know I am an atheist. I will not tell her because I do not want to lose her as a friend. I witnessed her destroying a friendship with someone when she found out he was an atheist, and she told me she could never be friends with one. Her main reason is that she believes they have no morals.

–R, a 27-year-old, female, graduate student, in Wisconsin


A close friend of 20 years told me she can longer be friends with an atheist.

–R 3262, a 57-year-old, female, asset manager, in Michigan

Some notes of interest: We observe friendships that are (or seem) solid until the atheist’s lack of belief is revealed. This one aspect of the friendship is enough to poison it in the believer’s eyes. The atheist is willing to live with the mismatch of beliefs, but the believer is not. One respondent (R 3284) even states that his religious friends demand that he respect their beliefs while they refuse to respect his. The seriousness of the lack of belief in the eyes of the faithful (at least, many of them) is shown by the believer who states that being an atheist is worse than being a Nazi (presumably, this is meant to be extremely bad). We see atheists keeping their views hidden for, quite rightly, fearing the loss of friendships. Incidentally, these few comments by respondents were just the tip of the iceberg. Of the thousands of American atheists who responded to the survey, many hundreds wrote in responses to specific open-ended questions, such as the one about friendships. One frequent pattern emerged: a reluctance to divulge to friends one’s atheism, followed by shunning and denigration when, or if, one did.

Psychological studies have shown that relationships do best when the partners have much in common, including personality characteristics, interests and attitudes about politics and, naturally, religion. So it is not surprising to find that many of the respondents indicated troubles in the realm of romance when their non-belief was raised.

In two cases, I started dating and told the man I was not christian and he eventually stopped dating me when he found a Christian. The second man was okay with me not being Christian, but when he found out I am an atheist, it changed his opinion about me negatively even though he thought just prior to that that I could be “the one.” This is when I joined an atheist group for support. I have been an atheist since high school but pretty much kept my atheism in the closet among most people due to discrimination until this year (I’m 59).

–R 2459, a 59-year-old, female, adoption social worker, in Michigan


I was in a relationship with a believer. She was raised Catholic, but did not attend services regularly. Her parents were fervent believers and very active in their non-denominational church. Her parents did not approve of my open atheism and while I was respectful of their beleifs, I did try my best to answer any questions that she or her parents had. Eventually, she ended the relationship because she “could not see herself in a long-term relationship with someone who didn’t at least believe in a god.” That was over a year ago,k and I have not tried to get back into dating because I live/work in an area where Christianity is taken very seriously and I don’t want to have to live through that kind of rejection again.

–R 2958, a 28-year-old, male, engineer, in Indiana


[I have experienced] massive marital discord and disconnect from having a spouse that is extremely devout evangelical fundamentalist.

— R 371, a 56-year-old, female, retired attorney, in Washington


The only really negative response that I’ve received was from my husband and his family. I am now in the process of a divorce.

–R 3228, a 35-year-old, female, college student, in Arkansas.

As with friendships, many hundreds of respondents wrote of their experiences in romantic relationships. What is presented here is a small sampling. The pattern was similar to that with friendships– strife and rejection.

Many atheists are rejected by family (as discussed in a previous blog), or friends, or romantic partners. Some are rejected by all. As you might imagine, this can carry a heavy emotional burden. For believers who imagine that atheists pass through life in a care-free, hedonistic manner (which is the view of many believers), such is really not the case. The bulk of atheists feel hassled and stigmatized for their lack of belief in God, often from the very people that they care the most about.





This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.


  1. Posted May 11, 2021 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    I believe this website has some very superb information for everyone :D. “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

  2. Posted May 11, 2021 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    Hmm it appears like your site ate my first comment (it was extremely long) so I guess I’ll just sum it up what I wrote and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog. I as well am an aspiring blog blogger but I’m still new to the whole thing. Do you have any tips for novice blog writers? I’d definitely appreciate it.

  3. Posted May 10, 2021 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    I enjoy assembling useful info, this post has got me even more info! .

  4. Posted May 10, 2021 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    You completed a number of nice points there. I did a search on the subject and found a good number of people will agree with your blog.

  5. Posted May 10, 2021 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    Thank you a lot for sharing this with all folks you actually recognise what you are talking about! Bookmarked. Please additionally visit my web site =). We can have a link exchange contract between us!

  6. Posted May 10, 2021 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    My brother recommended I might like this blog. He was entirely right. This post truly made my day. You can not imagine simply how much time I had spent for this info! Thanks!

  7. Posted May 10, 2021 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    You made some first rate points there. I appeared on the internet for the difficulty and found most people will go along with together with your website.

  8. Posted May 10, 2021 at 5:35 am | Permalink

    I’m impressed, I must say. Actually not often do I encounter a weblog that’s both educative and entertaining, and let me let you know, you’ve got hit the nail on the head. Your concept is outstanding; the issue is one thing that not enough persons are speaking intelligently about. I am very joyful that I stumbled throughout this in my search for something referring to this.

  9. Posted May 10, 2021 at 3:43 am | Permalink

    hi!,I love your writing very a lot! percentage we be in contact more about your post on AOL? I need an expert in this house to resolve my problem. Maybe that is you! Looking ahead to look you.

  10. Posted May 10, 2021 at 2:15 am | Permalink

    You really make it seem really easy along with your presentation however I find this topic to be actually something that I feel I’d by no means understand. It kind of feels too complicated and extremely huge for me. I am looking ahead for your next submit, I’ll try to get the grasp of it!

  11. Posted May 10, 2021 at 1:15 am | Permalink

    tinder online , tider
    tinder online

  12. Posted May 9, 2021 at 10:49 pm | Permalink

    I really like your writing style, good information, appreciate it for posting :D. “Much unhappiness has come into the world because of bewilderment and things left unsaid.” by Feodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky.

  13. Posted May 9, 2021 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

    I have been reading out some of your posts and it’s nice stuff. I will surely bookmark your site.

  14. Posted May 9, 2021 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

    Fantastic web site. Plenty of helpful info here. I’m sending it to some pals ans also sharing in delicious. And obviously, thanks to your effort!

  15. Posted May 9, 2021 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

    cymbalta withdrawal symptoms cymbalta side effects in women cymbalta and weight gain

  16. Posted May 9, 2021 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

    duloxetine hcl 30 mg cymbalta medication side effects cymbalta for anxiety

  17. Posted May 9, 2021 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

    Can I just say what a aid to seek out someone who really is aware of what theyre talking about on the internet. You positively know learn how to bring a problem to gentle and make it important. More individuals must read this and perceive this facet of the story. I cant consider youre no more in style since you positively have the gift.

  18. Posted May 9, 2021 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

    can i take celebrex with ibuprofen celebrex 200 mg what is celecoxib used for

  19. Posted May 9, 2021 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

    celecoxib celecoxib 200mg celecoxib side effects

  20. Posted May 9, 2021 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    celebrex medication celecoxib capsules 200mg celebrex coupons

  21. Posted May 9, 2021 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    I really like your writing style, great info, appreciate it for posting :D. “In university they don’t tell you that the greater part of the law is learning to tolerate fools.” by Doris Lessing.

  22. Posted May 9, 2021 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    A person essentially lend a hand to make seriously articles I would state. That is the first time I frequented your web page and thus far? I surprised with the research you made to create this actual publish incredible. Fantastic activity!

  23. Posted May 9, 2021 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    celebrex cost warnings for celebrex celecoxib 100mg capsules

  24. Posted May 9, 2021 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been surfing on-line greater than 3 hours nowadays, but I never discovered any fascinating article like yours. It’s lovely price enough for me. Personally, if all site owners and bloggers made just right content as you probably did, the internet shall be a lot more useful than ever before. “Learn to see in another’s calamity the ills which you should avoid.” by Publilius Syrus.

  25. Posted May 9, 2021 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    azithromycin for pneumonia what is zithromax z-pack zithromax antibiotic

  26. Posted May 9, 2021 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    This web site is really a walk-through for all of the info you wanted about this and didn’t know who to ask. Glimpse here, and you’ll definitely discover it.

  27. Posted May 9, 2021 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    amoxil dosage amoxicillin side effects in children amoxicillin 500 mg side effects

  28. Posted May 9, 2021 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    I do agree with all the ideas you’ve presented in your post. They are really convincing and will certainly work. Still, the posts are too short for beginners. Could you please extend them a little from next time? Thanks for the post.

  29. Posted May 9, 2021 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    I savour, result in I discovered exactly what I used to be looking for. You’ve ended my 4 day long hunt! God Bless you man. Have a nice day. Bye

  30. Posted May 9, 2021 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    amoxicillin trihydrate warnings for amoxicillin amoxicillin dosage for strep throat

  31. Posted May 9, 2021 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    Howdy! Someone in my Facebook group shared this site with us so I came to look it over. I’m definitely loving the information. I’m book-marking and will be tweeting this to my followers! Fantastic blog and great style and design.

  32. Posted May 9, 2021 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    Hello! Quick question that’s entirely off topic. Do you know how to make your site mobile friendly? My website looks weird when browsing from my iphone 4. I’m trying to find a template or plugin that might be able to resolve this problem. If you have any recommendations, please share. Many thanks!

  33. Posted May 9, 2021 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    sildenafil generic canada pharmacy online viagra viagra buy

  34. Posted May 9, 2021 at 7:03 am | Permalink

    After study a few of the blog posts on your website now, and I truly like your way of blogging. I bookmarked it to my bookmark website list and will be checking back soon. Pls check out my web site as well and let me know what you think.

  35. Posted May 9, 2021 at 6:55 am | Permalink

    It’s perfect time to make some plans for the future and it’s time to be happy. I’ve read this post and if I could I desire to suggest you few interesting things or advice. Maybe you could write next articles referring to this article. I want to read even more things about it!

  36. Posted May 9, 2021 at 6:09 am | Permalink

    canadian online pharmacy viagra viagra com viagra versus cialis

  37. Posted May 9, 2021 at 5:07 am | Permalink

    cialis professional does cialis lower blood pressure cialis sex

  38. Posted May 9, 2021 at 3:49 am | Permalink

    viagra hard on sophia viagra and joe manganiello viagra sex uncensored

  39. Posted May 9, 2021 at 2:07 am | Permalink

    healthyman viagra pills viagra generic availability pfizer viagra coupon for 3 free tablets

  40. Posted May 9, 2021 at 12:49 am | Permalink

    online prescription for viagra pictures with viagra erection viagra pills 100 mg walmart

  41. Posted May 8, 2021 at 11:55 pm | Permalink

    viagra coupons from pfizer for free viagra online without script do you need a prescription for viagra

  42. Posted May 8, 2021 at 11:50 pm | Permalink

    I like this weblog very much, Its a very nice position to read and receive information.

  43. Posted May 8, 2021 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

    generic cialis for sale online cialis copay card how cialis works

  44. Posted May 8, 2021 at 10:21 pm | Permalink

    Wow! Thank you! I always needed to write on my website something like that. Can I take a fragment of your post to my site?

  45. Posted May 8, 2021 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

    mom accidentally gives son viagra viagra wikipedia sildenafil citrate 100mg how long before it works

  46. Posted May 8, 2021 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

    lowest price generic viagra 100mg before and after viagra how does viagra work in the body

  47. Posted May 8, 2021 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

    I have been surfing on-line more than 3 hours lately, yet I by no means discovered any attention-grabbing article like yours. It?¦s pretty price sufficient for me. In my opinion, if all site owners and bloggers made just right content as you did, the net can be a lot more useful than ever before.

  48. Posted May 8, 2021 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

    Heya i’m for the first time here. I found this board and I find It truly useful & it helped me out much. I hope to give something back and help others like you aided me.

  49. Posted May 8, 2021 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

    viagra erection video best orgasims viagra or cialis generic viagra price at walmart

  50. Posted May 8, 2021 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    Hello! I could have sworn I’ve been to this blog before but after browsing through some of the post I realized it’s new to me. Anyways, I’m definitely happy I found it and I’ll be book-marking and checking back frequently!