The Safety of Pseudonymity
Recently, there has been a call by certain portions of the freethought blogosphere for members to have the “courage” to use their real names on their blogs. This isn’t a new sentiment, but it’s an issue that certainly needs to be addressed.
The reasoning behind a citizen-journalist using a pseudonym is fairly obvious, for safety. The protection of anonymity on the internet is paramount, especially for those of us who would be persecuted for our views. Atheists are considered to be one of the most hated groups in our society(Co$ are now #1 thanks in part to Anonymous). There are still large parts of the United States where it is severely dangerous for someone to be an open and vocal atheist. Not only would it be dangerous for the writer, but also for their family and friends. Sometimes courage is really just being too stupid to comprehend the consequences.
A man, with a wife and 4 school age children, living in a small conservative town in Alabama would not be entirely wise for divulging that he is a well known atheist blogger who has caused quite a stir with some of his writing. Not only would he be endangering his own life, but also the welfare of his wife and children. As most of us know well, the stigma around atheism can be quite unpleasant.
Fortunately for me, when I “came out” in high school as an atheist the consequences were not so dire. A friend of mine who had known I was an atheist for some time, mentioned it a little too loudly during history class. The whole room became silent for a moment, you could have heard a pin drop. Then immediately came the rush of “you just haven’t been to my church yet”’s and “you’ll love my church, come with me this Sunday!”’s from nearly every student in the class.
I was only ever physically threatened once in high school for my lack of faith, one particularly ignorant individual told me he was offended that I thought he descended from apes and wanted to fight me for it. I regretfully declined his request. I had a few teachers try to preach to me. When I wrote a paper on the sound logic of evolution for a biology assignment, the teacher threatened to have the paper published in the newspaper so that the whole town could know I didn’t believe in Jesus. I don’t miss high school or that town very much.
Pseudonyms allow us to be able to express our views without being admonished by the simpleminded. I’m not saying that all religious people are simpletons, some can be very smart, but those who wish to harm the faithless for our “thoughtcrimes” certainly are.