I suffer from a tiny bit of paranoia. I am a little concerned that the masses will find out about me and burn me at the stake. Where does this come from? Why am I more concerned than most? It is a lot of things, from the way I was raised, to the reactions I get from people to a knowledge of history.
My Grandfather was a member of the American Communist Party. Yep, he was a Red. In the fifties. I am not sure how many of you out there know the depth of the Red Scare, but it was a vicious bit of Fascism by our government on it's own citizens. The FBI opened their mail and put it back in the wrong envelopes (Gas bill from aunt Florence or College transcripts from a bulk mailer etc.).
My grandfather, who taught at Cornell, was fired and the Dean gave him a job as a Janitor to keep my Grandfather around for conversations. My grandfather had a farm of 86 acres and built the rear half of the family farmhouse. He was a scholar and a hands on kind of intelligence.
My mother found out, years later, when she ran into an old elementary schoolmate that "government men" came to the school when the Cooks (my maternal family) were out and advised the children not to play with the Cooks because my grandfather would steal them away to Russia. Not only did my Grandfather not want to steal children to Russia but he felt that the Bolsheviks had bastardized the Communist ideals of egalitarianism, and equality.
My mother was involved in the anti war movement and a founding member of the Western New York Peace Center, she protested Nukes, whale killers, racist cops, and the like. Because of that my household had (on and off) been subject to the COINTELPRO program and it's successors of the seventies and eighties, where the government investigated leftist groups illegally(look it up).
This gave me the impression that they could turn on you and it would be all over. Paranoid? Well, a little. Keep in mind I am also a Jew and had great aunts and uncles who were fine upstanding citizens in the most culturally advanced nation on in Europe before the Nazis came to power. Then they were tortured and killed for their race. So, no, I do not think my concern is totally unreasonable.
I have always kept my mouth shut when I meet new people. Since I keep quiet and people like me I get to hear what they think. People always assume that people they like share their beliefs. So I got to hear a lot of insider stuff about "the blacks", "the Jews", liberals and, of course, atheists. A lot of people who wear their beliefs on their sleeve do not get the inside info. I got enough of it to scare the hell out of me. The disdain they have when talking about atheists is shocking and discomforting. Many of the most religious of people seem to get all Old Testament on atheism. It is like something out of that movie Hostel. They want to torture and kill us. Not just anonymously on a message board or a webpage, but in person to each other. I am not saying that all religious people are blood hungry monsters, I know quite a few who are not, perhaps a majority. But they all look the same. Walk into a room and it could be time for some tough questions and debate or fear of violence. Me, I am cautious.
I am not suggesting that we keep our beliefs secret and try to 'pass' but I am offering up some of my history to show people what can, has and may happen.
I have become a lot better at seeing people. I am a better judge of the inner demons people have than I used to be. This explains my recent very flagrant atheism. I have had few weird or unpleasant experiences with the religious in recent years. I do, though, still keep my mouth shut until I get a lay of the land and until I feel people will be more inclined to try and understand how I am misguided rather than suggest that it is the devil speaking through me.