The Out Campaign, an initiative spearheaded by Richard Dawkins, is based on the idea that there are way more atheists, agnostics, humanists and secularists out there than we imagine, only they stay closeted out of fear. If those of us who do identify with the reality-based community can be loud and proud, we can create a more friendly environment for those who are unsure, questioning, or know what they believe but fear the social repercussions. Although there are obvious parallels with the gay community and the pressure towards outing there, up to and including the unfortunate “outing” of many people who were not ready or willing to take that step;
Our OUT campaign will have nothing, repeat nothing to do with outing in that active sense. If a closet atheist wants to come out, that is her decision to make, and nobody else’s. What we can do is provide support and encouragement to those who willingly decide to out themselves. (source)
I support this campaign, and, although I have little experience being an out atheist, I do have a lot of experience being an out lesbian, and I know that my being out has helped other people. I have had people come out to me because they felt I was safe, gay people ask me about my experiences so that they could decide for themselves whether or not to come out, and straight people ask me about my experiences so that they could understand gay people a little more. I have been asked to speak in front of groups of mixed sympathetic and hostile people about homosexuality and what life is like as a lesbian (I don’t kid myself that I can speak all homos, please don’t read me that way), and I have had positive and negative reactions from the audience.
All this is to say that I know the power of being out, I have lived it. It does actually make a more welcoming environment. As an out member of a group you can act as a spokesperson and a role model, whether actively by speaking out and making yourself known, or passively by just living your life and showing people that gays, atheists, whatever, are just normal people. As an atheist, I came out, and I would ask you consider doing the same.