There was an interesting piece in the US paper the Examiner a few days ago on this very subject – and the writer reckons it’s often harder to come out as atheist.
She relates an old joke:
If you’re afraid to tell your parents that you’re an atheist, just tell them you’re gay and after they are done flipping out say, “Don’t worry, I’m not gay, I’m only an atheist.” The interesting thing is that coming out atheist can be much harder than coming out gay.
That’s in the States, of course, where religion plays a bigger part in people’s lives. Here in the UK, it’s probably seen as cool to be an atheist. Certainly, I never encounter any antipathy on the few occasions I’m in a conversation with someone and say I’m a nonbeliever. Often, the other person is, too.