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Toothfairy

Atheists in the Bible Belt - Merge

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Milly-Molly-Mandy

Great article, thanks for posting!

I am so glad I live in a non-secular country. We even had an Atheist, female Prime Minister who was in a defacto relationship.

I'd rather not talk about the PM we have now :(

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2xx1xy1JD

Interesting article.

A few years ago, I was on a religious debate and discussion board with an atheist from Mississippi, and at some point she mentioned that people around her don't know she's atheist and she's even thought of faking going to church in order to get along at work.

Maybe I shouldn't have been surprised if I thought about it carefully, but my initial reaction was a bit of shock. The idea of faking your religious beliefs if there was no gun to your head, just to fit in, simply wasn't on my radar. You see, while there are a range of religious beliefs in my family - going from socialist humanist Judaism (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Jew ... %27s_Order) to full-out Orthodox Judaism - everybody knew that we weren't part of the majority religion, that discrimination was a possibility and that we had an obligation to fight for religious and political freedom. There was some discussion of finding ways to avoid persecution - my grandparents had to hide their affiliation with the UJPO when members had their places padlocked by the government and found that they were blacklisted, and later I was given instructions on how to smuggle religious items into Communist countries - but simply accepting that you would always fake it was never, ever an option.

Do atheists acknowledge how much of their legal rights and protections exist because of religious minorities, for whom opting into majority religious privilege was never an option?

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Handmaiden of Dog

Toothfairy, you should have called it "Atheists in the Bible Belt" which is a very different thing than Atheists in the Bible!

I wish I had known about the Raleigh Convention because I would have definitely gone. I grew up in California where being an Atheist is par for the course but here in Raleigh it is always assumed (especially for a lady of a certain age) that one is a Baptist.

As for "faking your religion in order to fit in" most polls I have seen show Atheism below any other religion or creed. For some reason Americans think Atheism is immoral and a sign of degeneracy. No wonder then that people looking for work might pretend they were Christian.

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debrand

We live in NC and I would have loved to attend that convention.

It doesn't bother me that religion is everywhere here because I understand that it is part of the culture; however, the casual rudeness and disregard of nonreligious people really bothers me.

When my husband's last employer had a Christmas party that included free alcohol and gambling, I didn't expect to be told to bow my head before the meal so that one of the managers could lead everyone in prayer. Of course, the employer could pray before his meal but why did he have to involve people that were dependent on him for their livelihood? How could he not view that as rude?

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Hilarious
nomoxian

I was hoping for this to be about Atheists in the BIBLE ... Not that I'm having any kids, but it would be nice to have a list of names in case I get a furrbaby.

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happy atheist

I'm not even in the south, and I get weird reactions if I tell people I'm atheist. The funny thing is, nobody has a problem at all if I just say, "I'm not religious." :shrug: Semantics.

As my kids have gotten older I've become more comfortable actually using the "A" word in public. They use it, so I might as well.

Mr Atheist's manager gives us a Happy Solstice card when he's handing out the office holiday cards. The last one was all glittery and sparkly :lol: I really appreciate that he takes the trouble to find something so specialized.

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uber frau
I was hoping for this to be about Atheists in the BIBLE ... Not that I'm having any kids, but it would be nice to have a list of names in case I get a furrbaby.

I'm not sure about athiests but I have a good list of biblical 'bad' girl names for additions our menagerie: Delilah, Athaliah, Jezebel, Salome, Eve, Jael... :D

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Arete

I'm not sure about athiests but I have a good list of biblical 'bad' girl names for additions our menagerie: Delilah, Athaliah, Jezebel, Salome, Eve, Jael... :D

For male furbabies, may I suggest Cain, Nimrod, Essau, Herod, Anaias, Haman, Felix, and Ahab.

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flojo
Great article, thanks for posting!

I am so glad I live in a non-secular country. We even had an Atheist, female Prime Minister who was in a defacto relationship.

I'd rather not talk about the PM we have now :(

I'm guessing you're Australian? If so, sympathies from this Kiwi!

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Handmaiden of Dog
I'm not even in the south, and I get weird reactions if I tell people I'm atheist. The funny thing is, nobody has a problem at all if I just say, "I'm not religious." :shrug: Semantics

It's not just semantics. A large percentage of Americans are "not religious" in that they don't attend church and they don't read the Bible, but they still claim to be Christian and to believe in Heaven, Hell, Satan, and God. To come right out and say you don't believe in any of those things is a step too blasphemous. Calling yourself an Atheist is spitting in God's eyes whereas not going to church is just ignoring him.

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Howl

CNN on line has a great piece about a convention for atheists in the bible belt and also discusses how they navigate and survive in a world of fundies/evangelicals.

This is a longer article, but some survival highlights for atheists to remember:

  1. You may be lonely, but you aren’t alone
    It’s no fun debating fundamentalists
    People will think you worship Satan
    Behold, the six types of atheists
    Sometimes it’s better to stay in the (religion) closet
    Don’t be the ‘office atheist’
    Some people take Bible-thumping literally

Full text here.

Definitely worth a read if you are in this situation.

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flyaway

I grew up as an atheist, daughter of an atheist and an agnostic, in rural Georgia. It was really hard. Even people who think they are being super tolerant of other religious beliefs make it clear that only theistic--monotheistic--religious beliefs are OK with them. I definitely grew up feeling that others would think I was evil if they knew I was an atheist. And I tried really hard to become a Christian but just don't have it in me to make myself believe something that just doesn't make any sense to me.

Once I was college age, a time or two I tried to make it clear that I was uncomfortable with group prayers in settings like 4-H camp (where I was a counselor)--which was sponsored by a public institution. That never went over well. People just didn't understand at all--they act like you are making a big deal out of nothing.

It is like the Catholic members of the Supreme Court who see various religious symbols and acts either as merely "traditions" we should all respect or as de minimis establishment of religion. It is only de minimis to you because you aren't the one being made to feel like an outsider, less than a full member of society, Mr. Scalia.

These days, I am very "out" as an atheist professionally. I am an aspiring First Amendment scholar. I've done pro bono legal work for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the ACLU, and some minority religious organizations. And, while I am concentrating more on free speech issues at the moment, in my research, I hope to also tackle the Establishment Clause during my career. It is the thing that pulled me into the First Amendment in the first place, though separation of church and state is so emotionally charged for me, that it is harder to work on.

That said, I am still at least a bit cautious in my personal life in revealing that I am an atheist (even though I am in New England now). Atheists simply are not accepted the way Jews and at least some other religious minorities are. You never know who will decide they don't want to deal with you if they find out the truth.

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FloraKitty35

Good article. To paraphrase Doug Stanhope, "saying you're an atheist in Oklahoma, is like screaming jihad at airport security".

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Vivi_music

It's not just semantics. A large percentage of Americans are "not religious" in that they don't attend church and they don't read the Bible, but they still claim to be Christian and to believe in Heaven, Hell, Satan, and God. To come right out and say you don't believe in any of those things is a step too blasphemous. Calling yourself an Atheist is spitting in God's eyes whereas not going to church is just ignoring him.

I usually tell people ''I'm not religious'' too, and they don't react badly. The thing is, where I live, people don't really mind atheists. There isn't a big stigma like in the US. So that wouldn't really be a problem. I usually say this because I want to avoid being asked questions. I consider myself agnostic but it's a bit long to explain what I believe in and what I don't believe in. And I don't want to say I'm an atheist because well... I'm not. So when I don't want to partake in a long discussion, I say ''I'm not religious'' and the conversation stops there. :whistle:

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uber frau

What blows my (non American) mind is that ppl's religion is even up for discussion.

Australian culture isn't that dissimilar from American culture (in so far as you can compare them as homogeneous lumps) but in this country religion is a deeply personal subject and you just don't go there without a damn good reason.

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IronicallyMaeve

I mostly grew up in a small, conservative community in an otherwise liberal area of California. I'm an atheist, but I was raised Jewish. Neither was terribly popular. I was absolutely tormented in elementary school for my beliefs (or lack of them). It was pretty awful. Parents actually told their children not to play with me. :(

I ended up switching schools for middle school--I ended up traveling 30 minutes+ every day through high school. I actually finally moved out this past weekend so I could be closer to my university.

Perhaps that's where my fascination with fundies came from. The church in that town is borderline fundie. Certainly very conservative. Oh, and a pastor there was arrested last year for molesting children.

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SpeakNow
What blows my (non American) mind is that ppl's religion is even up for discussion.

Australian culture isn't that dissimilar from American culture (in so far as you can compare them as homogeneous lumps) but in this country religion is a deeply personal subject and you just don't go there without a damn good reason.

It depends on the area in the US. When I lived in the northeast, religion was only discussed with people you were close to. Now that I'm in the south, I've noticed that everyone talks openly about religion/church. I find it odd (but that's probably because I'm a Jew in the Bible Belt.)

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2xx1xy1JD
What blows my (non American) mind is that ppl's religion is even up for discussion.

Australian culture isn't that dissimilar from American culture (in so far as you can compare them as homogeneous lumps) but in this country religion is a deeply personal subject and you just don't go there without a damn good reason.

Same here (Toronto) - although people in Toronto rarely discuss anything with strangers, period. I've discussed religion with people, but not without some sort of relevant opening. It tends to come up in my custody cases (because you need to know what holidays are important when arranging holiday access), and my husband has had more people discuss religion with him since he started to wear a kippah, but otherwise it's really something that just discusses within each religious community. There's acknowledgement of various holidays in the public sphere, but that's about it. Unprompted religious discussion, if you didn't know the person well and didn't know their beliefs, would be seen as rude and bizarre.

OTOH, if you consider sports to be a form of religion, saying something like "I really don't care about hockey" or "won't you just admit that belief in the Maple Leafs ever winning the Cup again is just irrational" is probably the equivalent of declaring yourself to be an atheist in the Bible Belt.

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ILikePie

I just read the article and it's sad to see that some people don't feel safe to be open with their beliefs, even in the United States (land of the free) because everyone around them is too close minded to accept that those with viewpoints different from theirs aren't necessarily horrible people.

Sadly, people like this still exist in the 21st century:

carm.org/is-atheism-viable :angry-banghead:

CNN on line has a great piece about a convention for atheists in the bible belt and also discusses how they navigate and survive in a world of fundies/evangelicals.

This is a longer article, but some survival highlights for atheists to remember:

  1. You may be lonely, but you aren’t alone
    It’s no fun debating fundamentalists
    People will think you worship Satan
    Behold, the six types of atheists
    Sometimes it’s better to stay in the (religion) closet
    Don’t be the ‘office atheist’
    Some people take Bible-thumping literally

Full text here.

Definitely worth a read if you are in this situation.

True, it seems like it really is no fun debating fundies, especially because they're so dead-set on the Bible being literally right about everything that they won't admit to ever being wrong or that their holy book is riddled with contradictions and myths. I've never debated one, but based on the debates I've seen (ie. Ken Ham vs. Bill Nye) and what fundies post on the internet, I would think that a fundamentalist vs. atheist debate would be no picnic for the atheist.

I really feel for nonbelievers who have to pretend to be religious to avoid persecution from others, sometimes even their friends and family. It must be hard to live your life pretending to be someone you're not (ie. a Bible thumping Baptist) while feeling as if you're cut off from every one else because of your atheism. :cry:

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Jana814

Very interesting article. How wonderful that their was a weekend where they were able to be around other people to share the same feelings. I live in NJ & most people r somewhat liberal. I have imagine its hard to live in the Bible Belt if you don't agree w/ everyone else.

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Hilarious
nomoxian

Used to live in Toronto and people seemed okay about me being an atheist, but then again I typically hung out with artists or gothic or punk or queer people... so maybe slightly more open minded than some others ;p The last time I remember it being an issue was when I was in highschool, which was in a non-downtown neighbourhood.

Now I live in former East Germany, which is supposed to be one of the least religious places on the planet, but for some reason lots of people (1 in 3) vote for the CHRISTIAN Democratic Union.

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Arete

Northeast US here (NJ), and you do not discuss religious affiliation with strangers, colleagues, and neighbors in this polluted corner of these United States. You sure as hell don't invite your casual acquaintances to church or ask where they go to church. :shock:

A little mind your own business goes a long way.

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Wine time!
nokidsmom

Interesting article. I live in a fairly liberal part of the country but based on my travels through the Bible Belt, I always wondered how nonbelievers coped with living there. Or anyone who might still identify as having faith but is a bit more free thinking and doesn't fall into the expected "Christian" mold. Because it's not just nonbelievers that can have a problem but anyone who may be a bit different. I remember getting some odd looks when asked which "church of Christ" I went to and I answered none. It wasn't that I wasn't a believer; just a non church goer and that doesn't go over well either.

Good to see they have a way to get together and discuss. Though it does show what a dilemma being a nonbeliever poses for not just their social life and occupations, but even for their families. It's a big deal to openly admit it and I can see why "remaining in the religion closet" can be a viable option.

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Geechee Girl

Regarding the claim of people thinking atheists worship Satan, the same can be said about pagans in the Bible Belt, too. I'm not sure which is worse for damnation of the soul, unbelief or "witchcraft." :angry-banghead:

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