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Comment of the Week: How Atheists are Treated in the Bible Belt

By January 15, 2013

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Many atheists in America live their daily lives without trouble or molestation over their atheism, but many others have good reason to fear exactly that. There are too many places in America where atheism can cause a person to endure bigotry, discrimination, and more.

Bully Shouting
Getty Photo: John Cumming / Photodisc

The worst, as most know, is the Bible Belt -- the southern region of the United States where conservative, evangelical Christianity is strongest. It is conservative, evangelical Christianity which objects most strongly to atheism, secularism, skepticism, and disbelief in America.

No conservative religion is especially happy about those things; but conservative evangelicals consider them something of a threat, not just to themselves but to America as a whole.

Sornord writes:

My becoming OPENLY atheist several years ago instead of just keeping my mouth shut and going with the flow contributed to the breakup of my marriage. Other factors were involved but my atheism was run up a flagpole by my can't-soon-enough-be-ex spouse to "ridicule" me and to falsely paint me as an abusive, immoral, lying, sociopath to friends and family. (Fortunately none of her now FORMER friends believe her.)

Living in the US Bible Belt also means I must, to a large degree, keep my mouth shut or end up like a friend did. The friend lost her job because "atheist" was shown in her Facebook profile.

Though she said nothing about her atheism at work, she became aware that her boss at the insurance agency where she worked had looked at her profile. After that the boss started frequently spouting things like, "We're a God-fearing agency!" while glaring at her, talking about how "Acts of God" are in insurance policies, then asking her in front of the whole office if that was a conflict for her. She was covering her own work plus the work of two other people (who joined in the boss's "Hallelujahs!") yet, in the end, was told she was unproductive.

We have both removed "atheist" from our online profiles because we both live in Bible Belt states and we need to stay employed. Neither of us can afford the legal costs to fight things like this.

[original post]

Remember, though, that it's Christians who are "oppressed" and "persecuted" in modern America. They are the ones whose bigotry and discrimination forces others to live half-lives, hiding who they are, yet they are the ones who complain loudest and most frequently about having to endure political, social, and cultural persecution.

January 15, 2013 at 4:00 pm
(1) Dean J. Smith says:

Things are getting better, although I expect it wil be decades before word that atheists aren’t devil-worshippers reaches the smaller towns.

January 16, 2013 at 3:10 pm
(2) Bert says:

I’m an open atheist living in the South and have never experienced any thing like this. Sounds more like this person’s spouse was/is a piece of crap and that this whole story sounds more like some anecdotal event than evidence of anything.

January 22, 2013 at 1:17 pm
(3) Mitch says:


Do you live in a large city in the south, or a small town. That makes a huge difference. Just because you haven’t seen it yourself is not evidence it doesn’t happen. Even so, I completely agree the guy’s was a total loon.

January 22, 2013 at 9:51 pm
(4) John Thomson says:

@Bert: You’ve been lucky so far. I hope you stay fortunate. Atheists, as a group, are the most mistrusted and despised in America. This is particularly true in the red states.

January 23, 2013 at 9:27 am
(5) JTL says:

I don’t know where you guys live, but I’m also an atheist in the Bible Belt. After moving back here from California, I believe it’s even worse in the South than it used to be. The Bush administration made things much, much worse. I’m now actually looking for an atheist organization to work for or to contribute to. This sensless Christian stuff is going to ruin this country if we don’t put them in their place.

November 1, 2013 at 2:11 am
(6) Sarah says:

I grew up in southern TN and now live in Ga. I’ve identified as an atheist and a skeptic since 2008 although I havent been a believer since 1991. No ones ever asked me and I dont tell. Even if someone asked me it depends on their intents. If they are just trying to single me out to mess up my life, i will tell them I dont think thats appropriate for them to ask me that when they dont know me. Ive never been forced to pray, no ones ever noticed me not say “under God” in the pledge, never had to give an oath before a court, and no school ive ever been to has had religious crap outside private clubs, people always keep Christmas parties on the Santa side, So i havent really had a reason to come out of the closet yet. But i did almost come close when they were thinking about putting “in god we trust ” on the license plates. I was about ready to go to jail for that one. No way in hell was I having that branded on my property. I mean the money was like that before i was born, but I wont put up with it being put on anything else that I have to look at on a daily basis. Bottom line, living down here is fine ( but not ideal) as long as you know how to block the usual stuff out that doesnt trample on your rights

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