A Wonderful Series of Articles About Alabama Atheists

Alabama Media Group reporter Erin Edgemon is running a series on atheists in the state and she’s tackling some great subjects: Roger and Pat Cleveland, who run an annual gathering for atheists at Lake Hypatia; Duncan Henderson, who began a secular student group at his junior high school and currently runs the only high school atheist group in the state; and Jerald Motyka, a former pastor who eventually tossed his faith.

The big picture you get from the articles is that there are a lot more atheists in the state than the stereotypes would have you believe. But many atheists, wrongly assuming they’re alone, remain silent about their beliefs

Is it necessary to run articles like these? Absolutely, especially when you consider when one recent letter-to-the-editor (unrelated to this series) from a woman in Alabama stated:

Atheism is a religion. Most people know this. If you go to google on the internet, it will back up what I say.

Some atheists practice their religion with cruel lawsuits and threats for children gathering around flagpoles to pray, for college students mentioning Jesus Christ in their writings, for military chaplains mentioning Jesus Christ, for singing Christmas carols in public places, and much, much more.

All lies.

We don’t file lawsuits against Christian students who lead a gathering around the flagpole.

We don’t file lawsuits against Christians who mention Jesus Christ in their essays.

We don’t file lawsuits against chaplains who bring up Jesus Christ in their personal discussions with Christian patients.

We don’t file lawsuits against random people who sing Christmas carols in public places.

We only file lawsuits when government officials (including public school administrators) promote or endorse religious beliefs over non-religious beliefs.

Writer Carole Dumas — I’ll avoid mocking her name — has no idea what she’s talking about. She’s precisely the kind of person who needs to be educated about what atheists in her state are like.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Frazzah

    I am not sure what she means by “google”.
    Because the search-engine Google doesn’t back up anything she says.

    Maybe her internet connection goes through her church.

    • Ingersollman

      I think she meant “chuchle it”

      • Ingersollman

        Damnit, I meant “churchle”

        • islandbrewer

          What does Britain’s WWII era Prime Minister have to do with it?

    • JT Rager

      Google supports her definition. It also supports our definition of religion. It also tells me that the government did 9-11 and there was no Holocaust.

  • baal

    “I’ll avoid mocking her name ”
    too late ;p

  • invivoMark

    But… she went to Google on the Internet! The Internet never lies!

  • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw/ m6wg4bxw

    After reading the quoted letter to the editor, I think it’s more accurate to consider the author as mistaken rather than deceitful. The statements made about atheists are obviously false, but I didn’t get the impression that Carole Dumas was lying.

    • David Kopp

      Nope. She probably gets her news from reliable sources like Mark Driscoll and Pat Robertson, and as godly as those men are, how could they lie?

      • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw/ m6wg4bxw

        They can lie the same as anyone. If she repeated lies made by someone else, I suppose it’s accurate to call them lies. The point I intended to make was that I don’t get the impression that she lied when making them.

  • Ron

    Wait. She left out the baby-eating rituals. What’s up with that?

    Won’t somebody please think of the children?

    • shrike1978

      I’ll never stop laughing at this…

    • rhodent

      Of course she left out the baby-eating rituals. What she wrote was all lies, remember?

    • Gehennah

      Love fresh baby-meat, goes down good with a glass of penguin milk (which is a real thing btw).

  • wzl46

    We have the Southeast Alabama Freethought Association in the SE corner of the state in Dothan. There are weekly meetups for coffee and socializing, as well as a monthly meetup for the SEAFA adopt a mile cleanup.

  • SeekerLancer

    Somehow I’ve gone through life so far without suing anyone or even being involved in a class action lawsuit. I must be a terrible atheist.

  • LeftyFPB

    I like the license plate, but I would be disowned if I had it on my car. Not because of the atheism, but because it says “Roll Tide.” My family are devout Auburnists.

    • Lauren C

      War Eagle! Top 10!

  • SurvivingReligion

    It’s a struggle that has inspired our project. It’s a struggle that isn’t as positive as one might think. We are very small, very few, mostly because many are frightened to entertain the idea that they may not believe out of fear of ostracized by their friends and family. These communities in Alabama are interwoven; they provide little ‘cover’ for the outted. Imagine high school—-on a grand level. Adults well into their 30s and 40s still hang in, and proudly proclaim allegiance to, the same cliques they were part of back when they were teenagers. The hostility is tangible in communities across the state. It is not 2013 in Alabama; not by any stretch. Thankfully a small group of us non-believers have begun coming out over the past year, in more than just meeting up for coffee and conversation. We reached our collective breaking points a few months ago and made a conscious decision to begin speaking out…publicly. That was YEARS in the making. Think about that; educated, confident, rational people who needed years to decide to act. That is the manifestation of the hostility in Alabama. Our recent efforts are bringing a brighter light to our existence and we’re being flooded with attention, some bad, mostly positive. You’re correct in state that atheists are not alone in Alabama, but that simplifies the experience. The vast majority profess christian beliefs. Those who are have long-ago gone underground. Apathy to the non-believing experience is abundant. We are still social lepers. We are here; we are not alone but we are careful. That is the reality of being an atheist, secularist or simply a non-believer in Alabama.

  • Lauren C

    I am an atheist living in Alabama. The secret to happiness in any situation is to be true to yourself and don’t take the haters to heart. Not being an Alabama native, I’ve seen more hate and closed-mindedness from the religious community down here than I have anywhere else. The south solidified my beliefs (or lack thereof).

    • LeftyFPB

      I grew up in Auburn. And while it’s not a bastion of open-mindedness, I think that non-believers had an easier time in Auburn than in other places around the state. Maybe Tuscaloosa is the same way. It wasn’t until I moved to Mobile that I encountered more of the hatred and close-mindedness you’re talking about.

      • Lauren C

        I grew up in New York, so I guess Auburn is somewhat of a culture shock. I attended a Jesuit college in New York for undergrad because I loved the idea of a well rounded, philosophical education. At my predominantly christian school people were much more accepting than the general public down here. That being said, I love Auburn as a college town and most people will give respect if they get respect :)

        • LeftyFPB

          How are the atheist groups in Auburn? I still have family and friends there, so I visit a few times a year. I’ll be in Auburn on the Thanksgiving-Iron Bowl weekend; not much else will be happening, I’m sure.

  • Shayla

    I’m not sure if every single county has one, but I know of a few “______ County Atheists/Agnostics” groups. (In Alabama) They’re pretty great!They help you realize you’re not alone. Mine, like the SEAFA, meet for coffee, meet at the park, and have an Adopt a Mile cleanup.