How to Get By When You’re an Atheist in the South

The Freedom From Religion Foundation held a regional conference in North Carolina recently and CNN’s Daniel Burke was there to see what it was all about — turns out this was a convention where many of the attendees kept their atheist identities a secret back home:

Isn’t it great to be in a room where you can say whatever you want to whomever you want without fear of anyone criticizing you for being unorthodox?” asked Dan Barker, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, as he opened the two-day convention.

We wanted to know what it’s like to be a nonbeliever in the Bible Belt, so over the course of the weekend we asked some of the folks here to share their survival secrets.

They had a lot to say, and some of their advice overlapped, but we came away with eight top tips. Some said they wished they’d had something like this list when they began their foray into religious infidelity.

You can check out the full list here. Most of it is old hat to readers here, but I found it intriguing that some of the atheists suggested keeping two separate Facebook pages, one for your family and one for your secular community.

“Facebook is my happy place,” says one middle-aged woman who made a nearly seven-hour drive to Raleigh from Crossville, Tennessee.

The woman, who didn’t want to be identified, teaches English as a second language at public schools. She said most of her neighbors and co-workers are Christians.

“Crossville is a small Bible Belt community with churches on every corner,” she said, “and everything shuts down on Sunday except for Wal-Mart and the hospital.”

Most co-workers assume she’s Christian. But she said she joins as many atheist groups online as she can and keeps an anonymous Facebook page called “Within Reason.”

It’s absurd that we still have to go through all this secrecy. But stories like these are far from rare in our community.

(Image via Shutterstock)

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.


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