Confession: I live in the Bible Belt. Even worse, I’m a — gulp — conservative Christian.
But here’s the good news: I haven’t persecuted any atheists today!
Of course, it’s still early, and I haven’t left my house yet. There’s still time for me to track down a nonbeliever, give ‘em hell and chase ‘em into the baptistery.
That’s what we do in (how dare they believe in) God’s country, right?
In case you’re wondering the reason for my sarcasm, CNN’s Belief Blog (which I generally love and praise often … but not this time) just published a piece with this provocative headline:
Atheists in the Bible Belt: A survival guide
I guess this possible headline was too long:
Atheists gather to make fun of religion, lament constant mistreatment by everyone in the Bible Belt
Let’s start at the top:
Raleigh, North Carolina (CNN) – Back home, they erase their Internet histories, look over their shoulders before cracking jokes and nod politely when co-workers talk about church.
But in a hotel ballroom here on a recent weekend, more than 220 atheists, agnostics, skeptics and freethinkers let it all hang out.
The convention was called “Freedom From Religion in the Bible Belt,” and it was part celebration of skepticism and part strategy session about surviving in the country’s most religious region.
They sang songs about the futility of faith, shared stories about “coming out” as nonbelievers and bought books about the Bible – critical ones, of course.
“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.
The Godbeat pro who produced this feature is one of the best at his craft and does an excellent job of presenting the atheists’ side of the story.
I just wish CNN had considered that there might be another perspective. This “survival guide” assumes that the atheists’ assumptions are based in fact. Maybe they are. Maybe not. Or maybe, like a lot of things in life, the truth is complicated.
What’s missing from this story? Any real context or feedback from believers in the Bible Belt on how they actually view atheists.
Instead, we get broad generalizations like this: