Strange as it may sound for someone who writes about religion so much, there are times when religion seems like this thing that’s “out there” but which doesn’t affect my life. And I guess that’s been true for some parts of my life, particularly when I’ve lived in the “blue” (i.e. liberal) city* of Madison, WI. So let this be a thread for people to talk about their experiences living in “red” parts of the country.
When I first started writing this post, I wanted to include some comments about my hometown of Oshkosh. It’s not the reddest part of the country, but definitely redder than Madison. (Winnebago county went for Obama in 2008, but when for Bush in 2000 and 2004.) Yet I’m not sure how to write about that while (a) having some respect for the privacy of the people I knew there and (b) it not turning into a “how I became an atheist blogger” post. Hmmm…
I will say a bit about my time in South Bend, IN. When I first moved there, I knew it would be different, what with all the pro-life signs I saw coming into town. Oddly, though, Notre Dame may have insulated me from the worst of it. Yeah, you heard that right. The incoming group of philosophy grad students which I was a part of was roughly half atheists–I think maybe six atheists and one pretty nominal believer out of thirteen.
I did get a bit more sense of what it was like outside our little academic bubble when I started found the Michiana Skeptics about halfway through my time in South Bend. Hanging out with them is one of the things that makes me think that atheist groups do way more good in “red” areas than the “blue” areas.
In Madison, the campus atheist group was basically a discussion group for nerds. But in South Bend’s group, you had people who were genuinely feeling isolated in the highly religious environment–including one woman who was in the closet about her atheism because of where she worked. I think Jen has said something similar about the contrast between red area vs. blue area atheist groups, but unfortunately I can’t find the post right now.
Anyway, I didn’t really write this post to talk about that–I wrote this because I want to hear your experiences. So what are they?
*I say city, even though it’s more common to hear about red states vs. blue states. This is because if you want to know what it will be like to live somewhere, the people the next county over don’t matter much. Indeed, it’s possible to be totally clueless about what they’re like. When Wisconsin passed its anti-gay marriage amendment during my sophomore year of college, I was totally surprised. After all, everyone I knew was against it.