How to Be Godless in Dixie (Video)

How to Be Godless in Dixie (Video) May 27, 2014

How_to_Be_thumbA couple of weeks ago, the Chattanooga Humanist Assembly invited me to come speak to them about “How to Be Godless in Dixie.”  They were very warm and welcoming, and they recorded the talk so that others could listen in.

The first video link below is the full talk, lasting about 32 minutes.  If you don’t have time to listen to a talk that long, below that I’ve also included a shorter excerpt that’s just under 10 minutes long entitled “You Might Live in the Bible Belt If…”  First, here is the full talk:

And if you don’t have half an hour free, here is the shorter excerpt about living in the Bible Belt:

There was also a Q&A portion after the talk and it lasted another half hour, and I’ll make that available for mp3 download later on this week.

If you haven’t subscribed to my YouTube channel yet, be sure to do that as I’ll be attempting to upload some more short videos later this summer.

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  • Great talk, Neil. Thank you so much for posting this online. I particularly enjoyed your discussion of privilege blindness, your definition of a jerk, and your exhortation for listeners to not try to limit the beliefs of others. Of course the “you-might-live-in-the-bible-belt” comments were also great. I never knew that other people played I Spy with religious bumper stickers.

  • I really enjoyed this! I am in South Louisiana, so can totally relate LOL I don’t comment much, because I usually don’t have much to add, but I read your blog faithfully. This is my favorite atheist blog, and I read a few : )

  • Matt B

    Another great talk Neil: Everything you write on this webpage, the two talks you have given and meeting up with you a few months ago I think you really provide a lot to the non-believing community in such a unique way that I haven’t seen anybody else present. You have incredible speaking and writing skills too. The wife and I (my wife still holding onto having some sort of liberal Christian views) went to Chattanooga this past weekend. Had a great time, we have always loved it there and are thinking about moving there from Tuscaloosa, AL. I went for a couple of runs around the city and was surprised there really weren’t that many churches, and the churches I did see were small. Wondering what others experience is in Chattanooga.

    -Matt B

  • David W

    I enjoyed the talk.

    “Don’t be a jerk” and “there are a lot of jerks on the internet”

    Buttt…. it’s hard to NOT be a jerk on the internet sometimes, lol.

    I apologize for the times I have been a jerk to the Christian posters on your site.

    BUT, sometimes it feels like they are just here to troll us, and I am tried of keeping my mouth shut. I attend a private fundamental Christian university, and I live in a town that is almost completely Seventh-Day Adventist; no liquor sold here, Churches on literally every corner, Christian music playing in the local 7-11, I even had to sign a document saying I would not do a whole bunch of things while attending the school, including refraining from drinking alcohol, even in my own home.

    Anyhow, I am in my miniature version of the Bible Belt over here on the West coast, and I just get so tired of pretending to be someone I am not, that at times, I can’t seem to stop myself from giving a snarky reply to the Christian who comes by with the same comment we have all heard dozens of times.

    Alright, I have given plenty of excuses, but I suppose the bottom line is it’s probably a bad idea to be a jerk. ;)

  • Thinker1121

    Loved the talk, Neil! Here’s a question for you that you might consider as a future blog post (or as a directly reply) for living godless in dixie. If you are the only non-Christian member of your family, how do you handle things like Christmas celebrations, baptisms, and other major family functions that center around church and Christian beliefs that the rest of the family embraces? As a personal example, every year on Christmas Eve our family (including extended family from out of town) attends services together. I hate being “that guy” who refuses to participate, so I go, knowing that it’s as much for family bonding as it is for worship. But the family also sings Christmas carols, decorates a tree, exchanges gifts, etc…, all practices that I gave up years ago with everyone except my family. The family basically engages in two full days of Christian-based festivities that are very alienating to me. (I know decorating a Christmas tree isn’t Christian, per se, but it is in the way that my family does it).

    I have a baptism coming up that the family has been invited to. Is it appropriate for me to show up and support the family, or hold true to my principles and effectively just join them for lunch afterwards? How do you handle these situations?

  • That’s a tough one. Maybe I’ll do a post about it in the future. My short response, though, is that obviously that each person will have to feel out his or her own level of comfortability. I tend to err on the side of swallowing my own needs in favor of accommodating those around me. And in certain circumstances, that seems like the easiest path to take. For example, when my extended family gathers to pray before eating big meals, I don’t stand off by myself in protest; I join them and hold hands and even bow my head a little so as not to distract them. I don’t close my eyes, because for some reason that crosses a line for me, plus I’m entertained by watching how the little kids act during this ritual.

    But events that require attending a ceremony are asking more from me, and I have to factor into my decision variables like: How close to me is this person? Is this a once in a lifetime thing, or something that happens very frequently? Just how much will it upset them if I stay behind on this one? Just how much will it upset me if I have to endure it? All that has to be weighed in to see what the best decision should be. Personally, I have no principle keeping me away from things other than a desire to maintain a good relationship with people. There was a time a few years back when I had to choose to stop going to church because it was upsetting me to the point that it was affecting my closest relationships. It’s all well and good to be a sacrificial, accommodating person, but if it’s building resentment inside, you might wanna watch that. Choosing to stuff your own feelings only works for so long, and eventually this has to be openly addressed.

    My friend Captain Cassidy over at Roll to Disbelieve wrote a post that I wish I had seen back when I was still married. She writes about learning to feel at home in your own life, and how sometimes that requires making sure that others around you learn to take your needs into consideration just as much as their own. Now, that gets tricky, because they have been taught that they know your needs better than you do. They have been taught that no one needs to be an atheist. Everyone needs to be what they themselves are. So they feel they are only loving you when they pressure you into participating in all that they do. But at some point, if they love you, they must learn to recognize that this is not what you want. If they love you, they shouldn’t always ask you to do all the accommodating to their preferences.

    You’re right. This does need a post of its own :)

  • Neil, I’d love to “come out” but my husband (formerly Jewish) doesn’t want anyone to know that we are Humanists. I respect his wishes since he has formed social bonds here in MS with people who don’t know that he was Jewish or that he is agnostic now. He thinks of his “closet” as a safe-haven and has used to it for many years, first as a Jew and now as a none, even before we moved to MS. I guard “my closet” because I don’t want my tires slashed or my house burned down so I only open “my closet door” a little in safer venues like the “Atheist Bubbles” you referred to in your talk. I am lucky because my son and his family are also Atheists and they are “out”. But they live far, far away so we connect on-line and by phone or I travel to their home. It’s a comfort to have it “all in the family”. Thanks for posting this “How To…” video. You have validated my choices for choosing to live my life in MS “in the closet”.

  • Thinker1121

    The other thing that is difficult, at least in my situation, is that to a certain extent, being part of the family means being a Christian. My family probably doesn’t explicitly think this way, but my experience has been that you can’t, in practice, divorce Christianity from the family structure. For example, when an evangelical Christian couple gets married, they take it as a given that the spouse is not only agreeing to be with them forever, but also to permanently committing to a philosophical worldview. That makes certain behaviors and ways of thinking in the eventual children, grandchildren, etc… that follow acceptable and others unacceptable. Trying to be part of a family like that without adopting that worldview is VERY hard. In their minds, rejecting Christianity is synonymous with rejecting the family itself. It’s not just a family, it’s a “Christian family.” The first word is just as important as the second.

    We have friends who are vegans who have the same type of situation. They are actively offended by meat eaters, so they won’t go out to eat with us unless we eat vegan too. This is not a problem for us on occasion, but we’ll never be very close friends to them because their lifestyle is only compatible with those who commit to a certain philosophical worldview. If one of their children decides not to be a vegan when they grow up, I imagine they’ll have the same family troubles that I have now. So it’s not just a Christian thing…it’s any family structure that at least partially defines itself with respect to a particular philosophical worldview.

  • Southern Skeptic

    Great advice for atheists in the South. I especially enjoyed the “You might live in the Bible Belt if…” I’m over in the Florida panhandle and I thought it was bad here. Sounds like it’s a lot harder to be an open atheist where you live.

  • You’re right that evangelicals and fundamentalists are pretty much exactly the same thing. The only real difference is that fundamentalists reject mainstream culture whereas evangelicals embrace it (badly).

    The result is that Bob Jones had a falling out with Billy Graham when the latter had an event at Madison Square Garden *waaay* back in the day, because it meant Graham would be preaching to queers and whores and brown people, none of whom Jones would ever be caught dead with.

    Or, for a slightly more comedic example, evangelicals, not fundamentalists, are the ones responsible for this: (warning, *terrible* rap about “that Christian side hug”).

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