I'm curious about something. I've been watching a few videos about religion in the US and something I encountered was the term Bible Belt, relating to a few States where this religion plays an important role. How is it to live in those places being non-religious?
Well let's see...my neighbors are polite but not welcoming. Jehovah's Witnesses have us on a do not proselytize list & the Baptists just don't visit ever. Who would have thought putting an old cast iron cauldron in my front yard as a planter & having a bumper sticker that says "sorry I missed church. I was busy practicing witchcraft and becoming a lesbian " would have been enough to make me the area pariah.
It is not just a few states. It is the entire south from Florida to Virginia and from Georgia to Texas. Particularly rural areas throughout this region. The culture is ultra-conservative, racist, repressive and regressive and intolerant . I grew up in one of those rural areas, and left there 60 years ago, without regret. Emotionally I could not go back there to live again and have no desire to do so.
It’s tough to relate to anyone politically or philosophically for me. It’s illegal for me to run for office as an atheist in my state (Tennessee, which I consider the buckle of the Bible Belt). A lot of nice old folks; but a lot of nosy hypocrites here too. A lot of salt of the earth blue collar workers, but they usually have no clue what’s going on in the world and side with horrific asshats like Trump because they think he’s representative of the tough theocracy they want. Most of them are individually nice to the foreign shop owners they deal with but harbor racism in their politics and are too dead asleep to realize they’re voting against their own self interests, not just that of LGBTQ+ And immigrants. They fear sharia law without realizing they’re attempting to impose it themselves.
I normally don't reveal myself until I hear a friend ask something that indicates they have similar leanings. People really believe that not believing in god makes you a bad person so mostly I just keep quiet and go about my day. Also, there are people who once they know you aren't a good Christian whill see it as their duty to convert you and they are tenacious. So yeah, I keep quiet. It's not a secret; if they ask, I'm truthful but I don't go around advertising it. There are days I feel like if I hear "Have a blessed day!" one more time....
My experience in Oklahoma and Northern Texas are colored by being lied to and made homeless by a conman. Anywho, my observation is as with most mentally ill folk if you don't fit into what they have been brainwashed they won't even acknowledge you exist.
While I was working for what I thought was a start up.. I eventually realized I wasn't getting paid. This after flying across the US from Oregon to Oklahoma two weeks prior with everything I owned. You can imagine I was rather concerned and did my best to try and get interviews at local agencies. Networked at events (which seemed to predominantly be in churches) and attempted to find work in my chosen profession (Graphic/Interface Design) at the time.
Things did not go well. If was the first time in an interview with the owners of an agency I heard, "You have more experience than our team. Your work looks too professional, did you steal it?"
Needless to say, the next few months of living on credit cards did not go well. My "helpful" religions connections and groups stopped engaging with me as I was outed to not be of their faith. Then the interviews dried up and I became homeless..
Ironically the people who helped me most during this time were from the immigrant population. They gave me food, some basic under the table labor work to buy clothing during the winter...
I eventually moved back home to Oregon and my immediate family and started a new journey. But it taught me a lot about people, religion, and hypocrisy.
Fucking horrible. It's truly shitty. If you hide your atheism, you are still constantly bombarded with religious bullshit from every conceivable angle... and if you are open about your atheism, you also have to deal with hatred, possible violence, vandalization of your property, possibly being assaulted or killed, being shunned by the community, character assassination, getting fired, getting evicted, getting black balled in your career field, ostracization, and living in constant fear. Speaking from personal experience. My solution was to move to a higher I.Q. climate. Try to avoid major cities with professional or college sports teams. It helps.
Religion in the "Bible Belt"
If you click on the above link you'll see a rating of various religious practices and values in the South. Under each table is a tab to click on and see how the various regions compare in religious practices. If you look you'll see that while the South is indeed more religious, the differences among the regions are not very great. There are certainly not enough differences to warrant labeling the South as the "bible belt". The South is a huge and diverse region, the most populous region, with every conceivable religion and religious opinion.
I live in rural Alabama and Christians absolutely do not bother me. None in my immediate circle are believers in church dogma, and probably half the population never attend church.
Sectional differences get blown out of proportion by some people IMO.
How religious are the people of your country?
Another story I have is a young woman I dated for a while who fled the Ohio in her twenties. Her parents are (I assume) extremely brainwashed. When she was 16 she cut her hair short and started to listen to top 40s music, read books from the library and stop participating in the after school brainwashing (I mean religosity) groups.
What put her over the edge was her parents attempts at an arranged mariage at 16?
What are we living in the 1800s?
She wanted none of that and made it clear she would not marry let alone date "the chosen one" they had ordained. In short order within a month her parents forced her into meetings with their priest. He grilled her about sin, respecting her parents, respecting her future husband.... she rebelled..
They committed her to a religious mental institution at 16!
She was forced to this hell hole for four years.. she recounted the metal and physical abuse and the cocktail of pills they made her take while there..
after four years she spend six months acting like she had been brain washed and was a good Jesus freak.. finally at 20 years old she was released...
The very night she got home to her loving pimps ready to marry her off to the next good Christan man they'd lined up.
She packed everything important to her still left in her childhood room into two suitcases and took a the few thousand dollars she had saved up four years prior for some "jesus missionary" even she was expected to take on het 18th birthday...
And she snuck out the back kitchen door and ran...
Bought a beater car, gassed it up and drove west..
four years later, I met her while she was performing as part of the cast of a naked sing along of Rocky Horror.
We dated for a few months... but as you can imagine she was challenging to deal with..
Very self destructive and ironically had a "Jesus complex" and always had to save everyone at the expense of her own wellbeing. Which I being the more stable, consistent income guy... I saw where this train was going. . .
I wonder where she is now?
I live in North Carolina and certainly have had my fair share of people trying to proselytize me. But fortunately, I live in an area with tons of Northern expats. So these are the folks I spend most of my time with and call true friends.
I agree with the others: not being a believer is something you learn to keep to yourself. I do have a couple of Christian friends, and I bite my tongue a lot out of respect to them. We have other things we can talk about.
As far as being a non-believer, in the Bible Belt as long as you keep to yourself no one will mind you too much. However if you’re like me, I work with the public and I have tattoos so that’s a issue to most religious people around here. If you’re the type to hide your lack of faith the living isn’t bad. Like someone said, the surrounding country is gorgeous it’s just the people and every mile having s fucking church in it. If you’re like me, you’re vocal on religious issues and make attempts to be polite when religious people try and “convert” you it’s only bad when they’re really intolerant
For the most part, where I live, the trees are beautiful and the people are friendly. It’s hot humid. But... there is way too much religion in areas that it shouldn’t be. Like the work place, local and state government, sporting events, and schools. IMO.
I live in a red part of a blue state on the west coast. My town is tiny, but there are dozens of churches.
I feel like that parallel universe Riker in Star Trek when he says, wild-eyed and hysterical, "You don't know what it's like in our universe! The Federation is gone! The Borg is everywhere!"
(The only claim to fame of my town I am aware of is a clip from the HBO documentary "Questioning Darwin", where the pastor of a church that's just a quarter of a mile from my house said something like, "Darwinists say we came from monkeys. So do Darwinists think god is a monkey?!" So embarrassing.)
I live in Alabama, which is the buckle of the bible belt. The conservative Christians here almost elected an alleged child molester to us Senate. It's annoying at times, but these people need to be around liberal atheists. Then believe it or not, in time, they do actually change their mind. They instead of electing the child molester, they elected the first democrat to the Senate in like 30 years. So the tide is shifting more and more to the left. It just takes time and patience. I'd much rather live in California or Canada or England, where it's liberal and religion is almost nonexistent. But more and more atheists need to be in the "bible belt states", Because that's where the minds needs to change the most to make this country and world a better place.