I'm seriously considering leaving central Illinois. There are a few atheists here, and while I feel obligated to find or convert more here in Springfield, like some kind of atheist missionary, most of these people are not only unreachable, they dominate the public and private sectors of the economy and have no tolerance for atheists.
What is the most predominantly atheist or predominantly progressive place to live in the U.S. where I can move and finally earn a decent living?
I've heard Oregon and Washington State are 2 of the least religious states. I think Seattle is considered one of the least religious cities in the country. It's uber progressive there from what I can tell. I have a friend that lives there, and it sounds great if you can handle the boring dreary weather.
Also consider that most northeast states even if they are high in religious affiliation are not nearly as closed minded as people from the south. Stay away from anywhere with high percentages of baptist. In the north, church is what you do on sunday morning. In the south, wednesday services are very common in addition to sundays, as well as lots of social church functions.
Maybe you're asking your self the wrong question. Cities in general are much more progressive and you'll find a lot more people you can relate too. You might just want to move to Chicago.
I grew up in western Illinois (Quincy), spent 5 years in Urbana, moved around the country - a little in Louisiana, a little in San Antonio, Turkey (Army), a little in Rochester NY, then wound up in Lafayette Indiana foir 5 years. I hated Indiana so much (or Indiana hated me) that when I had an opportunity in Corvallis Oregon, I packed up and moved without ever setting foot in the Northwest before. I had only read books. Except for 4 years in Chicago, I've lived in the Northwest for the remainder of the past 20 years, mostly in or near Portland. I currently live in a suburb of Portland, Vancouver WA.
There was a culture shock for me - it's definitely not the Midwest, and people are different. It's hard to say how, but they are. However, I love it here. I don't think I could handle any where else now. With many, many, many trips back to Illinois until my parents died, each time felt like going back to the scene of the crime. The closer I got, the worse I felt. PTSD I guess, but I found it hard to even converse with most people from my home town.
Portland Oregon is very nonreligious. The suburbs are not as much so. I think Seattle is also nonreligious. They are both big cities of course.
It's best if you can visit whereever you might want to live. Even then you don't know until you live there.
As for boring dreary weather, the ocean shores are incredibly beautiful, there are forests full of huge trees to hike in, the volcanoes are awsome, the wineries and breweries are great, and where I live it only snows about a week a year, if that much. Summer is usually dry without a rain from about late May to September, but then it starts to drizzle and the days get short and gloomy, it's true.
I've lived in Kansas, Florida, Texas, Mississippi, Arizona and West Virginia. Of those states, I would say Arizona was the least religious, but I believe that has changed. Of those remaining states, I think Kansas is the least religious. It is less religious now than it was when I lived here before in the 80s. Years of conservative government have made an impact and seem to have created a strong liberal undertone which I hope will prevail someday. I don't know anyone whose happy with Sam Brownback right now. His attempts to end abortion or make them seriously hard to get have failed and been met with opposition.
Austin, TX is a very progressive city with a large IT/tech industry and many colleges and universities. Home of Atheist Community of Austin (ACA). Here are some links about Austin, TX.
Why limit yourself to the USA ?
There are plenty of other countries out there! UK / Canada / Australia / New Zealand usually have good immigration options, and they are culturally not tooo distant from the USA....
Errr... no. More "clash of cultures/religion" type stories that come out of the UK revolve around muslims, but apart from a few small trouble spots (which happen with any immigrant group), there is no massive 'problem'. Yes there is too much bending over backward (and forward!) but that is mostly due to religion in general getting too much privelege.