Case in point, I am an atheist who happens to live in a small town. In fact, over the past several years I’ve moved from one small town to another and in each place I’ve moved to I’ve been very selective about who I open myself up to about my non-religious views. This is because when I first moved from the big city (Milwaukee in 06) to one of the many small towns in the northwestern part of the state I decided to be completely open about my non-religious views and as a result I found it hard to keep a job around there. Since then I’ve been more careful.
In any case, I’ve been very leery about who I open myself up to with regards to where I sit with the “G” word. My girlfriend is an atheist and a teacher who’s also careful not to be too open about her views on this subject as well. So now I ask, is there a tactful way of being open about your atheism that doesn’t result in a stereotypical 1940's monochromatic image of local Christian villagers gathering at your door with torches and pitchforks and chasing you out of town?
And please, if you’re going to answer that I should move to a big city, I would ask you why should I allow religion to dictate where I can and cannot live. There has to be a happy medium somewhere here, and so far it’s been to not make too many waves. I look forward to hearing what would you might suggest?
What's frustrating is that you guys can't be the only ones, and by being open, you'd eventually find other people "coming out" to you guys.
Perhaps there's a way to be open and deal with the consequences by way of official, national atheist rights groups? I know, risky and frustrating, but I feel for those around you who are also quietly suffering and biting their tongues.
Personally, I deal with it as a matter of fact. Back in 2010 when I got my first visit from a quartet of Jehovah's Witnesses, who asked if they could speak with me for a moment, I told them up front: "I am an atheist." I'm pretty sure I took them by surprise, though one of them came back with what I understand is one of their classic tactics (if you can call it that): "Have you always been an atheist, or did something happen in your life to cause you to become one?"
"Yes - common sense." The conversation went on briefly from there, but I think the one thing they were impressed with was that I didn't blink about my atheism. There was no shouting or raving, and their questions were answered in the same matter-of-fact fashion. I'm not certain they were prepared for that kind of response. Indeed, I'm not sure they can be, considering their mindset.
And that's the approach I recommend. Be polite, be calm, and be confident in who you are. Frankly, I think it'll confuse the daylights out of them!
Loren, those witnesses probably walked off saying " at least he wasn't southern baptist".
I generally will only discuss it with people I know are friends. When I am around a group for a long time they just figure it out, anyway. I have one old timey baptist friend who will qualify statements around me with " I know you don't believe in this stuff, but..." haha. If certain people find out, they don't want you around them (fear of lightning, I suppose). Some people really get pissed. I guess it's a case by case thing. Like Loren, if I get asked directly I say I don't believe anything supernatural, or I'm not religious. I have occasionally confused a person by saying "My Navy record says I'm a lutheran" haha. When my daughter died, a friend of mine who is very religious cornered me and asked me if I prayed to anybody or had anything to believe in and I told him "I believe in you and me" meaning literally I believe in human beings and our abilities.
In general religion is a non-thing to me. I don't even think about it most of the time. I don't want to waste time on it. I don't want my non-religious nature to be my identity and I don't want to spend all my time defending the position, so I don't advertise it.
Good on you for staying. You're brave and should be commended. As a fellow small-town dweller, I think I have a pretty good idea of how you feel.
Personally, I would like to leave my small town because it's where I grew up. It's where I was indoctrinated by school, home and community. Coming out has caused me untold grief. I'd like a chance to start over somewhere, but it isn't going to happen (health and financial issues).
I wish there were more in-your-face atheists in my community. If there were, maybe we could find each other. *shrug* As of now, I only know of a few atheists and so far none of us have clicked on an interpersonal level.
There is one guy who lives up the hill (common expression around here), but he's extremely paranoid and tends to believe in conspiracy theories. He won't eat with me at a local restaurant because of the surveillance equipment there. Well, to be honest, he gave me another excuse, but he's noticed the surveillance equipment and has mentioned it on several occasions. The owners of the restaurant are just being cautious, but he sees prying eyes everywhere. I'm sure Snowden's revelations haven't helped. Remember John Oliver's "Good News! You're Not Paranoid" segment? Maybe I should be afraid of the restaurant's surveillance equipment. :)
He may not be a theist, but he obviously has other issues. I suspect he may have been driven around the bend by his own health problems and the lack of decent human beings in this area. People like us (liberal atheists) are not accepted. He and I have both adopted a "siege" mentality. I fear it has affected his sanity. I fear I might be next. ¯\(°_o)/¯ Maybe I am already half crazy.
I'd like to be more of a friend to him, but I don't want to give him the wrong impression. I'm not sexually interested in him, but I think he is sexually interested in me. Both of us simply need a little acceptance, but I'm not sure I can be the one to give it to him. :( I wish I could be more of a friend, but I'm afraid to get involved.
If someone wants to advise me on this issue, I'm willing to listen.
Damn. I hijacked your thread. Sorry. I've been rather self-absorbed lately. I have reasons, but I still hate being "that" person. I have foot-in-mouth disease to the point where I don't trust half of what I think, say or write lately. To anyone reading my drivel anywhere on this forum, I ask that you be patient with me. Maybe I'll come around to thinking straight again soon.
To the OP: Good luck. You deserve it.
I really don't want to be involved with nuts myself. I dread engaging with their nuttiness. I had a boyfriend for awhile who was a 9/11 "truther", and a great bullshitter. I got so sick of fucking conspiracy theories and rationalized pathology. I've become very nut-averse, I push them away.
But at the same time, I was raised by some viciously crazy people, and nuts are familiar and I tend to get involved with them. I hear a bit of pull towards this guy in what you say, it's a familiar and ugly situation.
You don't seem like you drivel :)
Tell them what you are, not what you're not. I tell most people that I'm a humanist. What is a humanist? A humanist thinks that people should solve their problems together. Then they conclude that they're humanists too. After that you've only the most rabid xtians to deal with...
If you need to be an anti-theist, an "in believers' faces" atheist, you won't be tactful.
If they notice that you don't go to church on Sundays, and ask about what your beliefs are, you could always borrow one of Dan Barker's song lyrics, and say that you "worship at the Temple of the Innersprings." (Mattress Methodist...Pillow Presbyterian....Featherbed Fellowship....)
I come right out and tell people I'm an atheist, but I don't live in a small town, and I'm retired, so it doesn't matter anymore.
Plinius had a good take on all this when you tell others that you are a humanist and what that means. Personally, I think that my atheism has cost me jobs before, and I fear it could happen again. A childhood theist friend of mine is always trying to get me into a position where you would think that the next thing to do is recite the Apostle's Creed. This is so very annoying to me. He knows it too, and that's why he does it.
If my retirement money was enough money, I would be militant about my beliefs in front of everyone! Now, this brings up the other side of it. Are some christians "wolves in sheeps clothing?" Of course they are. They are christian only so they can get ahead in life. Not that they devour anyone, but they get ahead in life by professing christianity, not that they really believe it.
I do live in a small town in the USA, but it's a very liberal and non-religious small college town. It's hard to imagine people being afraid to say they aren't religious, here.
"Small town" doesn't have to imply "religious".
I would hate to have to live in a big city just to get away from pervasive fundamentalism, because there's so much violence against women in big cities. I don't want to live in fear, and here I don't have to.