I'm new to this group, so I'm not sure if this subject has been discussed here before.

I'm curious how others deal with a problem I've faced most of my life, being an Atheist in the bible-belt.

Here's the scenario: You meet someone for the first time (a friend, a coworker, a potential love-interest, whatever) and you "hit it off" right away. You have similar interests, compatible senses of humor, you like the same food, etc. so you start getting to know them. At some point, a situation comes up where you reveal that you're an Atheist/Agnostic/Freethinker/etc. and suddenly, they either freak out, start avoiding you, or at the very least treat you differently.

So the question is, what do you do? Avoid mentioning your non-belief? Lie about it? Limit your friends, lovers, etc. to the few non-believers you can find in the bible-belt? Other ideas?

If they start preaching, this becomes an easy answer for me. I'm out! But I'm talking about those people who just don't understand how you can be "such a nice guy (or girl)" and not believe in their sky-daddy.

Your default answer might be that you don't care or that you don't want to be friends with religionists anyway, but as most of you probably know, they're just about the only game in town (most southern towns, anyway). Plus, many of them are good, fun, interesting people that you'd enjoy spending time with. It's not their fault they were brainwashed at an early age to have an automatic negative reaction to certain ideas.

What do you do?

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Well its been my experience(unless you live in a very small town), that there are in fact people just like us out there. Most of the time they're agnostic, but the point being they're open minded(I live in Oklahoma). Don't hide your beliefs, you won't be able to hide them anyway since you'll inevitably be invited to someone's church. It may take a little while but you'll be able to find people that will at least accept your belief system. But it is tough since I think most southerners think less of Atheists than they do Islamic-Fascists. Because, "at least they believe in a god."
I'm in the same boat, Doc. I mean I was seeing this one girl, prelaw student, georgeous. and when she found out I was an atheist, she stopped talking to me.
Here's an actual example: I bought a house a few years ago and was welcomed by my new next door neighbors. They were a nice couple with two kids close to my kids' ages. We became good friends right away; we had cookouts at my house and their's, went to a few ballgames together, the kids played together, etc.

One night over a beer, the husband and I got into a conversation and I mentioned, sort of matter-of-factly, that I was an Agnostic (which is what I was calling myself at the time). He actually said, "How can you not believe in god? You're such a nice guy." I explained briefly what I believed (and didn't believe) and he didn't say much more about it that night.

Well, over the next couple of weeks, I started noticing that they weren't "available" anymore to hang out. And the kids couldn't come out and play with mine anymore. What's worse, the entire neighborhood seemed to change toward us. They were all still cordial, waving hello, etc., but I could tell we were getting the cold shoulder.

I found out later from another neighbor down the street, that my "friend" had told his wife that I was an Atheist (not Agnostic) and she told all of the other women in the neighborhood, who told all of their husbands, and all of a sudden the "nice guy" and his "nice kids" became undesirables! They were actually worried about their kids coming to my house!
Actually, Larry, it was a pretty diverse group; white, black, Hispanic; upper-middle class at that; engineers, financial managers, business owners. They've just had this thing drilled into their heads about the "A" word and most of them just couldn't make the intellectual leap.

I sold my house and moved away about a year ago. Not because of this, it just made financial sense. And after living there for almost 10 years, I have exactly one friend from that neighborhood that I still keep in touch with. He doesn't agree with me about religion, and at first he had some trouble with it, but eventually he came to his senses and realized that I can be both an Atheist and a good friend.
I had something very similar to this happen here in Mississippi. I thought we were going to get along well until that fateful day when I was asked where I went to church. When I explained that I didn't, that was all it took. I didn't even have to drop the dreaded a-word. Once they heard I did not go to church, it was all over.
like everything else in life you just deal with it. all individuals are different to some degree, it just comes down to what things (or ideals) in life are most important to you and your potential partner or friend. I live in Atlanta but i have lived in a couple small towns (in PA and SC) so i've dealt with the nontheist thing everywhere... i mean, usually with women you get the "i'm not religious, i'm spiritual" thing, which is just a very polite way of saying they don't give a shit about religion, which is still a win. Lol! but just like if you're into sci fi, or politics, or movies, bondage, or whatever the hell you're into... you get results from the effort you put into finding exactly what you're looking for. from my experience most nontheist (agnostic or atheist) women are not extraverts in the first place, so it definately takes effort to find them. i'm on the same mission though brother, so i feel your pain. Lol! just don't settle for less and expect the best, meaning don't date chicks that talk to invisable people... Lol!
I've been in many groups that were fun and good places to be. I just told them I was not very religious and left it at that. Once they get to know you then you can out yourself and see what happens.
I, in general, don't have a whole lot of really great friends because I can't find anyone who has a personality that fits with mine. It usually ends up that I just don't click with people that often. I did meet my best friend about 4 years ago and we really did 'hit it off'. I met her at my old workplace and wasn't shy about admitting I was an atheist when it came up with other people, so she already knew from the start. She had questions at first, and I answered them all. She was smart enough to know I didn't believe in satan, so I couldn't very well worship him. :) Maybe that's why I put up with all the other questions. She does pray over my food if we go out, and she says she prays for me daily, but she's never said, "I pray that you find God" or anything like that to me. She's also kind of been wavering in her faith this past year, I think. She called me one night and said, "If people like you and your husband are going to hell just because you say you don't believe, then I don't think I want to go to heaven." She's also dating an atheist.

My new workplace now knows that I'm an atheist and they don't seem to mind. They are the types of people who pray for my salvation, etc. They are still friendly with me, but it's work place friendly. They have invited me on a lot of their outings with each other, but I just don't fit in with them. There's one or two religious people who I do kind of click with more than the others, but not enough to develop a great friendship. It's a great workplace friendship, though, and I don't usually censor what I say if I'm asked a direct question.
I live in a divided house. My wife and kids are Christians (Baptist) and I am an Atheist. Detente is the active word here. Don't ask/don't tell/don't talk about religion. I still get a good dig in every now and then when one of them does something stupid, like blame an earthquake on a pact with the devil.

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