I live in one of the most progressive states in the union. Despite the fact that we now have the most intellectually backward Governor in any blue state - nevertheless, no other state in the union can claim more patents and, while property taxes are outrageous; many public schools in my state rival private schools elsewhere (if they can be spared the stupid policies of our new Governor.). That's right - I live in the Great State of New Jersey. Joke all you want; if you're looking for progressive contributions in almost every field of endeavor - you'll find New Jersey is a firehose of innovation.
Nevertheless, (I work in Philadelphia) while my colleagues are very intelligent and, for the most part, decent, friendly and interesting people, being 'out' as an atheist does have something of a 'chilling effect' (subtle) that is tolerable but not optimal.
So, when I went into NYC to reconnect with a buddy of mine there who I had not seen in years, and got to meet his lovely wife (a professional biologist), and found out that they were fully 'out' as atheists (mad as hell and not gonna take it anymore) I rediscovered something I had been missing for a long time outside of blogs like this and long distance correspondence with people from my life in former locations.
We had an awesome dinner accompanied by some tasty wine. However, the conversation - free from any stigma about the outrageous idea that life could have purpose without a god - was like a breath of pure oxygen. I had forgotten what it was like to be entirely free of even the slightest cultural constraint to express myself in all areas of discourse.
And it wasn't about singing in a choir; the conversation was very stimulating and about diverse topics. I guess what I realized is just how much the conceptual context of 'god' pervades the general atmosphere - sometimes at a hard to detect level - surrounding even the most mundane topic. It was as if a haze were lifted and we could talk simply as human beings, alive right now in a world that is what it is with no reference or allusion to some other realm invading our enjoyment of the moment.
I forgot what I was missing. It helps that I genuinely like these people, of course. But I am still feeling a kind of euphoria and a general uptick in my overall view of my fellow human beings and my culture. We might not be the majority - but we are out there.