Daily Prompt: Banned

via Daily Prompt: Banned

Banned in the Bible Belt.

Atheism is a dirty word here in the deep South. But why do non-believers conjure up the same reaction in Christians as witches once did? It’s 2016, with all that we have achieved in science and all we have discovered about our universe and our own climb up the evolutionary ladder, why is it still hard for many southern skeptics to “come out atheist”?

Most would argue it is simply that the most religious region of the US is the South. According to a recent Gallup poll, Mississippi and Alabama lead the nation in religiosity and a total of 9 of the top 10 most relgious states are former members of the Confederacy. The fact that religious beliefs are largely determined by location has been thoroughly documented, being born southern, you are simply more likely to be a Christian than anything else.

But what is it that keeps so many believing? Gallup has reported adult religiosity to be as high as 99 percent in the world’s poorest nations and this correlation can be clearly seen here in the Southern Bible Belt. The poorest states in the nation are Mississippi, Arkansas and West Virginia, and a total of 8 out of the worst 10 are southern. As education goes, fully half of the 10 worst states for education are in the south and there are no states south of the Mason-Dixon line in the best 10 spots. Poverty and poor education tend to keep folks well ensconced in their religious belief systems. Is it any wonder then, that according to a Pew study, as education and GDP increase, a nation typically tends to become less religious ?

But why the backlash against atheists? I think it is in some cases simply a misundersatnding of what atheism actually is. Many, especially fundamentalist Christians, see our lack of belief as an attack of belief. We are often called an abomination and an affront to god himself. Many parents see lack of faith in their children as a failure and sincerely believe their atheist child is now lost to hell for eternity. Pastors rail against the godless, parent’s groups protest the teaching of evolution in schools, believers are taught that questioning god is sinful and atheists are agents of Satan himself. All for wanting more than blind trust in an ever unseen and unheard god.

Why? Perhaps it a flaw in the traditional roots which grow so deep here in the soil of the south. This is the same region, after all that reenacts the Civil War and swears we are going to “rise again”! Don’t misunderstand me, I love the South, I love the food and the people here. The region is beautiful and has a rich and diverse history, even with its deep scars. But we are not known for embracing new ideas, in fact so resistant are we to progress, so set in our ways and so convinced of our own cultural superiority that we have committed some of the worst civil rights atrocities ever seen in this nation. As example, it is right here in the city of  Birmingham that in 1963 four young girls were killed and 22 churchgoers injured in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing while white ministers across the South preached sermons against integration. Atheists are simply the new class of dissenters,the new batch of deviants and devils.

Until we begin to embrace progress, invest in education and make the changes in society necessary to end poverty, we will be forever condemned to repeat the past and atheism will remain banned in the Bible belt.

5 thoughts on “Daily Prompt: Banned

  1. thecajunatheistblog

    Being a new atheist from Louisiana in the heart of the Bible Belt there are several reasons why it is so hard to come out as it were. As a formal fundamentalist Christian of 30 years I know both sides.

    Atheist here undergo extreme discrimination and ridicule. In the two years that I have been an atheist I have seen it here and even worse online. Here in Louisiana there are small towns that are so religious that if they find out you’re an atheist you can lose your job. There are teenagers that are disowned and kicked out if they come out as atheists. Here in Cajun Country family ties are strong and religious families here can put a huge amount of pressure on an individual that comes out. Also we have a church on every corner here and Christian billboards everywhere. Thanks to Bobby Jindal the Louisiana Science Education Act was passed in 2008 that allows Creationism to be taught in public schools and many do.

    Louisiana in my opinion is about as close to a Christian theocracy in America as you can get. It is truly depressing being an atheist here in Lousy-ana.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for your comment, I grew up and lived most of my life very near Baton Rouge and you are correct, Louisiana is very religious and Bobby Jindal did many things I can’t even comprehend much less agree with. Remember when he projected the Planned Parenthood video on the side of the Govenor’s Mansion? I was glad to see him drop out of the presidential race very early on.

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    1. thecajunatheistblog

      Yes I do remember. You are aware that several years ago Louisiana tried to make the Bible our state book right? Lol.

      Pence is just as dangerous. He wants creationism taught in public schools and Trump has said if elected he would appoint Supreme Court Justices that would over Roe vs. Wade.

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  3. Religion is strongly tribal, fundamentalist religion especially, and divides the world into “us and them”. And it’s easier to create a strong sense of “us” if you have a scary threatening “them” to demonize.

    So why are the evangelicals picking on atheists as their chosen “them” right now? I think it’s because our threat goes to the very core of their belief system. Underneath all of their specific dogmas about Jesus, there are underlying assumptions that they have to push just as hard, if not harder. Things like “faith is a virtue”, “a book can be perfect”, “believe what your holy men tell you”. We don’t just challenge their specific beliefs, we challenge the whole idea of belief. That makes us a pretty big threat, and a likely target of fear-mongering.

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    1. Thank you for your comment, Ubi Dubium, you are correct, we do challenge Christians to their core. Their entire worldview hinges on the existence a deity and we challenge that deity, his stories, his dogmas and doctrines, everything. Furthermore accepting our worldview means accepting death, which can be a hard thing to do if you have lived your entire life convinced of your own immortality.

      Liked by 1 person

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