*Looks around to see that nobody is looking*
*Whispers, "Hi, I am an atheist, and I live in the southern United States!"*
This is an experience I am sure many, if not all atheists who have inhabited the southern United States have felt. I live on the eastern coast, in the very southern tip of North Carolina, and it's an experience I go through daily. The South is what I consider a place of everlasting cultural norms, the breaking of which is forbidden practice, regardless of time, place, or etiquette. To perform this taboo by doing something as outrageous as say... not being a Protestant, is blasphemy at best, and you should be prepared to burn at the stake, or at least be called a Satanist.
From what I gather the mentality is that being different is obtrusive towards the lives of all the regular folk. I have always found this to be quite odd considering I live with their customs mowing their way right through my life every day, and I am expected not to complain. Lets take a look at how this cultural attitude of not breaking norms might affect a person on a daily basis.
You are at work, and your boss has made the decision that everybody will stand, and say the Pledge of Allegiance. But lets say you do not wish to say the Pledge of Allegiance, although legally they can not punish you for choosing not to do it, you must now prepare to defend yourself from the onslaught of, "Why not move?" "Are you a communist?" or just the odd glances and behind the back banter. This extends into your religious beliefs. I sit at the dinner table, perhaps a large family gathering, and the family wants to hold hands and pray. While everyone bows their heads, I sit and watch as they accomplish absolutely nothing. My family then punishes me through use of the silent treatment, and conversations once I exit the room, saying anything to my face would not be, proper.
The effect it has on how others treat you is permeable in every situation. The general assumption is, you are a "god fearing, decent person." If it is found to be otherwise, you gain a whole plethora of nicknames ranging from Godless Satanist to Socialist Homosexual. Because clearly your lack of religion directly correlates to you being everything they detest.
According to a gallup poll, the top ten religious states are:
Given these stats, and the fact that all of the states on the list are part of the Bible Belt, I would argue that the intrusive ones are theists. Not to mention the tumultuous amount of theist based laws, North Carolina for example, having passed "Amendment One" not too many years ago, to ban not only same-sex marriages, but any form of partnership that could exist as well. This was put in place over an already existing state law forbidding same-sex marriage.
From a southerner's point of view, my life is affected by theist views every day, and I have no escape. I, and others like me, are to bear the undue burden of persecution for our views, and I would be willing to bet many others who are too afraid to confess their views exist on the fringes.
I am not here to argue that the South is filled with idiots, or that all southern etiquette is wrong and should be done away with, in fact I find the politeness to be quite refreshing at times. But this stuck in the past view that we must adhere to certain social standards is holding the entire country back, both from a legislative point of view and a social point of view. This attitude has stunted our federal government, and created sharp division between those who believe and those who do not believe, a war like attitude. I for one, would like to see a stop to it, the world needs to see we can be better than we are.