Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Tightening of the Bible Belt

My parents visited us the other day. They live only 30 mins away but we don’t get together very often. No particular reason, just life things. And we’re each 15 minutes from town, in opposite directions, so there’s no just stopping by on your way somewhere. It was a nice visit.

My mom emailed me the next day to let me know they’d enjoyed the visit and to fill me in on their adventures afterward, which included swinging by the park to visit with my sister and watch my young nieces play soccer. (We all see my sister even less than we see each other, though she lives right in town.) My sister is a believer and she fellowships with many of the same people I used to a few years ago, including neighbors of mine. One of these ladies, with whom I was fairly close and whom I see upon occasion, struck up a conversation with my mom. They hadn’t seen each other in ages, didn’t ever know each other very well, but were friendly. 

During the course of the conversation the lady mentioned me and tried to encourage my mom that she’s praying for me, that I am still young and that there is hope yet that I would come around and get saved. My mom is not an atheist, but neither is she a christian. She retorted, “Saved from what? From her peace and happiness? I certainly wouldn’t wish that on her!”  Ha. Go Mom! That apparently ended the conversation.

It’s been awhile since I’ve felt that pang of sorrow I felt reading that. I’ve faced more strangers recently as an atheist than I have former friends. I’ve made new friends and moved on with my life. It’s still interesting to me to think about how many people I have loved and shared my life with, most of whom now all feel sorry for me. Now, right now, when I am the happiest I have ever been and when things are finally going right for me and the children.

Incidentally, in the beginning I had much grief over the sudden distance between myself and the people with whom I used to be close. Some friends I dreamt of over and over, I missed talking to them and hearing what was going on in their lives. I tried to continue to reach out—as an unbeliever I had nothing stopping me from friendship with anyone I pleased—but it was awkward. I finally made peace with it when I realized that talking with me just made my former friends sad. Deeply sad. They had truly cared about me and they were sincerely saddened by my life choices. Any true conversation could not take place without their discomfort. I decided to walk away, give up, stop reaching out. I let them go.

I digress.

Er…. Where was I?

It’s interesting to note that, typical of believers in my local area, this lady that approached my mother assumed Mom had similar enough beliefs to 
her own that Mom would be comforted by her words.

There's a workable segue.

I’m tired of the bible belt. Yes, it makes for some interesting things to write about, but when I think about raising my children here I grow sad. In our area there will never be anything we get involved in, any place we go, where we will not encounter fundamental christians who are either talking about their faith (a little annoying); assuming we share their faith (awkward); shocked, saddened or angry about our lack of faith (unpleasant); or trying to convert us (unacceptable). We don’t necessarily advertise our atheism everywhere we go, but when put on the spot we are open about it. And it’s surprising how often we’re put on the spot. And how it affects our future dealings with people in our community.

I suppose if it weren’t religion, it would be something else. But it would be nice to be some place where it wasn’t as prevalent. A little progressive thinking would be great.

Is it regional thing or a rural thing? Surely there are rural places in America that aren’t so populated with churches and closed minds? I don’t want to live in a big city. I love my little place in the country, I just wonder how my children will grow here.

But they take after their momma, and I’m think I’m pretty good at growing where I’m planted and making the best of whatever situation I’m in.


  1. my lack of religion, and being vocal about it, directly contributed to me losing a job and family in SE MO. I career forced me to accept a job in a VERY (it's 45 minutes to the nearest Walmart if that tells you anything!) rural area over in the southern middle part of the state. I have been very pleasantly surprised by the lack of religiosity in my new job and community. I (like you apparently) really only get the religious treatment from old friends and family). It's done a lot for my peace of mind ... funny how that works.

    Thanks for your stories ...

    1. Well, thanks for reading them. Sorry to hear about your loss, but glad you've been able to settle into something a little more accommodating. Surprised there is any such community in MO, to be honest. Sometimes I wonder if it would make much of a difference for us, being in a less religious community, and I think, "Well yeah. Why wouldn't it?" We're an active family, passionate about science and literature and connecting with our neighbors, but everything we attempt here falls flat. If it's not church-related, not many bother. Weird ol' thing.


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