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Black, atheist and living in the South
A group of black atheists meets in Atlanta.
December 8th, 2011
01:56 PM ET

Black, atheist and living in the South

By Kim Chakanetsa, CNN

Editor's note: Listen to the CNN Radio broadcast about black atheists in the South:

 (CNN) - Benjamin Burchall first realized how different his experience in the South was going to be while looking for something to watch on television on a Sunday night.

"I couldn't find anything on television but religious programming,” says Burchall, 38, a former Christian minister and agricultural consultant who moved from Long Beach, California, to Atlanta for work in 2010, “And I thought, 'Oh my God, where am I? Is this all that is on television here?'"

And he quickly found other differences from West Coast living.

"I was not used to meeting someone for the first time and having their first question be ‘what church do you go to?’"

Burchall’s proud response to such queries was, “None.” He is part of an increasingly visible minority – black atheists living in the Bible Belt.

Mandisa Thomas, a mother of three, has lived in Atlanta for more than 13 years. An atheist since her early 20s, Thomas has a two-pronged strategy when it comes to dealing with the religion question. The first is simply not talking about it unless someone else brings it up.

The second is a kind of warning: “I will ask, ‘Are you sure you want to hear this?’” she says. The goal, Thomas says, is to avoid unnecessary confrontations.

But there are other situations that are simply a part of living down South.

Take the Walmart employee who suggested Thomas come back for gospel singer Yolanda Adams’ book signing, or the stranger who approached her and asked if she was born again and implored her to turn her life to Jesus when she said she wasn’t.

“There is an assumption that black woman in particular are religious,” says Thomas.

Statistics suggest that is a fair assumption to make. A much-cited study published in 2008 by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that of all the major racial and ethnic groups in the United States, black Americans are most likely to report a formal religious affiliation. Less than 1.5% of blacks identify themselves as atheist or agnostic, compared with 5% of whites and 7% of Asians.

The same study notes that nearly four of five African-Americans (79%) say religion is very important in their lives, compared with 56% among all U.S.adults.

However, the trend among black Americans is toward greater levels of nonbelief. The number of blacks reporting no religion in American Religious Identification Survey almost doubled between 1990 and 2008.

In the South, this trend is witnessed by the emergence of groups such as the Black Nonbelievers of Atlanta (BNOA), and the Humanist Congregation of Greater Atlanta. The proliferation of YouTube videos and forum postings by Southern atheists also suggest a growing desire to build a community for the religiously unaffiliated.

Burchall says it’s not necessarily the case that there are more black atheists these days, “but there is an increase in the number of people coming out and saying they are black atheists.”

And there are more organizations looking to decouple black culture from religion. In January, Burchall and Thomas co-founded BNOA with the aim of bringing together black atheists who might otherwise be shunned by family and friends. Burchall and Thomas had initially joined an atheist group in Atlanta, but they wanted an organization that spoke directly to their experiences as African-Americans.

For most of American history, meaning in the African-American community has been tied to religion.

“The church has always been at the forefront of providing meaning, identity, mission and purpose for the lives of African-American people,” says Gregory Eason, the senior pastor at the historic Big Bethel AME Church in downtown Atlanta.

Many black atheists argue that Christianity was imposed on African slaves in the United States and are uneasy with how fully African-Americans have embraced it.

“It was forced on our ancestors; now their descendants have fallen for it hook, line and sinker and it has been such a part of our culture,” says Burchall.

“Oftentimes blacks believe that Christianity is black culture, and if you are not Christian you are not part of the community,” he says. “After all, it was Christianity that helped us through slavery times and the civil rights movement.”

For Mario Dorsey, an Atlanta native, Black Nonbelievers of Atlanta helped him feel comfortable with moving away from that tradition.

“I joined because I felt that in the black community religion was much more of a social movement, almost like a mass hypnotism,” Dorsey says. “It felt pretty cool to be part of a group that actually thought like I do.”

Like many black atheists, Dorsey does not announce his atheism loudly.

“For the most part I don’t walk around with atheist on my shoulder," he says. "Most people won’t know unless they ask me, but when I am asked I get this really weird reaction as if I’d said I torture monkeys for a living or something. It’s really weird.”

Dorsey acts as the organization’s lead online administrator. The role is particularly important as the Internet has played a significant role in recruiting members. Thomas, the current president, estimates they have about 30 people who regularly attend meetings. The community online is even larger, with up to 150 members.

Burchall, who left Black Nonbelievers of Atlanta in June this year to pursue other opportunities, has since founded another organization, the Humanist Congregation of Greater Atlanta.

Dominique Huff, another lifelong Atlantan, the son of a preacher, first heard about Black Nonbelievers of Atlanta on Facebook. He says he became a nonbeliever in high school.

It hasn't been particularly easy living in a city where “it’s always, ‘Have a blessed day,’ and you see churches on every street corner,” he says. But since 2000, Huff has slowly chosen to embrace his nonbelief, a decision that has not been easy for his minister mother.

“She is kind of in denial about it,” Huff says. “It is not a conversation we have. She still tries to pray with me. I pray along with her. I am like, ‘That’s where you at; that’s not for me.' There is like an invisible line we just never talk about.”

The online conversation is particularly vibrant, with numerous YouTube postings and blogs addressing the cultural taboo. A posting dated February 24, 2011, found on the Atheist Nexus, an umbrella networking organization, spoke of the difficulty of being black, atheist and homosexual in Mississippi. The member has since started a ‘secret’ Facebook group targeting other atheists and in April 2011 noted that of the 85 atheists who had joined, 10 were black.

The impetus for starting the group was made clear in a posting that read: “given how obsessed people in Mississippi are with Christianity, being an atheist here is very isolating and difficult. Add to that the fact that I'm Black and non-heterosexual, and we're talking social suicide.”

On ExChristian.net, a posting by a member identified as ‘kclark’ details the struggles of growing up in a religious household as a gay atheist in a small town in central Louisiana.

YouTube has become an especially popular outlet for African-Americans to declare their atheism. Jeremiah, a 20-year-old ‘living somewhere in the heart of the bible belt’ in April last year uploaded a video arguing that faith and the Bible are not evidence that God exists and affirming that he is proud to be an atheist. In a video uploaded in September 2009, Marquell Garrett, who is based in North Augusta, South Carolina, addresses the oft-asked question: where are the black atheists?

Garrett concludes that the consequences of declaring oneself an atheist in the black community have resulted in many nonbelievers remaining closeted.

Garrett also runs a blog titled Atheist Fighting Back Keeping Strong and Speaking Out‘ where he writes of his experiences of coming out as an atheist at age 14 in South Carolina.

Not all postings are related to a rejection of Christianity, however. A YouTube video by a member based in Birmingham, Alabama, who identifies himself as Bilal3700 details why he left Islam to become an atheist.

Unlike other parts of the South where activities by black atheists remain online, Atlanta appears to be spearheading the momentum with the creation of nonbeliever organizations such as the Humanist Congregation of Greater Atlanta, which allow a previously marginalized minority a voice and a community that goes beyond anonymous avatars.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Atheism • Georgia • United States

soundoff (1,233 Responses)
  1. Sean

    Having religion is like having a pe- nis. It’s fine to have one, its fine to be proud of it. But don’t whip it out in public and for god’s sake don’t shove it down kids throats.

    December 9, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
    • Chris

      I've never understood the "shoving it down your throat" response. We live in a free country. Religious people have come to my door and shared their beliefs. I'm glad they have the freedom to do so. I listen and politely tell them I'm not interested. In no way have I ever feel they're "forcing" anything on me. Now, if I were kidnapped and tortured until I confessed agreement then I'd say they "forced" it. Besides "whip[ing] it out in public" is very basic and inherent to religion. So please. Grow up. Even you've "whipped out" your own opinion in public. Don't be a hypocrite.

      December 9, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
    • Michaeltanino

      I agree with Chris. I have no problems with a religious individual spouting their beliefs in Public. HERE is my problem: Most religious people who spout their beliefs in Public do not take kindly to being challenged on it by opposing views. That is where I have a problem. If you are going to openly declare your beliefs and proselytize you DO NOT get a "religious immunity" card to play that says no one can challenge you with opposing points.

      December 9, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
    • Matt Bixnood

      Based on the things you're claiming to be "funny" and "true" I'm guessing someone must have shoved "something" down your throat... perhaps it was your father's pen0r?

      December 9, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
    • Leaf on the Wind

      Chris, I agree the "shoving down the throat" analogy is trite. However, when the Christian right tries to pass laws based on their religious beliefs (like Prop 8 in CA), that's whipping it out in public in a way that interferes with everyone's freedom.

      December 9, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
    • Chris

      Michaeltanino, I am a person of faith and even I don't buy the idea that faith and reason are necessarily at odds with each other. People shouldn't believe in anything if there is no good reason to do so. Neither do I think that one's religious card should exclude someone from being subject to intellectual scrutiny.

      December 9, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
    • GodPot

      @Chris – The shoving it down your throat part happens when a majority of religious people get together in a democracy and pass laws governing everyone, not just themselves, that are based on nothing but religious doctrine, such as trying to teach intelligent design in schools, teaching abstience only education, denying my tax dollars from going to non-profits that help women like planned parenthood and instead funneling my money to tax exempt Churches that attempt to convert any who avail them of their social services like the soup kitchen or homeless shelters.

      And the fact that very few of you even notice it is the most disgusting thing about it.

      December 9, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
    • Chris

      Godpot, "you shall not murder" is a "religious doctrine."

      December 9, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
    • Sean

      @Chris
      No need to get testy sir. Please think it through; I’ll try to help with a few examples. The majority of anti-abortion groups attempting to ‘force’ their belief by LAW are religious based with religious reasoning for their argument. Same for the gay marriage issue. Also smaller examples such as displaying religious symbols on/in government property, i.e. the Ten Commandments in the court house. Also where it may in did be freedom, standing on a street corner with a bullhorn telling the cars sitting at the red light that they are going to hell unless we do what they say, is indeed pushy.

      Please explain how ‘whipping out’ my opinion on a comment board for an article about atheism hypocritical.
      /kicks your soap box.

      December 9, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
    • GodPot

      @Chris – "You shall not murder" is a biblical law, with adendums of course like killing pagans whether they be women and children or old and infirm isn't murder, and guess what, it was also an Egyptian law before that, where Moses would have been trained from early childhood being raised as a Prince. And guess what, it was a law before Egypt as well and goes back as far as written laws do back to the code of Hammurabi which was used and borrowed by many ancient people including the Babylonians, Hitt i tes, A s s yrians and more.

      I am not saying that there are not valuable laws included in almost every religions doctrine, I'm saying that we should adopt laws on their merrit not on the doctrine laid out by the religion behind them.

      December 9, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
    • Michaeltanino

      Chris I would contend that Faith-with a capital F-is completely at odds with reason. Believing something is true without any proof, is completely unreasonable. Moreso when for what you have Faith in requires the supernatural and no supernatural event has EVER been proven to exist on any level. Faith is the opposite of reason, and it is the opposite of how we accomplish ANYTHING in our normal lives.

      If you invited me over to your house for discussion and offered directions and I said to you; "No need, I will Faith my way there." You'd think I was a nutcase. Instead I would gather evidence for your location, such as addresses, landmarks, maps, even first hand communication, etc to find you. We base everything we accomplish on reason, but when it comes to rellgion suddenly it's the "in" thing to base ideas on Faith.

      December 9, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
    • Nonimus

      @Sean,
      When children, essentially a captive audience since by law they must attend school, are taught creationism, which is not science, in science class, that is 'shoving beliefs down someone's throat.'

      December 9, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
    • Sean

      @ Nonimus
      I agree, what is your point?

      December 9, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
    • Nonimus

      @Sean,
      Sorry, I think that was meant for @Chris.

      December 9, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
    • Sam Yaza

      hahahahahah perfect analogy, you ser get a cookie.

      December 9, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
    • Sean

      @ Nonimus
      Np, sir

      @ Sam Yaza
      Thank you.

      To you both I wish a happy Winter Solstice.

      December 9, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
  2. Michaeltanino

    If prayers worked, do you think if you and ALL believers prayed for a presidential candidate to win rather than voting for him/her that they could win on prayer power?

    December 9, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
    • Chris

      That's a misunderstanding about the nature of prayer.

      December 9, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
    • Michaeltanino

      Of course it is Chris.

      Can prayers regrow limbs? They obviously seem to "work" when doctors help patients overcome ailments, but for some reason they do not help regrow amputated limbs. They also don't bring people back from the dead-true braindeath, not "I drowned and stopped breathing for 5 minutes" death.

      The fact is that "prayers" only seem to work when the end result is possible naturally.

      December 9, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
    • lolwut

      @Chris how's this. If you pray for something that isn't in god's divine plan it won't happen, so prayer is useless. If you pray for something that is in god's divine plan it is going to happen anyways, so prayer is just redundant.

      December 9, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
    • Chris

      Then feel free to not pray.

      December 9, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
    • GodPot

      Faith without works is dead. Which kind of means the "Faith" must have very little to do with it. It's like the old fable of the stone soup, the stone does nothing but be the idea that brings together all the other ingredients which made the soup magical. This is why people of faith point to their works as proof of their faith, like see the charity work the Church does, see the soup kitchens, see the homeless people given beds, but that is much like pointing at the stone as the secret flavor ingredient, without the hard work of the people behind it the faith is powerless. Much like prayer...

      December 9, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
    • Chris

      GodPot, prayer is technically a "work" since prayer is an act of faith.

      December 9, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
    • lolwut

      In that case, don't wear yourself out Chris.

      December 9, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
    • GodPot

      @Chris – Prayer is a "work"? Wow. I know Jesus supposedly wept blood he prayed so hard, but from the definition of "work" in our dictionary is:

      "an activity in which one exerts strength or faculties to do or perform something:
      a : sustained physical or mental effort to overcome obstacles and achieve an objective or result
      b : the labor, task, or duty that is one's accustomed means of livelihood
      c : a specific task, duty, function, or assignment often being a part or phase of some larger activity" – Merriam-Webster

      I'll give you that prayer can be mental effort, but has anyone ever been able to prove that their prayer "overcame obstacles and achieved an objective or result"?

      December 9, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
    • Chris

      GodPot, according to the Bible (you brought it up first), the relationship between works and faith simply means that one's "actions" spring from what one believes (faith). Therefore people "pray" (action) because they "believe" (faith) God hears. It's that simple. On another note. A basic rule of hermeneutics (the art and science of interpreting the Bible) is that you don't take a modern dictionary and imposed it's modern definitions into works of antiquity such as the Bible. One must allow words and concepts to be defined by the contextual words and concepts of that work.

      December 9, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
    • GodPot

      @Chris – Well then if your prayers are action, then would not the original posters sentiment be valid? Why don't Christians sit home and pray for their representative to win an election and avoid the annoying election booths? I would bet your prayers would be answered, though maybe not in the way you intend, because we would likely get more moderate, centrist elected officials who represent everyone and not just the priviledged religious majority.

      December 9, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
  3. gonnie

    How does evolution disprove anything about Creationism? Look at the people who wrote the Bible, they interpreted and analyzed things a lot differently than we do today. There wasn't a scientific method back then as there is now. The Bible is simply a way of a peephole into how societies lived and what their cultures were like. But to try to use modern science to disprove religion is ridiculous, just like it is ridiculous to use Creationism to disprove evolution. I think it is too closed-minded for people to be called "atheist" or "creationist" or whatever. The truth of the matter is we don't know anything. So in the end, neither side is right.

    December 9, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
    • MonkeyMan

      @gonnie – Because according to the bible humans were riding dinosaurs 6000 years ago.

      December 9, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
    • streetsmt

      @gonnie
      I disagree with your last sentence. Every Atheist I know will tell you that they don't know for sure that there is a god, just that there is 0 evidence for it.
      So really, only one side is wrong.

      December 9, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
    • Michaeltanino

      Gonnie, evolution is one of the strongest and most supported/proven scientific theories we have. Creationism isn't "God created everything", it's specifically a movement that asserts mankind did not evolve and that we went *POOF!* and appeared in our current forms.

      December 9, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
    • catholic engineer

      I was looking at a display at an osteology museum the other day at the skeleton of a human ancestor from 200,000 years ago. The plaque explained that evolution is scientific and measureable. I had no problem with that. But, loosely defined, evolution for humans is the ordering of bone, organs, and flesh in such a way as to insure the survival of the species. And of course a brain is necessary to regulate the activities of this organism. Evolution has produced a body. A mere body. Jesus supplied the words that separate the atheist from the theist in John 6: " The flesh is useless. It is the spirit with gives life."

      December 9, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
    • GodPot

      Imagine you have walked into a room with your eyes shut and door has been closed behind you. When you open your eyes you can see nothing, its pitch black in the room, infact you have no idea the size of the room or even what you are standing on. It would be only natural for your mind to start filling in the blanks imagining what must be there, and often our brains add things that we fear most from our subconcious, we can almost feel that monster waiting just beyond our reach. But would that really be the best option, to sit down in the middle frightened of shadows, praying someone comes and saves you, or would ernest, openminded investigation of everything you can touch and examine such as the floor beneath your feet be a better use of your time? All science does is say "lets keep feeling around our known universe for clues as to the unknowns without jumping to preconcieved conclusions based on ancient texts written by uneducated nomadic herders thousands of years ago" while religion says "We know what is out there in the dark and it's big and scary and you better do what we say if you don't want to be gobbled up by it, and looking for answers is in direct violation of our code since we don't like it when someone turns on the light when we had the fearful little kids extorted money right there in our hands."

      December 9, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
  4. Marg Wood

    I am glad to see more people coming out! The more the merrier! Welcome!

    December 9, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
  5. T A Martin

    I have faith, but I abstain from Religion.
    The Bible has moved through 400 years of evolution of the English language to the book we have today, which is a translation of a translation of a translation of a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of an oral history passed down through 40+ generations.

    "The wine is good, but the meat is spoiled" – English translation of a Russian translation of a French translation of Matthew 26:41

    "I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with senses, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use ..." – Galileo Gailiei – father of modern astronomy

    "I've never understood how God could expect his creatures to pick the one true religion by faith — it strikes me as a sloppy way to run a universe." – Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein

    "Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because, if there be one, he must more approve the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear." – Thomas Jefferson

    "I number believers of all sorts among my friends. Some of them are praying for me. I'm happy they wish to do this, I really am, but I think science may be a better bet." – Terry Pratchett – author

    December 9, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
    • Chris

      The question is never really between faith vs. non-faith. The truth is that everyone has faith. Even atheists. They believe i.e. "have faith" in evolution.

      December 9, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
    • Michaeltanino

      @ Chris, that is a horrible argument. Comparing "faith" in Evolution to Faith in Creationism or in God is like saying that having "faith" the Sun will rise tomorrow is equal to Faith that instead of the Sun being here tomorrow it will be a galactic glowing basketball. One has tons of evidence and support and has always been demonstrated to be the best answer whereas the other is completely baseless and unsupported by evidence. Saying faith in the two are the same thing is ridiculous.

      December 9, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
    • Chris

      Michaeltanino, it is clear that you, like most atheists, incorrectly define and characterize "faith" and then fallaciously argue against it (straw man argumentation) and have not understood what is meant by faith in the epistemological sense. No one can know anything with absolute certainty so people believe what they believe based on "degrees of certainty."

      December 9, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
    • Get Real

      Chris, - "They believe i.e. "have faith" in evolution."

      Nope. The aspects of evolution which show up physically over and over and over again are accepted. If any aspect fails, it is rejected. The parts which are unexplained are simply unexplained as of yet, and we are able to accept, "We don't know (yet)". "God-did-it" is not the default / fall back explanation.

      Perhaps we lay people trust that scientists have actually proven theses details of evolution, but anyone, if they are willing to put in the time, effort, learning, and experimentation can ascertain these facts. There is not a shred of verified evidence for this fantasy "God".

      December 9, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
    • Michaeltanino

      Wrong Chris, you said "everyone has faith, even atheists in Evolution" and that is a ridiculous argument because you are attempting to link atheists and theists in terms of Faith when there absolutely is no link here. It is EXACTLY like comparing faith that the Sun will be here tomorrow to faith that it won't be. Saying those two things are "faith" and trying to link them is ridiculous and you can't do it. The Sun has always been there (well billions of years anyway) and we have plenty of evidence that indicates it will be here tomorrow. That is like Evolution, which we have mountains of evidence proving it is true. Comparing an atheists "faith" in scientific facts to religious Faith is an outright dishonest proposal.

      December 9, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
    • Chris

      Get Real," there is not a shred of verified evidence for this fantasy "God" is synonymous to saying "There is not a shred of verified evidence I am WILLING TO ACCEPT for this fantasy 'God.'" Atheists do not reject a Divine Creator because of a lack of evidence, but because they suppress the existing evidence (Rom. 1:18) such suppression is driven by hatred for what the existence of God would imply. Humanity hates the notion of a Supreme Ruler whom we are all accountable. We love autonomy and self-rule. This Bible itself testifies to this fact. We all hate the idea of God from birth.

      December 9, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • Chris

      Michaeltanino, you do not know with absolute certainty that you are speaking with another human being through this comment thread. Do you see me at my keyboard? No. Based on reason and evidence you are working off that assumption based on a high degree of certainty. So then you are operating on a measure of "faith."

      December 9, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
    • Get Real

      Chris,

      I was a devout believer for close to 50 years. I am a very good follower of rules. I would love to believe that your happy fantasy is true. There is no-one up/out/over/under there, Chris, except in your imagination.

      December 9, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
    • Leaf on the Wind

      Chris, wrong. As an atheist, I do not have faith in evolution, but I believe in the logical science behind the theory. Unlike Christians and other true believers, though, I am open-minded and fully willing to be proven wrong.

      December 9, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
    • Michaeltanino

      Chris, I have "faith" that you are a human being because I have never seen a computer or non-human engage in a discussion in this manner. Purely on probability, it is very likely that you are in fact a person. It's POSSIBLE you are a computer, but very improbable. Even then though, a computer operates in the natural world. Again, comparing that to Faith in something that has never been observed, does not even remotely exist within the evidence, and complately contradicts the laws of the Unvierse is not even remotely the same.

      It is the same thing once more that I demonstrated earlier. Having faith the Sun will be here tomorrow and that you are a human at the end of your computer is not anywhere NEAR Faith that the Sun will be replaced by a cosmic flaming basketball tomorrow. Two completely different things divided by PROBABILITY. Comparing them equally simply to justify yourself or to make yourself feel better is absurd.

      December 9, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
    • Bravo

      Atheist don't have "faith" in Evolution. Faith is the belief without evidence of in what is told without knowledge of things without parallel. Evolution is simply a fact and it has insurmountable evidence to support it, whereas there is no evidence once or ever to support the existence of god.

      December 9, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
  6. Bravo

    While Atheism is growing slowly in America, it is has a long way to go before reaching, say, European levels. As such, many atheists, like myself, find ourselves surrounded by believers that look and treat you like a leper if you say you don't believe. I live in California, I couldn't imagine what it would be like to be living in Alabama or Mississippi. That would never happen for me as the blind faith and ignorance would drive me to insanity. I couldn't imagine what it would be like for a gay black atheist girl living in the Bible Belt.

    December 9, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
    • Daniel

      I am a gay atheist living in the Bible Belt. I felt like I traveled backward in time when I moved here. Religious people are the most immoral and hateful people I have ever met!

      December 9, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
    • GodPot

      Most that grow up there can't wait to get away so they move as soon as they are able, which is likely why they have such low visibility there.

      December 9, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
    • Bravo

      When one grows up in an enclosed society, like those in the Bible belt, where belief is firmly rooted in intolerance, immorality and hatred such that any other point of view or way of life is viewed with utter disdain and disbelief, it isn't hard to imagine how difficult it can be to live in. I personally could never do it and I was lucky to grow up in NYC where societal variety simply doesn't allow one ideology to take root.

      What I envision is a slow migration away from those rigid ideologies as information becomes more easily accessible. Children that grow up in those immoral and hate filled environments will discover ways out and slowly but surely the Bible Belt will diminish into oblivion.

      December 9, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
  7. George

    Of course the reverse happens .... do you go to church ... oh you do ... I think religious people should die! Can't we just all be friends!

    December 9, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
    • MonkeyMan

      @George – I have never wished death on anyone, not even bigoted Christians. I don't think most atheists care in general, its only religious people who do.

      December 9, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
    • Steve1959

      The question isn't "do you go to church" but "what church do you go to". Down here (Alabama) everyone just assumes you belong to a church.

      December 9, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
  8. Loenore H. Dvorkin

    Ha, ha, scir91. You have some very mistaken ideas about atheism and atheists. Also, you probably live near lots of atheists, and simply do not know it. There are a great many of us out here, and guess what? We look and act just like other people, except that we can think for ourselves and do not believe in the MYTHinformation that is religion. What does morality consist of? It's things like kindness, hard work, charity, tolerance, and honesty, all those good qualities that make life with others more pleasant. We atheists are moral people because we WANT to be that way, not because we fear some imaginary punishment if we are bad. It is entirely possible to practice and to teach morals with no reference whatever to "God" or religion. Our kind, generous, and hardworking atheist son is a good example of that. Look at it this way. Do you pray to the goddess Venus before you make love? Do you pray to the god Bacchus before you have a drink? Do people pray to Thor before they go to war? I assume not, because modern people have outgrown belief in those old gods. One day, I hope, contemporary people will outgrow their need for and slavish devotion to the imaginary beings that so many so foolishly and needlessly worship now. MonkeyMan, thanks for your pithy and wise words!

    December 9, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
    • Opinionated Moron

      Bump

      December 9, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
    • my2cntsworth

      Here, here! wise words.

      December 9, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
  9. bruce

    I question the article when its stated that nothing could be found to watch on Sun nite. Are you kiding me? Most all the good shows are on Sun nite since the 1950's when I was a kid. Yes, we miss them when we were at Church Sun nites. So I question the whole article based on that statement.

    December 9, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
  10. DefyTheGods

    I just can't spell today! LOL

    December 9, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
    • GodPot

      Nope, you got it right, T O D A Y. 🙂

      December 9, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
  11. CosmicC

    I'm a member of the Untied Dyslexic Church of Dog

    December 9, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
  12. heresy

    the bible is nothing more than fiction written by humans to inacts laws and beliefs to control the masses. not a bad book. but no different from reading science fiction.

    December 9, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
    • Rob

      Amen!

      December 9, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
    • Kerry

      Ramen, brother, not amen.

      December 9, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
    • DefyTheGods

      I agree with you 100%, but you'll never get believers to hear you out if they feel you're insulting them. You'll just get a lot of backlash. LOL

      December 9, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
    • Rob

      Amen = Ra

      December 9, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
    • Jane Goodall

      You're obviously just a very ignorant and confused person. I laugh hard at how intolerant you are. Now please bend over and accept my massive e-penis.

      December 9, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
    • heresy

      @ Defy- i know. i think i'll just push thir buttons a bit. it fun. they get so defensive. also it a bit of therapy. even when im not being insulting i cant even get my own family to listen to me. so i dont put much faith on the mass population listening

      December 9, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
    • Jane Goodall

      You're obviously just a very ignorant and confused individual. I laugh hard at how intolerant you are. Also, the bix nood in this article is still a bix nood nonetheless.

      December 9, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
    • heresy

      @ Jane- i am intolerant? who is the one suggesting virtual sodomy? seems like you probably go gay bashing on the weekends too. i think most...NOT ALL christians are the most intolerant people I have every met.. i poke fun at all you peole online for fun. but people i know, i dont care what they believe in, or if they believe in anything. but when it came up that i no longer believe i was shunned by my whole community. so let me know how your "tolerance" is going on your end.

      December 9, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
  13. No one knows the TRUTH

    In a few generations we will look back and laugh at the idea that people actually believed in Creationism, Noahs Ark, Hell, and virgin births...Kind of how we laugh at the Greeks and Romans for their silly beliefs in Mythological gods.

    December 9, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
    • Henry

      People have been saying that for generations but the reality is the U.S. is the most religious it has been since independence.

      December 9, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
    • lolwut

      I laugh at creationists every single day lol.

      December 9, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
    • Imagine

      If you don't believe in Rah, how do you explain the sun rising everyday?

      I'm afraid it will be 1000 years before these dimwits realize their is no God, above us only skies.

      December 9, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
    • Observer

      Henry,

      "People have been saying that for generations but the reality is the U.S. is the most religious it has been since independence."

      You haven't read any polls lately, have you? Enjoy the wishful thinking.

      December 9, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
    • my2cntsworth

      Unfortunately, this won't happen as long as children are being brainwashed that they must have "faith" in spite of all of the evidence to the contrary, or else.... As they get older and breed, they follow the same playbook with their children.

      December 9, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
    • Henry

      There has been a scientific study.

      Karger & Stoetsz (2010)

      I make no comment on the value of religion but the fact is more people claim a faith now than any other time in the history of the U.S.

      December 9, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
    • Observer

      Seventy-five percent of Americans call themselves Christian, according to the American Religious Identification Survey from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. In 1990, the figure was 86 percent.
      - CNN, 03/09/09

      December 9, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
  14. Jared

    I am a white male, but I am also an atheist hippy living in the bible belt. Its already challenging enough from my perspective, let alone adding the race card to play. Stay strong! The communities in the south are held together in many areas by their churches; what atheists are missing down here in the Bible Belt is a way to socialize. When you live in a small enough town, and you aren't in school any more, it becomes difficult to find other like minded people. I have a story, not sure what to think of it myself- I was walking through Little Five Points in Atlanta a few months back and I am quite poor, but I decided I would treat myself to a lunch. So on the way out of the restaurant, I still have my leftovers in hand. A homeless kid probably about 22 years old comes up to me and asks for my leftovers. I tell him flat out, "No I don't have a lot of money or food myself either." This kid has the gall to come back at me with, "God bless ya brother." But he didn't say it in sincere way, his tone was meant to suggest a sort of insult at my behavior. So I looked him straight in the eyes and said, "I am an atheist," and then I walked off. Take from that story what you will.

    December 9, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
    • GodPot

      Just remember, "God bless you" when said to an atheist or someone of another faith doesn't mean "bless" in the conventional sense, it means "may God turn you into a Christian or else destroy you as a Pagan".

      December 9, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
    • Dave

      Cool story, bro.

      December 9, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
    • Steve1959

      I know just how you feel Jared. I told a coworker that I was athiest and have been harrassed by her ever since. She feels that it's her duty to convert me.

      December 9, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
    • Jared

      Dave, you made me laugh. Good job bro.

      December 9, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      I hated living in Georgia. The Army stationed me there 3 times in my career and I hated every time. "Have a blessed day" now makes me want to punch you in the face.

      December 9, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
  15. Simple Math

    Therefore the principles of human evolution from an insane species require a virgin birth of Adam and Eve for the establishment of a moral and just human government (Isaiah 9:6).

    December 9, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
  16. Mike

    I just want to know what happened to all the peoples of South America/North America before Christianity was introduced to them. I guess they all went to hell.

    December 9, 2011 at 1:11 pm |
    • Sam

      They spent their Sundays watching football guilt free.

      December 9, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
    • Nonimus

      @Sam,
      Only I think it was closer to headball.

      December 9, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
    • Andrew

      Actually, there are a number of interesting theories in this matter stemming from passages Paul talks about in The Bible. Since we don't know, they are all speculation. It requires faith in a just and rightous God who doesn't make mistakes that He has it dealt with. And we are not meant to know everything. And why not, it takes faith to be ab atheist because you can't disprove God either. Everybody has faith in something. What will you out your faith in?

      December 9, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
    • Mike

      I believe in God, just not religion.

      December 9, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
    • lolwut

      @Andrew technically we can't be absolutely sure of anything. "Why do you believe in leprechauns? Because their existence cannot be disproven." Your faith/religion is one among thousands, whose to say that someone else isn't right? Not all can be right, but they can certainly all be wrong. Isn't it better to take all evidence into account before formulating such an extraordinary claim?

      December 9, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
  17. Michaeltanino

    Atheists, STOP! You're shattering my narrow indoctrinated world view!

    December 9, 2011 at 1:11 pm |
  18. kckaaos

    You clearly mis-understand the goals of the modern liberal movement. If you do not do as they do, you are a racist bigot.

    December 9, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
    • Observer

      Liberals also usually don't believe in talking serpents, unicorns and hundreds of thousands of animals on a 600-year-old man's ship.

      December 9, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
    • my2cntsworth

      Really? How so? Atheists come in all colors and affiliations. I'm sure there are thousands of atheists that are Republican. Most of them keep their atheism in the closet because of reactions such as yours.

      December 9, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
  19. MonkeyMan

    I've been an athiest most of my life. I came from a family that claimed to be Christian but never actually did much in practice and to be honest I just never could make myself believe it. I'm casting my lot with Charles Darwin and if thats a problem with you Christians well to bad, its our lives and we don't have believe your fairy tales if we don't want to. Just leave us alone...

    December 9, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
    • Matt

      Don't you know? God doesn't care what your actions are as long as you loudly proclaim your faith and vote Republican. Only those people are destined for heaven.

      December 9, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
    • TIm

      @ Matt

      True, but you also have to be white.

      December 9, 2011 at 1:11 pm |
  20. scir91onYouTube

    in atheism, there is no one to legislate morality. you come from nothing and you will go to nothing. in the middle of all that called life, might makes right. if you can get away with it, do so. this is the tenet of atheism because there is no fear or incentive to do right unless it only benefits you. atheism is very dangerous for society. i wouldn't want to live near atheists or in a country like russia or china where money is their god and all morality is out of the window.

    December 9, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
    • MonkeyMan

      @scir91onYouTube I am an athiest but I am also a good person. I do not need FEAR of a higher power to make me do the right thing in my life. I just do it because its the right thing to do and because I have self control. The people who ACT good because they FEAR hell are not good people at heart, they are just sacred into it.

      December 9, 2011 at 1:11 pm |
    • Georgie

      Atheist does not equal immoral, you idiot. Just because we don't pray to some invisible holy dude in the sky does not mean that we do not hold ourselves up to the same principles as you do. It does seem to me, however, that there are a lot of "religious" people preaching hate. "Don't give them any credit unless they believe the same things we do." Morality out the window? What? GTFO. And grow up.

      I hope you do live near atheists. I sincerely do. Maybe you could learn a thing or two about acceptance.

      December 9, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
    • Michaeltanino

      scir91, it never ceases to amaze me how old rehashed and long destroyed arguments continue in perpetuity from theists. There is no "Universal Morality". Morality comes from our evolution. If our ancestors found it moral to randomly commit murder and to refuse to work together, then they likely would not have survived long enough to procreate and pass on their genetic codes. Their lineage would die out. On the other hand, those who are able to work together and sacrifice short term goals for long term goals that help their social group, then they are more likely to survive their environment long enough to procreate and pass on their advantageous make up and lifestyle.

      Animals have morals too. A lone wolf does not long survive but the wovles willing to work in a pack together thrive. Lions behave according their own rules within a Pride.

      Your attempt to claim morality doesn't make any sense. If I somehow proved to you tomorrow that there isn't a God, are you telling me that the minute you became aware of no God that you'd immediately change who you are and start pilliaging and eating babies? Of course not.

      December 9, 2011 at 1:16 pm |
    • streetsmt

      @scir91onYouTube
      Please keep believing!!! I pity the person who is near you if you stop believing. You might randomly slit their throat to rob their wallet.
      That is what you are saying about yourself, right?

      December 9, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
    • Observer

      Atheists believe in being good because it's the wise thing to do.

      Believers believe in being good because of bribes (heaven) or threats (hell).

      December 9, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
    • Daniel

      Wow, just wow! Few posts leave me speechless from their stupidity, but you have managed my friend. Since when is money not god in America?

      December 9, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
    • SandCityD

      Scir91...~ "this is the tenet of atheism because there is no fear or incentive to do right unless it only benefits you."

      Your hypocrisy is only outweighed by your obliviousness. You know nothing about Atheism and you have probably never met an Atheist. To suggest that Atheists only do right to benefit themselves is absurd. When believers say this it is because it is the believer who only does good because he is afraid of "Hell" and wants to be rewarded in "Heaven." It is the believer that acts for his own benefit and to suggest that Atheists have no moral compass, when religion and belief in a comforting fable lead to discrimination, hatred and fear is unbelievable. Believers are so arrogant that they believe they were created in the image of an all knowing, infallible "God" and that they have a monopoly on morality. Disgusting!

      If you need a cosmic purpose, find a worthy cause! It is better to face the hard truth than to rely on a comforting fable. Ignorance is not better than knowledge. Intolerance is not better than acceptance. And belief in the Flying Spaghetti Monster is not better than accepting the truth that Mankind is the guardian of life's meaning... GO PRAY TO SANTA!

      December 9, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
    • momof2

      I think you're confusing atheism with Ayn Rand and Wall Street. Humanism is about the development of morals and ethics without the premise of God.

      The threat of divine punishment for misdeeds was invented in the days before 911, the police, courts and jails. I don't need the threat of hell to not kill, steal, drive drunk, etc. The threats of jail, huge fines, losing my license, etc are enough of a deterrent.

      There's also the idea of treating others the way you want to be treated. It's a bit hypocritical to expect others to treat me better than I treat them.

      As far as anyone knows, the rat species has no concept of a god. Yet in today's Chicago Tribune, there is an article about behaviors identified in rats that could only be described as empathic and altrustic.

      December 9, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
    • Karl Rickard

      And money isn't "god" in the United States? Wake up and smell the coffee. The primary objective of the Republican Christian Right Wing in this country is to protect the assets of the 1%.

      December 9, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
    • Tom

      In America, god is money (for many politicians and business people alike). The difference is in how people use money. Consider that next time you go to the polls. Who tries to help people and who tells people to help themselves instead.

      December 9, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
    • gospyro

      scir91onYouTube... You're an idiot. Ditto to the comments above. Anything else I have to say, would just be repeating the comments and replies already made.

      December 9, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.