10 Scariest States to Be An Atheist

By Greta Christina | 8 June 2011
Freethought Blogs

Let’s be clear. It’s not like it’s easy to be an atheist anywhere in the U.S. Atheists are the most distrusted and disliked of all minority groups — more than blacks, Hispanics, Jews, Muslims, immigrants, and gays and lesbians — and polls show that Americans are less likely to vote for an atheist than they are for a person in any other minority or marginalized category. And this hostility can have serious consequences, in the form of harassment, bullying, ostracism, vandalism, alienation from family, loss of jobs, and more.

But to be honest, there are parts of the country where being an atheist really isn’t all that awful. Heck, I live in one of them. There’s some bigotry, some discrimination, a fair amount of misunderstanding and even hostility… but all things considered, it’s pretty okay. And then, there are some parts of the country where being an atheist sucks.

Let’s talk about a few of those, shall we?

Now, to a great extent, how badly it sucks to be an atheist may not depend on the state you live in. It’s sort of like the red-state/blue-state myth: cultural differences in the United States break down more along urban/rural lines than they do along state lines. Is it easier to be an atheist in New York than in Texas? Maybe… but it may also be easier if you’re in Austin, Texas than if you’re in rural upstate New York.

Many atheist and secularist leaders I spoke to stressed this point. According to Fred Edwords, national director of the United Coalition of Reason (the organization responsible for many of the atheist billboard campaigns), “As for the worst states to be an atheist, it doesn’t generally work that way. It depends on what part of a state you are in.”

In fact, he’s not even sure that this difference always breaks down along urban/ rural lines. “Is the key idea that the more rural areas give us the most trouble?” he asked. “Maybe. But we had bus ads vandalized in Detroit, too.” And he added that in Kentucky, “we had no problem in Louisville, but I still can’t get a billboard company to run our ads in supposedly more liberal Lexington.”

And according to the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, “No state is really safe for non-believers. You find creationist ideas in schools from Louisiana to New Jersey. You find efforts to send secular tax dollars to religious schools in Indiana and Florida. And, finally, you find polls done of all Americans demonstrating that plenty of families don’t want their sons or daughters marrying atheists. There are many sad states of affairs.”

So the point here isn’t to show that some states suck for atheists worse than others. The point is to show that anti-atheist bigotry is real. The point is to show that it has real-world consequences. And the point is to let you know what some of those consequences are.

So with all that being said — let’s get on with the list! If you’re finishing your degree in secular studies and are trying to decide where in the country you want to plant your godless stakes… here are some places you might want to avoid.

#10: Pennsylvania. Yes, I know. Everyone’s expecting this list to be overloaded with the deep South. And I’ll be getting there soon enough. But religious privilege and anti-atheist hostility don’t stay below the Mason-Dixon line. Anti-atheist bigotry can, and does, happen anywhere.

And Pennsylvania is Exhibit A. Specifically, Annville, Pennsylvania, where atheist veterans marching in the Memorial Day parade were jeered, booed, insulted, cursed at, yelled at to leave, and told they were going to burn in hell. Not once or twice by a couple of fanatics… but repeatedly, throughout the course of the parade.

Let me spell that one out again. In small town America, veterans — veterans, on Memorial Day, marching in a Memorial Day parade — were jeered, booed, insulted, cursed at, yelled at to leave, and told they were going to burn in hell.

Because they were atheists.

‘Nuff said.

#9: Idaho. Where atheist billboards — not in-your-face controversial ones, but almost aggressively mild ones, simply announcing that atheists exist and are good people — are vandalized on a regular basis. According to Maggie Ardiente of the American Humanist Association, “Thanks to a member of ours who lives in Moscow, Idaho, the AHA has been putting up billboards over the past two years to promote humanism and atheism. When we put up a factual, non-controversial billboard that said, ‘Millions are Good Without God,’ it was vandalized twice! We continue to put billboards in the area, but there is often additional security provided when we put up a new one.”

Just like it says in the Bible: “And whatever place will not take you in and will not give ear to you, when you go away, put off the dust from your feet… and then deface their billboards like a douchebag.”

#8: Arkansas. (I told you I’d get to the deep South!) Hey, at least in Idaho, atheists can put up their dang billboards. In Arkansas, the Central Arkansas Transit Authority (CATA) has flatly rejected an atheist ad that the Central Arkansas Coalition of Reason wanted to put up on 18 buses… solely and entirely because the content of the ads — “Are you good without God? Millions are” — is atheist.

I am not kidding. Even the public excuses being given for rejecting the ads — possible vandalism and even “terrorism” due to the “controversial” nature of the ad — are based on the fact that these ads have atheist content, expressing the “controversial” view that atheists, you know, exist, and are good people. And as the behind-the-scenes scrambling reveals, they are blatantly doing this based on religious hostility to atheism. Check this out:

In response to an e-mail message dated February 28, 2011, from Plaintiff’s media broker to the Advertising Agent conveying the content of the Proposed Advertisement, the Advertising Agent forwarded the message to Betty Wineland, the Executive Director of the Authority, stating in her accompanying message (in its entirety): “Dear God……HELP!” Ms. Wineland replied: “I need Him now more than ever. Good grief. I think we need to throw religion into the advertising policy – as a negative. Stall while CATA reviews.”

Let me spell this one out very plainly: A government-run public transit authority is rejecting religious-themed advertising — solely because the religious view being advertised is the view that religion is mistaken. And no, they haven’t changed their policy to reject all religious-themed ads. They still take religious-themed ads. Just not ones from atheists.

Oh, and in case you were wondering: Yes. They’re being sued.

#7: Alabama. The state where the actual governor, Robert Bentley, said in actual words, “Anybody here today who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, I’m telling you, you’re not my brother and you’re not my sister.” The state where it took an interfaith delegation, led by the Anti-Defamation league, to inform him that there are non-Christians in Alabama. Non-Christians who — I hope I don’t have to remind you — are fully fledged legal residents of the state. Non-Christians whom Bentley also serves as governor… every bit as much as he serves the Christians. As American Atheists president David Silverman says, “Top of my list is Alabama, home of Roy Moore and ‘You are not my brother’ Governor Bentley. It appears that to hold office in Alabama, you have to be completely ignorant of American Law and despise the Separation of Church and State.”

Oh, and in case that’s not enough: Let’s talk about some places where it sucks to be an atheist in high school. Let’s talk about the Secular Student Alliance, and its new program specifically devoted to supporting high school atheist groups. Let’s talk about the resistance that atheist students routinely get from public high school administrators who want to block students from forming secular groups. And let’s talk a little more about Alabama. The only state where the SSA has had to initiate a lawsuit about it.

Duncan Henderson wanted to form a secular club at his public school — which he has the full legal right to do. But his school principal denied his request. According to JT Eberhard, campus organizer and high school specialist at the Secular Student Alliance, “When Duncan’s father scheduled a meeting to discuss the matter, the principal showed up to the meeting with a lawyer, who more or less repeated, ‘We’re going to follow the law’ in response to every question. But the school has not followed through on that promise to follow the law. The school has stonewalled, and attempts by the SSA to discuss the matter were met with an email from the school’s attorney saying they’re not going to speak to anybody.”

Hence — lawsuit. Which, as of this writing, is happening solely and entirely in the state of Alabama. As Eberhard added, “While it’s not the first state in which we have seen pushback from adults in a position of authority over students to the idea of atheists forming clubs in the same way religious students form clubs, it is the first state in which we’ve had to bring in lawyers to fight for equality denied.”

#6: North Carolina. Where in December of 2009, Cecil Bothwell couldn’t even get elected to the Asheville City Council, without people trying to invoke laws — antiquated laws overruled by the Supreme Court, but laws nonetheless — banning him from taking office because he’s an atheist.

Okay. Let’s be fair. This isn’t exactly an isolated case. Lauren Becker of the Center for Inquiry points out that several states have antiquated laws on the books banning atheists from holding office. “The Supreme Court has said that federal law prohibits states from requiring a religious test to serve office,” she says, but “there are still some states that have such laws, whether they enforce them or not.”

North Carolina, however, has the distinction of actually trying to enforce one of these laws. Less than a year and a half ago.

#5. Florida. On the other hand, in Florida, you might get kicked out of a city council meeting simply for wearing an atheist T-shirt. And if you protest against prayers at city council meetings, you might actually get arrested.

So that’s gotta suck.

#4: Rhode Island. Did you hear the one about the public high school with the prayer banner in the school gym — a prayer banner specifically addressed to “Our Heavenly Father”? The public high school that got asked to take the banner down by 15-year-old atheist high school student Jessica Ahlquist, since it’s an unconstitutional promotion of religion by government? The public high school that’s digging in its heels and hanging on to the banner, despite decades of unambiguous legal precedent making it clear that they’re in the wrong? The public high school that’s getting sued by said atheist high school student and the ACLU… and is still digging in its heels, devoting extensive time and resources to defending their promotion of religion?

That’s Rhode Island, folks. And this story isn’t just about a school administration insisting on its right to unconstitutionally establish religion. It’s about a community’s ostracization of an atheist teenager — in some cases to the point of threats of violence. Ahlquist has been shunned, insulted, vilified, and even threatened with violence. Students in an English class in her school said — during class — that she should be “smacked around and beat up” for fighting the prayer banner. Comments in the Providence Journal article on the story were ugly, personal, even threatening — to a great extent about the ACLU, but largely about Ahlquist herself. (“I think you need to talk to a doctor and get help… you are sick in the head.” “Looks like we have a moon bat in the making.” “Make no mistake, Jessica and the Bolshevik thugs representing her are driven by anti-Christian bigotry and intolerance and censorship… Curse them to hell.”)

In fact, according to the Providence Journal, Ahlquist and another student were removed from their regular classroom schedule last month — after some students said they intended to harm her. To quote JT Eberhard, high school specialist at the Secular Student Alliance, “In the city of Cranston, an entire community, perhaps an entire state of adults, is engaging in a smear campaign against a single high school student. Her crime? Believing her school violates the first amendment by hanging a prayer banner in the gym invoking the phrases ‘Our heavenly father’ and ‘Amen’.”

And this is in New England. This is Rhode Island. The first of the 13 original colonies to declare independence from British rule. The state specifically founded as a place of religious freedom, as a response to religious persecution. A slat in the cradle of liberty. And they are vilifying and threatening a 15-year-old girl for being an atheist, and for insisting that her public school follow the Constitution and not shove religion down her throat. Anti-atheist bigotry is everywhere. It’s not just in Alabama or Mississippi. Or even Texas.

#3: Texas. Wow. Where do you start with Texas? The public high school graduation ceremony that was like a revival meeting? The transit company that changed their policies and stopped accepting any bus ads for any religious organizations… just so they wouldn’t have to take ads from atheists? The governor who responded to economic troubles, natural disasters, and terrorism by initiating a state day of prayer, and has exhorted Texans to “call on Jesus”? The governor, again, who decreed three official state Days of Prayer for Rain? The public school where they distribute Bibles? The high school textbooks which teach that the Bible was a “foundational text” in the framing of the U.S., that the King James Bible “remains one of the… most-loved books in the history of the world,” and that “the sun went black” when Jesus was crucified? The state Constitution that says, “No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office, or public trust, in this State; nor shall any one be excluded from holding office on account of his religious sentiments, provided he acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being”? The teachers that get fired, not for being atheists, but for being suspected of being atheists? The town where they get seriously hysterical about atheists playing “Jingle Bells” in a Christmas parade?

Come on. Did you really expect Texas not to be on this list?

#2: Mississippi. I could say a lot about Mississippi. For instance, I could talk about how, when the Second Chance Prom was being organized for lesbian student Constance McMillan, the state chapter of the freaking ACLU refused to take money from the American Humanist Association and the Stiefel Freethought Foundation… because it was atheist money. I shit you not. In an e-mail message to AHA, Jennifer Carr, the fundraiser for the ACLU of Mississippi, said, “Although we support and understand organizations like yours, the majority of Mississippians tremble in terror at the word ‘atheist.'” The ACLU would later apologize and accept the money; but, as Maggie Ardiente of the AHA, puts it, “We were very disappointed to see an organization that’s famously known for standing up for everyone’s rights — including the right to be an atheist or humanist — initially discriminate against us.”

That’s reasonably messed-up. But I want to focus instead on a much more practical, nuts-and-bolts, life-screwing-up form of anti-atheist bigotry — child custody.

It is depressingly common for atheists to have child custody limited, or even denied, explicitly on the basis of their atheism. Cases have been documented again and again and again, in states including Michigan, Minnesota, Arkansas, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Texas. But according to Eugene Volokh of The Volokh Conspiracy, “Mississippi is the most serious offender.” Volokh goes on to say, “In 2001, for instance, the Mississippi Supreme Court upheld an order giving a mother custody partly because she took the child to church more often than the father did, thus providing a better ‘future religious example.’ In 2000, it ordered a father to take the child to church each week, as a [lower] Mississippi court ordered… reasoning that ‘it is certainly to the best interests of [the child] to receive regular and systematic spiritual training.'”

Try to imagine a judge in this country denying or limiting custody to a parent, explicitly and specifically, because they were Jewish. Because they were Mormon. Because they were Baptist. And now, try to imagine a judge in this country denying or limiting custody to a parent, explicitly and specifically because they’re an atheist. You don’t have to imagine it. This is real. This happens. And it happens in Mississippi more than anywhere else in the country.

And finally, we come to my Number One Worst State to Be an Atheist:

#1: Louisiana.

I freely admit that this list, and the order I’m presenting it, is subjective. It’s not based on a careful statistical analysis of rigorously gathered data based on journalistically objective criteria about anti-atheist bigotry. It’s based on stories that happened to get my atheist dander up. It’s based on stories that made me sad — and enraged.

And the story that happened in Louisiana made me sad, and enraged, more than almost any other.

I’m talking about Damon Fowler.

I’m talking about the atheist high school student who opposed his public school having a school-sponsored prayer at his graduation. Whose name was leaked. And who, as a result, was hounded, pilloried, and ostracized by his community; publicly demeaned by one of his teachers; physically threatened; and thrown out by his parents, who cut off his financial support, kicked him out of the house, and threw his belongings onto the front porch. Whose public school went ahead and had the graduation prayer anyway. Who has had to leave his home and move in with his sister near Dallas, Texas.

You know things are bad when your atheist safe haven from extremist religious persecution is in Texas.

That’s Louisiana.

Worst. State. Ever.

And you wanna know the really sad thing? This piece could have been a lot longer. This could easily have been the 20 Worst States to Be an Atheist. The 30 Worst. Heck… the 50 Worst.

You’ve got Maryland. Where yet another atheist high school student started a group, whose posters were torn down by other students — and where actual parents of those students wrote letters to the editor supporting the vandalism, and calling the atheist posters “an atrocity.” You’ve got Georgia. Where students taking their AP tests at a church were proselytized to by church members. You’ve got Utah. Where, says American Atheists president David Silverman, “The state attorney general is trying to have the Roman Cross pronounced secular so it can be placed on public buildings and schools without regard to equal access.” You’ve got Oklahoma. Where still another public high school student tried to start an atheist group, and was accused by his principle of trying to start a “hate group”… and where the faculty advisor for the group suddenly withdrew, saying she had been told sponsoring the group would be “a bad career move.” You’ve got… oh, you get the idea.

Is anti-atheist bigotry as bad as homophobia or racism, misogyny or transphobia? No, probably not. Not for the most part. I don’t like comparing oppressions; it’s divisive and pointless, and I don’t think anything is gained by playing “more oppressed than thou.” There are a few ways that anti-atheist bigotry is worse than others — the roadblocks being tossed up against high school students leap to mind, as does the whole “least trusted/least likely to be voted for” thing. But atheists don’t seem to be subject to the same level of physical violence as gay or trans people — or the same level of economic oppression as women or people of color. And I’m not saying that they are.

My point is not that anti-atheist bigotry is as bad as other forms of bigotry. It exists. It is real. It happens all over the country. And it has real-world consequences.

So if you’re ever tempted to ask why atheists are so angry, or why they have to kick up such a fuss all the time, or why they want to organize and form groups based on what they don’t believe in… remember that.

Read more of Greta Christina at her blog.

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  1. I find many of the stories in this read bothersome. As a person of equal rights, I would not wish anyone to be ostracized for their faith or lack there-of. However, it seems quite ironic to me how a chapel with a comment about it's views on humanism can be portrayed in the light it is portrayed in above, but make no mention about the posting of atheist billboards. Hmmm…
    Having been in the military, I saw on NUMEROUS occasions where prayers were conducted in formal gatherings – IN UNIFORM – where non-religious people didn't ONCE complain about the prayer, nor even try to protest it. Yes, there are atheists in the military; I knew some of them personally. But did they protray themselves as "ostracized"? No. Why? Because they were mature enough to respect and deal with the things they didn't necessarily agree with.
    I guess it's okay to post atheist billboards, but it's not okay for a church to speak it's mind about humanism! We wouldn't want to "ostracize" anyone now, would we?

    • So you're saying that a sign proclaiming that its OK to be an atheist and telling those who are closeted atheists that they are not alone is on equal footing with a sign that is an outright falsehood? Yeah, that clearly makes sense….

    • So… you’re saying that some atheists in a room full of armed christian soldiers who are trained to kill chose not to point out the illegality of what they were doing? And you criticize them for not doing so even after reading about whole christian communities going completely apeshit when a couple of _children_ did the same?

      What exactly is your point here? That atheists have pretty good instincts for self-preservation?

      And incidentally, if you can’t figure out the difference between “Atheists exist and are good people” and “Humanism is a vile religion and its adherents deserve to suffer”, there’s really no help for you.

    • Actually being a former military member — the lack of a response in a room filled with ultra – religious is not evidence of approval or lack of annoyance — but that actually for the sake of internal politic and survival most of us have to keep our mouths clasped shut due to the majority perspective…
      Most uncomfortable event in my entire military career is when as a Maj — surrounded by four Maj and a Lt Col when the news of me being an agnostic was shockingly looked at in disgust and revulsion… and then questioning how I got through the day… not to mention digging immediately into the question of evolution.
      Not speaking or standing up and shouting to the top of my lungs about being a non-theist isn't acceptance its just survival!

    • Bryant, I currently serve in the military and I can tell you this. The atheists I know along with myself are outraged by the military’s public endorsement of christianity. There are 113 choices of religion when a person enlists and only 9 of them aren’t christian, 7 of which stand outside the abrahamic religions; but I digress. We don’t say anything because it’s not a live and let live mentality in our nation and especially not in our military. I have been talked to about not bowing my head when “let us pray” is stated because it’s a “facing movement” though it’s not in any drill manual. I am outspoken about my lack of beliefs when others start to preach but in a public forum, I would be ostracized as would any other military member. We are smart enough to learn from history, know that we are way outnumbered, and understand that speaking out against the blatent disregard for policy and the constitution committed every day by the military is career suicide.

    • Bryant as an Atheist in uniform myself I was approached by a Sr. NCO for not bowing my head during a prayer (I stood like everyone else, and I stood at attention out of respect) he didn’t like how I refused to pray. I was physically and verbal accosted by a fellow NCO. After that, it happened more and more, I became less silent at that point and just started walking out of public functions on base.

  2. I would like to see an article listing the 10 *best* states to be an atheist. I know, you may need to make it the 10 best cities, but I'm guessing that there are some very progressive cities nestled in some of the most heinous states…

      • Excellent posts, all. I’m a little late to the debate but thought I’d throw in my 2 anyway: Railboy, I happen to be one of those Spiritual Types you mentioned. Let me just say that my spirituality doesn’t define what I believe or filter truth in any way. The fact that I am a spiritual atheist does not mean that I hold any supernatural beliefs. It is simply the way I find enjoyment and meaning in an otherwise meaningless universe. The moment I realized I was an atheist (as opposed to a hopeful agnostic) was a profoundly moving spiritual experience. Carl Sagan was (in my opinion) a spiritual agnostic — he disliked the term atheist — and he used his spirituality to infuse wonder about the cosmos into millions of questioning minds. His “nice” approach was what converted so many people to science. How much airtime would Cosmos have gotten, really, if Dr. Sagan had instead launched diatribes against religion? Now, I totally respect the place of mean atheists in the debate. I think each side is beneficial at different stages of our growth. I thoroughly enjoyed The God Delusion, and it in fact was partly responsible for my realization that I am an atheist. But I would not have appreciated it a couple years earlier. By the time most people read Dawkins, he is just preaching to the choir. And chanson, spirituality does not always mean the brainwashed, guilt-ridden religious variety. Cynthia put words to it in her comment, without naming it as spirituality. As for sexuality … what would the spiritual life be without sex? They are absolutely compatible in my book!

  3. best place to be an atheist in? welcome to


    5% are church-goers and THEY are strange here, imagine!! :-))

    • Roman Catholic 10.4%, Protestant (includes Czech Brethren and Hussite) 1.1%, other and unspecified 54%, none 34.5% (2011 est.), Not bad at all, and i always wanted to visit Prague.

  4. Hmmmm…doesn't atheism inherently include an "I don't give a f***k clause?" It troubles me that something that keeps me free (in the spiritual and ethical sense) is now being sort of clothed in a gossamer of victimization. Why are these ads being placed on buses anyway? To extend the very analogies that have been used in the story in their defense, it seems awfully like proselytization. Good science will bring more people to a greater state of knowledge – confrontational politics just seems like a waste of good real estate. To be frank though, I'm not sure where I stand on this. Just something about the story rubbed me the wrong way.

    • doesn't atheism inherently include an "I don't give a f***k clause?"

      No. Where'd you get that idea?

      But I suppose there are all sorts of "Uncle Tom" types in all sorts of groups who don't mind being 2nd class citizens. Hey, "as long as they don't bother me!" is indeed a way to live.

    • Saying, "It's okay; there are others who also don't believe," is not proselytizing. Also, we don't use the fear of hell to convert people.

    • "Why are these ads being placed on buses anyway?"

      Because people are asshats to reasonable people ( atheists). Maybe atheists are tired of the image morons have in their heads before they get to know us?

  5. I live in AR and have not once felt uncomfortable or threatened for being an atheist. Central AR has a large atheist and freethinker community. Yes, there are many religious people here, but I have never encountered hatred from Christians, muslims, or Jews. In fact, many of my good friends are religous anf.comfortable with my atheism. I’m out of the closet religiously and sexually, and I feel completely safe in my home state.

    • I think that it’s great that you feel that way, but, as an atheist living in Northwest Arkansas, I have had the opposite experience.

      I was taught biology by someone who started the section off with “I don’t believe this, and I don’t expect you to either, so let’s just get through it.”

      When I tried to defend evolution I was screamed at and shouted down by my classmates, none of which were reprimanded for their behavior.

      I have all but given up on dating, since one’s rejection rate is vastly increased when religion is brought up (and it is). I’ve even had one girlfriend who cried herself to sleep on occasion because she knew when we died we’d be separated… and I’d be burning in hell.

      I was conditioned to hide my lack of faith as best I could in order to stay employed, and have lost many jobs once my being atheist was revealed.

      I have personally found much pain and torment living in Arkansas, so, while your experience may be a positive one, please don’t defend the state based off of the most metropolitan area. There are those of us stuck in the outlying cities who don’t have it so well.

      • Strange. I live in NWA (Bentonville to be precise), and I’ve never really been harassed all that much about being an atheist. Had a couple geniuses call me a satanist, but other than that, no one really cares.

        • I am originally from NWA, and I’ve never had any problems in that part of the state either. I know everyone has different experiences, and I’m sharing mine. In my experience, Arkansas has not been a scary place to live. That’s really all I’m saying.

      • Next time you lose your job and/or girlfriend for being an atheist, come on down to LR. We've got Atheist Game Night, Atheist Movie Night, and even a kickball team. Little Rock's atheist scene is so big, some people got into a fight on a facebook and started a splinter group.

        Atheists are always going to be taking shit in small towns and not giving a shit in large ones.

    • I live in Greenwood, Ar and I came out of the closet as an agnostic/atheist over a year ago. I've received numerous threats of hell and list all but a couple of friends. My kids no longer get invited for sleepovers, birthday parties, etc. I want to move, but my husband refuses. It's disgusting the way I've been treated by my former church friends. You are lucky to have found a community of freethinkers!!

  6. When you are the only child in your school that is not a Christian, you find yourself in very uncomfortable situations. My small, rural town was this way. No one was ever hostile toward me, but everyone thought they had to “save” me. People would tell my mom that she should take me to church. My best friend took me to a children’s preacher who scared the living shit out of me and “saved” a bunch of souls that day. I was actually to afraid to come forward because I didn’t want anyone to know I didn’t believe that Jesus was the son of god.

    The truth is, I’m not even an atheist, but when you are not Christian, or even Jewish, most people don’t know what to do with you. There’s just an assumption you must be Christian. I’ve been with friends who turned to me as the guest to say grace at dinner. My Mormon roommate in college constantly tried to get me to go to church with her, then finally just stopped being nice to me when she realized I wouldn’t go.

    I live in NYC now and it is much easier than the rural midwest. My boyfriend is actually a Christian, and he has no problems with my beliefs. I think that the key is a recognition that you don’t have to be a religious person to be a good person. The asumption is that if you don’t go to church you can’t have learned good morals. That’s all we’re trying to say. And when a school is promoting a religious viewpoint, we shouldnt have to choose to pretend we’re Christian because the consiquence is ostricization. I often just pretended to pray because it was easier than explaining, once again, that I don’t go to church.

  7. WOW… hello, GEORGIA!!!! How can GA not be on the list?! When you have elementary school children assaulting each other over religion (you didn't hear about this because the police didn't even do anything, except suggest I home school), prayer and religious reference in the public schools, and don't get called back for the PTA because you don't go to church… I'd say that's pretty hostile towards Atheists.

    What about TN? They even have a "creationism is equal to evolution" policy and teach both in the schools.

    • TN, definitely deserves to be on the list. We moved from FL to TN 3 yrs ago and it has been a nightmare ever since. Our son starts school next yr and the thought of it has been keeping me up at nights. The horror stories I hear from other mothers of elementary school students makes me want to cry. In FL I actually worked at a religious preschool(only job I could find) and they indoctrinated less than the public schools in TN. They actually focused on education. At my school 4 yr olds could read and write in print and cursive yet here school starts at 5 and they teach them colors, numbers, and shapes and to be thankful for god wtf?!?!?! Counting down the yrs, months, and days until Hubby get’s transferred to just about ANYWHERE else.

    • Yeah, Georgia’s pretty bad. The really bad thing is that I live in a small town, and am basically a country boy (and nerd, but shut up.) I’m a welder/fabricator, carry a pistol, and am to all outward appearances, fit in. But i was told at work last week that i was going to hell if i didn’t cut my braided 5 inch goatee. I was so flabbergasted that I couldn’t even think of a good comeback (afterwards, I realized that what i should have said involved getting the guy to tell me the verse that mentiones beards.)

  8. Reading this makes me feel really rally bad for my atheist brothers and sisters across the pond. Maybe you guys should think about coming over to the UK, where even though we have a "national religion" as headed by the queen, we are lucky inasmuch as nobody actually cares. In fact it is safe to say that religion as a whole is dying a death of a thousands cuts with less than 10% of under 18's beleiving in god, and the figure only rises to around 15% in the under 40's. Hell even our deputy PM is an atheist (even if he is a frigging moron!)

    come on over to where you will be accepted for who you are. If these people want an ignorant theocrissy then let them have it, get your atheist freinds and family to come over to The UK. we'll welcome you with open arms :0)

    • The problem with that approach, Ian, is that , if enough people followed through on it, it would leave the world's largest nuclear arsenal exclusively in the hands of a population of raving fanatics who WANT the world to end.
      Secularists, humanists, atheists need to stay in the U.S., rise up, speak out, DEMAND that their Constitution be obeyed, and work for as much power as they can to check and balance the tide of no nothing ignorance these necro-cultists are promoting.

    • Ironic isn’t it? We, americans, left Great Britian over 200 years ago to escape religious persecution only to create a worse situation here……….

    • The US is going the way of the UK when it comes to religion. It is becoming less religious by the day. This is being spearheaded by young people, those under 30 and is only going to continue.

  9. Living in Oklahoma City has been a mixed bag as a atheist. And I am a very open atheist. I've been yelled at at times and looked at as a bit odd at others. But I will say by and large it's been ok. Even at work.

    But like said earlier dating is about pointless here. Once they find out I am atheist they walk away.

    I did have a co-worker say he could not work with me because he was offended by my lack of belief. He called the boss to get sent to a different job site only to discover the boss is also atheist. I knew this and was laughing like mad as he made the call

    But if I venture out of this city things are very different. The level of hate rises vastly and along with it the chance of violence. Sad reality here in Oklahoma but I refuse to be silenced.

    • I live in Cushing, Ok. A lot of people I know are extremely religious and dislike you if you are an atheist. They think that my husband and I worship the devil.

  10. I went to my cousins daughters christening today and in the church they had a poster that read:- FACT: God is calling people into the priesthood.
    How the hell is that a "fact". That is nothing more that opinion and conjecture.

  11. This country has always run on the majority opinion, but the majority isn't always right. The majority in the country are not practicing Christians. (Even when you include folks at Church. If those who claim to be actually acted like Christians there would be no doubt in the existence of God.

    • I don't know what you're talking about. As of 2012, the majority of Americans (73–76%) identify themselves as Christians. So what is your point, exactly?

      • I do believe JMC said "practicing" Christians. For instance, I am sure that the congregants of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, consider themselves Christians. However, most "practicing" Christians eschew this Church's UNchristian behavior. Get it?

  12. I can definitely confirm how awful Louisiana is for an Atheist. My High School had a daily prayer that they made everyone stand up for after the Pledge. It was silent, but it was still referred to as a prayer and was treated as mandatory. After a while, I refused to stand up during it. I was repeatedly told to stand up and yelled at by one of my teachers… my Civics teacher. I was told by other students I was going to "Hell" basically every day. Threatened with violence multiple times.

  13. I've lived in 5 different states, and currently live in Texas. I don't hide my atheism. No one has ever bothered me, called me names, implied I was doomed to hell. Of course, that doesn't make the news.

    Arkansas isn't typically considered 'the South' although, as I look just now, some places include Arkansas and Oklahoma. They certainly aren't part of the Deep, or Old, South.

  14. I was kind of surprised that Kentucky didn't make the list. Ah… Never mind. I forgot. My state is protected from such things by God. Says so right on a plaque outside of our Homeland Security Office.

  15. "Atheists are the most distrusted and disliked of all minority groups — more than blacks, Hispanics, Jews, Muslims, immigrants, and gays and lesbians — and polls show that Americans are less likely to vote for an atheist than they are for a person in any other minority or marginalized category. And this hostility can have serious consequences, in the form of harassment, bullying, ostracism, vandalism, alienation from family, loss of jobs, and more."

    What about pedophiles? Being both, I'm much more careful about who I tell I find children attractive than telling I don't believe in God (which I don't try to hide at all). Are you claiming that I should do it the other way around if at all? Be an out of the closet pedophiles, but hide my non-belief. Perhaps that correct- I've only told two people about me being interested in children and a few others have found out. None of them cared. But they are all atheists making being an atheist something that increases social acceptance in that group. And I've never had a friend complain about atheists- I have had one complain about people who commit pedo thought crimes.

    • Being a pedophile is a medically accepted medical illness, atheism is NOT and they DO NOT go hand in hand. I will not say that being a pedophile is wrong, because it is something those who have it cannot control, but they can control their actions if not their "attractions". However, reading the argument that being a closeted pedophile is the same as being a closeted atheist is completely absurd. One is not like the other and there should be no assumption that any non-belief contributes or correlates to the other.

    • I'm going to go out on a limb here and say I think you are trolling. I think you are neither an atheist nor a pedophile but rather someone trying to imply that there is a link between the two.

      I love the way you sneak in there that you have 2 friends who are atheists who don't care that you are a pedophile. That must be one of the greatest statistical anomoly of all time to just happen to have those particular people as friends who just happened to find out about your secret.

      Lets see 2 percent of people are atheists and 3 percent of people are pedos. That would make the odds of your two friends having those traits close to 1 in 2.8 million not to mention the other few who found out accidentally also having those traits bumping the odds up to 1 in multi trillions. What a lucky guy you are. NOT!

  16. There are lots of atheists in hell. No discrimination there. Unfortunately it's too late at that point to realize you were wrong.

    • You came onto an article about discrimination against Atheists/atheism in order to discriminate against them? Your morality and humanity is questionable at best.

    • Hi, Laura.
      I know you will perhaps find my response stupid, but I think it will be simpler to tell you to shut the f— up instead of explaining how ridiculous your claim is, even in the context of your own religious beliefs.
      So, in summary, shut the f— up.

    • Oh, Laura, so you’ve been to “hell” and met those Atheists? Atheists are generally fact-based people and need (insist, even) on proof and citations. And no, you can’t back it up with the bible, because that is the issue in question. Going to an Atheist site to “prove” your deluded point of view is so ludicrous that it has just proven how ignorant you are. I could continue, but I fear my use of words containing more than two syllables may confuse you.
      Oh, BTW, Laura, threatening an Atheist with “hell” is far too hilarious! (That’s okay folks, I’m sure she doesn’t see the irony there.)

  17. "Is anti-atheist bigotry as bad as homophobia or racism, misogyny or transphobia? No, probably not. Not for the most part."
    As a gay atheist man, I have to say that the discrimination I have faced for being an atheist has definitely been worse than the discrimination I've faced for being gay.

  18. How can you be ostracized for 'non-belief'?? How would anyone know??

    People don't like atheists because they tend to be self-righteous, smug, arrogant, rude, evangelical and otherwise just plain annoying.

    Lots of people are non-believers, but atheists tend to be VERY EVANGELICAL about their anti-theist views. Not to mention that 150 million people died at the hands of atheist ruled regimes in a mere 70 years in the 20th century.

    Non-believers just go about their business; evangelical atheists get their kicks from attempting to force their views down other people's throats … just as bad as some Christians . ijs .

  19. What ?? why was my comment deleted
    so this is the famous freedom isle of the world .. that country seem worse and worse from outer point of view … i am not sure if ppl care about such a thing europe .. and if they do i think there is no discrimination based on it … if you know about some let me know

  20. The best country to be Atheist is Japan. EVERYONE…I mean everyone I know here is not religious (however for some dumb reason many believe in ghosts). There are no churches in a 20 mile radius of where I live and I live in a large town in Japan. Churches are ONLY used for Western-style marriages but they do it as a custom, not due to religion. Same as Christmas….which means time to party with friends. No guns! No religion! Extremely Safe! Japan is the best place to live!!!

  21. well we are winning this battle no matter what they do or try to do… time is on our side… there isn’t a single religion that has and will survive the destructive power of time… we will prevail no matter what they do…

  22. I was surprised not to see south carolina on here but who knows it could have been #11. I was born and raised in south carolina in a Christian household. And yet i am the only one in the family that is athiest. My mother in law harassed me for 5 years about it. It wasnt until i stood up to her and pointed out how she was belittling and judging me that she finally quit. When people try to preach to me i tell them i am athiest. I do not hide it nor will i hide it. I have been athiest for over half my life and have always been judged. I dont look down on Christians. They want to believe in god and the bible, that is their right. I have no right to judge them. Even if they do judge me. Ignorance runs across the board. If someone doesnt like me because i am athiest that is their lose. Not mine.

  23. Well freedom of speech and freedom of religion or not religion. It all comes down to people being so judgemental of anyone or anything different I guess that is why there are now thousands of different religions across the globe in retrospect being bias against an atheist is no different than being bias against someone who is GAY or believes in a different creator than you do . However mankind tends to over think everything and allows themselves to be corrupted or to corrupt whatever will best suit their own agenda. So the religious person is no better of a person than a non religion person. ATHEIST don't kill other people for not believing like they do. However the religious hypocrites bend the word of God or Allah and do so daily.

  24. Thankfully, many of these very religious or very hostile areas have caused non-believers living there to band together and support one another, but also to show up to things like "interfaith" gatherings to show that we do exist. That's how the Hickory Humanist Alliance came about in Hickory, NC, one of the most religious areas in one of the most religious states in the US. So if you're in that area and a non-believer, you're not alone. We're here too.