I don’t remember learning about this in U.S. History…
In 1880, a man named George H. Walser bought some land and created an atheists-only haven in Liberal, Missouri.
“[He] found a town without a church, [w]here unbelievers could bring up their children without religious training,” and where Christians were not allowed. “His idea was to build up a town that should exclusively be the home of Infidels…a town that should have neither God, Hell, Church, nor Saloon.” Some of the early inhabitants of Liberal even encouraged other infidels to move to their town by publishing an advertisement which boasted that Liberal “is the only town of its size in the United States without a priest, preacher, church, saloon, God, Jesus, hell or devil.”
Christians were drawn to the town for obvious reasons — and residents of Liberal responded by building a fence made of barbed-wire. It didn’t help, though it makes for an amusing anecdote.
So how did the grand experiment end?
Ziztur puts it bluntly:
Essentially, Liberal was doomed to failure due to the constant barrage of Christians trying to destroy the town or at least look on as if Liberal was some kind of godless freak show. The authoritarianism probably didn’t help either, and one can expect that if you attempt to erect a town based on an unpopular philosophical worldview in a country whose inhabitants believe you are one of the root causes of all social ills, your town is pretty much doomed before you break ground.
Of course, the founder eventually converted to spiritualism and then Christianity before he died. Figures.
In any case, the idea is a bad one. Even if religion isn’t the big problem anymore, then something else will just take its place. You start getting into a Unified Atheist League versus United Atheist Alliance sort of battle. To try to eradicate the problem by isolating yourself won’t solve anything. You have to face them head-on.
Not only that, you need to provide a safe forum for dissent. I’d hate to be the child raised in that community who thinks there’s something to the whole “god” story…
(A more detailed history of the city can be read here.)