It’s Tough Being an Atheist in Mississippi June 12, 2011

It’s Tough Being an Atheist in Mississippi

Alan-Michael White, a senior at the University of Mississippi, talks about the difficulties of being an atheist in such a religious state:

Ladies and gentlemen, I am an atheist… We number some 30 million Americans and every newborn baby across the world.

Despite our newest members being adorable, ours is a group deemed the second most untrustworthy group by a Gallup Poll in 2008.

My roommate was attempting to establish a Secular Student Alliance on campus. However, when the university wouldn’t recognize it in the same way many religious student organizations are, those who would have been involved decided the fight wasn’t worth fighting.

Frankly, I can understand their fear. Confrontation is scary stuff, and if you come out, you will be confronted about it more than once.

… if we’re able to remain vigilant and remind people that there are atheists in Mississippi, the risk of [backlash] will be lessened a great deal.

Hear, hear! It’s tough enough coming out as an atheist, and tougher still doing it in Mississippi, but realize you’re not just doing it for yourself. You’re making it easier for others to do the same thing.

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  • Good to see that other Mississippians don’t fall for superstitious non sense. Although I love living here, the anti atheist bigotry is one thing I could live without.

  • jose

    Unstated intimidation.

    The feeling that your town will be your enemy if you tell the truth about you (or about biology, in my example) is terrible.

  • Bea Arthur

    I have found being an atheist in small town Texas especially trying. I’m entering into the funeral service industry and it goes w/o saying that religion plays a HUGE part. Going by the Gallop poll that atheists are deemed untrustworthy, what religious person wants an atheist serving you at the time of greatest need? I can’t imagine who would. Since I came out of the “atheist closet” to my family nearly two years ago, I have experience severe backlash from my grandfather who is a retired Methodist minister. Call it passive aggressive, but I’ve found smiling and nodding my head is the only way to get by when people go on about death and religion and their loved ones “going home to be w/ their Lord”. The school’s president from where I just graduated was deeply religious and pounded into our heads about getting involved in our local churches. That obviously won’t happen on my part. I’ll stick w/ joining the local Lions Club chapter.

  • Andrew Hall

    Good luck. I imagine you could always start an underground group. That would be sooooo badass.

  • Holy fucking shit, I’m on the internet.

  • Andrew, that’s quite a good idea, but I think we need an organization that has the basement for those who are afraid, and about fifty stories with balconies for everyone else to exhibit themselves on.

    I’d like to point out I understand the practical use of being in the closet. I was for a few years, and it’s not easy to be in that position either. What I want to do is make Mississippi, indeed the country and the world, more accepting of “us”, the loose group of people with various beliefs and desires who all just don’t like this deity thing.

    I don’t think we can do that in the closet. So, I encourage everyone to encourage everyone to be bold about this. You don’t have to be a jerk, though you can. People will be attracted from everyone from Richard Dawkins style “militant” atheism to accomodationist atheism. We need diversity for mobilization of our cause, atheistic social equality and I’m rambling now, aren’t I?

  • Heidi

    Can you just take it off campus? As in, “hey, look at our illegally discriminated against, unrecognized club. Wanna join?”

  • I can’t remember, but I think our group (at the University of South Carolina) wasn’t allowed to be considered a religious organization so we were under ‘cultural’. We may have chosen to be that way because religious orgs don’t (or didn’t, I think that’s changing this year, and so we are switching to religious) get any funding from the university.

  • Mims H. Carter

    The University of Southern Mississippi just started a SSA chapter. The University of South Alabama just started one a few months ago. Hemant spoke at one of their first functions. Keep working on it, Alan, and get in touch with these other new groups in the area and find out how they did it.

  • The club was turned down back in 2008, when I was much younger, but was very reclusive. Seems like ages ago, honestly. I’ll be graduating in December, so I think I might be better off helping the students who will still be at the University organize.

  • Emma

    Yeah, we are still waiting to hear back about the school (USM) charter, but we are all ready to fight for our right to have a group recognized by the school. Even if they don’t allow our charter, we are going to meet anyway and fight with whatever we can until we are properly recognized.

  • Billy

    That’s the typical bullshit you find in MS. I leave a few hours from Oxford. It seems like you can’t turn around in Mississippi without tripping over a clear violation of Church/State violation.

  • keddaw

    I can’t understand why religious people don’t stand up for the rights of atheists. From my privileged position (white straight male) I would happily and vociferously defend any discrimination I saw against people of any colour, sexuality or gender because when any one group can be discriminated against today, tomorrow it might be me.

    The best defence of your right to practice your religion freely is to ensure the government doesn’t practice any.

  • Blacksheep

    My roommate was attempting to establish a Secular Student Alliance on campus. However, when the university wouldn’t recognize it in the same way many religious student organizations are,

    But you’re not a religon, right? I’m getting seriously mixed signals on here. An atheist group is not a religous organization, so why would the school treat it as such?

    Or is it a system of faith? I used to argue that point, but have come around to the FA group viewpoint on it.

  • Steve

    Why should a religious student group be treated differently from any other student group? That’s the real issue here. It’s about religion’s special privileges yet again

  • Blacksheep: He wasn’t trying to establish a religious group, to my knowledge. What he was trying to do was establish a group, and I made the comparison to religious student group, to point out that there was precedent.