The Telegraph (UK) has a really nice report on the state of atheism in the state of Virginia–including contrasting reports of Virginia Tech and Liberty University. The very real concerns of atheists in Virginia make me sad for them, but very happy I am in a considerably less religious state.
Attached to the story is this video–the atheists at Liberty University, of course, have to appear in shadow if they want to remain there.
The recent shift in the gay marriage debate is evidence, say secularists, of how fast entrenched public attitudes can change: a decade ago just 30 per cent of Americans supported gay marriage, today the figure is consistently over 55 per cent. A decade from now, will attitudes to religion have followed suit?
And yet despite the softening approach of the younger generation towards religion, in this fiercely Bible-minded corner of Virginia, many atheists and agnostics still feel they must live in the shadows.
In two days of interviews at least half of the avowed non-believers declined to be named in the Telegraph, citing fears they would be ostracised by friends, family, churches and even their employers.
One grad student expresses worry that her atheism could hurt her in a job search:
“I’m more concerned about getting a job than losing one,” she said. “I know they Google you and while I can’t hide my atheism, I don’t really want to advertise it.
“If the person hiring is a person of faith – which is more likely than not around here – that could easily be the difference between a job and no job. And I have student loans. I need a job.”
As an undergrad, Cuttledaughter had to keep her atheism to herself at her research position, though she found it odd that such high-powered, well-respected disease researchers were, as she put it, “scary religious”. She needed the experience and the recommendations, so she sat there with her mouth shut while her colleagues and superiors talked about, say, how foolish the atheists were who wanted the decalogue monuments or nativity scenes removed from courthouses, or who took schools to court for school-led prayer.