Non-Christians in the Bible Belt feel alienated


Illustration by Alexandria Moore.

It can be hard, but sometimes it is important to consider that others may have different religious beliefs than you. At the end of the day, the most important thing to remember is that despite having different beliefs, we are all human.

Mississippi is officially the most religious state in the U.S. Fifty-nine percent of Mississippians consider themselves to be “very religious.” But what is the most popular religion in Mississippi?

Unsurprisingly, it is Christianity. In fact, 83% of Mississippi adults identify as Christian.

Mississippi is part of what is known as the “Bible Belt.” This is an informal region in the southern U.S. that is comprised of populations that are majority Christian and ideals of social conservatism play a strong role in politics and society. 

With such a large majority population of Christians, non-Christians living in the Bible Belt often experience a disconnect.

In an interview with The Atlantic, atheist Leigh Drexler, who lives in the Bible Belt, said when she sought a therapist for personal issues, she had to resort to distance counseling rather than getting face-to-face counseling. Drexler said she initially searched towns within 20 miles of her hometown, but found only Christian, faith-based practitioners.

“I knew there would be Christian counselors here, but I didn’t think that was all I was going to find,” Drexler said.

For non-Christians in Mississippi it is easy to become isolated. In response to this fear of being ostracized from their friends and family, non-Christians living in the Bible Belt find themselves deleting their internet history and looking over their shoulders. They make sure to smile and nod politely when friends and coworkers talk about church.

As someone living in the Bible Belt, I have seen this happen firsthand.

In an interview with The Atlantic, licensed distance counselor Patricia Guzikowski said she has counseled women who live in the Bible Belt who are afraid of losing custody of their children over their lack of faith. She has counseled people secretly over phone and email so friends and families do not find out.

Non-Christian residents of the Bible Belt who are living in fear have turned to internet anonymity for support.

Reddit, a popular news website and social forum, is overflowing with testaments to the alienation that non-Christian people feel living in the Bible Belt. One user said he mentioned at work that he was not religious and came to work the next day to find 11 Christian pamphlets on his desk.

This is just one example of countless others on the website who have expressed similar feelings.

Grieving Beyond Belief is a Facebook group and website which offers nonreligious support for people grieving the death of loved ones. Grieving Beyond Belief started out as a Facebook page. It was started by Rebecca Hensler.

Hensler, an atheist, found that when she lost her young son, the religious comfort from friends and family did not make her feel better about her son’s death.

People said Hensler’s son was in a better place as an angel. They told her it was all part of God’s plan. Hensler did not believe any of this, however.

“We are facing an absolute loss, so when someone projects onto that the idea that we are going to be able to hold our children again or communicate with them, it is essentially dismissing the magnitude of that loss,” Hensler said in an interview with the Washington Post.

The fact that Hensler and so many like her have had to turn to the internet for support is a testament to the disconnect and lack of resources that non-Christians in the South are feeling.