The writer, I imagine, is in their teens or college age and has been living in what may be called Civilization. Civilization is a great place to live! People talk about issues intelligently. In Civilization Conservatives may not have to resort to the Bible for government policy tips. Good for them.
I have noticed, however, that people who live in Civilization do not always get how the rest of the the old U S of A works. I have friends in Civilization (Brookline and Cambridge MA for example) who are just not adept at maneuvering the social intricacies in what I call the Provinces or the Outter Rim. I have grown up in and travelled to these dark places and can give some meaningful advice.
- Do not act surprised when you see/hear crazy religious sh*t. I was down South and heard a father tell his son about the evils of evolution while on a train. Really. You must mentally prepare yourself! Do not let your jaw drop or look surprised! The lunatic in question may see this as questioning his god given right to mess up his kid.
- Place the total time spent in Hell in perspective. If this is a vacation for a week then you can probably white knuckle the trip and sweat it out. Think of it like a marathon or a baseball game. I'm only marginally interested in baseball, but the imagery of rounding the bases have helped me to stay focused. For example, say that you're on a 7 day vacation to the heart of darkness and you are on day 5. Well, that's just like crossing third base and you're almost home!
- Find local Allies. Is this a long term stay? That sucks. You may wish to find local Atheists to help you from losing your sanity. Atheist Revolution did a good post the other day (click here for link) about finding other Atheists, check it out.
- Be careful about what you say. I talk a gobful of smack - all the time. Mostly I'm in familiar areas with people I know. When I am in a new environment I play it chill and see what other people talk about and feel out the crowd. That way I can gauge how far I can smack my talk. Remember, it's better for people to think you are the quiet one than the uppity kid who knows better than them. That uppity kid will get his ass kicked.
- Be careful about what you wear. I live near Boston. I wouldn't wear orange (the color of the Protestant William of Orange) to the St. Patrick's Day Parade in Southie (a highly Irish Catholic event). It's just common sense.
- Focus on your strengths. There are positive aspects of who you are that don't include Atheism. It's OK for people to know you as a good person and if it comes out that you're an Atheist they all ready know you don't drink the blood of babies.
- If you get into a debate about God be polite, stay calm, and if nothing else be self deprecating/funny. If things get heated just say something like, "I've found that you hitting me in the face is very distracting. Mind if we stop arguing while I go to the ER?" That may not be the best example but I hope you know what I mean.