Yeah, there are certainly much worse places. Mississippi and Alabama come to mind. Utah and Idaho aren't much better.
I know what you mean about not knowing how to deal with your friends. In some ways, coming out as an atheist is worse than coming out as gay ... not that I would know from personal experience, since I've only come out as an atheist.
Gay people just want rights and want to be treated as human beings. They're not trying to convince other people to be gay, even if that's what the psycho-fundamentalist Christians are trying to convince us of.
Our very existence is a slap in the face to Christians. The fact that we don't believe is an implication that they're wrong. We're far more of a threat than gay people could ever be.
I'd watch it a bit more with your family. It depends how crazy religious they are. The best time to come out to your parents as an atheist is when you're no longer financially dependent upon them. Some parents will go completely insane when their kid tells them something so shocking. Religion does some messed up things to people.
On the plus side, most parents are capable of pulling some amazing feats of self-delusion (obviously, if they're Christians :-D). They might just tell themselves that you're going through a phase, and you're rebelling or something. Well, of COURSE you know that God is real, and you'll come back when he calls to your soul, or some similar rot.
Atheists turn up, around and about, when you're open and vocal about it. Most just never talk about it. Almost all of the guys in my department at work are atheists, for example.
That's what the New Atheism movement is all about. We need to organize, educate, and start throwing our weight around, a little. The fundies have had their way for far too long, in this country.
I wonder how much different things are for you, being partially African-American. Do you go to a mostly-black church, or are things a bit better mixed up up there? I know that those churches can be a lot more ... intense than any of the churches I've gone to.
You don't look like you have a very high percentage of African blood, though, so I don't know what to guess. It's one of those situations caused by the racism of the old south. It you have one African grandparent and three Caucasian ones, that makes you black, according to the system.
I guess part of that could be because most of the African genes are dominant over most Caucasian ones, but I can't help but feel it's mostly just the racists not wanting to allow anyone who isn't pure to be considered white.
Meh, anyway, I think I'm pretty much completely off of any topic related to your response, and I'm just ranting and rambling now.
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Welcome. Rough part of the state in which to be an atheist. I went to a few marching band competitions in Roanoke Rapids. Could be worse, I guess. There are smaller, more conservative towns around and about.
How does the local population deal with your outspoken atheism? I need to get a few more obnoxious t-shirts on the subject, myself, to provoke confrontations. I need to keep a lid on it at work, any time I'm interacting with people outside of my department (we're almost all atheists, in tech support), but in my personal life, I'm quite outspoken and aggressive, on the subject of religion.