05 March 2010

Whence 'Redneck' Atheism?

by Frank Turk

Vigilant reader ‘Aimee’ who is a High School student asked this relevant question regarding this series of posts:
After all of these highly intellectual people have commented, I feel sort of silly, but I have a question. Why are you calling this series "*Redneck* Atheism"? I am not technically a redneck myself, but I think that you might be misusing the term "redneck". Having been raised in the South, using "atheism" and "redneck" together sounds like an oxymoron to me. All of the rednecks I've ever met were kind, smart, hard-working people, and many were sincere believers. I get that you're not trying to paint all rednecks as atheists or vice versa, but I am honestly confused and would love to hear an explanation. I hope I haven't been disrespectful.
Which, of course, is a reasonable question.

Since I coined the term, I’ll unpack it for y’all.

First, let me say that I would agree with Aimee’s assessment that the people I know who are actually rednecks tend to be salt-o’-the-earth sort of people who work hard, play hard, and love the people they love hard. You shake hands with an actual redneck, and his (no offense, ladies) hand feels like the hand of a man who works – and not at a keyboard all day blogging or some such nonsense. So the usage I’m thinking about here is not regarding people who self-select into this group.

Wikipedia is a good help to start the disambiguation of the matter:
Southern comedian Jeff Foxworthy defines "redneck" as "a glorious absence of sophistication," stating "that we are all guilty of [it] at one time or another."

Redneck has two general uses: first, as a pejorative used by outsiders, and, second, as a term used by members within that group. To outsiders, it is generally a term for white people of Southern or Appalachian rural poor backgrounds. In the West Coast, there are regionally specialized versions of the term, namely Okie and Arkie, for poor rural white migrants from Oklahoma and Arkansas, displaced from the Great Plains by the Dust Bowl years of the 1930s.
I’m thinking of the way an outsider to the group would use the term, and the reference to Foxworthy is especially useful – since he is the popularizer of the infamous series of books and jokes which begin “You might be a Redneck if ...”

You know -- you might be a Redneck if:
  • You ever cut your grass and found a car
  • You think the Stock Market has a fence around it
  • Your wife has said, “Come move this transmission so I can take a bath.”
  • Your mother-in-law has “ammo” on her Christmas list
  • There are more than 5 McDonald’s bags in your car
  • You’ve ever financed a tattoo
You see what I’m sayin’? I an sure this will make for a frothy meta to this post.

That said, the point of calling the problems referenced in the top-10 list from the atheists in question “Redneck Atheism” is two-fold:

1. Unabashedly, they are trying to cash in on the popularity of the “you might be a Redneck if ...” meme. In spite of the fact that it’s played out. So pointing out their less-than-timely attempt to ride th coat-tails of a fad is somewhat satisfying on its own terms.

2. But more importantly, the complaints themselves are specifically unsophisticated. They are in their own way, laughably ignorant of the subjects they are speaking of – and the real irony there is that the actual atheists riding this John Deere into their own intellectually-overgrown front yard where they may yet find all manner of items due for the philosophical junkyard are proud to be the purveyors of this sort of ignorance regarding what they allegedly disdain.

Not all atheists are “redneck atheists”. But the ones rolling out this jalopy with the red-tape tail lights, a giant crack in the windshield, and a “Chiggers On Board” window decal certainly are.

So enjoy the spectacle. I admit that I am.

Thanks for asking.


CGrim said...

I love the hilarious metaphor under point #2.

JAEng said...

you might be a Redneck...

...if someone asks to see your ID and you show them your belt buckle.

John said...

I can't believe no one commented on the picture...

Thanks for the thoughts.

Nash Equilibrium said...

So many stereotypes about banjo pickers... so little time.

Michael Herrmann said...

"Chiggers"...don't remind me.

May their tribe decrease!

Stefan Ewing said...

Speaking as a Canadian Jewish Christian city boy who grew up on classical music, the 1/4 Scots Irish, Appalachian music lover in me is disappointed—disappointed, I tell you!—that a blog populated by varying degrees of Southern Baptists, Baptistics, and a couple of conservative Anabaptists can poke fun at "rednecks" AND banjo players, all in the same day.

Stefan Ewing said...

...Unless rednecks and banjo players—being largely of Scots Irish descent—are all Presbyterians...and then it all makes sense. Where's Ligon Duncan when you need him?

bassicallymike said...

A redneck shooting an O/U. LOL That's highfalutin!

Nash Equilibrium said...

I think this blog is slicker than deer guts on a doorknob.

Unknown said...

Thank you so much for answering my question. This post made my day. It was very kind of you to take time to explain something that I’m sure was mostly obvious to everyone else.

For me, a couple of Jeff Foxworthy quotes always help to explain things. I didn't get the "You Might be a Christian If..." drift of the top 10 list, but now that makes sense. The way you put it, these particular atheists ought to be embarrassed for themselves more than anything--my goodness, the original “Redneck If…” list was introduced in 1993! I think that a bad trend has started, though. You’re going to be up all night reading corny redneck jokes on this comment thread.

Thank you again for your time and consideration. I’m looking forward to the rest of the articles in this series, especially now that I can understand them completely!


Rick Potter said...

I'd love to spit some Beechnut on the Atheist lies and shoot'em with John 6:45 cause a Redneck can survive

Chuck said...

My first thought on that pic?
"I was born a poor, black child."

BTW, this is good stuff. I live in an area with a lot of rednecks, so it makes sense to me.

Barbara said...

Naw, see, I thank it's just 'cause you wanted a 'scuse to use dat dere banjo graphic...

Barbara said...

...which is really pretty darned cool, by the way. Melikey banjos. Srsly.