I don't say that "atheists are picked on;" I just state what my own personal experience has been. I actually experienced more ostracizing and/or harrassment when I was a faithful member. I was trying to fit in, in a world where I was not meant to fit in. I had some nasty run-ins with church authorities. When I finally realized I was fighting a losing battle and got myself out of the church, people seemed to forget I had ever been there, which was a good thing, because I didn't want to be bothered by the church anymore.
I think that situations are different in different towns and localities. Some may favor one particular religion over others. Albuquerque is kind of a nice place to live because it seems to have a place for just about all religions. True, there are no "atheist church buildings," but that would be quite a crazy thing to see anywhere, wouldn't it?
I don't think TGIG was being touchy, she was just pointing out what her experience is in the place where she lives. Some people do object to atheism, in more than just philosophical terms. And yes, some atheists do too much looking down the nose at believers.
As for Utah, I still visit there regularly, as I have tons of relatives (including my parents and some siblings) there. I would say that Salt Lake City has become pretty cosmopolitan religion-wise, but Highland is still pretty deeply entrenched in Mormon favortism; I know this because friends and siblings I have there have given me first-hand accounts of the pressure exerted on them. And there are tons and tons of LDS church buildings in Highland. So someone is attending. I imagine Salt Lake has more of the Jack Mormons. I won't speak too much about other Utah cities, but I reckon that many of them are still deeply (and actively) Mormon.
The thing is, though, it doesn't really matter that much to me how much of this or that religion (or belief system) resides in which place. Like you said, it's not like Baptists are standing at the corners with guns pointed at us. I am free to be an atheist, and I guess if I find myself in a situation where atheism will be frowned on, I probably just won't tell anyone that I'm atheist. Let them presume what they will.
By the way, I should clarify (from my above posts) that I have two "atheist friends" in Utah: one who is largely atheist, the other who is completely atheist. The "largely atheist friend" keeps it on the down-low. The "completely atheist friend" has come out to family and church leaders. Sorry if that created any confusion.
The "largely atheist friend" has had times when he was "accidentally outed," and he did not enjoy the experience that resulted. We're talking mostly psychological persecution from family members. I know it happens because it did happen. Somehow he has gotten everyone to calm down by acting more like a believing church member (attending church, etc.).
Anyway, I do know many conservatives who have a really bad attitude about atheism. Kind of an atheist = liberal = godless commie type of thing. My father and his wife are two of the people who have the worst attitude to belief systems not their own. On the positive side, my mother and her husband are very active in the church, but are also very tolerant towards other people's beliefs and orientations.
Love means never having to say, "Put down that meat cleaver!"