While responding to the topic, "RAISING AN ATHEIST CHILD IN THE BIBLE BELT", I was thinking about what to do when confronted with someone wanting to know your religious beliefs without ducking the question or lying.

I dislike the idea of offending others and I know it is necessary in some cases, however, I would think there might be an approach (at least initially) that could get your foot in the door of a rational discussion. Rational is not a term usually associated with the religious, but certainly someone can think of some non-confrontational responses aimed at letting theists think (another oxymoron, I know).

To me, religious intimidation in this country rivals what happened in Denmark with the cartoonists who pictured Muhammed in a newspaper/magazine. Propaganda was spread like wildfire across the muslim countries and threats along with deaths followed. These actions or speculation of such actions intimidated many newspapers from reprinting the cartoons in solidarity. That's how I feel atheists are treated in many parts of this country although not to the same scale of violence. Many are intimidated by actions against us or the threat of actions, so we say nothing or lie to avoid the issue. This needs to stop.

I'm not going to proclaim a 'call to arms' for atheists. That would be hypocritical of me, since I rarely take the issue head-on. I am close, however, thanks to Hitchens, Dawkins and Harris and think more people should promote awareness on a smaller scale. I just want to arm myself with the best and minimally offensive approach. Any thoughts?

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I would say that if you want to promote awareness, being direct is best, and not necessarily offensive. If somebody asks what your religious beliefs are, and you respond with "I'm an atheist", any offence taken from that is directed at the very fact that you exist, not how you've presented yourself. I'm sure there are plenty of intolerant religious fundamentalists out there who will recoil in horror at hearing you say it, but that's their problem, not yours.

There's no need to be apologetic for your beliefs just because some people are incapable of accepting a diversity of worldviews.
I just reply bluntly and honestly, with neither arrogance nor trepidation.

If they are offended, that is because of who they are, not because of who I am.
Same here. I'm an atheist and that's the way it is...
Most people,I've found,really do not care.
I tend to skirt the issue if at all possible, but if asked directly I say that I am an atheist. One of my tenants has always been to be truthful, tactfully if at all possible, but if not, with unabashed honesty.
I have about 30 something customers (yard service) who are mostly catholic, and all very religious. It's funny how they ask me. One guy wasn't sure where i stood, so he asked me "you believe, right? (while nodding) Shit, what am I supposed to do? I really didn't want friction, so i went along with it. I see him about 3 hours a month, and didn't feel that it was necessary. I know for a fact that there will be a very unconfortable moment of silence. Older people around here just haven't been exposed to anyone with different views, and i just don't have the energy to enlighten them. It really sucks the life out of me, which is why i keep to myself. I wouldn't want to wear any t shirt, or have a bumper sticker stating that i'm an atheist. I just don't see the point; it would feel like i'm seeking attention. This attitude may be because I have been preached to so much, that i don't want to hear it anymore.
I understand your reluctance of discussing your non-belief. When I was in the mortgage industry and then in the financial industry I made it a point not to discuss religion (politics too). I never wanted personal beliefs to effect how I fed my family. It would be the only time I would skirt the issue.
I an proud of who I am and that includes me being an atheist. I know in some situations, depending on where you live it can be a problem to admit ones non-belief. I am always open and honest and a lot of times vocal about my atheism.
Having to hide yourself only lowers your own self esteem. I've learned this from being queer.
I have never had to hide that I am an atheist, but I don't beat people over the head with it either. I have been asked, "Are you a christian?" My response is simply, "No." If people want to join hands and pray at a private function, I will join hands...I just don't pray. There are a lot of religious zealots out there, but there are more normal/sane people than you think, who just happen to not realize they don't have to believe in god.
Conversational Intolerance

If we truly believe people who are enthralled by dogma and superstition are deluded we don't do them or us any favors by pussy footing around this fact. I realize that their delusion may absolutely control their lives and will not be relinquished by anything I have to say. Yet it is a big mistake to sweep the problem under the rug and pretend it does not exist. People vote. Their votes have consequences for everyone.

Sam Harris has spoken for the need to marginalize religious opinion in conversation. He has likened the situation to the reaction one would face if caught explaining their alien abduction, denying the holocaust, or spouting racist hatred. Such people must be immediately challenged and marginalized. Likewise, people deluded by their faith.

Because of the long standing taboo against criticizing people of faith, believers were always given a pass. There is no comparable taboo against criticizing a persons politics, or musical taste or the drapes in their living room. Nowhere else do we encounter strictures on what we can criticize about another person. This taboo has resulted in a pervasive climate where people of faith feel privileged to hold forth on the most wildly improbable concepts in their minds. In every other sphere of life we recognize that open and frank discussion is desirable, especially where someone's behavior effects everyone or the innocent. No man is an island.

In the past, the flights of fantasy were studiously ignored, not commented on, not challenged, not marginalized. For one thing, rational people quite rightly understand that if they confront a delusional person they may just invite a fruitless illogical discussion, or worse yet a flurry of bible verses. So the rational thing to do was pretend everything was ok and look past our friends delusions and focus on their non-delusional qualities -- if you wanted to maintain the relationship. Let's just agree to disagree became the mantra. What kind of message were we conveying, though? The message was, your delusion is acceptable.

Over the centuries the power the church gained over everyone's lives managed to cow non-believers into silence. Speak too boldly and you could get the rack. Besides no one had any proof that what believers were saying, wildly implausible as it may be, was not true. With the knowledge we now have we can say with some confidence that supernatural explanations can be safely discarded as a way to understand the universe and our place in this world. There may be a god, but the odds of this being true are vanishingly small.

To be sure, sweeping delusional assertions under the rug may get you past some awkward moments. But where a delusional illness has captured so many people, and where they can be manipulated as a direct result of their delusion, we must dispense with forbearance. More to the point of this discussion, ever resourceful leaders of the deluded constantly dream up new ways to pass their followers delusional thinking to their spawn. For example the latest tactics such as sham homeschools and raiding public tax money for their sectarian schools that preach intolerance for outsiders. There is such a thing as being sensitive, and there is such a thing as intervening when divisive tactics like this are employed and when children's mental health is threatened.

We are at a climactic point where delusional people are swamping our ship of state and their emboldened leadership advocates antidemocratic tactics. The political rise of George Bush and Sarah Palin is directly attributable to the fanatics in the cabal who foisted them on us. Fortunately, Palin's star faded fast and we can all breath a little easier as we wish her bon voyage and see her off to Alaska.

Simply as a matter of self preservation we cannot afford to ignore the problems our delusional neighbors and family members pose, or continue to observe the obsolete strategy of forbearance in the face of obviously delusional grandiose ideas. It is time for tough love.

Here is a tactic I use on boorish people when they pose inappropriate questions:

I smile and ask them: "Are you trying to embarrass me?

By simply drawing attention to their motives, they are usually taken aback. Few are honest enough to admit to being rude. I'll bet this crowd could brainstorm and come up with 20 good responses. The point is we must not stand for rude behavior. We should aim to marginalize boorish people.
Yes, i agree that people of faith feel privileged, and this really gets under my skin, but i don't think it's everyone's (atheists) responsibility to fight the fight in public. I'm talking about losing customers, and maybe having trouble where i live; no joke. I will go round and round with my brother, but sometimes, i don't feel like agitating things. I don't think it's selfish to sweep it under the rug. I want to come home and relax, and not fight. I will do my small part when i can in the right situation. I have had enough experiences to know what can happen to me, and i'm not interested in kicking up a storm every time i hear religious nonsense. In the past week, a woman came down from Oklahoma to join the klan (kkk), but changed her mind, and she got killed. >> http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5gTN4X0wjHOqwUq80wkQpbe8qVXlgD94D... There are lots of nut jobs around here.
I agree. I am not afraid to engage people in religious conversations, but I am not going to challenge someone everytime they say they are a christian. When I start to do that, I have moved into the realm of fanaticism I hold others in contempt for. There is a time and a place for the conversation, and it is not at a business meeting nor a parent teacher conference.
I have read Harris, and I understand what he is saying. Let's keep in mind that Sam Harris makes his living saying these things; I do not! Although I think christians are batshit for their religious beliefs, I am not going to persecute people, especially CLIENTS for their religious afflictions. I would never have time to live my own life.

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