I think you must accept that their feelings are more or less genuine, even if they sound preposterous. Then calmly show your own view on things: "I'm not blessed but sometimes I'm lucky." "It doesn't work for me that way." "My way of looking at things is a bit different."
That's a good idea. I tend to focus on objective facts and history, but most believers I know base so much on their own subjective experiences and feelings. If I use phrases like "my way of looking at things," or "this is how I feel," maybe my friends won't be so quick to feel defensive. It will bug me, but it may definitely ease the blow. Plus, I'm so much happier now, maybe I can provide some tears of my own!
As far as I'm concerned, if believers are not a danger to themselves or anyone else, and if they don't try to influence or infect government policy with their religious virus, I say let them believe what they want. That's what I do anyway. I see no reason to destroy the happiness and hope people have in fairy tales as long as those people are harmless.
I don't think that theists are harmless. We have different degrees of them and the mild want to claim they simply believe in god anf that's it. No bizarre stuff for them. OK, but they are delusional. There is no god. The least religious denomination is the same as extreme Pentecostalism or a Jim Jones cult. Why? Because they believe in god, or "a god" as defined by some ancient "holy writing." God is imaginary!
My big fear is treading on people's emotional attachment to their invisible being!
Kathleen, in these early decades of the 21st Century, I'm wondering if young people are still being taught as young people were taught in the middle decades of the 20th Century: girls to consider others' feelings and boys to consider others' actions.
I don't consider believers as having emotional attachments to an invisible being; I consider them as people who, perhaps due to physical injuries such as ankle sprains, use crutches.
I don't kick their crutches out from under them. I also don't let them tell me I need crutches.
That's my short explanation. A longer one is that I see believers on a spectrum that ranges from polite to rude.
To polite believers, I respond politely.
To rude believers, I respond with something that ranges from disengagement (because I have better uses for my time) to a rudeness comparable to theirs.
While in college during the 1950s I quit Catholicism for agnosticism. I retired before I again considered the matter and chose atheism.
A few years ago a young couple asked my views toward religion and I gave them my Machiavellian (zero empathy) reply: The more people who await happiness in a future life, the fewer people I have to share this life's happiness with.
Well, I'm 57 so yes, I was very much taught to consider feelings. I'm sure it is part of the problem and why I feel so paralyzed. But I like your suggestion of adjusting my responses according to their level of politeness. That's a good standard.
I do see what you mean, about coming out. No need to spoil someone's comfort if it seems to make them happy. However, there are some times that it is appropriate. Example: Yesterday at work, a colleague named Bob told me he was staying at his brother's house to care for the animals while said brother is in treatment for alcoholism. Brother is at a faith-based residency program that has helped multitudes of people in our area. Then he said to me, "but he doesn't believe in God". I asked him what God had to do with it, and he said, "Well, if he doesn't believe in God, he's going to die. He can't do it by himself". To which I replied that the people at the treatment center are professionals and good people, so he's not doing it by himself. He said, "but he needs God to kick it, to be happy". I told him that many people kick alcohol without God, and that happiness is not dependent on God. "I'm a happy person, right?" He agreed. "Well, I don't believe in God", to which Bob replied that I just hadn't met God yet, but then I told him I used to be a Christian, and stopped.
Bob said, "I really didn't need this today", and walked out.
So, appropriate? Absolutely. Bob had assumed I was a Christian because of my zest for life and happy disposition. Maybe, once his brain stews on this a bit, he will have hope for his brother's recovery and not pester him while Brother is trying to get sober!
So, my suggestion is in my example. No need to kick the crutches, but when something comes up, speak up!
There's nothing like religious people and alcohol. They get it wrong every time. Take this story.
The preacher turns the corner and finds a homeless man kneeling down in front of a broken bottle of wine. The man is upset and crying.
He says, "Oh, god. Oh, Jesus. What have I done?" Then the homeless man raises his arms up into the air.
The preacher says "that's right, brother. You can do it. God will help you get rid of that old demon wine."
Then the homeless man replies "but you don't understand. That was the only bottle I had."
My husband I have several friends and co-workers that do the same. They know we are Atheists though. That doesn't keep them from relaying stories of their comfort granted by religion. They don't urge us to change and we don't poo-poo their beliefs. We listen politely, sometimes ask questions, but never kick their opinions to the curb.
I can't truthfully say that we've received the same attitude in response. One such friend I had to back away from because she started giving us the cold shoulder after a life-altering event strengthened her beliefs. I try not to take it personally. It's simply the human condition. We live in the south (TN) so everyone we know is religious.
In our case, we learned a long time ago that the longer you wait, the harder it is for all parties involved. There is no easy button when it comes to announcing your doubts about their beliefs while trying to keep a healthy relationship going.