"I know you're trying to be nice and break the ice with me. I appreciate that. However, not everyone is of the same religion in this country. Some are nonbelievers of any faith. Tell me, how would you feel if a Muslim bestowed Allah's blessing upon you? What if a Wiccan said she'd light a candle for your benefit? Or an Atheist --well? Just wish you a good day--now, that one's not too bad, is it? Anyone can wish you a good day. But would the others offend you? If not, then that's fine. But, if you do not wish to have the blessings or love of a deity you do not believe in, how do you expect others to take your well-intended phrase?"
Then again, there's the good ol' "Jesus saves! He shoots! He scores!!"
I might reply with, "It's a great day to be alive. The Universe is grand and unfathomable. We're along for the ride. Isn't that awesome?" I'd otherwise ignore the religious aspect of their speech. I feel the woo stuff. It's just emotional highs. I don't attribute it to the supernatural. Nature is super enough without deities, fairies, or giants.
I don't know about other places, but in the South, such things are said as social lubricant... Every society has them... It's the bless yous after sneezing, please, thank you, hello, etc. It will take a long time to weed out the religious SLs. I know in my family, the "Jesus loves you!" phrase is often said to pick you up when you're down. How could you feel sad when the king of the universe LOVES you? (Nevermind that he'd be more of the prince--and wait, isn't Satan the prince of the world? LMAO Oh, xianity...) Why not say, "I love you?" --except that it is too much of a big deal in English. "Jesus loves you" needs a replacement SL phrase... That or people need to get over feeling awkward when someone's down. Bad moods and depression can't be solved in a phrase. It's not your place to do so. "I care" might be better... It's simple, direct and not loaded with religiosity.
I say “Oh no thanks”, and give them a smile. It’s technically a polite response, but gets the message across.
"He told you he loves me? Is he still spreading that shit around? I told him I'm not interested. Damn. I guess I need to get that restraining order."
You guys all have responses I like. Love the humor in most of them. I need all the smiles I can get, because I tend to get way too serious.
My response would depend on who said it too me, how they said it, and why they said it. I've never had anyone say "Jesus loves you" to me, because I'm in Mormon country. Mormons are way too pushy with their religion, but they're a little more subtle (and smart) than to say that.
A month ago, a new older couple moved in next door. When I talked to the man, he said he was not much into religion, but after talking to his wife, I'm a little concerned about how religious she is. We didn't talk about religion, but as we finished and I turned and walked away, she said "God bless you." I didn't say anything, but thought "Oh, no! Not one of those people!"
I don't think she's Mormon, because they don't use that phrase either.
Phrases like that annoy me quite a bit, so if she does it again, I'll likely respond. If I get the idea she's trying to push her religion on me, I'll probably be fairly strait-forward and tell her I don't believe in fairy-tales since I grew up, or something like that. If she doesn't seem preachy, but just friendly, I'll thank her for her kind thought, but tell her I'm a non-believer, and see how things play-out from there.
Great responses, all. Religious people need their feathers ruffled. I like the empirical approach: "Oh, yeah? Well, how do you know? And why doesn't he show it? He never calls or writes. If he loves me, how about a Porsche waiting in my driveway when I get home?"
The best response is no response at all, even when pressed for one. The reason is that any negative response will get you embroiled in a conversation you do not want to have—some people feel a need to evangelize when they discover a non-believer in their midst. If absolutely required to give an answer, I would say, "I'm sure you mean that kindly, but that's not part of my beliefs."
I always respond honestly when someone asks a direct question, but the persistence of some is unbelievable. We get a lot of Jehovah's Witnesses coming to the door here and I begin by telling them I'm not interested, but if they persist, I ask them to leave and they do.
Years ago, (before the internet) I read a funny story in which the author was having issues with continual visits from youngish JW's. He did as you did, until he finally got frustrated and told them basically, that "if they were so confident about these beliefs of theirs, they would not be so desperate to try to get other people to agree with them."
Bill Hicks response was, "Oh, yeah? Does Jesus know you look like an onion?"
This town ain't big enough for the both of us !
How about, "How do you know?"
Or, "Do you know that for a fact?". When they say "yes", ask them, "is evolution a fact?". When they say "no", tell them, "you don't know what you're talking about".
Or, now that I think about it, just "you don't know what you're talking about".
The best response is probably something like "Thank you." You have to appreciate the intent behind the remark even if you don't believe in God. If it was said sarcastically, however, anything is fair game. But why verbally spar with someone who meant it as something of a greeting? Or if he believes it is just an empirical fact, you could respond with, "Tell me something I don't know..."
Because as far as I could see, there's only a couple ways of looking at this:
1. If "Jesus loves you" was declarative, as in a fact, then it's just like walking up to someone and saying "The grass is green." It would be condescending because of its redundancy, if anything. But...
2. If "Jesus loves you" was said as a cultural gesture, or a greeting, similar to "Good morning", then the content of the statement doesn't really matter. Because "Good morning" shouldn't be taken literally; someone saying "Good morning" isn't literally saying "The morning is good", he is addressing you as an opening of a conversation. Similarly, "Jesus loves you" shouldn't be taken for its content, but the gesture -- what did the speaker mean?
3. If the speaker knows that you are atheist, and says "Jesus loves you" as an off-handed, sarcastic remark, then perhaps you could get into a debate with him about his faith.
But in my opinion, it would be rather immature to debate someone over a relatively innocent remark, especially when this person meant nothing by it whatsoever, just because you (or someone) feels marginalized, even if you feel he is being presumptuous. There are better times to start an argument. Don't fall into the overly aggressive "angry activist" stereotype.
"...meant nothing by it whatsoever"
I would debate that part.