I'd suggest that the response you get to professing atheism will very much depend on where you express it. In my experience here in the UK, saying that you are an atheist normally just generates a response of "Really? So what?". Atheism tends to fall under the theological label of "Other", along with New Agers and Church of England.
However, you do have to be careful. I work for an American company and some time ago we had a visit by a group of WASP executives. We took them to lunch and a couple decided to pray before the meal. This caused a few discrete smirks and wry smiles among the Brits. One particularly sniffy manageress decided to comment that the UK was obviously not as christian a country as it used to be. They were therefore somewhat taken aback to be told that they we "breaking bread" with an atheist (me), 2 agnostics and a pagan. When I added that I used to be a communist but was now an anarchist, well, from the looks on their faces you would have thought they had descended to one of Dantes lowest Hells and their souls were in peril...
It was I who let the atheist out of the bag. Have to say everything was very polite afterwards. We still went for lunch for the rest of their trip and they still preyed.
However, I've always wandered how it might of played out if it had been me who was in the US. Never been to the States, but from what I've read, declaring oneself to be an atheist over lunch is not done in polite company.
I teach at a college in the Bible Belt. My atheism is a topic of gossip here. One of my students told me that, before he knew me, another student pointed me out and made a derogatory comment about my ateism.
The word has earned a mass of baggage to carry along. Most of which is deserved, so it is not hard to understand why people cringe.
Think "Charles Manson" and then wonder why it has such a negative connotation. I can't even put an approximation to the number of people I've met or known who claim to be atheist and love pentagrams and goats head emblems, for as they say, "pissing off the church".
It is an attempt at a "social movement", that has nothing of substance to offer. It is simply a belief system that defines itself by proof of a negative. Look around this site, it is plain.
Water Cooler: 745 posts of generality and entertainment
Theism, Deism & All Things Religious: 547 posts of constant judgment, hatred, derision, and malicious intent against something which "atheists" claim they have no belief in/of.
Pure statistical relevance. If atheism had anything going on above the neck, any purpose to the greater society, it would spend its time attempting to educate by means of edifying those which with they have disagreement.
But, all that is plain here is the utter lack of critical thought, (i.e. religion has existed in a multitude of forms since hominids first developed social bonds), and something with so many thousand years towards cohesion, culture, exclusionism for short run benefit; will not be overturned or disposed of with blind hatred.
Look anywhere on this site, or any atheist site for that matter. You will find this to be the case. Atheism, especially of the Dawkins/Dennett/Harris forms, is narcissistic, full of hubris and vitriol. It supports nothing positive; never has, never will, because it has at its core the exact same agenda as theism; exclusionism and judgments.
So, too bad if you disagree. I'm not an atheist, wouldn't even diminish myself to that nadir; much better it is to be a godless heathen and an island than to agree with a mass of plebes so blinded by their ludicrous agenda they can't even be intellectually honest.
The pronouncement stands, on your way atheist, you serve me no purpose.
Men rise from one ambition to another: first, they seek to secure themselves against attack, and then they attack others.
And your response right here shows what? Love? Acceptance? You show blatant hatred for atheists like we show hatred for theists. Whats the difference? Don't exclude yourself and think you are high and mighty.
If atheism had anything going on above the neck, any purpose to the greater society, it would spend its time attempting to educate by means of edifying those which with they have disagreement.
You don't think we are trying to do just this? We get frustrated and angry because when we try to "educate" - your words, not mine - these theists can't even manage to follow the conversation, never mind initiate critical thought. I am not stating that all theists cannot rationalize, just the one's we tend to meet, the average day people who we know. I do not want to attack you, I am just stating that you are sounding a little hypocritical to me at the moment.
Where did I say anything about "love"? Not given to wasting time with biochemical convolutions, "love" isn't an issue in my realm.
Yes, acceptance of the fact that religion has, and has had, its place in society. It will not go away, it will metamorphise to the next time frame, as it always has been shown to do.
I'm not an atheist, so exclusion isn't relevant.
You don't think we are trying to do just this?
Mmmmmm, no, doesn't appear that way, at all. I'm not concerned with being "attacked" on the intarwebs, no damage to be suffered. You're welcome to your opinion, but there is no hypocrisy, there is just a difference in how you are attempting to read intent into my words, and an essential element that isn't present but you assume it to be there anyways; expectation.
Hence, the Machiavelli quote; you don't need expectation when standards of human behavior are proven, repeatedly, ad nauseum, through recorded time.