When I tell people I am an atheist it is extremly hard to bring the words out of my mouth because it comes with so much criticism. In most responses I get "Oh, no" or "thats not right", something along those lines. I feel like I have to have a long drawn out discuss with people when faced with the question of religion because there are so many believers out there. So I'm wondering how does everyone also handle situations like this? Do you have to always defend yourself, your nonbelief? How should I handle, or what should I say the next time someone questions me about this and tries to belittle me for not believing in God? I'm sick of explaining myself to people who are religious!

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I have tried to think of a good, brief term for a person whose nonbelief stems from rationality; somehow, "rational nonbeliever" seems a bit cumbersome. One quick reply you could make, after saying you're a nontheist and getting a negative response, would be something like, "I'm an adult. I don't believe in Santa Claus, and I don't believe in God." A slightly lengthier response would be the following: "I believe what I think is true; I distinguish between what is true and what is false on the basis of evidence and inference; I see insufficiently good reason to think that it is really true that God exists; therefore, I don't believe in God. What is more, I don't think you should, either. It's an epistemic mistake." But then you have to be prepared to say why various arguments for God's existence don't give sufficient reason for belief (which I can do for some arguments, but it takes a while, and which I haven't yet really gotten to for other arguments).

I am always happy to defend my nonbelief, but then, I am always happy to have that long, drawn-out discussion you mentioned. When there's no time--well, I don't believe in Percival the Imperceptible Penguin, and I don't believe in God.

One problem you *didn't* mention is that the word "atheist"--as opposed to "nontheist"--always seems to bring out the "See? You have faith, too!" line. Somehow, it's OK to say that there is no Santa Claus--nobody says that your denial of Santa Claus's existence is a demonstration of faith--but when you say it of God--meaning, of course, that it's unreasonable to believe in God when there's no good reason to think God really exists--you get that faith line.

One approach you could take, since different people's versions of God vary quite a lot, would be to ask your conversant just which version it is he thinks you should believe in, and why you shouldn't believe in any of the other versions.

Or you could just remind them that the burden of proof is on the believer, not on the nonbeliever, and that therefore it's you who should be asking them why they believe, rather than you who should be explaining why you don't believe.

I'm sorry--I doubt that any of that is very helpful--I haven't found a good *quick* reply.
One problem you *didn't* mention is that the word "atheist"--as opposed to "nontheist"--always seems to bring out the "See? You have faith, too!" line.

This can be solved with a simple session of definitions, though. The rejection of a belief is not the same as holding the opposite belief. Atheists don't declare that there is no god. They just say that the assertion of the existence of a god has not been proven in any way.

Watch a few dozen episodes of The Atheist Experience if you want to see how to shoot down theists very quickly. There really aren't that many arguments that your Christian-on-the-street is going to pose. 95% of Christians don't have the philosophical chops to bring forward anything approaching the ontological argument, the Kalam cosmological argument, or even a fully formed Pascal's wager. The best you're likely to get is, "Well, you better hope you're right, so you don't go to that place."

... at which point, you can turn around and say that when they have to resort to unsubstantiated threats, they're just demonstrating that there's nothing there behind their argument, besides superstition and fear.
"95% of Christians don't have the philosophical chops to bring forward anything approaching the ontological argument" Cosign.

I always rely on the ignorance of strangers. I actually was on a date once where the guy's argument for the existence of the g.o.d was "It's just like the wind, you can't see it but you can feel it." I simply pointed out that wind can be measured, the g.o.d. can't. When he can catch the g.o.d in a wind sock, I'll buy his argument.
This is excellent advice.  Heed it.
I'm ethnically Jewish, and I did not come out as an atheist until I was 26 and living on my own far from my parents and family. On the Jewish high holidays in 2008 I skipped Yom Kipur and nobody knew the difference. In 2009, I skipped both Rosh Hashana and yom kipur and at first lied and told my parents I went to a synagogue. I even lied about how many people were at services and how I got a ticked without paying even though it normally costs whatever a membership costs, $180 if you are under 30 or 35 and a thousand or more if you are older or they know they can hit you up for a lot of money. I could have kept lying and my family would have believed me because I almost never lie and I never did when I thought I had to be religious and they assume everything I say about what I do and about me is true. I could have just kept lying about being observant and nobody would have known the difference, because I'm good at deceiving people. But after more than a few times of discussing my atheism and why god is imaginary and religion is a mental disorder, I am becoming more confident and I worry less and less about the possibility that someone might find out that I am an atheist.

I normally just ignore the references to god in letters, but in person I might say something if I know the person a little but usually religion is the last thing most acquaintances who are not related to me say anything about most of the time. I have mentioned all the Jewish stuff I don't do anymore in conversations with various non-Jewish acquaintances at work when I started the topic when they meant well and prompted me to talk or say how I felt that day.

The person who gives me the most flak about my non-observance of Jewish religious stuff is my mother. She keeps assuming that if you are not a practicing Jew, then you are by default a christian...every time I say I'm not observing a certain holiday or didn't go to services, she says, in a somewhat angry tone, 'so why not just put a christmas tree in your living room?!' or 'why not just go to church?!' I don't think she gets the concept of not having or believing any religion.

Maybe if Jewish ritual penile mutilation (circumcision) didn't exist I might not mind Jewish culture without god or religion but the two are hard to separate.

And this is Michael, Heather. You'll hear a lot about his penis and the crimes that have been committed against it.
Thank you. I'll be here all night. Tip your waitress.

And seriously, come see my act, if I ever make it big enough to start a nationwide tour.
I got the same treatment and I'm not Jewish.  Thanks again, Mom and Dad.
Yes I agree I should not say what judaism did to me, since it obviously annoys people. My mention of what judaism did to me angers my mother and aunt. But do you think female mutilation is funny? Getting the labia cut is exactly equivalent to getting the foreskin cut. I got a tight circumcision where a lot was cut off. Maybe you had a loose circumcision and only a little was cut off. The difference (between us and non-damaged guys) is like the difference between full color vision and black and white vision. Color blind people are not able to understand the concept of color.
Sorry to hear about your mutilation, Michael. I was also circumcised by my well-meaning parents before they left Catholicism, though not as badly as yours sounds.

I thought I'd chime in with a helpful/funny way to turn your misfortune into a good tool to use against certain theistic challenges. Ever hear the common one, "Well, what evidence *would* convince you of a god? You've already made up your mind and have as much faith as a fundamentalist!" Try this reply: "Oh, I know exactly what would convince me of a god. When my foreskin miraculously grows back without scarring, and without any medical aid, I will know in my heart that god exists. Until then, shut the fuck up, asshole." Hehe, you can leave the last part out, if you prefer, I just wanted to convey the tone of righteous indignation you should use to give the full effect. Cheers!
Heh, it's not that you shouldn't mention it ever, Michael. It's just that you shouldn't mention it in every single post you make on the site. If we're talking about something that is reasonably related to genital mutilation of either sex, then by all means, bring up your favorite topic. You're just not helping your argument when you bring it up constantly, because it becomes a joke very quickly, as I think I've demonstrated.
I find that a simple one-two punch does a good job. First, explain that you have no reason to believe that any god exists, because there isn't the slightest evidence of one.

Then explain that even if the Bible was accurate, you could never worship a vicious, genocidal, human-sacrifice-accepting monster like the one depicted in the Bible. You have to know their Bible better than they do, for this. The story of Elisha and the Bears, the story of Jephtha, and the bulk of the Pentateuch are good for this. Judges, in general (in addition to the part about Jephtha), is full of horrors, too.

Then, when you get some bright boy (or girl) who trots out the line, "That was the Old Testament! Jesus abolished the old laws," you can bring up the way they use the Old Testament, when they want to bash homosexuality, and ignore it, when they don't want to acknowledge the insane parts of the law.

Be sure to bring up Matthew 5:17-20, too: "Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place ..."

You then have free reign to bring up all of the atrocities of the Old Testament, to prove your moral objections to Christianity.




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