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!
I think there is a disconnect between what sacred texts say and what people insist they mean. I recently re-read the Gita after twenty years; the edition I have includes explanations written by various Hindu sages. What I got from this re-reading is that the Gita was written to justify slaughtering human beings. Krishna tells us the soul is immortal and will be re-born, so we can't really kill anyone (the body being considered unimportant). Personally, I would want real, hard proof that the soul is re-born before I would hack at someone's body with a sword.
Lots of Hindus I met in India were differentiating between philosophy and mythology, which I took to mean that you needn't believe that Siva actually put the head of an elephant on his son, Ganesh. It made more sense to me than trying to keep track of a few million avatars. Hindu philosophy boils down to the idea that we should be well behaved in this life so we can be re-born higher up in the caste system for our next life. Christian philosophy boils down to the idea that we should behave well so as to make it into paradise. Ditto for Islam. The problem is that they want us to behave well towards God, not necessarily towards other people--and that means virtually endless conflict.
If religious people criticize me, I generally have a snappy comeback. Then, of course, I am characterized as the "angry atheist," even though I wasn't angry until they started dumping on me. Shortly after moving into the Bible belt, I came out of the grocery store, put my groceries in my car, and pushed the shopping cart up into a clear space. A man got out of his car and started yelling at me not to leave the cart out where the wind could blow it into someone's car and scratch the paint. Irrepressible smartass that I am, I stuck my finger in my mouth, then held it up to determine the direction of the wind. There wasn't any wind at all, and there were shopping carts all over the parking lot.
Then the man said, "I'm a pastor. That's why I can talk to you this way."
Who made him a pastor? God. Can't argue with that.
Christian religions teach us that all humans are sinful and depraved. The only reason we behave is that we are afraid of God. For the True Believer, removing God from the picture would allow our baser nature to act out.
I wonder what the Crusaders and the Inquisitors and Conquistadors and the Nazis would have done to people if they didn't have their Christian fear of God to keep them in line. Thank goodness for the restraining hand of baby Jesus.