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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Yeah, they're right that the world is changing ... just not towards the belief in one god.

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.

Usually, when I tell someone I am an atheist, they react like I have just said I have terminal cancer and only one day left to live. I try to say something along the lines of "I'm not saying you can't believe." Or I get psycho-analytical on them. I look them in the eye and with great concern in my voice say "How does my non belief hurt your belief?" Or possibly, "What about my non belief makes you feel threatened?"

If they say I am going to hell, I say "At least, I'll be with my friends." If they say I'm going to burn in hell, I say, "well, I never really liked cold weather."
I have to say I have not had similar experiences to most people here. When, on the extremely rare cases, religion comes up, I simply say I am an atheist and not much happens. More often I get an "ok, so hows the fishing been?". It really is not an issue with anyone. Unfortunately when it does become part of a more in depth discussion, more often than not it ends up with someone crying that they are being persecuted and harassed. I don't cry. Hehe.

For the future you can always go with my old favorite.

Find one.
Die in it.
I generally tell people I'm "not a believer." Many people leave it at that, and those who ask I generally tell that I have studied too many religions too much to believe an any of them. Living in the Bible belt and having many friends and colleagues who are hardcore believers makes me realize that most of them don't know the Bible well, don't know what the fundamentals are, though they are fundamentalists, and don't know their own church's doctrines. Many seem to think it's all about the golden rule and about being good to people. Sometimes I think the "leaders" of the religious right don't have very many real followers. I asked a friend yesterday, after she said she believes in Biblical inerrancy, how she dealt with the contradictions in the Bible. She said she would have to ask her pastor. And this is an English professor! Seems as if she should be able to read it for herself. And we are all supposed to teach critical thinking! Except when it comes to religion, I guess.
Let's face it, critical thinking and religion are fundamentally incompatible. If you start to think critically about religion, it quickly becomes apparent that religion is self-contradictory. So to think critically about religion is to disprove religion, and people don't want that. So they just avoid thinking, instead.
It's not that they don't have followers. They're just not big on teaching their followers to think for themselves. That would be a bad thing. If followers could decide for themselves, they wouldn't need the church, and they wouldn't have to give the church money. Religion promotes ... well, following and rote quotation of what your leader tells you, not thinking about the theology on your own.

That's why the Catholic church only kept the Bible in Latin, for the longest time. You then have to come to them if you want to know what your holy book says about something. They knew what they were doing.
I make this point a lot. It's amazing what the christers will come back at you with. Things like, without religion there would be mass chaos and crime everywhere. They think people would no longer have a reason to be "good".
I think I said one time to a theist, religion has already been tried.

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.

I get the "I don't believe" you attitude response as well. I come back with you bet attitude, like, I am not lieing to you. Sometimes, and I may already have, I want to say to them "do you want to hurt me now?" I think it may even be important to know a persons intentions upfront on how they will treat you so why not ask, are you going to hurt me? It may not always be necessary but if you are getting the gut feeling that they may cut you off from life, civil rights or justice, why not?
I have also said " I think all religious people are crazy and I know all religious people think all atheist are crazy". Just to say we are both on different grounds of belief so there is no use in trying to convert me if you have that temptation.



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