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 agree that telling a logically consistent story in which Santa Claus actually exists requires either violating physical law or granting Santa access to various extremely advanced technological devices. Nevertheless, it can be done: Perhaps Santa's reindeer use an antigravity device to defy gravity; perhaps Santa's bag reaches into a fourth spatial dimension, rendering it effectively bottomless; perhaps Santa's workshop is hidden by an invisibility shield; perhaps Santa has a time dilation device that allows him to reach all of the homes he needs to in one night; perhaps Santa has a Star Trek-style matter transporter allowing him to get into and out of homes; perhaps, perhaps, perhaps....
Naturally, I would not for one moment suppose Santa Claus to actually exist. The point is only that it can be made logically consistent, and therefore is logically possible. Similarly with most versions of God.
If you want absolute certainty, that's exactly what you need, yes. You can disprove certain types of deities to more or less an absolute certainty, but beyond that, there's only so much you can do.
... or someone who clearly understands the basics of logic much better than you. Watch a few episodes of The Atheist Experience and see how they deal with people who come at them with apologetic arguments. That's a good crash course in logical argumentation. I'd suggest taking a 100-level logic course, but I don't suppose you'll do that.
The fact that other people see the universe differently than you clearly demonstrates why just looking around doesn't work. This is why you need philosophical arguments and science. If you're going to dole out the flat assertions, then your argument is no better than the Ontological Argument or Thomas Aquinas's proofs.
Hmmm, I can definitely see where you're coming from with this. Perhaps it would help if you just shift the certainty down one level.
It strengthens your argument in a real debate if you don't assert absolute certainty about the non-existence of God, and at the same time you can maintain the level of certainty you want, in that it's insane to believe anything with absolutely no solid evidence, such as the Judeo-Christian deity. Then when they try to present their 'evidence' you shoot them down.
At the same time, you should look up some things like the Problem of Evil and other positive arguments against the god that most Christians believe in.
The Atheist Experience has two shows they did on the subject, some of the earliest ones in their archive, episodes #330 and #332:
The second one is a talk done by Don Baker. He does a lot of really good lectures on the sort of flaws in religion and theology that you may find useful to improve your arguments of anti-theism. You may want to look through the Atheist Experience archive for shows that he's done with topics that may interest you: http://www.atheist-experience.com/archive/.
Also, a lot of the theist calls are just sooo much fun. It's immature of me, but I love calls from people like JR:
It's a bit of an ego boost, seeing how much more mentally capable we are than some people.
The problem wouldn't be as much with saying "There is no God" as it would be with then failing to explain that that only means what "There is no Santa Claus" means--that without good reason for belief, it's unreasonable to believe in God, just as without good reason for belief, it's unreasonable to believe in Santa Claus--if your conversant then says "See? You have faith, too!" (One also typically needs to explain to such conversants that allowing that something *might* exist isn't the same as assigning it a fifty-fifty likelihood of existing--Santa Claus *might* exist [you can tell a logically consistent story in which he exists], but you're hardly "on the fence" about his existence.) What you say will depend on your conversant.
It's more difficult online, where you might not know who your conversant is.
At the point at which he said that he was just asking when I was born, I think I would have wondered aloud if he normally asked people their birthdates. Is he thinking of buying them presents? If what he normally asks is their astrological sign, then, I would explain, people can hardly be expected not to infer that he is asking because he gives astrology some weight--i.e., because he holds exactly the sort of superstitious belief that you've just explained you don't believe. And I'd wonder, again aloud, just why the explanation that you didn't hold such a superstitious belief (and, *I* would add but *you* might not, that you didn't think he should believe it, either) made him angry?
It is annoying that buying into superstitions and irrational beliefs--astrology, tarot reading, various religious beliefs--makes one popular, while nonbelief tends to have the opposite effect. And it is annoying that finding female companionship would be much easier were I to profess such silly beliefs.
Of course, I fully understand wanting to avoid confrontations on the job about *anything*. One doesn't have to be in the wrong to be fired, alas.
This guy strikes me as being smarter than average but he also seems a bit sensitive to the fact that he's aging which is sad since he's only 63. He is also divorced (not amicably) and has no children. He is no doubt quite lonely and probably has low self-esteem. Knowing that, I doubt I would have torn into him had this incident occurred elsewhere.
Yeah it's okay to feel compassion for these people. Sometimes keeping your katana in its sheath is the best possible response to other's intolerance of your skepticism.