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 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.
I enjoyed reading ur response to my post..it made me laugh because i have had a few conversations about the old testament with people who are religious and i had enough knowledge to bring the conversation to an end lol. I will certainly research those stories though. It amazes me sometimes how little some religious people actually know about the bible yet they think they know everything lol.
Heather,

I don't know why you are assuming a defensive position - my view is that believers are genetically defective (they a possess a "God" gene) or are basically simple minded or deluded . . in all cases deserving of our pity . .

My suggestion would be to say something like (with barely concealed pity/contempt): "You don't REALLY believe in all that superstitious nonsense do you? This is 2010 not 1500." The onus is on the fairly tale believers to prove their position, not the other way around. Remember Carl Sagan - extraordinary (and silly) claims require extraordinary proof . .

Regards,

Phil.
I usually answer "human" when someone asks what religion I use, or I may just state that I am not at all religious, with emphasis on the "at all." If the person persists in wanting an explanation, I explain that I do not believe anything that requires belief. That is to say, I believe only in things that can be verified independently of my belief. That's about as far as I ever go with it, unless the person seems genuinely interested, which is rare in my experience. If they want to jack around in an amateur philosophical way, as if the "reality vs. woo" question is actually worth discussing (with them, maybe not so with others), then I really have no interest, and will say so. I seriously might as well defend my non-leprechaun belief; the reasons are the same -- no supportable evidence, no acceptable data, no falsifiable hypotheses, requires belief to be true. (One point about data: The fact that lots of people have been looking for these "gods" and such for thousands of years, and never found any hard evidence, should inspire at least an intuitive conclusion -- at the very least that there aren't any gods (yet). I don't believe in the "yet" either, but what ev.)

But then I am older than you, and probably less patient, hence more aggressive, about this stuff -- heard it too many times. Good luck with everything! Your question is always worth asking.
@philip_rhoades: I have to confess I also have the tendency to view them as if they are completely fucking batshit crazy. That's my other response, Heather.

Philip is exactly right, the religious are the ones making the extraordinary claims, so they need to provide the (extraordinary) evidence, to paraphrase an old saying. It's important for my intellectual integrity that I give no quarter to silly ideas. That's unless I'm playing with my 10-year-old, but then we are pretending, you know.
My approach is unapologetic atheism: I'm an atheist, and there's nothing wrong with that; I've done nothing wrong, and I don't need to apologize for it.

It may take you some time before you get the confidence to go that route. In the mean time, you can always start *not* by saying, "I'm an atheist," which has all sorts of stereotypes and baggage that goes with that word, but by saying, "Oh, I've never believed in any gods. I don't see any evidence for any of them, and I've studied all sorts of religions. None of them are convincing to me." Or something along those lines. You don't have to say 'atheist' if that causes problems. Let the theist say 'atheist' if they think it's so important. Then you can say, "I don't see what's wrong with not being convinced by your claims. There are literally thousands of different religions, and all their believers are convinced that *their* particular religion is the right one. I'm simply not convinced by any of those claims, and I gotta tell ya, your claims are no different than theirs."

You do NOT need to become defensive about your atheism if you keep in mind that the burden of proof is absolutely on the theist to demonstrate the truth of their extraordinary claims. Being unconvinced is a perfectly safe default position, and from that foundation, you can turn around any criticism they level at you. "I'm not the one making claims here. That's your bag. How can you be so certain if you have no more proof than a Muslim or a Hindu? Have your researched those religions? They are as convinced of Allah and Vishnu as you are of Yahweh/Jesus, so your faith is in no way impressive to me. In fact, I think it's irresponsible, jumping to conclusions without having good reasons to believe."

You can also defend against any stereotype they level at you by saying, "Well, I'm not like that. I'm simply unconvinced by your badly reasoned claims. That doesn't make me X, it just makes you a bigot for thinking X about me when you barely know me. Who taught you this bigotry anyway?"

The inevitable, "The fool says in his heart, there is no god." You reply: "What a bigoted book! That's one of the reasons I'm not a believer, because that book teaches intolerance and bigotry, as you've just clearly demonstrated."

Turn it around on them. How dare they impose their ridiculous stereotypes on you?! You be the one that gets offended, and use their browbeating tactics to prove to them what assholes they are for trying to browbeat you.

None of this requires being on the defensive by allowing their stereotypes of atheists to stain your person. Remember: There is nothing wrong with being an atheist. You've done nothing wrong and have nothing to apologize for.
Oh yeah, almost forgot. Keep this ace up your sleeve: "Look you don't believe in any of those other gods either. You are an atheist according to those other religions. There are thousands of gods you do NOT believe in. I simply believe in ONE LESS GOD than you do."
Being in the military people assume that I'm bombarded with religiosity. In certain subtle ways that is true, but religion is very rarely a topic of conversation during my work day. For my part, I make no secret of my atheism (I classify myself as a 'hard atheist' or anti theist as coined by Christopher Hitchens), neither do I take every opportunity to shout it from the rooftops. Mainly I find that those amatuer theologans need only to get into it with me once. If you increase your knowledge of their limited arguments and send them scurrying back to "well its just my faith"nobody much bothers you. My consistent problem is the mental midgets who cannot even grasp the concept of burden of proof, evidence or the scientific method. My advice is to know their crappy arguments better than they do...as someone else mentioned there really isn't that many of them, even if you include such things as ID garbage science like irreducible complexity and philosophical dead ends like kalam.
even if you include such things as ID garbage science like irreducible complexity and philosophical dead ends like kalam.

Dawkins's books are good for that. There's a complete refutation of the irreducible complexity of the bacterial flagellum in one of the chapters of 'The God Delusion', along with mention of wings and eyes. Several other books go into it in greater depth, but I can't think of them right now.

So, yeah, basically you just need to learn the horribly flawed arguments that apologists use, because of their willful ignorance of the science, and then learn the science that rips them to pieces.
My position may be a little unusual, since I am writing a collection of philosophical essays tentatively entitled "Why I Don't Believe in God...and Why You Shouldn't, Either," but it seems to me that making your nonbelief public is a *good* thing to do, and that reiterating it at every opportunity (OK, maybe not *every* one) is a good thing to do, and that explaining to people why you don't believe is a good thing. You can always direct them to www.whydoesgodhateamputees.com . One of its pages gives a brief account of what Mormons believe, of what Moslems believe, and of what Christians believe, and then says, "Now, if you're Christian, you can see that the other two stories are just fantasy" (and similarly for the others; "why can't you see it of your own religious story?"
I actually found this site through youtube, it's a good source of information.

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