If they're just talking about their religious beliefs without pushing them, I usually just listen, learn, and ask questions. I find it very interesting to learn about what other people believe, since it's all foreign to me and I find it interesting that there is so much variation.
I only really debate them if they make factual assertions or scientifically incorrect statements [mostly the young earth/creationist types] or start pushing their beliefs. This can go well sometimes and be fun, or it can go badly and result in damage to the relationship and a rather disturbing conversation where the person reveals things about themselves that they really should not be so happy to admit -the lack of moral control and reasoning without a god-figure, for example, or a belief that since God determines morality anything goes if he says it does.
Since the people pushing religion on you are family, however, I would try to avoid or escape the conversation. It is unlikely that either of you are going to budge on the topic, you've probably already covered the interesting conversation points, and further arguments probably are not healthy for your relationship.
Its called respect people, thats something that is missing in todays society. Everyone has the right to believe what ever they want as long as they don't proselytize. If it makes you comfortable thats all that matters. All i know is as long as your comfortable with your life style, and your not hurting anyone, then live and let live. I try not to talk about Sex, Religion, or Politics, if your my friend, its because their is something I see in you that is good, and not because of your beliefs.
I normally frustrate believers to the point where they become angry... I don't do this on purpose- it just comes about as I ask them questions which they cannot provide adequate answers.
I have two friends of 40+ years who are devout Christians... When I told them eons ago I was an atheist they both tried their darndest to convert me. The harder they tried the more I frustrated them. They stopped and there has been peaceful coexistence for the remainder of or friendship.
I mostly decide not to have conversations with believers about religion... It is when they find out I'm an atheist is when they want to have a conversation with ME. I simply use reason against what they say and that leads to their frustration... If it goes on too long I simply remove myself from the conversation. It is pointless trying to have a rational discussion about such an irrational topic.
I hope this helps... I don't think there is any easy way to stop religious people from trying to cover/talk to you when thry discover your non-belief status yet you must do what you can to get them to respect you.
My objection to other responses is that religion is faith based: belief in spite of having no objective proof. Or, the person points to some ancient text, and says this is “proof,” when a scientist would say it is only exposition of a hypothesis. You cannot reason your way out of a faith-based emotional situation. Attempting to do so is only a waste of time. Sarcasm doesn’t work either; it only comes across as disrespect.
Instead, you have to treat the religious in much the same way as you would a befuddled person having hallucinations: don’t try to change their minds, just recognize that their “reality” is not real.
If people are simply discussing religion, they have a right do so, and if you don’t want be a part of it, just walk away. But if it’s a conversion attempt, that’s different. Are you a child or an adult? Are you living at home, or on your own? The answers to those questions are what determines your response. A. If one and two are both “yes,” then you will have to be nice to your parents, but not your friends. You’ll have to listen to it, but you have every right to tell them you do not agree, and would rather not discuss it. B. If one is “no” and two is “yes,” then your answer may need to be the same to keep living there, but you may also find that you can then turn and leave. C. If both are “no,” then your response is dependent on how close you wish to remain to your parents, adding the option to break off the conversation by ending a phone call, or even telling them that any continued harassment will discontinue your relationship. D. You may also wish to use a turn-the-tables response: rather than waiting for them to start proselytizing you, start actively extolling the virtues of atheism. Give them a dose of their own medicine first, and any time they begin to try to convert you. E. As for your friends, begin with the basics first, and then escalate as required. If the harassment doesn’t stop, you need new friends!
I depends on whether they are prepared to accept other views. Some I have encountered cannot deal with a non-Christian perspective. With those I tend to join in praising 'HER' when referring to their invisible friend. Then I make up some crap about mis-translations whilst putting on my 'superior English accent'.
For those that try to convince me that their god did it, then I will use reasoned argument. For Christians there is always 'made in Gods image'. Just look at us (humans), what a FUBAR. Limited life span, fat, ugly, skinny, Autism, cancer, genetic diseases and other disabilities. The list appears endless. Why would a perfect being making a version of itself screw up in such a monumental way? For Islam, many of the arguments are the same, but I will autopsy Mohammed and suggest that his epilepsy affected his right frontal lobe with an Oligodendroglioma grade II tumour, changing to grade IV later on. This accounts for his bursts of hyper-intelligence and religious encounters. This are fairly common symptoms with these tumours in that location. It's something they can read up on. If he was the prophet of God, then he was only one of many thousands over the years. My wife suffered from this 'prophet complex' from time to time until medications sorted that out. - It's ok folks, she was an atheist and had an extremely high IQ (veterinary surgeons usually do) and understood what was going on.
Sometimes I ask which god? Oh the one true god! Which one, there are so many to choose from.
Living in the heart of the Bible Belt is strange experience for me. I’m surrounded by seemingly intelligent people who believe in irrational supernatural things and look at me like I’m strange. You know that awkward silence when you walk into a room of people talking religion?
I wish I had the quick wit of Hitchens or Dawkins to dispatch their proselytizing but alas this approach for me always ends up with the person getting angry. For me the best way to deal with this situation is to ask thought provoking questions and try not to be confrontational.
P.S. they don’t find a “happy zombie Jesus day” T-shirt during Easter very funny.
I know it is a hard road to travel. As most of my family dies off I get more irritated with believers in any form. They want to call you into a debate or discussion because they think you have just "fallen away" and they can get you to believe again. Their book compels them to do this. I have the advantage of studying that book and knowing more about it than the average person. This is also why I do not believe. I'm tired of looking at the sky and trees as evidence. I find no proof that an invisible being is concerned with us in any way.
When the doorknockers show up all smiles and bibles in hand I'm starting to get outspoken like never before. Trying my new one now, I open the door for the First Blabtist Church and say "sorry, don't believe" and just close the door in their face. That usually does it.
You know why you do not believe, I know why I do not believe.
I use that against them.
Their ideas, ideals and view of their religion will only be swayed with rational thinking coming from rational debate and with a religious person you will never get that rational debate.
So there is only one thing you say can say.
"Show me undeniable evidence, just one piece, thats all I ask and I will be open minded, until then, STFU and consider the fact that you maybe believing in something that has not one single shred of evidence of it's existence". " Now tell me who is right and who is wrong".
Yesterday I woke up and it was 3 pm and when I got out from my room I was shock because there are people doing some bible thingy and they ask me to the and I was like dumstruck, I had no choice but to participate, my advice for you is do not try to explain yourselve no matter what because religious people.are lile wall just pretend you listen.
The only long term solution to make family and friends respect your position is to guide them in such a way that they can understand, if not agree with your differing opinion. This is really complicated and several books could be written without scratching the surface. Here are some tips.
1.talk smooth and confidently, like a late night radio dj to put them at ease (and yourself) so that conversation can be productive rather than emotional.
2.Don't force your position on them, they will just get defensive and cling to what they know.
3.ask questions that make them think rather than remember. You should try to make it seem that they are making the decision not you, while quietly guiding them to the logical conclusion that atheism is valid. Ex: "How am I supposed to belive in a god when horible things happen to good people?" Or "Why should I donate to the church when I can help the needy directly?"
4.peaceful disagreement should be your goal. Chances are you are fighting a one armed war outnumbered and outgunned. You should be trying to make them understand you not necessarily agree.
5.Press them for reasons why they believe then try to show how it is unnecessary. If done carefully this can be the most powerful method because they will feel like they are being listened to. A lot of people believe in religion because they are scared of death, hell, karma, family discrace ect. Showing they don't need to be afraid because it isn't real can be very effective. Conversely if they need the imaginary love of a profit or deity to get through the day then letting them know that your genuine care is worth much more can bridge some significant gaps in the respect and understanding you share with your family and friends. They are likely to reciprocate that respect.
Sorry for the book. Hope these tips help you!
It's a funny situation, because a lot of people just start talking to you about their religion and just ASSUME it's your belief too. I generally look for the general goodness of the message they are giving and deal with that in agreement (like being kind to each other, having love, etc) But if they go too deep, I let them know I have different beliefs and SEE if they give me the same respect I gave them as they went from chapter to verse. Usually they look at me like I'm lost and need to be saved but that's ok. I use the word "God" but to me its a collective energy. When I am referring to (God, The Universe, Energy) I am talking about the Energy we share with everything alive and thats the end of my great deep thoughts about those things. I listen to others with the respect they listen to me - other than that I nod politely and keep it moving. MY energy is just fine and so is yours. Don't let them rattle you! (Great post by the way - thanks for letting me chime in).