There is a trope that we ex-Hindus come across very frequently when we tell people that we are atheists – “Atheism is accepted in Hinduism”. The implication is that us atheists should just shut up about tolerant Hinduism already and concentrate on the intolerant Abrahamic religions. However trope is only partially true. Atheism is accepted but in the sense that you aren’t going to be socially ostracized for professing a non-belief in god. But that is all. Try to go beyond dictionary atheism and practice the values that are derived from your atheism, and you’ll see why.
If you say that you don’t want to accompany your family on the trip to that temple, you’ll be asked why you’re being such a spoilsport. You’ll be asked “what’s the big deal”?
You want to marry out of caste, especially from a lower caste? “You are going to bring disgrace upon this family”. Cue the sulking and refusal to talk for weeks, months or even years.
Say that you don’t care about the myriad rituals that go with a marriage. You’ll be told to shut up and put up. The elders know what they’re doing.
If you have a kid and don’t want to take them to Tirupathi and get their head shaved, you’ll get a “What is wrong with you? Why all the fuss? It’s important that you do this now. It’s not like you are being asked to do it every year”. Cue the questions on why you have to be such a pain to deal with. Don’t want to do annaprashana? Namakarana? Cue the same.
If you are constructing a house and don’t want anything to with the nonsense of Vaastu, you’ll get a “You don’t understand how these things work. If the house has bad vaastu, you will suffer hardships later on. So and so in our family did that and look what happened to them! Anyway vaastu has been proven to be scientific yadda yadda..”.
The hardest part comes if a loved one dies and you don’t want to do any rituals to propitiate their soul. You’re already feeling like shit and a simple request that you be allowed to practice your value system will be met with any number of dire warnings of how the loved one will suffer in limbo if you don’t perform those rituals. Your love towards the deceased person will be questioned.
And all that is from the perspective of a man. Women have it even much worse. Like if you don’t want to do all those useless pujas and vratas you’ll be emotionally blackmailed. “It’s fine if you don’t believe in a god. But these pujas must be performed. Don’t you care about the well being of your family?. Are you going to bring evil upon this family?”
To sum up, atheism is accepted in Hinduism as long as you keep it to yourself and follow along all the irrational nonsense of Hinduism.