Coyote, a bloggy buddy, had an anecdote about an awkward atheist encounter. Four people were hanging out playing board games, when an atheist realized that the other three were all Christian. For whatever reason, the atheist decided this was a good time to confront everybody about Christianity and/or defend atheism. Coyote described it as “delivering a predetermined spiel”.
I feel like I’ve seen that before. For example, one time the local atheist student group met up with some Christians for lunch, and there were a few students who really launched into spiels about why atheism is more fulfilling and stuff. Whereas my initial reaction was to ask about their majors and to figure out where they were on the political spectrum.
I’ve also been on the receiving end. Back in the day I’d table for the atheist student group, and sometimes people would approach the table and just start monologuing about how science is the greatest and religion is the worst. Then they’d walk away before I could respond to anything. Okay? Happy to lend an ear?
Since I don’t do anything like that myself, I can only speculate on the motivations. I feel like these are examples of atheist venting. Atheists have a lot of arguments going through their heads about religion and reality. When they finally find an opportunity to talk about it in meatspace, it all comes out. And sometimes it’s more awkward in real life than it was in their heads.
When I first became an atheist, I stayed in the closet for a year. I certainly felt like I had things I needed to talk about during that year. But my solution was perhaps unusual: I started a blog. And well, once I had vented on my blog, I became much more relaxed in my interactions regarding religion and atheism. I just don’t feel the urgency to talk about religion in meatspace. I can reach more people with less awkwardness by talking about it on the internet instead.
But that’s just my experience, being a non-confrontational person. I’d be interested to hear other experiences.