Personally, I feel like, "I'm not interested" is sufficient and implies "please leave me alone" without actually having to state it. If a person persists after you tell them you're not interested, THAT is rude... and asking them to leave you alone, at that point, corresponds to their belligerent disrespect of your obvious attempt to avoid the discussion.
Well, the sad fact is, there's no right way to go about this. My family is persistent, too. I come from a very religious background and, when I visited them a couple weeks ago, I had to bite my tongue the whole time. They're constantly voicing their ridiculous opinions and I eventually caved in and got into a debate with them, which led to a novel-like email from my mother telling me, basically, to stop thinking about it and just accept God.
They're going to push and they're going to back you into a corner. Avoid it as long as you can, but be prepared for the conversation: it will happen... and probably more than once. You can be as polite as you wanna be, depending on your endurance.This has more to do with how YOU want to handle it.
I've wondered about this myself. I've been approached by leaflet packing proselytizers on a few occasions. They always gang up on you and if you say your atheist, you never know for sure that they won't try to excise demons from you on the spot. Last one I can remember, I lied and said I was Buddhist & exploring all the options and politely made it clear that their holy text wasn't very compelling to me.
I was shaky afterwards in part because I wasn't quite sure how I should handle them as I was dealing with them & moreso for them imposing on me in the first place. I think I'm more inclined now to advocate the mental & verbal chess match approach, as Nelson put it. Try to maintain a cordial demeanor, as the second you acknowledge you're an atheist (weigh the probability of being burned on a cross in your particular local before doing so), they envision devil horns & wings sprouting from your body. You don't want to feed into that programmed reaction.
Atheists may not be the majority but we are a significant minority at least & like Dawkins, I think it's high time we start to come out of the closet.
I think that it is a reminder to us that, religion is not necessarily a bad thing. It's just not something for us. The argument which is made in one of the replies is that "more debate why they think it is ok to preach to me or anyone rather than respect my un-belief or others belief in something else".
Man, the best Mormon-be-gone spray story I have is actually true.
I used to bartend and my boyfriend worked nights, too.
Usually I'd get home at about five or six am, make us a nice breakfast/dinner and then we'd stay up for a few hours before going to bed.
Well, we also used to have this cat named Malice. That cat shed more hair than anything nature ever intended. She was a short-hair, too. I used to put duct tape over her and peel it off because it would take all the loose hair off of her. She actually liked this.
So one day I get home from work, I've got tape on the cat and I'm just wearing a towel because once I get done de-hairing her I'm going to jump in the shower. Guess who knocks at the door?
Yeah, I assumed my boyfriend had forgot his key again.
I yank the door wide open with a tapped up cat under one arm, wearing nothing but a towel and looking irritated as all hell.
The Mormons didn't visit after that.
While the logistics of this might be a bit too complex to set up, (and it probably would only cause further angst with your family) I hope the story at least amused you.
It's very difficult to deal with family when it comes to religion. While they would cry and moan that you're being disrespectful if you simply state "I believe that you're wrong about gods and I don't subscribe to any of your religious beliefs" it's apparently okay for them to completely disregard your feelings and absolutely disrespect you by claiming that you need God or that you're going to hell or that you should give up your beliefs and just accept God or some other such drivel (and you'll notice this happen in general society all the time as well). You'll never get them to understand what jerks they're being so the only real option is to humor them when you have to and avoid the topic otherwise. If they can't even accept "I'd rather not discuss religion" then you can walk away (or not read their emails). Unfortunately, it necessarily falls to you to be the bigger person.
If it's a stranger, then "no thanks" and going about your business should really suffice.
As in the case of Cara, I also come from a religious family. In cases where the welfare of my soul is called into question, I like to point out that before King James re-wrote the bible to suit his needs, that hell is described as the furthest place from god, meaning one ceases to exist on any plain, so hell is infact what an athiest believes would happen when one dies. I have not yet had the pleasure of running into a mormon yet. Just try to remain civil, rise above it, let everyone else rant and rave.
It may be that we have to be more comfortable with our disbelief amongst all the family and peer pressure around us in order to cope with their preaching. If I mention I'm atheist I'm proud about it, I can defend the position well and often like the debates. In the end you can just say 'Well I appreciate your concern, but if you can't answer my questions I can't sign up', and you can even cover the 'just have faith' argument by asking why they don't just have faith in Krishna or some other god. Why just theirs? It's very rare that I won't feel like discussing it, more the other way round when I press them for answers!