I am an atheist and I have only really told my immediate family. This is mainly because my sister is an atheist to so we talk about it pretty openly in my house. However, when it comes to social situations and religion is brought it can get a little awkward. Most the time people will ask if I am Catholic or Christian and I normally just say no and leave it at that. How would you tell people that you are an atheist?
I'm fairly open about my lack of beliefs, and I can't think of a single person who resents me that is even worth my time. All my friends and acquaintances still like me even though they may not agree with my views on the subject. Heck, at times we have wonderful little debates that end in laughter.
It depends, sometimes I wait until I know the person very well and then respectfully explain myself when the topic of religion comes up...
Other times I lead with that, "Hi, I'm Carol, and I'm an atheist, if that's a problem for you we probably shouldn't be walking buddies in this class."
Over all just do what makes you feel comfortable, it's your life and the person who has the most to gain or lose by the revelation of your godlessness is you.
I am atheist - done
I just say I am Atheist.
Depends on the circumstances. I suppose I'm lucky, in that I 'run with' a group of pretty open- and like-mined people. I'm also an academic, and I think we tend to have a far higher percentage of atheists (or at least skeptics) then the general population, at least where I live. So generally, it's not a problem. When it does come up, I am pretty straightforward and proud of my atheism, but not confrontational. I don't think telling someone I'm an atheist like it's some kind of 'screw you' is at all productive....
The one place I do tend to tread lightly is with my students. I teach religious studies at a religious institution, and after a semester of my beating a rational approach to religion into them, it becomes sort of a natural conclusion. I generally say something like "I'm a scholar, and after studying religions and mythologies for so long, I've come to realize they are all the same story told in different ways, and no one story has any better claim to truth than any other." That usually has them wandering off thinking I have answered them. If pressed further I tell them that my belief isn't the point of the class, but everyone needs to answer that question for themselves.
If they are of a similar mindset, they will tell me, otherwise, that's the end of the discussion. I'm happy to say that I have had students at least start to ask some tough questions, and see Christianity in a much more rational light.
I have absolutely no problem with it. Whenever anybody engages me on the topic of religion, I simply say "I am an atheist." Problem solved! If they foolishly choose to pursue the issue, I dive enthusiastically into the details.
Depending on who's asking - I will usually say "I grew up Southern Baptist." For some reason that seems to end any inquiry.
I know that it would hurt my family deeply to tell them, so I don't discuss it. But they aren't dumb, they all know I quit church in the 10th grade [with my parents' blessing, because they always told me they'd never force me to go] and have never been back.
Now as far as office talk - I am pretty much "in the closet". I will not be 'coming out' so long as I'm working there. ... sad, I know.
If you just evenly say, "I'm an atheist," in the most matter-of-fact manner, people at first seemed stunned. Then the comments start. Deal with them. But first, be prepared for the most common comments. "How can you not believe in god?" "If I didn't believe in god, I'd go around killing people." "You don't believe in ANYTHING?!" "What is an atheist?" Have your own responses, or use quotes if you like...or both. (I use both.) The first handful of times you do this, you'll be expecting the worst, anxious and fearful of what will happen next. But after those initial experiences, revealing your atheism is easier.
Most people won't threaten to kill you and your children in your sleep, or proselytize (much). They'll just talk about you behind your back. :P Some will warn you of hell. There are many responses to that claim. My favorite is the "lol...seriously?" facial expression---it expresses best what words cannot. I find that the idea is to, at least the majority of the time, leave them curious, not angry. If they are curious, they may look into it themselves. If they are ANGRY, they will look for comfort and comradery with others that only agree with them. Sometimes they are angry from the beginning of the conversation....ask them why they are angry. Leave them curious.
That's my general method anyway. Find what works for you. Have courage!
Sometimes I get the best reaction when I simply say "No I just don't believe that". If they want to bother explaining why they do, they better be prepared. It is usually the evangelist callers that ask me if they can leave the house....lol
I simply tell people I'm a realist. I believe in the physical. Atheist is a term I don't much care for. It labels me and I don't like being labeled. But the fact that I don't believe in any sort of god(s) locks me in a societal category. "I'm an Atheist" puts you on the chopping block. "I'm a realist" gives the chance for discussion.
Ben, I like to say "On my travels between idealism and cynicism, I spend some time in realism."
A woman I knew where I once lived told me she was a materialist. I'll try saying "I'm a materialist" and see if that will stir some discussion.
I'm very blunt about my atheism. I haven't had too many situations where it is awkward.