In the past, atheists rarely spoke about their lack of belief, fearing that they would be criticized or cajoled back into church. But now, thanks to books like Sam Harris's "The End of Faith" and Richard Dawkins's "The God Delusion," the movement has a voice. Atheists gather in convention halls to praise these combative authors as modern-day prophets, and they speak of their disbelief like a mantra.
But how do you piss off an atheist? There are lots of ways:
1) Knock on his door at 9:00 on a Saturday morning and shove a Watchtower pamphlet into his hand before he's even awake.
2) Tell him that all rock music is the Devil's work.
3) Insist that the Big Bang theory is a lie; lead off your criticism with the disclaimer that you're not a physicist.
4) Keep arguing with him over the existence of God, but never come to a conclusion.
5) Show up at his house wearing a t-shirt that says "I Don't Believe in God, and neither should you."
Hemant Mehta, a fellow nonbeliever who runs an atheist charity and helps run a website for atheists, says openly dismissing God is no picnic. He's already lost friends and been fired from jobs because of his beliefs. Atheists need to learn from the gay-rights movement, he says: If people see atheists as normal, they'll be less likely to stigmatize them. For many atheists, the rally is a chance to meet other like-minded people and have fun. But it's also a time to make sure their voices are heard.