This is the third time I've written this post! All I wanted to say is, if I tell people I'm an atheist and they say "they'll still pray for me", I find that to be a backhanded compliment at best, and condescending at worst. They might not mean it, but motive doesn't negate the result.
Since posting version one of this though I've learned religious people are allowed to offend atheists, scientists, biologists, doctors and geologists whom they passionately (or often tacitly) disagree with, but if we're offended and explain why as I did with my post, we're called out as being rude and intolerant, along with several strings of four letter words.
It's interesting that people can discuss their favourite music, author, politician and grilled cheese sandwich and discussions can occur, but if it's about faith there's an untouchable social taboo. Often being religious is enough; if most Christians meet a Hindu for example, they'll get along just fine. If a religious person meets an atheist (or agnostic, or another non-believer) though, it's automatically expected the atheist has to defend his or her position, and then to take insults without responding. It's downright weird.
There's also a popular analogy that "atheism is just another religion". Even if we weren't to assist in the suicide of this fatuous proposition (thank you Christopher Hitchens for that line!) and we played along, why is it unique amongst religions in that it's the only one that's allowed to be criticised? If the answer is because atheists reject religious teachings, don't different religions reject each others teachings too?
Given it was just recently the 4th of July in the United States, I'm reminded of that infamous passage in the Declaration of Independence:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.
Apparently though the next passage states that if you believe your creator was the beautiful and elegant universe which evolved in space and time, this does not apply. Good to know!
As I've said before, I don't think the world would be better without religion per se (I love cultural festivals for example!), I just want the ability to one day have honest and meaningful conversations about them. I suspect that day will come, but it won't be for a while. I'm guess I'm just sick of apologising!