In honor of yesterday's Ask An Atheist Day, here are a few of the questions and comments that I've received online and in real life (some from people who obviously didn't know whether I was religious or not):
Q. "Do you know Jesus as your lord and savior?" (Asked of me as I walked past a church's booth at a state fair.)
A. "No." (Said in a matter-of-fact tone as I kept walking, much to the amusement of the friend I was with.)
Q. "Why do you hate God?"
A. "I don't. I wouldn't know how to go about hating something I don't believe in. Do you hate leprechauns or unicorns, assuming that you don't believe in them?"
(Most atheists I know would probably respond in a similar fashion, but Roger Scott Jackson, who created and portrays the character of "Sam Singleton, Atheist Evangelist," wrote in Patriarchs and Penises: A Comedy in Two Acts: "Some atheists say they can't be angry at God because God is not real. I say the fact that God is fictitious doesn't stop more than half the people on earth from believing in him, so why should it stop me from being mad at him?")
Q. "Aren't you worried that you'll go to hell?" (I've gotten this one from family members but it's usually phrased gently and obliquely, not as a question but rather as a comment like, "I worry that people who don't accept Jesus as their savior will go to hell.")
A. "No. I don't think I've ever been told directly, face-to-face, that I'm going to hell, but that idea was certainly endorsed by the culture I was raised in—as were ideas that behaviors like smoking and discrimination on the basis of race, gender, and sexual preference are acceptable. I rejected all those concepts on intellectual grounds in my teens or twenties. It took me a couple more decades to get past the emotional indoctrination, but now I when I think about hell, what comes to mind are scenes from cartoons and movies. It's hard for me to do anything but chuckle over the version of hell portrayed in, say, the 1970 version of 'Scrooge' (my favorite of the many film adaptations of Dickens' A Christmas Carol)."
Q. "Are you saved?"
A. "No, but I'm looking for an external hard drive big and fast enough to back me up entirely in under 8 hours."
OK, I haven't had a chance to actually use that last response on anyone yet, but I've got it ready and waiting!