More often than not, some of the most annoying and deluded arguments against open atheism (as opposed to mere open secularism) come, not from religious individuals, but from people who either are or claim to be non-believers and kick off their discourse with the clichéd ‘I’m an atheist, but…’ Before moving on, remember this: life’s not black and white, and it’s not a greyscale either; there are millions of colours, and not being able to see infra-red or ultra-violet doesn’t mean they don’t exist; there is, however, yet another layer to it: there are infinite colours which do not exist and which, unlike IR and UV, cannot be measured (since they don’t exist), and just because one person, or twenty, or a billion, believe they do, doesn’t make them real.

Now, to revert to the previous point regarding the feeble ‘I’m an atheist, but…’ opener, I shall try it out in order to see how it feels and get it out of the way. I’m an atheist, but I’ve got absolutely no problem with people believing whatever they want, I’ve sung religious pieces many times – couldn’t care less about the fact those lyrics refer to imaginary creatures, as that wouldn’t stop me from singing ‘Seraglio’ or ‘Das Rheingold’ if I ever had the chance – and I can sympathise (even if I thoroughly disagree) with the notion of seeking prayer or the idea of the divine justice or the afterlife as some sort of comfort or solace. I do draw the line, however, at double standards.

I genuinely don’t mind people using (stock) phrases such as ‘God bless you’ or ‘Thank God,’ but I’d always wondered whether believers – or, more to the point, ‘I’m an atheist, but…’ apologists – would be equally amenable of the same approach when at the receiving end of it. I began, then, replying to ‘God bless you’ with ‘God doesn’t exist, but thanks for the nice intentions.’ Suddenly, accusations of being rude, impetuous or narrow-minded began pouring, both from believers and atheists alike.

Now, that’s a double-standard if I’ve ever seen one: why is it alright for a believer to say out loud that there is a god (or several) but not for a non-believer to say there isn’t? What would happen if I wore a t-shirt with the message ‘there’s no God’? Would I be respected the same way people with crucifixes or rosaries are in most Western territories? How is that ‘imposing’ my views, but saying ‘God bless you’ is not?

Secularism and freedom cut both ways: if it’s acceptable for believers not to shut up about it (and it is), then it’s also fine for atheists not to keep it to ourselves. After all, not being quiet isn’t quite the same as being aggressive. Remember: B/W, greyscale, colours, IR, UV…

To sum up: if you believe in any of the thousands of gods humanity’s worshipped, you’re more than entitled to say so, out loud, and to wear items that represent your faith, and to post whatever you like on social media, and it’d be ridiculous for me to be offended by that. But there’s the flipside: I’m also more than entitled to say there are no gods, say it whenever and wherever I want, and it’d be ridiculous for anyone else to be offended by it.