As an atheist in a modern society like the UK you don't actually come across much in the way of face to face attempts at ridicule and bullying from Christians these days. Sure, there are a plethora of apologists and Church leaders writing newspaper columns, blogs or who appear on "Thought for the day" who trot out the same tired old canards but these are hardly worth getting excited about; their arguments have invariably been debunked for centuries by both philosophers and scientists. Then there are a handful of spectacularly ignorant sect and cult leaders who are much more vociferous but on the whole just sound like nutters. In the infamous words of spin doctor Alistair Campbell, as a (usually) polite society we tend not to "do religion" out in the open and when we do it's the sickly sweet "for God's sake don't upset anyone" variety.
Most atheists I know (including me) wouldn't actually mind the odd intellectual run around the block, over a pint or two, in fact quite enjoy it. So long as the Christian (or which ever religion) person on the other side of the table didn't object to receiving a proportionate, robust response in the spirit of honesty, tolerance and frankly being a grown up! As long as the conversation sticks to the ideas behind the positions rather than attacking the people holding the ideas then all is good in my book, the only risk to either side is learning something. Of course many religious people don't tend to see things this way, they feel their belief is indistinguishable from them - which is a big problem. A lack of belief on the other hand doesn't come with such baggage, there's no obvious target to take aim at, apart from the usual straw men, i.e. "Stalin was an atheist" [technically, Stalin trained as a Georgian Orthodox priest but became an Atheist later in his life].
But, it wasn't too many years ago that even here in the UK this would not have been the case. Christians used to be assertive, unrelenting and downright hostile in their approach toward the perfectly scientific, reasonable and historical theological position that is atheism, and in many countries around the world this remains the case. Take the above example of the X-factor contestant in Catholicism-soaked Ecuador; this poor 16 year old girl was personally attacked on national TV for not believing the particular theological ramblings of certain members of the judging panel; and good for her I say, they sounded to me like people who had never heard a single word against their position. Of course, the psychological abuse on this show wasn't particularly serious when compared to the physical abuse handed out by many religious authorities but was spectacularly ill-informed and baring in mind the context and particularly spiteful in it's delivery. The arrogance on display from these people and the certainty with which they (and millions like them) make these ridiculous claims, with no apparent inclination to offer any kind of justification whatsoever, is staggering. At one point someone asks "has she got the devil in her", one wonders what would be next, a lynch mob or burning torches and pitch forks perhaps?
Oh well, Ecuador is another country off the list (I'm sure they couldn't care less) but next time I hear some apologist talking about new atheists being aggressive or "militant"; meaning simply an atheist who dares express their viewpoint; I will think about this poor girl. Of course, most Christians wouldn't be as blatant as this in a secular country like the UK (Muslims on the other hand...) but I can't help suspect that even when they don't say anything, it's what they're really thinking.