Brian R. Patterson of Morgantown, W. Va., writes: "Your question was 'why?' I think there are a number of reasons. I would contend that atheists, by their mere existence, are an affront to theists. By being atheist, they are in effect saying, 'you're wrong.' What's more, religion tends to be a deeply held belief and a central part of lifestyle and sense of self. The atheist's presence suggests that someone thinks they're wrong on a large scale."
A writer who gives his name as Mad Hamlet, and describes himself as an atheist, writes: "Some people who believe gain strength from their faith, others are, I think, glossing over a weakness. Anything that attacks or is critical of that gloss is considered a threat and attacked accordingly. I could argue that the reaction is akin to the automatic punch that is triggered by a 'Your mother is so fat ' insult."
The words of the Rev. Jason Cook, a Unitarian pastor in St. Louis, surprised me. Cook writes: "Well, it's much of the same reason I don't like some members of any religion — they get in your face about it. They seem to feel they have something to prove, or have to correct you because they think you are wrong. They have to convert you. They are not content to simply say, 'That is what you chose to believe, and I am OK with that. So long as you don't force your beliefs on me.' Each person needs to be judged based on who they are, not on their religion, or lack thereof. So I don't hate all atheists. Just the annoying ones."