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Thursday, February 19, 2015
Why are Atheists so Angry?
It's often said that atheists are angry. Especially the Internet "village atheist" sorts who gravitate toward certain firebrands and gather online to bash religion.
I could see how that might make atheists appear angry.
We're always so worked up about everything that we constantly need to vent.
But maybe that's healthier than keeping it all inside?
After all, many of us suffered decades of religion -- and some experienced genuine trauma and hardships -- so, I think it helps to talk about it. Such anger, the kind that lets us get it off our chests so we can begin the healing process, is a positive thing. It's how we cope with the psychological damage. In fact, I am personally still coping with how religion ruined my views of sex and relationships. It's not always an easy thing to get over.
For a long time after my deconversion from Christianity, my family and friends (most of whom were highly religious) said I became overly argumentative and seemed angry all the time.
Was I being belligerent? Was I being nasty, vindictive, or puerile (as someone recently put it)?
I don't think so. Not really anyway. I was just asserting what I believed when everyone else was doing the same, then they all looked at me funny because I disagreed with them. And because they didn't want confrontation, but they didn't want to accept my worldview either, they attempted to marginalize me. And that may have made me a little bit angrier than I would have been if they just had shrugged their shoulders and let bygones be.
It took me a long time to learn to just, in the words of the Beetle's, let it go.
I think another reason that this "angry atheist" stereotype gets perpetuated more than it probably should is because those of us who are vocal in the atheist community will often express our displeasure at the things said or done by the religious in the name of religion which they do without any consideration for anyone who might think differently that they do.
Being in the majority, and I'm thinking of the big religions of Christianity and Islam here, many religious believers take it for granted that others might not share their views.
Usually that forces atheists to be in the uncomfortable position of having to stick out like a soar thumb when we refuse to bow our heads and pray at the dinner table, or when we don't pray with our sports teammates, or when we don't stand to say the pledge of patriotic allegiance because it contains ad-hoc additions of hyper religious speak which says we must submit to God, or when we don't go to prayer call, or when we don't abide by the religious holidays, or when we don't take guff from religious people who try to proselytize and changes us rather than try to accept us for who we are.
I see how this might make atheists seem like party poopers who just want to rain on everyone's parade. I get it, I do. But that's not really what we're doing. We're not setting out to ruin your happy God-filled day. Have your beliefs, pray the way you want, but don't expect to force us to do the same.
The way I see it, this is where most of this tension arises. The religious majority want everyone to conform, to be like minded, and to kneel before God. Atheists are like cats who just want to do there own thing and don't want to be bothered too much.
Conformity is part of how religions have traditionally identified heretics and apostates. If you can hammer someone into place, get them to sit down and shut-up, then there won't be any rocking the boat. Religions seek conformity because it means the religion has a better chance of weathering change.
Furthermore, it's why concepts like blasphemy get taken seriously mainly only in religious circles, because labeling someone a blasphemer is a most serious accusation for a person of faith, because it comes with the slam of a hammer, the lash of a whip, or a death sentence. The authoritarian will to put you into your place, and the fear of what would happen if they didn't, is sadly often considered greater than your right to be freedom.
Meanwhile, blasphemy is a concept that also safeguards the religion from having to deal with different ways of thinking, ways of life, or diverging worldviews. It's why blasphemy is such a hot topic issue today -- many religious adherents in some parts of the world want to impose it on the non-religious, secular, or free thinking peoples of differing faiths -- so as to say that anytime you offend their religious sensitivities -- they reserve the right to hammer you down.
Blasphemy thus has become a tool of the autocratic demagogues who want to rile their fellow religious comrades into a frenzy to go on witch hunts for anyone they imagine has slighted them in some way, and enslave everyone to their way of life. It's why blasphemy is an evil, vile, manipulative, damaging concept that carries with it all the potential for the worst kind of human atrocities minus any redeeming quality whatsoever.
Blasphemy seeks to eliminate the freedom of speech and pull everyone back into the dark ages. Blasphemy is a tool with one purpose, to shackle our tongues and our minds and make slaves of us all. It is why blasphemy must be opposed and contested at every turn.
So, you see, maybe -- just maybe -- telling atheists we need to pipe down and let the religious dictate how we ought to live or be, well, sorry -- that makes some of us angry.
Just the other day a religious apologist accused me of having blasphemed -- and I could only think of one thing to say to him -- a wholehearted "Fuck you. And fuck your God too."
Which, in retrospect, probably made me seem a little bit angry. But can you blame me?
Another reason I think many view atheists as angry is because many atheists tend to be critical. That is, we're not content to just sit by the side and watch the privilege religious class turn our society into a ruling theocracy. We want better educations for our children. We want better rights for women. We want equality and tolerance, and we'll gripe about any of the religiously motivated policies that try to strip these things from us or simply make it harder to achieve.
In other words, we're not afraid to stand up for ourselves. We'll tell you when we think you're being an idiot, and well, that might seem angry to some.
It might even seem nasty, puerile, or vindictive.
But maybe, just maybe, if you treat us like children, we'll act puerile to make a point, and if you dismiss us and try to force policies on us we don't need or want we will get nasty about it, and maybe if you violate our freedoms and try to take away our rights so as to force us to conform to your beliefs, well, perhaps our vindictiveness is vindicated.
So we gather online, voice our discontent, and then get labeled angry atheists.
That's fine, as long as you admit that maybe, just maybe, some of it was provoked.