If you know me in the real world or even here on TA you'd know I'm pretty passionate about the image of atheism, deconversion and evangelical atheism. A christian friend pointed me to a video (which you can watch here) by Greta Christina today that made me realize that there is a bit of a gap, a chasm, between what I believe and what most atheists believe that could probably be easily filled by a little clarification. Then, I realized, this might in fact be the key to addressing the larger, over-arching issue of anger amongst atheists and whether or not this is a good approach for evangelical atheists.
It just never occurred to me that this point of distinction even needed to be made, but listening to Great and the crowd watching I realized I had made a bad assumption. No, this distinction does in fact need to be made clear. Great gets it, so I'll try to recast her point here in the context of deconversion.
Adherents and their apologists who are angry about atheist anger are just trying to take away the one ingredient responsible for all social change. I took this as a given, but many don't realize that almost every major social movement, from women's rights, to the queer movement, to civil rights; have all been built on "righteous" anger. "Righteous" anger is a special breed of anger that, unlike unhealthy anger, is clearly justifiable. It is the expression of anger, imo, by an emotionally healthy, mature adult.
But what has concerned me is that I get the impression that all too many atheists are not applying this anger constructively. Rather, there is an almost immature, temper tantrum manner in which this gets expressed publicly.
My argument is that to be effective we must learn to channel that anger into something constructive, which means having the maturity and emotional stamina to refrain from public outbursts of anger and rather channel that anger into a social movement of change; of evangelical atheism which includes that unpopular topic of deconversion.
Atheists must learn that anger is a transformative force that can be used for constructive change. But this means being mature and learning how to express anger appropriately in public. There is a difference between anger expressed privately and anger expressed in public. Expressing anger in public is ill-advised if the only thing being expressed is anger. On the other hand, expressing how and why the things that anger you are reason for change is what we should be doing.
So, to be clear, my concern about the manner and tone of the "new atheists" movement comes about as a result of this realization, the same thing that Greta explains in her video much better than I can. And she also points out that when people demand that we "tone it down" they are really trying to take away from us the one thing that fuels social change. They are really just trying to "shut us up" and are doing what every reactionary element has done in the face of social change that begins to truly challenge status quo. For any role I've played in that I regret it and hope I don't do that anymore.
For my part I am so accustomed to refraining from expressing this anger publicly that I have to catch myself sometimes even in private conversations, especially with adherents, when I say, "oh, I'm not really angry about that". Well, I am, but I choose to refrain from expressing naked anger in public as it is counter-productive. When expressed publicly anger should, imo, be channeled as a constructive conversation used to persuade, not defame us and alienate adherents. So, the litany of things that anger us are valid things to talk about, I just think we should be careful in public how we frame it.
I'd like to thank my Christian friend for pointing me to this video and I'd like to know what others think about this. In particular, do you express your anger with religion differently in public and private?
I must admit, being new to the group, you were just as scary as the religious pamphlet placed in my door yesterday.
However, I can relate to the points you are making. I am intrigued to learn your, and everyone’s, thoughts on teaching children about all religions, science, philosophy, and history (in our public schools). Do you think it would help everyone co-exist more peacefully? I think it would not only improve relations but increase the number of atheists.
Now this is a great question/comment. Yes, it would be an incredibly effective way to deconvert, provided all religions were taught with "tolerance", meaning that all were taken seriously ... including Helios, Dionysis, Utnapishtim's gods, etc. You'd see a drop in religiosity over a generation that looks like a rock falling into the Grand Canyon, imo.
kk - I think that's a bit silly, and disrespectful. These gods - Helios, Dionysis, Utnapishtim - are joke gods. They are not the One, True God. That God is worth studying and worshipping.
They are as much a joke as Ganesh, Shiva, Yahweh, Allah, or God none of which are worth worshiping or studying.
I've found my softer side :-) I didn't mean that disrespectfully. In all fairness, if you're going to teach about the history of gods and religions these topics must be on the table, imo.
kk - of course, that's fair enough. I guess what I'm saying is there's something real and worthwhile to teach as well as the exotic zoo of imaginary puppet-masters.
Welcome Kristy! I know how you feel. No need to be quiet here! I have learned so much in a very short time.Enjoy!
Me and my daughter are the first in my extended family to come out of the "closet" and I hope its a trend. So, I know what you mean. Smother them in kindness and politely deconvert them is my approach.
So, you don't think Religion harms society?
On the surface I'm inclined to agree with you until I begin to peel back the layers of this onion.
One of the things I find is that, imo, this view oversimplifies the reality of the situation. Taking your gun analogy, certainly those that misuse guns are the primary parties to account. But what nags me about views like this is what about additional accountability? Suppose someone says they wish to commit suicide. So, I slide a loaded gun across the table to them. Clearly, if the suicidal person does in fact use this gun to kill themselves, they are the primary party to account. But does this viewpoint suffice to understand what happened? Does it suffice to adequately understand societies mandate to provide justice? I don't think so.
Rather, accountability isn't that simple and it involves many parties. In the same way, I don't see "Religion" as being blameless in all the bad things it has been associated with, and certainly one cannot stop with the primary party to account and say, "okay, we're done here". It just doesn't seem that simple to me.
As far as people needing crutches, is this the argument that most people can't "behave" without religion? I'm not sure if that is what you mean, so I wanted to be sure I understood you first. Thanks for the reply.
I actually convinced my mother that my father went to heaven, although he committed suicide, because she could not bear to believe anything else (and I don’t believe that heaven exists). I didn’t need to be “right”, I needed to be compassionate.
On a personal level, for someone in the middle of a crisis such as this, I would probably have done the same thing. So, I guess my point was about the role of religion generally. And I do, outside of a serious crisis like this, wonder if dishonesty is the best general approach. I tend to disagree with that.
I agree, but I don’t see how that justifies harming those it has, and does, do good for by trying to take that peace and comfort from them.
That wasn't my meaning. My meaning was that, on balance, religion does far more harm than the absence of religion would do, imo. The "peace and comfort" you refer to has a massive cost that simply is out of proportion, imo, to the benefit the former provides.
Having said this, I am inclined to think you might be right about personality types. This seems to be a pattern in what I've seen; that the emotionally fragile do cling strongly to religion. I wouldn't want to assert that for fact, but you might be right. In any case, I'd rather see secular, and possibly scientific means, of addressing this, rather than using the band-aid of lies.
I think the cost we pay for religion is staggering and I wouldn't think that its benefits come anywhere close to its costs, but that is just an estimation on my part.
It’s really hard for me not to consider the individual consequences related to religion, or anything for that matter. Thank you for inspiring me to consider the pros and cons of religion further. It’s such a relief to be able to converse with open-minded people.
Hey Blaine - I'm afraid I don't share your confidence - kk