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 think I would be angry for some of the same reasons. Suppose one of these people you meet you met here on TA, Suppose her experience was much like yours and she was contemplating letting go of religion and becoming and atheist.
Would you display anger toward her in public (here at TA) or would you try to help her complete her journey as you did? Would you call her a "religitard"? It sounds like from what you're saying that you basically agree with the premise of my post when you say you would show it to "those you know" except that, you refer here to them as "religitards".
And unlike Kristy, I think each and every human is a waste of oxygen until they prove me differently. I dont put respect where its not deserved
I think each and every human is a waste of oxygen until they prove me differently. I dont put respect where its not deserved
Would you say that to someone on a journey similar to the one you've taken? Would showing that they are in some similar sense on your own path make their use of oxygen worthwhile?
This Greta makes me 'angry' that I am a lifelong atheist! I do not associate myself with such decisive and narrow minded thinking! Her talk seems extremist and greatly mischaracterizes mainstream western religions. Most of the anger refered to in her rant focuses on Eastern practices or small extreme examples which would be condemned by the vast majority of Americans regardless of their religious views. Perhaps she could try speaking in some of those other counries she refers to in this video where it might matter. Why do atheists need to find some 'belief' group to follow or seek to convince others to subscribe to an alternate 'belief'? I will see if I can get through the entire video but it is very tiring to view!
Do you think that mainstream, western religion offers anything worthy of indignation by atheists?
That there exists specific issues “worthy of indignation” would not lead me to condemn an entire cultural “conceptual” institution that has formed the historical underpinnings of civilization since the beginning. There are certain religious positions and teachings I find appalling but there are many others to which I can agree or sympathize with. Most have evolved from efforts to define and codify common standards of moral behavior from which we have all benefited. And many churches have been gradually evolving their traditional views to reflect today’s changing morals. In my mind, the good they do for many greatly outweighs the bad.
You might be right. My observation has been rather opposite. I think part of the reason why people develop different perceptions about this has to do with what they attribute to religion; and the valid attributions they are aware of.
You must not live in the Bible Belt or follow legislation that is clearly based on Christian ideology
I tend to agree as I don't think its entirely obvious how deeply religious ideas reach into everyday life; especially the repressive things.
Anger is well justified, and it is a great motivation to speak out against the evils of religion, and any other organization.
We do need to bring it above the level of squabbling children, but if you do not tremble with indignation at the injustices in this world, especially the ones created by an organization that claims to be all good, and all loving, then you are no comrade of mine.
As for reasons to be angry... Here is a photo.
These stories are bad, but at its heart religion has something valuable to say. These are all abuses based on human corruption.
Anyway, Justin Bieber is COOL.