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 am generally full of compassion and concern for everyone. I usually let the religious bigotry go unchecked. However everywhere I went today I heard nothing but vileness and bigotry. None of it came from godless Atheists. What is it about these people that they want to constantly evangelize to me. I have no interest in what they are selling but they won’t leave it alone. So I say “Sorry I am actually trying to do my days work and can’t talk now”. But know they just start blabbering on about my soul. I tell them “look please not now I am NOT INTERESTED at the moment.” Eventually I tell them I am an Atheist in the hopes that they will desist but no they start to get abusive. SO I tell them I am prepared to forgive them and turn the other cheek but that only makes them accuse me of insulting their religion. I don't care for this when I am trying to work. I don’t know what cult they were but they were obnoxious. It continued all day. When I did get home the local Catholic rag proclaims that the Atheists are out in force to get abortion legalised in Ireland when it was not even a Catholic woman that died. So I say F**k them. Keep them away from me or I will go straight through them. They are vile people. This is the same day more of their priests are arrested for raping children and even a nun is in court for abusing young girls. I am sick of it. I am sick of their mealy mouthed apologies for it and I am sick of the sheep that still listen to them as if they are a valid authority. Jesus would turn in his grave if he was still in it. Even the Muslims started telling me about Allah. I have no interest in any of it or what they have to say. What would they do if I went into their church next Sunday and blasted this out to them. Maybe I will...lol
Hi Blaine - I am an Irish Militant Atheist and I do not drink alcohol!! That confuses many Catholics ha ha! Well I do have one Johnnie Walker Black each April the 13th to celebrate someone’s birthday. I will crack the bottle with you if you can figure out whose birthday it is. :-)
Ok - some guy I occasionally mention called Christopher Hitchens.
Laughs, Reg, you go, mate. Really great posts all over this thread. Wonderful :)
Hi Sarah - It is not a case that I face persecutions for my convictions. It is the constant abuse I get for not having the same convictions as others that annoys me. It is the false piety of those that say my lack of belief for what they belief is me showing them disrespect. If they want my respect then respect my right to have a different world outlook without calling me derogatory terms and moaning about how I am persecuting them or trying to take their beliefs (in nearly said Toys) away just because I don’t believe what they insist is the truth. People can believe in whatever god they want to as long and I will respect them and their beliefs as long as they don’t keep trying to influence my life with them. My philosophy as an Atheist is to live and let live. I wish more Theists could do the same.
Lol. The motivation is mostly the same. Its all that abstract stuff its wrapped in that's different,
For the record I was part of a protest last year that curbed the passing of the antigay bill in Ugandan and I signed another one recently. I fight against all tyranny in my own way. I am a member of Amnesty for over 25 years and campaign on all sorts of issues. Not as some atheist liberal but as a human being with compassion for my fellow man and a desire to help make the world better for everyone. But I have no time for religion. I have plenty of time and energy for Theists if they wish to have a civilised debate without trying to evangelise to me. It is the hierarchy of the churches that I fight against. I have done so for years and I am more militant no that I was in my twenties (over 20 years ago). I have no time for those that abuse others in the name of religion. I have no respect for them. When they make me angry I do constructively channel my anger at the right target - Disrespectful Theists. Ok my venting is over!! I am managing my anger. Thanks for listening. Love and peace!
Hey, since you posted twice it makes clarifying my answer easier ;-) Most people that become missionaries, imo, do it because of their desire to help others. It has less to do with religious zeal (though there are some real zealous ones). For me, it has to do with helping people, too.
Stop insulting us by comparing us to christian missionaries. :P We actually care about humans for the sake of them being human and not to win souls for a church so they can bilk them out of tons of time and money. I know you are just kidding but it does bother me when people try to twist things around to fit their views. Also, atheists have real justification for our indignation.
We might say get the fuck off my doorstep sometimes but we never chop people's heads off or torture women for their entire lives or harm children with endless guilt trips and brainwashing or the insanely long list of abuses of the various religious groups. So to compare our anger to the irrational idiots that justify their hatred and violence with a god belief is just not a great comparison. Also, we do need an oasis away from the brain-dead sheeple that walk among us. TA is a great place for that. We have every right to choose pissed off words to express ourselves.
Being silenced in the name of politeness and civility is one of the oldest tricks in the book of tyrants of every stripe so I say fuck to the all of the bullshit concepts of god, jesus, allah, buddha, zoroaster, thor, zeus, jehovah, elohim, matthew, mark, luke, john, moses, all the hindu gods, shamans, cats, hehehe, medicine men, fortune-tellers, astrologers, horoscope writers, chinese luck shit, lotteries, worshipping numbers, superstitions of every kind and just anything else that is just full of deception and stupidity. How is that for respecting the beliefs of theists? hahahaha
Kir, I know that it may look bad for atheists to be so openly angry in public but in some ways I think that is actually a good thing. Theists are so boxed up and discouraged from expressing their feelings that for us to model how to be angry without killing or maiming anyone might actually help them in some way.
I have no way to know if this is true or not but it is something in my memory when my brothers got angry at my parents in what seemed like immature outbursts at the time but were really sincere and anguished cries of their oppressed hearts breaking the chains that they were bound with.
I don't know if we really need to advise atheists to not be publicly pissed off. It may help some people to re-think why they are in such unsatisfying comfort zones and why the atheist is hurting or angry. So it may actually be a productive thing is all I'm saying. Of course there is a good time and place for anything and it takes wisdom to know which battles to fight or not.
So it may actually be a productive thing is all I'm saying.
It is, but only if it is done the right way. Again, I'd only say that I don't think its all or nothing, black and white. One can speak publicly about the complaints most of us have in a way that causes change as opposed to doing it in a way that merely alienates adherents from deconversion. Perhaps more significantly, consider how misguided public expression can be used against us for the very same end goal; to dissuade adherents from seeking a wider world view. In both cases, the same objections and complaints are made, they are just made in different ways, one effective and the other counter-productive.