Hi all,

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?

- kk

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Hey all,

Corrections: "Great" means "Greta". Sorry. - kk

LOL  She's be glad to hear that.

I agree getting angry at "children" is not good. They believe their maker is already angry at them anyway. If I get doused with holy water one more time..that's it!

Hey RobertPiano,

So, do you express your indignation at religion the same way in public as you do in private? I'm curious because I think this is key to effectively addressing this justifiable anger.

- kk

I live in the South and people always assume I am christian. They do not know I suffered under 12 years of formal catholic education and was essentially an outcast the entire time because I naturally questioned everything. I hated school and got average grades. When I got a very high SAT score they called me in and asked me how I cheated. I told them I would take it again and did even better. I put the whole god question on hold for 20 years.

I am an engineer; not a whole lot of daily philosophical talk in my life. My sweetheart would shock me with her agnostic viewpoint from time to time. It took the recent election (with all the related conversation) and a chance viewing of a Hitchens debate on YT for me to finally realize that root cause of so much ignorance and malice is religion. I felt like a dupe, but also a sense of freedom. And anger. I realized I had been at least a closet agnostic for a very long time. Recently I started jabbing back. Someone was was giving me the "put christ back in Xmas" last week and I told him he was a "sheep, grow up". That felt sooo good ! Do I wish someone had done that to me long ago?-maybe! I was polite..but yeah..it's still not advisable.

Hey RobertPiano,

Yup, I understand what you're saying. There is a lot we have to be justifiably angry over. I don't like to talk about my own negative experiences, but I can tell you I have been chastised and attacked not just by people who know me but by public officials who are supposed to be working for all of us, and all of it over evangelical atheism.

Some people really do see people like me as an "evangelical atheist wicked little thang" (that's a direct quote from three judges, something very similar to what a politician said about Jessica Ahlquist, the student in Rhode Island who challenged a prayer posted on the wall at her school) and they make no bones about it. But when I hear this I try to think of myself in their situation. What if I were brainwashed (no other word for it)? What kinds of things would I say? Probably the same ignorant junk. How do I get rid of this mentality? That's what I want to know. And I think it starts by showing the public how and why this is harmful and wrong, how and why it is biased and reflective of compromised thinking. And how and why progress will forever be constrained by this kind of thinking. That's my 2 cents anyway,

And yea, no one ever knew in school that I was an atheist, but simply objecting to religious ideas pedaled in school on the grounds of free-thinking caused enough rancor by itself. In this sense I think most atheists have a similar experience.

- kk

kk,

Perhaps I am really just angry at myself for not taking more time to pursue philosophical endeavors with the same vigor as I pursued the hard sciences. Angry because I attributed great music to god. The same goes for art. For believing that each time I sinned I earned a "black spot" on my soul that could only be erased by confession and atonement by prayer. For feeling guilty about so many innocent thoughts and actions. Angry for allowing a former boss preach to me while at work on many occasions. Angry because I know the only way I will not sway back to my old thoughts is by being angry. I do not wish to remain or die angry. This site is helping me with that and in the years ahead I look forward to growing to be a wiser, kinder, loving, gentleman capable of contributing more to the betterment of the human condition than I ever thought possible before.

Hey RobertPiano,

I'm glad to hear that this site is helping. Your description sounds all too familiar and is reminiscent of abuse stories. Given your keen awareness of the situation I humbly suspect you will be successful in becoming the wiser, better human being you desire to be, and that is a noble aim. Good luck and I, too, am on the same journey.

- kk

kk -

"evangelical atheist wicked little thang"

You're bothered about that?  To me it sounds like a mark of grudging respect. 

I'm with you on deconversion in that if people want to deconvert, which they sometimes do, then they need people around who can help them constructively through the process.  I'm liking that word - constructive.  Perhaps we should start (i.e. you) a collaborative project for constructive de-conversion.  I presume this would mean some kind of blueprint, albeit with some gaps because everyone's different.  It seems to me that one thing that would be necessary is to re-write various religious concepts in terms of atheist theory, such as (from looking at Robert Piano's posts here) guilt and sin.  This is a reasonably simple task in my opinion. 

Hey Simon,

Yes, it bothers me because of the context in which it came. This "constructive deconversion" is indeed a splendid idea. I like that. We should talk more about this after I ruminate over its full ramifications.

- kk

kk -

it's a little bit outside of my original purpose, but what the hey.  I'm of the view that information should be shared, and from that comes progress.  If I'm behind on my mission then it's only out of laziness. 

So I need a list and I can dispatch the items one by one, at least to my own satisfaction.  I feel I've dealt with sin, from a theoretical point of view.  Guilt is fairly trivial.  Again, purely dry theory.  All these need to be seen within the greater framework, which is a religious framework and is alien to most atheists, in my experience.  I had some Jehovah's Witnesses at the door yesterday, and they got it straight away. 

Hey Simon,

Indeed, but we could still look at both. You've given me some food for thought and I'm thinking about it. Kristy, I think her name was, said that she didn't want harm people in crisis by "deconverting" them or simply telling them the harsh truth at a bad time. There might be something to that. Of course, crisis is precisely the point in one's life where deconversion is most likely.

But perhaps .... if one uses your idea as decopression seeding (do this a lot with Shia) this could be quite useful. Basically, you substitute a softer, kinder form of fanaticism for the one they already have. Then, naturally, the full deconversion comes more easily later. So, the "constructive" deconversion might be something like this intermediate step?

That's hilarious about the Jehovah's Witnesses. We share a common sense of comity and warmth to them, though my motives might not be as pure as yours ;-)

- kk

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