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?
It's interesting to me that this idea of low hanging fruit is used in business, sales, missions, and any environment where persuasion is necessary for success. It is the low hanging fruit or rather those who can be persuaded. One has to be careful. I can argue both sides of an argument or present an idea like a wild card, but only one side is right....or is it? Hmmmm. That's the question to answer. What constitutes RIGHT? What constitutes TRUTH. I remember my "define truth" discussion and I said, "Truth conforms to reality..." didn't get a lot of responses to that, but I think there's a point to be made there that must not be missed. Especially when we are talking about persuasion. I can be persuaded to believe anything but I choose to embrace that which I know from every corner of my own soul to be truthful. Reality can play tricks on your mind, and while science is the foundation of truth to the Atheist, the condition of the heart is the foundation to the believer.
I think you've just hit on the whole point of deconversion and the methods used for it. No one can claim a monopoly on Truth and it is therefore pointless to try to "prove" or "debate" this. All you can do is illustrate and let the cards fall where they may. I think this is the point that was consistently being missed in my thread where I asked questions about The One, True God. It doesn't much matter that I can or cannot prove anything. The point is clarity. Those who are ready to look openly at these questions will likely conclude that a god probably does not exist, in my experience.
This same discussion is occurring over at Atheism Everywhere and can be read here. You can pick up the conversation where it left off by going there or, to start following it from the beginning, just click on the menu titled, "Conversation with a Deconverter".
Wow, kk..for me, this post really zeroes in on things. Since I have been undergoing a change in my core belief system, I am a 'deconvertee' and can expect that some degree of anger will result (just one of many emotions, I would think). However, If I attempt to become a 'deconvertor' during my own transformation well then anger should have no place in that attempt and I agree your method is the only sound method. Bravo to You.
Sarah - "Truth conforms to reality..." - probably everybody agreed with you and there was no more to be said.
Sorry if I didn't reply to you but the thread layout got confusing ;-)
I'm not of the view that religion is bad - I think it's good - but BAD religion is bad. We need to be trying to stamp out BAD religion, not all religion, in my opinion. My Christian friend is of this opinion too. GOOD religion is a truly wonderful thing. I think that many atheists have not experienced good religion.
@ Blaine - surely that's from people who follow the Law and not the Word. In other words, people who get hung up on all the doctrine etc. without going deeper, to the essence.
Blaine - the Word, or the essence of religion, is the Healing Principle. This is the all-persuasive biological instinct and process towards healing and self-preservation that exists in every living thing. This is God's love. Healing. We can apply it as morality when we Heal the Situation - when we make a moral decision, we aim to ensure that every person affected by that decision receives the maximum amount of healing available to them, and the minimum amount of harm.
Blaine - I'm deadly serious. Try and get your head round it. It makes perfect sense. This is an atheist religion. I'm working on a document, here:
It's nowhere near finished, but the main backbone is in place. The reason it's peppered with religious references is that in essence, all the serious religions are interchangeable, with each other, and with this one.
Rational religion is here.
This gives us a way to understand religious people directly, and gives us access to the untold spiritual wealth that religion can bring if you feel it in your blood.
All this de-conversion doesn't stand a chance in my opinion as long as we have nothing to offer the adherent which rivals their religion.
This is an atheist religion
A religion is precisely what atheism is not; the contrary is one of the more irritating things theists claim about atheism, and I beg you not to encourage this. What both atheism and all the various religions are are categories of world views; atheist worldviews (and there are many of them, not just one!) posit that there is no god, religious ones do.
I know you've claimed several times here on this thread that words don't matter but they do, the instant you open your mouth and try to communicate your concepts to someone.
Let's discuss four-sided triangles now.
Steve - I'm not saying that words don't matter - just that they can be misleading and confusing.
Atheism itself is not a religion, it is a world- or universe-view, as you say.
This however is a rational religion for atheists. I'm not confusing "rational" with "correct" - I mean it's based on reason and science. It doesn't have a Creator God, but in place of "God's love" is the Healing Principle - the biological process of healing and the instinct for self-preservation. This is what we worship, study, have faith in and practice.
It is put into practice using the formula "Heal the Situation" which means that when you make a moral decision, the aim is to ensure that each member of the situation receives the maximum amount of healing available to them, and the minimum amount of harm.
I agree that this formula needs some refining to take account of how we naturally favour ourselves, family, friends, people we owe something to, etc. I suppose that's where Justice takes over, I don't know. Justice is meant to be impersonal.
Hey, I should have said "pervasive". I was trying to persuade you. Not pervade you. That would be just wrong.
You need to do more.