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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Thank you too.  Take it easy, no pressure.  It's open-ended. 

And I like the emphasis on love. Nothing vague about that.

I think your quote:

"Religion can cause harm
Guilt. The wrong kind of pressure to be a certain way. Unsatisfactory reasons given. People assuming they have legitimacy purely because they are religious."

Is the biggest source of abuse in religion. If people didn't feel guilt as a kind of pressure it wouldn't be abusive, I think.

All - well, if there ever was a song that could cure all anger and by itself make you believe and cry at the same time a friend of mine just pointed me to it. It's called "Maya" by a band called "The Incredible String Band". Wow.

- kk

Nice one.  You should check them out on Spotify.  They do tend to blow one's mind.  They'd be into this kind of stuff. 

It *is* a good song. I'll check out Spotify. Thanks

Hey Simon, yea, never heard of Spotify til now. I'll check it out.

- kk

I have not heard that song but the term "Maya" is an eastern religious/philosophical term.

Hi Kir!

What exactly is the “status quo” that you want to challenge? What attributes do you perceive that would justify focusing anger and hate upon “religion” as practiced in the United States, where freedom of religion is so inherent? From my experience, the overwhelming majority of church goers in the US experience their religion locally where it provides many various humanistic community services. They perform a great deal of wonderful charitable work and provide comfort in times of sickness and grief. These local churches provide a social gathering place and serve to help bring people together, usually in settings that are quietly providing positive services and experiences for their members and communities as well as places in other countries. Some of today's religions may hold views on social issues that I may not support but that does not rise to a level of total condemnation IMHO.


Hello Blain!

Man(woman)  created God(s) in his (her) own image(s).

IMHO religion is simply a natural part of human evolution and can be considered as such. Mankind uses what means are available to explain the world. Humans naturally seek safety and stability for survival. Religion provided a natural vehicle to establish moral laws by which a society could develop. Morality tales passed on through generations may have evolved into religions which allowed for social order. Religion has provided a foundation for every major successful civilization throughout all of human history. It has been instrumental in providing moral laws and stability which has allowed the world to develope over time and brought us to this point. It has more recently been in decline throughout much of the western world due to expanding scientific knowledge.This has been occurring naturally and without any need for evangelical persuasion.

It is impossible for any of us today to have any real understanding of past cutures and what it really was like...we are all products of our own time and place.  We know what the stars are...what thunder is..what causes earthquakes...what dinosaur bones are! Today we live in an unimaginably safe world here in the USA with unprecedented wealth  and luxury compared to even 50 years ago. What must it have been like for our ancestors in biblical times...or even 100 years ago? Was it better when emperors or pharaohs were "gods"?

I would suggest that the science genie is out of the bottle and religion can do little to slow it any longer.

When you use the term "controlloing the masses" it seems negative. What exactly do you mean? Do you prefer anarchy? I do not believe it is excessivly controlling us today and its influence is generally on he decline.

The church today is in decline and I fear the possibility of violence as those who will seek to use the critcal (controlled?) masses of atheism to construct their own political power base and financial empire. "Heres to the new boss, same as the old boss." (Pete Townsand lyrics to "Won't Get Fooled Again") 


Hi Blain,

Umm...I expect many will agree with you that eliminating religion will end war and everyone will live happily in peace. Perhaps fantasy is not exclusive to the believers!

"Science can determine human values"..IMHO Scientific knowledge informs human values but there are still other factors society will impose. I will give the example of abortion. Scientifically at some point a fetus becomes a living human being while inside the womb. Does the unborn's right to continue this process supersede the mothers decision to abort at some point. Is it the reality of science or society's moral value to decide? 

Hey Oldgoldtop,

Well, I think your question is key to our difference of opinion about religion generally. I had a similar conversation with a poster who apparently left us for good because of my answer (Ooops). Anyway, I am of the opinion that much of the bad that religion does to society is not overt or apparent on the surface but is rather ingrained deeply in culture, assumptions, mores, etc. So, when we say that religion does good, to me, religion only does a tiny bit of good compared to the mass harm it has caused humanity for the last 700 plus years.

So, motivating my answer with that difference in viewpoint, the status quo challenged, though I wouldn't frame it exactly that way, is that rather than expressing anger in public at the injustices we experience as atheists we could more constructively address those injustices by working to eliminate religion in the first place. Of course, that will never happen, but I think the world would be a much better place if the proportion of believers to non-believers were much, much smaller, in my little wicked, heterodox opinion,

- kk

Hey Blaine,

You don't think religion will become a minority status?

- kk


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