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?
They certainly can be in some situations, but by no means all.
Try drawing a diagram of "rights" or "god" or "justice" and I think you will find that either the diagram only means something to you (because you know how to fill in the blanks you might not even realize are there), or it's full of the verbiage you seem to think you can avoid with a diagram.
You're probably right.
I read it and it made perfect sense to me.
Maya - do you mean the "working notes" document?
Yes, you're taking the best of all worlds and appreciating all the good things spirituality has to offer humanity, right?
Absolutely. And finding a way in using concrete rationality and science.
I'm very glad you understand it. I think it's not difficult to understand, but it is a huge mind-shift for most atheists (although religious people should feel at home).
What I'm looking for is people to trial out some of the ideas in real life, over a period of a few months. Once you start living it, it falls into place very naturally, but initially it takes a while to assimilate all the ideas and stages. I need people to report back on their experiences and, if they feel like it, to contribute their ideas and findings. Maybe there are places where it is deficient or needs to be explained more fully. I'm expecting this document to be the bare bones anyway of a new philosophy.
Well, there has actually been some discussion about that on this end. I would like to try and I'm trying to talk some others into it as well. I'm going to study it some more and start trying it out this week.
Also, if you have any questions, feel free to ask right out in the open or in private. Answering questions is what it's all about, and asking questions is the route to knowledge.
"asking questions is the route to knowledge."
Of course, it's not so nice and neat as that. I must be very dumb if I think I can sum it up in one sentence. There's also observation, experience, studying, reflecting... discussing, practicing etc etc.
Whatever you feel like doing. Treat it as an experiment. I think the entire thing can be summed up on the front page, in the first six words and the picture. I have this on the wall next to my desk, and it helped me through a time of trouble recently.
The rest of it is still not set in stone, nor should it probably ever be. I'd be very grateful for any findings you might come up with.
Okay, I'll try that. And if you don't mind, yea, I might send some questions to you as I go. Thank you for helping.