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?
Blaine - concepts are independent of words. Think in concepts. This is why so much philosophy careers off the rails - people rely on words.
And precisely how are you supposed to communicate those concepts without words? You may be thinking in concepts, and I may be doing so, but how do you know I am thinking in the same concepts you are?
It's really, really a bad idea to just assume so. So how do you find out and then try to get on the same page so you can at least have a coherent discussion?
OK, it's probably true that words, pictures and equations are the best tools for communicating intellectual concepts. There's a process of agreeing on what we both mean, and of identifying ambiguities or disagreements in meaning. Words can be very ambiguous because they often have multiple meanings and shades of meaning. That's why so much philosophy looks like a plate of cold spaghetti, and about as appetizing.
The things you say benefit us, Sarah.
I would like to make the following point and it is only about me and the way I look at theists and religion in general. I do not have a shred of faith in any god. I see religion and the need for it as a throwback to the dark-ages. I cannot think of any use or need for it in the modern world as a tool to investigate anything. I see it as something that is long past it sell-by date. It has nothing to offer me. I am often astounded and bewildered that so many of my species still believe in this delusion. Sometimes I wish they would just snap out of it. All these people wander around telling me their revealed truth is the only Truth and yet not a shred of evidence for it. All this idiotic babble about being saved by the son of the creator of the universe!! What are you talking about??? You expect me to believe that you are going to become immortal for believing this?? I want nothing to do with it. I don’t care who believes it or who believes I am a sinner or that I will burn for all eternity . If you want to believe that then please do. I am not out to stop you. I don’t care if you believe you will come back as an elephant in the next life or you were once a Minoan king. I don’t care if you believe aliens probed you and let you live to tell me all about it. I don’t care if you believe in other bullshit like homeopathy or astrology or magic crystals or psychic energy fields. I don’t care if you don’t like my attitude towards your sacred beliefs. I don’t care if you think me intellectually arrogant or are upset I don’t suffer fools gladly. I don’t care if you think this world is 6,000 years old and I don’t care if you want to spend your life on your knees wailing to you god about how tough life is in what you call this valley of sin. I do not understand what you are talking about. You can’t even explain these gods to me without contradicting yourselves.
Now if you are a Theist don’t tell me how devout you are. All you are doing is describing the strength of your delusion and I want to know you even less. However if you live by the Christian or Moslem values that you say you cherish, that you do not throw the first stone, that you do try to love your neighbour, that you do try to be “good” even if you think you need to be commanded to be so then I have no issue with you even if I consider the source of your morals born of barbarism and nowhere near as good as those of my fellow Atheists. I completely respect you right to do so, to believe what you like and I will even defend your right to be allowed to do so.
However if you knock on my front door to tell me what I believe is wrong because your ancient book says so or that if II do not believe what you are telling me even though you offer no evidence as to why I am wrong or more importantly why you are right then please get the fuck off my door step and don’t come back.
If I see or hear you as a group or a deluded individual trying to make your beliefs part of government policy then I will do my best to knock you down. You can choke on the ignorance of your homophobia. You can make bigots of yourselves all day long if you want but don’t let me see or hear you because I will take you all on with such ferocity that I will seem to you to appear from the last chapter of your magic book.
If I see or hear you trying to peddle you wares in schools and indoctrinate young minds I will attempt to destroy every effort you make. I don’t care how well-meaning or pious you consider yourselves – keep the fuck away from young minds. Your religion is not welcome in our secular schools.
And please don’t think I am angry with you. I think as a group – whichever cult or god it is that you follow – you are a drain on the evolution of mankind. You have nothing to offer those of us that have left such nonsense behind us. We know the age of enlightenment is getting brighter and we are leaving you behind. I am completely calm when I tell you all this. I have no intention of entertaining any of your beliefs so please don’t bother to even try telling me about them. Keep your toys to yourself I don’t want to play with them. So dear Theist believe whatever you want to believe. I am an Atheist and want nothing you have to offer. Do you think I am calm enough to have my anger managed?
I wanted to thank you as well as kk..I look for you two on here..like very half hour.. Its been a while since I have had this much personal growth...!
Not easy to bury a 40 year old belief system..even if i doubted it.
Not easy to bury a 40 year old belief system..even if i doubted it
Exactly. And adherents are just like those of you who deconverted before, they're just at a different place in their journey. When they deconvert they will share some of the same anger and frustrations you have.
Well, you said it well. Reg may not be angry as he says, but that is not the impression I would have if someone told me to get the f&*k off their doorstep. Perception matters. And @Reg, I'm sure you do care about them because you or someone you know has been in their position before. They're just seeking like you were. Of course, it is infuriating when someone tries to shove something down your throat, but I agree with Sarah that flipping the tables on them and deconverting them is the more productive route (although Sarah didn't explicit suggest that, its kinda what she's saying wittingly or not).
My mom always invited JW and others into our home and immediately started deconverting them. It was hilarious because she succeeded more often than not. She turned out to be the real evangelical.
I must admit, being new to the group, you were just as scary as the religious pamphlet placed in my door yesterday.
However, I can relate to the points you are making. I am intrigued to learn your, and everyone’s, thoughts on teaching children about all religions, science, philosophy, and history (in our public schools). Do you think it would help everyone co-exist more peacefully? I think it would not only improve relations but increase the number of atheists.
Now this is a great question/comment. Yes, it would be an incredibly effective way to deconvert, provided all religions were taught with "tolerance", meaning that all were taken seriously ... including Helios, Dionysis, Utnapishtim's gods, etc. You'd see a drop in religiosity over a generation that looks like a rock falling into the Grand Canyon, imo.
kk - I think that's a bit silly, and disrespectful. These gods - Helios, Dionysis, Utnapishtim - are joke gods. They are not the One, True God. That God is worth studying and worshipping.