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?
Thank you, very nice responce.
You may have noticed that I normally do not get deeply into debates on TA. I learned debate in the trenches, as it were. Sadly my passions are not fully confined, responding to some rather ugly events in my youth. Happily, I do have some experiences where I was able to cause, in atleast a minor way, 'change'. Also I have suffered character assination, and labeling due to challeges made to what I considered crazyness. I hold back more that most crazyness deserves, I expect that this goes for many here.
"Is there some way I could express this anger in a constructive way that would actually tend to prevent the very things I'm angry about in the future, as opposed to just alienating any potential atheist from deconversion?"
I am unsure how effective is 'deconversion' from theism. The reason that theism seems effective at the maintenace of belief, is that there are multiple methods of 'thought stoping', and 'thought limiting'.
'Thought stoping' seems to have the linking of sin/evil/carrot of heaven, while 'thought limiting' links theist valutions of alternative data/info sources as suspect due to evil or non-God authority. The theists define a closed/self sealing logic structure.
My anger, is not with a 'god', but with a system of belief that seems closed, with self sustained ignorance and delusion, and with a narsicism that seems to know no bounds.
But I could be wrong...
I understand what you mean. As for the deconversion, I can tell you it does indeed work. I've seen it work one on one over 900 times.
Hi Sarah – I think you should look at it another way. Am I correct in thinking that when you say “rejecting my faith” you mean that you believe that you will be “rejecting god”? But that is not what Atheism is. I do not reject god. I just do not believe that a god exists so there is nothing for me to reject. You will not suddenly become a bad person for not believing in what you don’t believe in. You will look at the world through different eyes and you will become an even better person. I understand the fear that is felt at this point. You are a good and noble person despite what you think your god has done for you. There are many Christians that are also very good people and they have helped you to become a better person. They have not saved you. They may have helped to save you from yourself or from where you found yourself. There is no higher power to depend on. Your faith helped you to change yourself for the better. It in itself did not do it, You Sarah did it yourself.
There is no need to put yourself under pressure thinking about it. I would love to take you by the hand and show you how much more beautiful and meaningful the world is without depending on religion. If you just remain as honest in your quest as you have been and keep the challenge going a while longer then maybe your mind will burst with the excitement of seeing the world this way. I hope so. If you still feel your faith remains justified then there is also nothing wrong in keeping it. It is not a case of Atheist versus Theists. Atheism is not angry or about anger. So you don’t have to trust what I say or have Faith in what I say. It is only about honestly answering the challenges that doubts throw at your faith. We do not reject what we carry with us. We can only put it down and continue our journey without it.
..i keep a folder on my computer named "c:\profound\"
This post by Reg belongs in that folder.
Hey Kristy - no disrespect to anyone else, but that was well said.
Hi Simon, what do you think was the best part of her statement?
Reg - I thought these were the best:
"Please be skeptical of anyone that thinks they know what convictions are best for you or will make you a “better” person; they are disrespecting you and themselves."
"I believe that every American should have the right to their convictions and this sight heavily preaches against that."
I agree that we should be skeptical. I was making that point all along and she still missed it but I don't really care. However I don’t see how this site tries to prevent Americans from having the right to hold convictions on anything though. I suppose it might be another Theistic attempt to link faith with patriotism?
Apparently Kristy's gone now, which is a shame. The approach I picked up on is the withering, dismissive, high-handed Richard Dawkins approach. [ouch. sorry.]
I do understand that in Ireland, it's a very polarized situation, and the Church has a long tradition of ruining people's lives.
To paraphrase what Kir said somewhere else, we're all here on TA for a reason. Most of us are spoiling for a fight with religion, me included.
I tend to agree with @Reg here as she was taking it too far. No, you don't want to bully someone into believing what you want them too, but if we are to surrender all semblance of the power of pursuasion there would be no leadership in this world and nothing good would get done. That's just the harsh truth. Some amount of persuasion is healthy.
Kir - maybe you're right. But a two-pronged approach is definitely necessary. And we have to be seen to respect people, otherwise we'll always fail.
Okay, quick update. Is Kristy completely gone? Was she Irish? Well, I'm sorry she felt that way but the alternative would be for us to just shut up and let her say whatever she pleases with no intellectual retort, which, imo, is absurd. That is bullying the conversation. Like I said, I'm sorry she felt that way.