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?
Ha. I think that these things will help a lot and many might deconvert becasue of it. But I don't think it would totally eliminate the need for explicit deconversion. Having said that, I like Kristy's idea (was that hers?) about education. I do think it would be a big boost.
I think this is a brilliant idea. It doesn't surprise me that you got that result, either. Taxing religion ... I'm strangely comfortable with that.
I think proponents of Intelligent Design threw that line of reasoning out the window. I'd say that you are vastly underestimating people's ability to rationalize what they know with what they think they know to make it all fit.
Hi Sarah I am in militant mood today. None of this is directed at you personally. Not for a second. I am just venting after a day of being insulted by Theists.
If they knock on my front door to tell me what I believe is not correct or that I am immoral for not believing in their god or tell me I am born a sinner and offer no evidence for this then I am not interested in their respect. When they tell me I am a fool for not accepting their invisible god into my heart I am not interested in their respect. When they tell me my understanding of Science is wrong or that they have no “faith” in science then I am not interested in having their respect. When they insist that their idiotic ideas of Intelligent Design are of merit and better than the proven Theory of Evolution and therefore should be taught to children then I do not look for their respect. I do invite them into my house if they call and I do treat them civilly. I am not out to stop them believing anything. I do respect their right to believe whatever they want. I will gladly share what I know or think I know with anyone who asks or wants to discuss it. But it is a two way street.
So Theists WORD CHOICE!! is important. So please stop calling me a sinner. Please stop telling me what I believe is wrong because it disagrees with your belief. Please stop telling me my gay friends are evil and destined to burn in hell because your book tell you so. Please stop telling me how great your god is when I walk past your mosque. Please stop putting your unsolicited catholic rags through my letterbox telling me that my Atheist lifestyle choice is “abhorrent” in your pious eyes. Please stop telling me with a smug smile on your face that you are saved and I am damned. Please stop telling me how important it is to keep a Christian ethos in our schools. Please stop telling me I must swear on your book or else you won’t believe what I say. Please stop trying to get my government to incorporate your beliefs into the laws I am subjected to. Please stop telling me the unpaid work I do in my community is worthless because I am not going to be saved as you kindly went out of your way to tell me today while on the radio I have to listen to more horrors inflicted on children by your leaders and then hear Catholics calling women who have had abortions murderers in the eyes of their god. Please choice you words carefully and stop insulting those that do not believe what you believe if you want respect. I am not asking for theirs. I am just asking that they keep it to themselves. I want no more to do with it. If they want a discussion about it that’s fine with me but please stop demanding I respect their beliefs when they have none for me or mine. Oh and by the way respect for the Ugandan government for today not passing a bill to kill gay people. Such compassion is touching.
I respect the fact that you've caught more than enough grief from adherents to justify how you feel. I can't blame you. And I think this might be one reason why deconversion is not very popular with most atheists. But if we allow that to be the case then these ideas are winning and we're losing, imo. Imagine the pleasure of silencing an adherent forever by deconverting them. Just my two cents.
Imagine the pleasure of silencing an adherent forever by de-converting them.
I actually have no problem with “normal” Theists who want or need to keep their Faith in gods. I just want to have my right to freedom from religion acknowledged. However I have helped many people to de-convert over the years. I take absolutely no pleasure in it as if it was some victory on my behalf or on behalf of some Atheism crusade. However I do feel overjoyed when I see that they have finally realised that it is just a delusion. I am happy for them that they have escaped the serfdom of their faith. I do cherish those moments when I see that spark in their eyes light up the room because they KNOW they are free. Yes, I do help the de-conversion process when I am asked for assistance and I do so with compassion and understanding. There is absolutely nothing selfish in my motives at that stage. I have help Jehovah Witnesses, Baptists, Catholics, and various Christian fundamentalist get to that place. I have even “hidden” some cult members in my house for a few weeks and at no charge. I have supported and helped groups that target cults when parents go to rescue the children they love form the clutches of vile self-proclaimed religious holy men.
However if someone is advocating that their religious beliefs be taught in schools or interfere with government policy or march up and down my street unchecked with vile placards I will do my utmost to silence them. I will not respect them. I have seen the damage that religion does so when I see them hiding behind their faith and demands for respect I think to myself “Well f**K them and the horses they rode in on” as my Irish granny would say. Here is one Atheist that will not apologise for his militancy and for not respecting what he sees as a poison that damages society.
So I suppose I do get some pleasure when I help someone deconvert. It is pleasure derived from seeing the joy that they are experiencing without the shackles of religious thinking chaining them down any longer. Freedom from religion and more of it please.
However I have helped many people to de-convert over the years.
Freedom from religion and more of it please.
I thinink these things are intimately linked.
It must be a horrible experience
And from everything I've seen it is. I look at them as future atheists and yea, they need a lot of help. Who else is going to give to them if not us?
Yep, I'm in your garden and digging your herb ;-)
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
Thanks RobertPiano, that is very encouraging. I think the anger is there for the deconverter as well. It's just that one has to "manage" it for lack of a better term. You have to channel it into a passion for helping the blind see, the lame walk and the deaf to hear, as my Christian friends might say. Because that is what this is all about: liberation of the oppressed.
And this gets to the crux of my point. No social change will occur without righteous indignation (justifiable anger). So, Reg is right to be angry about the killing of gays in Uganda (if he were). And the way to change that is to channel that righteous indignation into action to stop the killing, rather than merely venting. Practically speaking, one's expression of anger in public has to be different than what it might be in private in order to achieve this. That is my point. To throw up your hands and say that's not possible or realistic is to give up the battlefield before the enemy has even arrived. Anger should be constructively channeled, imo.