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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Ok - some guy I occasionally mention called Christopher Hitchens.

Laughs, Reg, you go, mate.  Really great posts all over this thread.  Wonderful :)

Hi Sarah - It is not a case that I face persecutions for my convictions. It is the constant abuse I get for not having the same convictions as others that annoys me. It is the false piety of those that say my lack of belief for what they belief is me showing them disrespect. If they want my respect then respect my right to have a different world outlook without calling me derogatory terms and moaning about how I am persecuting them or trying to take their beliefs (in nearly said Toys) away just because I don’t believe what they insist is the truth. People can believe in whatever god they want to as long and I will respect them and their beliefs as long as they don’t keep trying to influence my life with them. My philosophy as an Atheist is to live and let live. I wish more Theists could do the same.

Hey Sarah,

Lol. The motivation is mostly the same. Its all that abstract stuff its wrapped in that's different,

- kk

For the record I was part of a protest last year that curbed the passing of the antigay bill in Ugandan and I signed another one recently. I fight against all tyranny in my own way. I am a member of Amnesty for over 25 years and campaign on all sorts of issues. Not as some atheist liberal but as a human being with compassion for my fellow man and a desire to help make the world better for everyone. But I have no time for religion. I have plenty of time and energy for Theists if they wish to have a civilised debate without trying to evangelise to me. It is the hierarchy of the churches that I fight against. I have done so for years and I am more militant no that I was in my twenties (over 20 years ago). I have no time for those that abuse others in the name of religion. I have no respect for them. When they make me angry I do constructively channel my anger at the right target - Disrespectful Theists. Ok my venting is over!! I am managing my anger. Thanks for listening. Love and peace!

 

lol, quite.

- kk

Hey, since you posted twice it makes clarifying my answer easier ;-) Most people that become missionaries, imo, do it because of their desire to help others. It has less to do with religious zeal (though there are some real zealous ones). For me, it has to do with helping people, too.

- kk

Hey Nate,

So it may actually be a productive thing is all I'm saying.

It is, but only if it is done the right way. Again, I'd only say that I don't think its all or nothing, black and white. One can speak publicly about the complaints most of us have in a way that causes change as opposed to doing it in a way that merely alienates adherents from deconversion. Perhaps more significantly, consider how misguided public expression can be used against us for the very same end goal; to dissuade adherents from seeking a wider world view. In both cases, the same objections and complaints are made, they are just made in different ways, one effective and the other counter-productive.

- kk

Hey Nate,

I think the comparison to missionaries was to the "boots on the ground", the actual people that do it. I've known quite a few of them and I can tell you, as misguided as they may be, most of them are in it because they want to help people. So, I think it is a misrepresentation to say they are all doing it for some larger, church-wide pursuit. I'd agree that this is probably the purpose of the people that send them there. In fact, I've seen a good bit of friction between missionaries and the churches over this very issue.

You might recall that Mother Theresa's memoirs were finally made public and she expressed misgivings about the existence of god. She had basically become an atheist and never told anyone. She was doing what she did because she cared about people. The Church supported her financially, politically and logistically so she never came out in public with these views. She was wise.

As for the indignation, I totally agree that it is justified. My point though, is what good does it do us to shout it on a mountaintop where no one can hear us? Or to shout it out in public so that adherents can hear it and be insulted? All these words and taunts do nothing to change the world, imo.

I agree wtih your principled point that demands for politeness and civility are used as a Machiavellian and in many ways practical tool to silence atheists. But it can also be used by atheists shoot themselves in the foot when they over-react to it. It is isn't all or nothing, black and white, imo.

- kk

Hey - True - kk

Kir:

When I read this it seems to imply that you are attempting to tell us 'how' to feel. Many here, I expect, have already been told to 'stuff it', by people that get away with some of the worst crap. Most of the time, I just ignore the crazy stuff, and go on, but more than once I have opened my mouth and went on an intellectual moment of outrage!

"Righteous" anger, has been effectly used by theists for a very long time, sometimes in the promotion of more outragious crap. The pretense of 'Righteous' anger, can cast just about any mass movement or ideology as an expression of the morally pure and and spiritually enlightened. I expect there exists a small class of ideals that are worthy of promotion, but just because you 'FEEL' the will of god, white man's purdeen, the mandate of heaven, or the call of your 'race', does not make it worth the insult to history.

I think the reason we should conserve our passions, is so we do not distroy our relationships with allies, and to not the excessively inflame the true believers.

As an aspiring civilized person, I really would like to live in peace and sanity. Picking my battles is one way of getting on...        

Hey James,

When I read this it seems to imply that you are attempting to tell us 'how' to feel.

Not exactly, I'm suggesting that there might be more constructive ways to express how some of us feel. Sorry if I gave that impression.

"Righteous" anger, has been effectly used by theists for a very long time, sometimes in the promotion of more outragious crap. The pretense of 'Righteous' anger, can cast just about any mass movement or ideology as an expression of the morally pure and and spiritually enlightened. I expect there exists a small class of ideals that are worthy of promotion, but just because you 'FEEL' the will of god, white man's purdeen, the mandate of heaven, or the call of your 'race', does not make it worth the insult to history.

I don't think that is what I meant. I was using that term in quotes for lack of a better term. Let's call it "healthy anger". What I'm saying is that there are things about which atheists are more than justified in being angry about. There is nothing wrong in that. The post was, in some sense, an acknowledgement that I had been wrong in assuming that everyone knew or accepted that. I'm suggesting, not telling, that we channel that "healthy anger" into constructive activities rather than in public outbursts like neglected children in a shopping mall. And I'm not saying we all do that, or do it to that extreme, only that it is an issue and I'm suggesting we rethink our public outbursts and ask ourselves the fifty million dollar question:

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?

If you are a deconvert yourself, and that is apparently most atheists, surely you can understand this concern ("you" to be taken figuratively)?

I think the reason we should conserve our passions, is so we do not distroy our relationships with allies, and to not the excessively inflame the true believers.

As an aspiring civilized person, I really would like to live in peace and sanity. Picking my battles is one way of getting on...

And these aims are laudable means of protecting your interests, so I can't knock that.

- kk

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