I don't know about anyone else, but ever since I became an atheist, I have felt the overwhelming urge to defend, support and encourage atheism every chance I get, and it's getting to be very tiring. I spend so much of my time researching, whether it's different religious beliefs and why people subscribe to them, watching debates online to mark effective counter-arguments, or getting my Facebook friends into a frenzy because I post atheist shit online. My question is, does anyone else feel this way, and if so, how do you deal with it? The worst part of all of this is that I'm not even really defending myself, I jump to the defense of people like Dawkins and Hitchens, even though I know that they are perfectly capable of defending themselves! Is this a "normal" "young atheist" feeling, or am I just fucking neurotic? (I say "young atheist" because I've only been one for about three years.)
Honestly I feel the same way. Aside from the degradation and prejudice that is received from the religious community, religion really impedes Humanity's advancement. When I see religious nuts protesting research or scientific practices merely because it "opposes god" and halts progress, it infuriates me. All medicine and technology is credited to science and in essence, defying god as the bible would have you believe (for examples, look at the history of the church...). So many of the people who oppose such things rely on the very thing they demonize to survive. And their stupidity and ignorance is hindering our species chances of survival. I often feel like Jack Black's character in Year One. The world is doing backwards and pointless things, you stop and look around and ask yourself "really?" There aren’t enough hands in the world to convey the facepalm I feel at times.
This is a great question and topic! I just graduated from a Ph.D. program and my husband is still in his Ph.D. program at the same school in the same department, so we are enjoying being part of a big community of students, professors, and friends who are openly atheist and/or who are critical thinkers and not irrationally tied to their religion if they are a part of a religion. So there has been very little need for us to defend anything in this circle. One thought for you is to continue doing what you're doing here - making friends with other atheists so you have that supportive and logical group of friends to go to when something politically disappointing happens or when you get stuck sitting next to a mormon on a plane who spends the entire 4 hour flight trying to convert you!
If I had to deal with a lot of people who are really judgmental and irrational on a regular basis I think I would get annoyed and tired at some point. Debating with intelligent people can be fun and staying true to your beliefs and values when others disagree can feel rewarding and fulfilling. Meanwhile, feeling like you have to convince and convert people sounds more frustrating. Trying to make a rational argument to enlighten someone who is committed to being irrational may never work. I don't know what your relationship is with the facebook friends who get into a frenzy. I would wonder if it's worth your effort to try to get them to see your point of view if there's just a lot of conflict that happens over and over again that never goes anywhere constructive and leaves you feeling tired. For example, I tried for a long time to get my mom to engage in critical thinking around several topics (e.g. abortion, homosexuality, etc.) and it just doesn't get anywhere for the most part because she is not very educated, she is not a big critical thinker, and she 100% supports whatever Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly telll her to think. So we just don't talk about religion, politics, or social issues, and the rest of our relationship is pretty positive. I'm content with that now but it was infuriating to me for a long time. Perhaps part of becoming an atheist involves recognizing and accepting that even though you have realized this great logical truth, a lot of people out there will never be willing to see it, even when presented with the best logical argument in the world.
I think that there are many instances where it is appropriate for us to feel infuriated by the bad things that happen to people because of religion. In this context I find that taking good care of ourselves and picking our battles are important so that we can conserve our energy for things that will have the most positive impact.
I do not debate about it to those that think they are religious because they have not lived in a complete life cycle that is not based on worship. It is like trying to explain to someone in the middle of USA who has been eating steak and potatoes all his life how delicious raw fish is.
Rather, I live what I find more natural and meaningful that is abuse and manipulation free. Perhaps one day for a brief moment some of them would think for a second. She is an atheist... Hmmm...
I wouldn't say this is normal, but then again, what is?
One thing is certain: with everything, moderation. Or, whatever they say (I'm still working on the whole balanced living thing!). You recognize your activism is overwhelming, so logically you need to take less on your shoulders but you find yourself unable to pull back. Why? I wonder, was your deconversion very difficult? Was your pre-atheist identity dependent on your image of yourself as a religious person?
I appreciate all of the responses and the advice! It's really heartening to know that there are others out there who are going/have gone through similar phases. Most of the time, I enjoy debating, but lately it's just been a bit of a chore. So, instead of stirring the pot for now, I'm just resolving myself to keep reading, researching and conversing so that, when I do decide to jump back into the fray, I'll be refreshed, prepared, and ready to go! I just gotta keep myself from going off on all of my religious friends/family members when they post stupid shit on Facebook. Keep in mind that my family doesn't know that I'm an atheist. I'm waiting until my mother passes to "come out" because it would literally break her heart. She's a decent sort, really, just super-religious, so I'd prefer to keep that weight off of her shoulders if possible. She has enough problems.