"You are just mad at god"--Are we actually encouraging this by mistake?

You've all heard the claim that we aren't really atheists, we are just mad at god.  (Or you will see such things as "so and so claims to be an atheist.")

Today, though I saw an argument in chat with a theist, and someone else's account of an argument they had out in public, and I stopped to wonder if maybe we aren't sometimes encouraging this line of bullshit, albeit unwittingly.

What happened in both cases was the atheist began recounting all the sorts of horrible things Yahweh is portrayed as doing or believing or commanding.  In one case, I saw the atheist say "why should I love god when he won't love me back?"

The problem with this sort of thing is we usually don't take care to phrase our remarks to make it clear that god is a character of fiction.  When discussing the misdeeds of Yahweh we tend to fall back on a convention we use when we talk about a fictional character in a book.  We refer to him by name and talk as if the guy was real and the book was not fiction, for example, "In George Orwell's 1984, Winston Smith was arrested for thoughtcrime," not, "In George Orwell's 1984, the character Winston Smith..."

We know what we mean, because we both know Winston Smith (or god) is fictitious.  But they don't know god is fictitious.

Talking this way with someone who believes the fictional character is real might cause him not to understand you are just following the convention.  Your phrasing sounds to him like you accept god as real, he "knows" god is real, so he assumes at some level you think god is real.

What I am suggesting here is that you ever want to bring up how nasty this being is, you make it clear that you don't think he exists, make sure you put "fictitious" (or equivalent) in every other sentence at least, and not let them think for a minute that you assume the existence of god.

Yes I know that when you just said you were an atheist this shouldn't be necessary, but obviously many of these people don't understand atheism in their guts, so don't let their paradigm default you into a "believer but mad at god" box.

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People seem to conveniently forget that the burden of proof is on the person who makes the claim, not on the person who doesn't believe the claim.

I believe in the White Unicorn - I feel her in my heart, I see what she has produced, trees. flowers, beauty - because I feel this, why don't you.

What she doesn't do is write books about subservient anybody, at any time - no obedience required, no threat of hell, virginity not required of anybody, no slavery, or male sex slaves for her. She wants everybody to have respect for each other - no abuse, no pedophiles, no children forced to marry some old pig.

It is up to me to show you that my White Unicorn is Goddess of all the Universe.

MmmmI Will have to work on that, or will you just believe me, because I say so?

I too, am guilty of this.

You're right - but it hardly matters ...

It's been many years since I have bothered to wade into the muck and mire of theology, so forgive me if the following is a bit fuzzy.* I believe that it was Thomas Aquinas who made the ontological argument that knowledge of God was innate - and, of course, for many centuries, whatever Aquinas, as a church father, said was  held to be perfectly true (not just true but perfectly true). This argument was made in answer to questions/worries about all the people in places like China who had never had the chance to know Jesus. The poor bastards were still going to Hell because it had been their natural duty to come looking for Jesus, and they were too wicked to bother. Point is, you're wasting your time if you think that you can talk about religion w/the religious - especially those who believe it to be their duty to save you. The belief that belief is innate is to be found all over the Christian joint, even among protestants, who, you might think, would not hold Aquinas in esteem. The same is to be said of Muslims, another evangelizing bunch. Only the Jews seem to be free of such beliefs; they at least hold that their mental illness is usually not contagious.

*I've moved too many times to have kept books that I found to be useless! - so, I can't look this up to make it less fuzzy ...

The problem with arguing with theists, and even the very question itself of "Do you believe in God" usually establishes the existence of this nonsensical non-entity.

The word, or name "God" must always have parentheses around it. Without them, the grammar alone establishes it as "real".


When someone asks you "Do you believe in God", the only proper way to answer it is to say "That is not a question, since it's meaningless".


On the subject of "being angry with God" it's simple. We have been deceived by a being that essentially isn't there. Rather like being cheated on by a lover, we have had an image that we've adored, only to find we've had no reason to, and feel cheated. Our anger is difficult to express, since there's actually nobody or no thing to be angry with. But as a gestalt exercise in venting, there's nothing wrong with expressing a good old cathartic rage at this non-being, simply for it's failure to exist at all.

Any anger should be directed toward those who invented him as the cause of things they didn't understand, rather than continue to search for actual causes, and at those who perpetuated the myth because they found it a reliable means of controlling their population.

This is a damned interesting point!  (Kudos!)

The proper way to phrase the question is "Does god/God exist" or possibly "Do you believe/think that god/God exists?" (I am not one of those who insists on not using the word "believe"; it does not in fact imply faith but is simply is the most general form of "accept to be true.")

The "in" preposition ("Do you believe in god") certainly can change the tenor of the question. 

I've heard one person say to another "I believe in you" meaning "I believe you are capable of delivering on your promises," so it's quite possible that THAT is the light in which the other party is interpreting "do you believe in god?" when they ask it.  If so, then you are absolutely correct, any use of it on our part concedes WAY too much.  (Might be a good topic for blogging, especially if combined with proper use of the word "believe" without the "in")

Dear Folks:

There is a difference between an hypothetical/abstract concept that refers to a 'god', and an 'actual' being called 'God'. It seems that much of the hangup(s) about god/God is between language mappings. The theists want to close the gap between the hypothetical and the actual, and the atheists can tell the difference.

We can contrive the most amazing things by must building a narrative. Stringing words together that seem to make logical sense, and using nouns with an underlying assumption of 'existence'. Whole books, classics, Science Fiction, Fantasy, etc can be produced, many of which can offer us excape from a sometimes droll and unhappy actual existence. We can even link historical events to fantasy and what-ifs, to sweeten the pot. I wonder how many books have been writen with the idea of changing the 'who won' the Second World War?

In the Bible, there seems to be a narrative that validates their cultural existence and an neroic history of the Jews. Many humans as the 'people of the book', have used that same book as a validation of slavery, white mans burden, racism, economic exploitation of the planet, the marginalization of women, and political power. As a tool of state craft, the Bible, in the right hands seems to have had great utility. I expect that as an example of the 'craft of the narrative', it can continue to help create any number of new classes of demogogues.

I have seen how the Bible can be used as a justification/validation for an environmental awareness/appreciation, a challedge to slavery, and an answer to war and violence. But I wonder if we are attempting to cut corners in our cognition by resorting to just one more period of cherry picking. Do humans have the depth of character to create some measure of the good out of our rationality? I expect that the Bible has been used as a model of compassion also.     

Your first paragraph reminds me of a discussion I was involved in recently on another website.  The Christians were getting rather offended that many of the atheists would write god rather than God.  In some cases this was indeed a mischievous attempt to deliberately wind up the Christians on the part of the atheist commentator, but on the other hand I'm not sure the Christians always appreciated that, to an atheist, while the statement 'I don't believe in God' is true, the statement 'I don't believe in god' is a much more accurate and complete summation of what we don't believe.

Maybe I am mad at God, whether he's real or not. Maybe I hated not hearing his voice or seeing signs or feeling his presence without trying to. Maybe he let me down, even if he didn't actually exist. The idea of God let me down.

What I am angry about is that people want me to believe in a deity who, if I'm understanding them correctly, has caused awful things to happen in my life... to test my faith?  Really?

And if a god did exist, and did this to me, I'd not be too pleased with it even if I knew it to exist.

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Posted by Quincy Maxwell on July 20, 2014 at 9:37pm 24 Comments

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