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.
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.
my mother actually told me the other day that she thinks my life is shitty because i havent been going to church. I cant tell her I'm an atheist and the power of prayer is a joke to me. My OWN MOTHER. how sad is that?
I can relate Courtney. I have a huge feeling of disappointment (or I could say down right betrayal) directed at the "presence" I felt. I know now, without a doubt the presence was not real and to this day, although it is almost 35 years later, I find it odd I am able to feel the realness of that presence when I still myself and think back to that moment.
Maybe it can be compared to the much smaller scale, of a child's sadness at the realization Santa is not real, although sometimes on Christmas morning, they may relive the feeling while seeing the joy on their own children's faces as they open their presents, if not but for a fleeting sentimental moment.
Good analogy Mabel - in fact, when children (above the "Santa Clause" age) ask me, and some have, why I don't believe in god, my answer is always one I believe they can best understand, that god is like Santa Clause for grownups.
That's a good one 'Santa Clause for grownups'. I'll have to hang on to that lol.
(I meant to add the headline.)
If 'god' is just a concept, do we really need to invest so much romance and social resources into it? If it does not really work, can we just drop it into the philosophical waste basket and move on?
The human investment has partly cemented the concept into the collective cognitive space. Are we mostly just dealing with an information/socialization disease that has few handles, but a constant challenge?
I really don't want to think that the atheist population represents the hight of human cognitive evolution. I need humility like I need air...
I tend to suspect that the faithful who would use such a "gotcha" moment don't necessarily assume you actually believe in god or that not believing in god is somehow outside the realm of their comprehension. It seems to me it is simply an expression so as to distract one from their original point or force them to the defensive amid the whoops and howls from their sheepish cohorts. Some would no doubt find it difficult or even impossible that there can actually be an atheist but I think they would be a serious minority. I do agree though that putting god into the context familiar to them so as to make a point (god said this etc.) may seem like a good idea in that you are trying to convey a message to someone whose language is slightly different than your own and in the interest of comprehension you set yourself up for such things. I personally tend to use my own language possibly more out of sheer laziness but nevertheless if I do use a phrase like you mentioned I am fully aware of the inevitable trap as you no doubt are. Knowing the trap and how to get out of it is almost as good as avoiding it altogether.