"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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Not angry because there is no god, no allah, no fairies, no santa, no elves, no goblins, no angels, but I detest the myriad of psychics, priests, archbishops, popes, evangelicals, and all the other parasties and charlatans taking advantage of gullible fearful people. There are new ever loving con men filling people with even more fear, every day, who sell your particular brand of god, whilst, of course, making lots of money. 

This particular god, your god, tells an angel that we are being overtaken by aliens. Good story don't you think - should be made into a movie.

If you really believed in your god, and wanted to keep his 'good name', why aren't you out and about, exposing the many thousands of con men for jesus like Benny Hinn, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Rick Warren, Richard Cohen, Marshall Summers. There are hundreds if not thousands of these leeches.


Do even just a little bit of research, for a change, and instead of asking inane questions on this site, go forth and do good work in jesus name, and expose and spread the word about these con men.

I do see your point, Steve.  Theists are probably too stupid to see that, when we atheists speak of a jealous, wrathful, genocidal "God," we are being facetious.  It is an ironic way of pointing out that God is NOT real, since a REAL, caring God would not be like Yahweh.

Seriously, I still intend to continue speaking that way about "God" to theists, because it always flummoxes them.  If they choose to take me seriously, that is their problem, because it merely emphasizes that they indeed must concede that their God is jealous, wrathful, and genocidal.  And those are His GOOD qualities! (hint: I am being facetious).  

What we need to be doing is to make it clear that our issue is with the character that the theists believe in

It would be very difficult for an atheist to be mad at God.  An atheist, by definition, does not think that any God or Gods have ever existed. Thus there is nothing to be angry at.

It is rather easy for an atheist to be angry with many Christians however.  For myself, i do not like being told I cannot make my position known as as Christians find it too hard to take. Strange however that they always start off with "Are you a believer?"  Thus proving that they know there are a large number who do not.

I have had my life threatened numerous times because I write against religion every chance I get.

I have recently learned something and have changed my methods. If atheists continue to denounce religion as they usually do, it will only incite the more fundamental Christians into a tirade of defensive posturing, causing them to openly throw out any form of defense they have--usually without thought as to reality.

If however we do not become argumentative, we do not cause them to defend. Then their mental defenses are not so triggered and they are more open to looking at things rationally. Additionally, if a Christian, in any reading is first made to take a logic test, they formulate a mental set that is more conducive to thinking in the logical manner and they find it easier to limit the dogma in favor of reality. Argument is the last thing they need. Thus the usual books that have come down the pike by Dawkins, Hitchins, et al only provoke and create stronger intent to deny reality.

Might I suggest that we do the only thing that will work?  We form a strong club that does not argue religion, but simply denies it openly as a fable and if anything, we laugh politely at those poor afflicted people who cannot find reality and must limp along as marks suffering from the biggest con job in history.

Offer them friendship and understanding, but never any arguments. Just accept what we, as atheists know.  There are no Gods, there never were, it's simply a fable, like all the other fables we have been telling our children, and it's high time it stopped harming people. 

I am a psychologist and what I propose is far more workable than the arguments or attempts to push logic.  These people are ill and they will not get better on vinegar. They need a spoon full of honey, a warm blanket around their shoulders, and an understanding friend to ease their pain. It's tough to know that you have been made a fool by your parents and your clergy.    


It would be very difficult for an atheist to be mad at God.  An atheist, by definition, does not think that any God or Gods have ever existed. Thus there is nothing to be angry at.

To you and me that's exceedingly obvious, I almost wrote "well, duh" here.  (Wait, I just did.)  That's not my point, nor was I trying to claim otherwise.

But there are many theists who can't imagine there actually is such a thing as a genuine atheist.  They might even say "I don't believe in atheism" which will confuse us because atheism is the lack of a belief; there's nothing to believe in, as an atheist.  But what they are actually saying here is they don't believe anyone can actually be an atheist; they don't believe atheism as a school of thought, really exists.

Samantha, you made me think again! How about something like this to make them pause and listen for more:

"No way. Hey, I'm not angry at Santa Clause any more, either!"

Once, in a conversation with my sinister-in-law, she exclaimed "I don't even think it's possible to really not believe in god!"

Exactly.  How long did it take for her to finally accept that you might, actually, in fact, really, sincerely, not believe in god?  I don't know her, but I wouldn't be surprised if the answer was "she still doesn't."

I wonder what her response to your comeback about Zeus and Athena was.  Did she ever really get it?

Firstly, great article!

Secondly, I, too am guilty of this in some ways. Theists tend to try to be tricky with wording in arguments.

Because of that i have taken to say "Your deity <enter rest of sentence here>"

Not only does it imply that it is not mine, it also reminds them that their deity is not the only one around. If you really want to get the point across, use "Your supposed Deity"

It is also good to know what their understanding of Atheism is, if they have, as is often the case, attached a whole wagonload of preconceptions about lacking morality and chance based senseless life to it, then you might as well either stop the discussion or explain the meaning of atheist first.

They will understand that you definately do not believe in a personal god, or any god for that matter but also that while God equals morality for them, atheism only declares before mentioned absence of believe in a higher power. 

I think that is important as i have sometimes come across the argument that i am angry because i know that my devious and unholy lifestyle (i unfortunately do not have any of that) angers god and as such i try to besmirch his name in anticipation of the judgement that will surely come to me.

Very, very bizarre train of thought.

I just returned from North Carolina where I told my 34-Y-O niece that I was an atheist and when I returned to Texas I was informed that I "upset her".  That's part of the problem, believers, and I had no idea she was an "active" member of her, or any church, all take it personally and don't of won't see that I am not trying to influence them to toss it over, I just want to make it clear it's non-productive to hit on me for their invisible friend in the sky.  One would think a 34-Y-O would not be so damn upset, especially when I was not aware of her conversion; oh-well.

That's another point, what makes the so bloody certain he, she, or it is up there?  Why not over there or down there; oops, "down" is the residence of satan, another myth exactly like the one they worship, strange.

No, I just do not like the idea of god. It's kind of like saying "Omg, you don't believe in Zeus! You're definitely mad at him!" 

I personally don't like the character of Zeus in the old Greek mythologies. He was a bit too much of a womanizer for me. 

That doesn't mean I believe in him, though.

Steve's premise here is sound, and while Jens Schwaiger's response of "Your supposed deity" isn't unreasonable, I am concerned that undertaking more labor in a debate may also be counterproductive. If and when we atheists allude to what we have concluded is a fictional character, then it isn't expecting too much to assume that reasonable people are aware of our implication. I don't know ANY theist who, after I said "Atticus Finch is amazing in that story" asked me "So you do think he's real! What do you think he's up to now?"

If we start taking this too far, like getting upset when some says "Oh my god" upon seeing a car crash, then we're closing even further the door that leads to honest, open discussion, for we are trying to quell language and expression. Fiction is parable, and yes there are those who take it literally, but there are plenty who do not. We should do nothing less than to set the highest standard for intellectual debate, and while this obviously involves clarity and a conscious rejection of political correctness, it does not preclude poetical expression. If there are those who simply cannot conceive of our conclusion, so what? An individual who does this can be dismissed with impunity, as he/she has firstly done to you. Shrug them off, and move on to theistic individuals who want to have a REAL discussion.

And yes, there are plenty of those. Not all theists are stupid, mindless, exorcising, snake-handling, book-burning, clinic-bombing, terroristic nutjobs. In fact, the majority of them are not. They deserve our initial assumption of respect until they've proven unworthy by the aforementioned practices. And respectable people aren't those you tip-toe around and refuse to "offer any arguments" as John Cook so wrongly suggests. The majority of theists are NOT mentally ill. They've simply drawn an opposing metaphysical conclusion. Dismissing them as mentally impaired is an attempt to evade the debate altogether. They're human beings capable of advanced cognition, just like us atheists. If we lower our own standards, then it's US that appear weak.


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