"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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Thank you for pointing this out.  It is an important concept to keep in mind for a few different reasons. 

I try to preface my comments about a god by referencing the story I'm talking about.  For example, "The story of the fall of Adam and Eve..."

I also try to be careful when using the word 'god' to say exactly what I mean.  If I am talking about gods in a general sense, I make sure to use a lower case g and keep it plural.  I believe this says a few things in that it equates the Christian god with all the other gods people have believed in.  I only ever capitalize the G if I am specifically referring, by name, to the god of Christianity. That is rare because I hardly ever refer to the Christian god by name, partially for the reasons you've described. I tend to use the term "the Abrahamic god."  It is not simply the Abrahamic god that I don't believe in.  Maybe it is just coincidence, but I haven't met many people who have accused me, specifically, of "hating God."

Being able to provide attribution for a characteristic about a god also makes the argument more powerful, I think.  For example:

"Deuteronomy 22:28-29 says the punishment for a man who rapes a woman is that he must pay her father some silver and then marry her.  Why would anyone even want to believe in that sort of deity?"

Steve - I'm not angry at god, and have never been, nor am I angry at the Easter Bunny, Santa Clause, unicorns, leprechauns, the Great Flying Spaghetti Monster, or any other mythical characters - my anger is directed at those who began the myth, but even more so at those in this, the 21st century, who still perpetuate the myth.

pax vobiscum,

Of course you aren't.

The issue here is how to avoid giving the theist the impression that that's your motivation for professing atheism.  To convince them you really don't believe, and that you aren't just saying you don't believe out of spite.

I realize that that's the issue, I just don't believe I've ever given anyone that misimpression.

Nup, never mad at god. How can one be mad at something that doesn't exist - it is all that is said by some bloke, primitive mysogonistic shite, men of the day. I always point out, there are no gods, no angels, no ghosts, and no fear. I ask them have they really read the bible. It is usually talks with Mormons, who have their own re-written version of the bible, and Jehovah  Witness, who have an inner circle of, the usual old men, re-writing or just ignoring the bible, with their own version of shite, known as the Watchtower.

Why do Mormons want their wives to be walking incubators, to the detriment of their health.

I point out these facts. Jehovah Witness are always polite, as am I - Mormons not so much :)

As Kyle said, have a few quotes from the bible, and ask them what they think they mean.

I do try to make this distinction as clear as I possibly can, for one I usually end my argument with something along with lines of, "At least he's just a figment of your imagination!" or I say "your god" rather than "God". In fact, I try to avoid saying "God" with a capital G whenever I can. There is no capital G god because "God" is not a name anymore than "king" is a name, even if there is only one king. You would only capitalize king if you were to say King David, or King George... but not just as a reference, like "the king". So I very often refer to the Hebraic god as Yahweh, since that is exactly who I am talking about.

I think you're right, and I think of it quite often... even when debating with my mother. I feel like I have to constantly underscore this is merely an abstract, philosophical discussion of the character named Yahweh in the Bible. I also think Zeus is a jerk, but I don't have to be sure no one thinks I actually believe he's real. It's kind of exhausting, but I hope others will try to make this distinction as often as possible.

this is true for me also (not that anyone cares but il just state) and ive said God damn and use Jesus Fing Christ but for me i still dont know if there is a god. 

Cara that is exactly how I and I think everyone should phrase it, as "your god".  That establishes the boundrys needed imo.

Dear Folks:

It seems hard to be 'mad' at nothing. Even by my awareness of mortality, it seems hardly worth a tear.

Our mother died last year at 87. We spread her ashes on the family property which she had called home for 63 years. I spread my little portion of Mom's ashes over our garden spot, which latter had rather good tomatos. Latter I felt the sense of romance concerning Mom's life here, but was not sure if it made any sense. Just on our nearly daily walks, it is hard to not find signs of death, but in the absence of a god concept how can I gather together anger at 'something'. The world and nature seems rather impersonal, even my own relationship with it seems potentially devoid of romance.

So my little wonders, and small appreciation for mystery still remains, but it seems clear that it is what I bring to the connection, and not what the world or natures offers to me.

So 'god' seems diffuse and without substance/reality, while the soils, rocks, life and details, gives something to grasp, but not to really 'love'. Is this something to work on? 

I admit I've gotten mad at things that break, like a vacuum cleaner or car. I hope they don't come back to haunt me.


Well the snake shown in the photo is certainly not the "guilty" party; it's some sort of boa or python.  (Totally non-venomous.)

(BTW I am not sure what this has to do with the topic?)

What snake?

Are you sure you're OK?


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