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.
Absolutely. Remember the jokes people made about god now getting hitchslapped for all eternity.
I completely agree! How can something have characteristics or features or attributes if it doesn't exist? I'm perfectly okay talking about what humans have done in the name of god or the stories they read and listen to at church, but I try my best to never insinuate that god is anything other than non-existent. It's a common mistake, because we all do this when we talk about characters in movies or stories. Maybe if you find yourself being accused of hating god, you can say, "sure...just like we all hate the Joker in Batman (or any other fictional character)."
I usually point out that I am angry at God in the same way I am angry at Darth Vader in Star Wars. And if people went around choking other people because they claimed Darth Vader spoke to them in their hearts and told them to do it, I'd be more vocal about that.
Even if God/Allah/FSM/Unicorn exists, I don't see how I could be mad at he/she/it/them. I don't have a direct line to the divine, and I don't yet trust anyone who claims to have a direct or indirect line to the divine, so who am I to judge he/she/it/them if I don't even have the first clue as to her/his/its/their nature? Unless I'm just looking for a scapegoat...
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.
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.