Thursday, April 27, 2006

Angry Atheist

I promised an anonymous writer that I would discuss some objections to desire utilitarianism today, and I fully intended to. However, something came up that I have to deal with.

On the MSNBC web site, there was an article published called "Trying to Understand Angry Atheists: Why do nonbelievers seem to be threatened by the idea of God?"

Why am I angry?

Read the article.

It says:

All religions must teach a way to discipline our animal urges, to overcome racism and materialism, selfishness and arrogance and the sinful oppression of the most vulnerable and most innocent among us.

So, here we have a person publishing an article on a national web site that says that I am dominated by my animal urges, racist, materialist, selfish, arrogant, and a threat to children.

And it does so in the context of claiming to trying to understand why atheists are angry.

Try writing a piece that calls blacks, or Jews, or Muslims "racist, materialist, selfish, arrogant, and a threat to children." Then, try getting away with saying, "I wonder why these people are so angry?"

The article also states:

To be called to a level of goodness and sacrifice so constantly and so patiently by a loving but demanding God may seem like a naive demand to achieve what is only a remove human possibility. However, such a vision need not be seen as a red flag to those who believe nothing.

First, the author says that atheists see a call to "goodness and sacrifice" is a red flag. So, atheists are not good, and we do not engage in sacrifice. In fact, our rejection of religion, I assume, is because we, like spoiled children, simply do not want to do anything for other people. No, the 'red flag' is being called evil and selfish. I find my calling to goodness and sacrifice in a different source -- from the fact that my fellow humans are capable of feeling pain and suffering and I do not want bad things to happen to them. Instead, I want them to be safe and happy. Period. End of story. No God involved.

Next, there is the condescending and blatantly false accusation that I believe nothing. That's a red flag.

Atheists are the only group in this country where somebody can actually write such blatant and obvious hate-speech and experience an INCREASE in their popularity.

If a political candidate does this, he GAINS popularity points.

A President makes a promise that he will appoint no atheist judges, and he is applauded. He certainly is not challenged. A presidential candidate says that he will not appoint any Jews or Muslims and he is condemned. However, a political leader can state explicitly that he will not consider atheists for a particular position, and he gets a round of applause. So, now, why is this atheist angry?

When I was in high school, I wanted to be a judge. I wanted to make sure that I left the world better than it would have otherwise been. I went to college for 12 years to study ethics and philosophy of law. Yet, the majoriy of Americans hold the belief that I cannot be moral, and I could never, no matter how much I studied, be fit to be a judge.

Every day, school children from one end of this country are told by their teachers to stand and repeat the phrase, "Anybody who is not 'under God'; they are not true Americans. In fact, they are as bad as rebels (those who would divide the nation), tyrants (anti-liberty), and criminals (the unjust)."

Have students every day stand and say, "Marc Gellman is (or Jews are) as bad as any rebel, tyrant, or criminal" and see if Marc Gellman might be able to muster up a little bit of anger.

On public buildings from one end of this country to the other, we have to put up with the motto, "In God We Trust." So, I am not good enough to be a "we" because I do not trust in God. So, I get classified as a "not-us"; a "then". We have a motto that says nothing less than 'atheist = outsider; leper; not welcome here; clearly not one of 'us'", and one wonders why this atheist, at least, is angry.

Not only is this slogan permitted. It is the national motto. It says that this country cares about nothing more than dividing its population into 'us' and 'them' and putting atheists in the category of 'them'.

If the religious people want to build a church, I have no objection. However, when they claim a right to draw money out of my account to pay for that church, I reserve the right to get a little angry at this theft. It seems to me to be a simple principle to say to my neighbor; I will not prohibit you from building any church you like; in return, do not demand that I contribute to its construction." However, many religious people are not willing to live by this simple principle. They go to the government, tell the government to draw money out of my paycheck, which they then give to the church (through 'faith based initiatives') that they can then use to build their church.

So, what is there to be angry about?

6 comments:

LBBP said...

I would just add...

As an atheist I have been asked many times, "If, as you say, everyone has the right to believe whatever they want, why is it so important to you to debunk religious beliefs?". This is a valid question.

My answer to this question is simple and admittedly somewhat cynical; because the sheep of this world will follow whomever shouts the loudest, and I don't want to see them taken off to slaughter. More importantly to me, I don't want to be trampled by the herd while they march blindly off to their own destruction.

Put another way, I really don't mind people having beliefs that differ from mine. I do mind people that try to impose their beliefs on me. Since the hardcore fundamentalists are constantly trying to do just that, it is important to me to defend myself. This can catch people of less fundamental opinions off guard when I reply in a very animated way to the claims of religion. This gives people the impression that I am angry, and I guess, in a way I am.

All fundamentalist groups "KNOW" that they are right and everyone else is wrong. They see it as their right and duty to make the rest of us see it their way. If we do not, then fundamentalists have little compunction about using violence or coercion to inflict their beliefs on the rest of us. I believe that this is different from what I (and most other "angry atheists") do. My goal is not to get people to change their beliefs, but rather to realize that their beliefs are no more absolutely true than anyone else's. If people are threatened by this, it may be that they already have doubts and don't know how to handle it. As an example, I don't know how many times I have heard an Bible literalist say, "if we can question the literal truth of Genesis, then what stops us from questioning any other part of the Bible?".

So, to the theists of the world I say, please, write about these things until your fingers fall off; flame away on every forum you can find. Pray, confess, witness, and wail to your GOD until you are horse in the throat and you just can’t do it any more. But, at the end of the day remember that your belief is no better than my lack of belief. Just because you think you are right does NOT necessarily make it so. Unless you can show me a flying reindeer, or introduce me to "Nessy", or produce one tangible messiah (must bring miracle portfolio), or give me an ounce of fully functional fairy dust, or cure my hypertension without drugs, or bring in Big Foot's body, or show me just one measurable, quantifiable, verifiable scrap, of real evidence that any of these things are anything other than fanciful fiction, then stop trying to rule my life by your fucked up superstitions, I have my own! Thank you very little.

Dan Doel said...

Why are the atheists that write to this guy angry? Perhaps it's because he writes condescending articles about them.

I especially like this: "Perhaps their atheism was the result of the tragic death of a loved one, or an angry degrading sermon, or an insensitive eulogy, or an unfeeling castigation of lifestyle choices or perhaps something even worse." Yeah, that must be why all these people are atheists. They're angry at their minister/god. It couldn't possibly be because they examined what they used to believe, and figured out that there's no good reason to believe it, and, in fact, good reasons to not believe it.

Perhaps they're angry that after all that thinking and studying and such, they get to have theists come up to them all the time and tell them how dumb/silly they are for not believe in god because 'it's so obvious.' It's so obvious that when the theist subsequently tries to demonstrate the existence of said god, all he/she can come up with are arguments that were refuted by philosophers hundreds of years ago, logical fallacies, or gross misunderstandings of science.

Or even better, the theist can sling some post-modernism, and claim that "god exists" is, apparently, just a matter of opinion (which seems to be exactly what the rabbi does in this article, considering he compares this disagreement about god belief with his opinions on rap music and pets). Let's find a physicist and tell him that general relativity is just an opinion, and we'll see whether or not he laughs at you. Or better yet, let's pass laws against listening to country music, because I don't like it, just like the innocent evangelical Christians next door are passing laws banning gay marriage, because in their opinion, god doesn't like it.

Perhaps atheists are angry because they're tired of people being so silly and irrational, and religion is among the silliest, most irrational things people engage in. I think he's right about one thing though: he needs to try to understand atheists better, at least if he plans on writing more articles about them.

Oz said...

"I'm sometimes at odds with Yankee fans, people who like rap music and people who don't like animals, but I try to be civil."

Got to disagree with him here. There's no reason to be civil to Yankee fans.

Anonymous said...

He's not trying particularly hard to be civil to atheists, but he expects us to be civil to him. Why? Why is it up to the oppressed minority to be civil and not express rage at our oppression? Frederick Douglass wasn't very civil to slaveholders - nor should he have been.

Civility is only appropriate towards people whose behavior is within civilized boundaries. Murderers, torturers, bigots, etc. don't deserve civility. Some of them don't even deserve toleration (those evil SOBs who assassinate doctors for religious reasons come to mind).

Dar said...

I wonder how the article would have went over had he said "It seems as though African-Americans are so angry".

Anonymous said...



Many atheists are angry because of unresolved anger with their childhood. That deep seeded anger due to the betrayal/neglect or abuse of one's parents at such a young age leaves them scarred for life, never able to believe that a God would actually care for them. (Study basic childhood psychology and you can easily see the connection) Atheists see God as hateful, because their own upbringing was absolutely hateful, through no fault of their own. I know an atheist very closely, and he was deeply neglected and wounded as a child, left alone to cry with no one to hold him, no love, nothing. Now he is a grown man who is emotionally stunted (can't be any serious relationship) but absolutely intelligent. Many atheists seem to have high IQs, but terribly low EQs. He doesn't even know why he is the way he is, he can't even verbalize anything about his emotions to hopefully dig his way out of his past, his hurt, his wounds.

I read up on Piers Morgans childhood (was interested because he is so deeply angry with anything God-related). Morgan's childhood sounded really rough. Seems to fit in line with the theory posed above.

Atheists can't understand the things written about in the Bible because the Bible talks about relationships. Man's relationship to God, and man's relationship to each other. An atheist's ability to understand and be in any healthy relationship was robbed from them as infants and young children due to abuse and neglect.

I see atheists as people to be loved more because they were so robbed of love as a child. Their anger is deep, and strong, but they're also deeply hurt. Anyone who has been hurt will understand this.

Don't believe it when someone says they are christian just because it came from their mouths. No real christian would ever hold up a sign that says "G-- hates f--s" That's just the religious fanatics, not the real church. Church (institution) is filed with hypocrites. Judge by the fruit of their lives, not by the words out of their mouths.