Monday, December 01, 2008

Anger, Abuse, and Hate Speech

I am undergoing an evaluation of this blog - the things that I like about it, the things that I do not like, with an eye towards making some improvements.

I have wanted to use this blog motivate people into some sort of action, particularly against anti-atheist bigotry. However, several events in the past year have suggested that atheists are like the abused spouse sitting on the floor bruised and broken while the abuser tells her, "If you just wouldn't make me so angry, this wouldn’t happen." After which, the victim apologizes to the abuser, saying, "I'm sorry. I'll try not to make you angry again." And so we hear apologists condemning atheists any time atheists do something that makes others angry.

What types of things make them angry?

Well, as Hemant Mehta, (a.k.a. The Friendly Atheist) tells us, this:

is considered hate speech by some. This makes them angry.

(See: Friendly Atheist, Questioning God is Apparently Hate Speech)

It is, of course, useful to them to be angry at any attempt among atheists to form a community, and to do what they can to kill those communities before they have a chance to form. As long as atheists are separated and fragmented from each other, they (we) are politically impotent and socially weak. Furthermore, it gives them the opportunity to "sell" religion as the only provider of something that humans basically seem to have a strong longing for – a sense of community itself.

This usefulness does not imply that those Christians who get angry at the thought of atheist communities – who view them as a threat – are involved in a conscious attempt to stand in the way of allowing those communities to form. Instead, the usefulness of destroying the formation of those communities simply makes it "feel right" to do so. This understanding of the need to disrupt those communities is something that they feel on an emotional level, not something that they have reasoned out. It is, in this sense, a crime of passion – like the crimes of an abusive spouse.

The abusive spouse, when he strikes out in anger, truly is angry. What he says and does in order to control his victim has the effect of manipulating the victim into staying inside of that abusive relationship. However, it is not because the abuser has carefully worked out a plan to control and manipulate the situation. Rather, the abuser is simply going with what feels right – with what is comfortable – with what is useful.

I have wanted to put an end to this. Yet, here, too, like dealing with an abused spouse, the victim needs to recognize that a better world is not only possible, but that she has the right to take part in that better life. I have hoped, as a part of writing this blog, that I could provide some words of encouragement in that direction. I have not seen as much success as I would have liked, but I will keep trying.

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