I’ve noticed a feeling rising up in myself the longer I am an Agnostic Atheist: that feeling is what I use to call “holy indignation”, or some might judge it as “anger”. It is often negatively commented on about Atheists, and even I haven’t always welcomed it, that’s for sure. I knew how as a Christian just getting out of a cult called the Church of God in Christ Mennonite in the past, I would not even consider reading anything written by an angry or bitter sounding person. I believed that anger was a sign that the person was being controlled by Satan or at least their “old man” or “flesh”and not “the Spirit” which leads you into all truth. So for a long time I repressed my anger and passion.
The more I repressed those feelings though, the more I felt that it was an injustice to not stand for right and share why I was upset. Anger has it’s purpose, as does passion. Every global change for good has come about because of anger, whether or not history depicts it’s activist heroes as angry or not now. I was surprised to hear that even the most peaceful leaders like Gandhi and Martin Luther king Jr. confessed to be motivated by anger.
Seriously, if you are a good person, and compassionate to the plight of others, is it not inevitable that you will be angry when you see injustice and inequality in the world? For that reason, and more, “I would purpose that Atheists aren’t angry because there is something wrong with us, but because there is something right with us.”
When I think about it, unlike some of the people in many movements for change, from the past until now, (like woman’s suffrage, fighting communism or the labor laws, fighting for black rights, gay rights. . .etc) atheists aren’t even angry because of how they are being treated. . .at least for the most part. Sure, it’s a fact that Atheists are the most discriminated group in the world, and it will inevitably effect them somewhat, depending on how outspoken they are about it. . .but the main reason Atheists are angry is often about just plain old injustice.
One could ask why don’t you commonly see swearing, name calling, (besides maybe at worst the inevitable “ignorant”, “stupid”, or “naive”) threatening, rioting, looting and shootings when an Atheist don’t get their way or convince their opponent? That kind of thing has often come with such strong, passionate people in the past. . . Well, I believe, it’s because that would be below the dignity, ethics, general character and education of the Atheist. These non religious people are as a general rule, highly educated, obviously moral people, as seen by the stats of education levels, IQ, scores on religious knowledge tests, rates of Atheists incarcerated. . .
The truth is, many of the Atheists of the world were in the past very sincere religious people. Their character and strength often led them to be leaders and well respected for their spiritual and family life. In their constant search for truth, and teachability they may have appeared to flounder in their beliefs, but likely they were always doing the best they knew to do, with all the sincerity they had in them. . .that character and passion doesn’t then simply vanish because they realize that they have lived a delusion and been told a huge lie their whole life. It does usually motivate them to action (to right some wrongs) though.
What do you find Atheists doing then? They are activists for freedom of thought and the equal rights of any group that isn’t getting it. . . from freedom of free speech, like the occupy movement, to the ability to chose your healthcare and food. They also seek freedom for woman to control their own bodies, (in numerous ways!) equality for the gays, the children, the animals or the planet. An atheist does not need to be a woman who has had an abortion taught to submit, been abused, told they are inferior, etc. . .she does not need to be gay, an abused child, animal or tree to feel empathetic, and see their interdependence with them. This is group of people who are compassionate and empathetic to the bone, and make very good allies to humanity.
So why in the world are they hated so much?! Well let’s see, maybe because they expose wrong, and in the process they make a lot of people defensive, angry and guilty. If you are a religious person for instance, perpetrating these injustices, out of a sincere duty to your God, you are likely subconsciously feeling trapped, between your conscience, and your God.
So what happens every time the Atheist gets in the middle of this conflict by exposing the real issues? It’s so predictable it’s talked of all over the internet! First the cornered Christian gets angry, (but of course to admit to that would make them look bad, so they rarely do) and to pacify her conscience, she has to take it out on someone. . . So they say you are the one being mean, (though you have likely stayed calm and never made any personal attacks). This usually comes as a ploy to get out of answering a question they know that they can’t answer, and so they hope to distract you from it. Then when they get called on it, and you demand an answer, out of desperation, they next try to discredit you by making personal attacks on your character or person. . .as if that nullifies the points we had made or our questions. (What gets me, is that they can’t seem to see that their hurtful or judgmental claim started the discussion in the first place, making the compassionate Atheist feel the need to stand up for justice and equality.)
After this has happened enough times, atheists get pretty good at pegging these Christians from the start. They are the older generation, of mostly conservative fundamentalists, who believe that they can’t be wrong in their interpretation of the Bible. When you try to show them that they are though, they can’t believe you, because their religion has built in defenses for having actual humility and teachability. . .even though the Bible would seem to teach it.
They see every injustice and horror in the Bible, or allowed by God as justifiable, because “God’s ways are not our ways”, and we would be arrogant to question Him, when we are so inferior to him. Also, even if every other person on earth went away from God, the Bible supposedly predicts a “falling away” that would leave only a few faithful. So the more people go away, the more they feel justified in their self righteousness.
When their conscience finally wins out though, and they actually do admit to being wrong about a doctrine, they can always say that:
- They were just not understanding that the Bible actually said that all along. (You can find justification for just about anything in The Bible if you look hard enough.)
- Those verses were only applicable to the people in the time of the Bible.
- They should just listen to their holy spirit, instead of what they were taught the Bible said, as “The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life”. After all, “The Spirit will lead you into all truth”, and “You have no need of a teacher.”
Of course when other more progressive “Christians” or the non religious, (but still Bible- believing) people are making those same excuses for their changes in religious thoughts, the self righteous conservatives accuse them of being “back-slidden”, not being “Spirit led”, being “arrogant”, or “proud”. In my experience, it is the epitome of arrogance on the part of the conservative to claim this, as the one they are accusing is, (or was) often a person who was more educated or highly respected for their life and sincerity as a Christian. I have seen this unfair judgment so often it’s disgusting! It almost makes me more sad for the progressive Christian then the Atheist!
If I were to make a list of why I am angry about religion, a large chunk of the list would be for what it does to it’s adherents. It’s actually because of my experience with the brainwashing I went through that allows me to be empathetic,calm, patient, and overall loving to the Christians I know. . .and how does that come out? The same way it did as a loving, concerned religious person; I seek to enlighten them.
Think about it, as a Christian, I believed I would have blood on my hands for every friend I didn’t try to convert, so I was not only living in fear for them, but for me if I didn’t push my beliefs on them in any way I could. . .it was my life’s goal to thwart Satan, and snatch souls out of his grasp.
Now, I have no fear for myself, and I could just keep my thoughts to myself and make my life a lot easier. . .but I care too much! Every time I see the attack dogs of Christian fundamentalism, it’s a reminder of how I added to the bigotry, racism, sexism, ageism and all the other harms of religion, by standing with them in the past. Now as a sort of penance I oppose religion, with a vengeance, and I do it, not to be right, (though it’s easy to feel that I will be proven so in the near future) or just because I love to fight; I do it for the same reason I have always fought injustice and inequality in this world; because I care! I kind of wish I could be passive and not care what happens to humanity around me, like some people I know.
It may be because I had a very sheltered and secure, upbringing, where I was mostly accepted (even honored) and loved by nearly all those around me, (even though I don’t feel that way now). I think everyone should know what that feels like, sometime in their life. So when I see the underdog picked on, and when I see abuse, I get angry. . .and it just so happens that it’s usually directed at religion, as nearly all the injustices of the past were connected with religion too. In the future though, if it weren’t for the lack of religious terminology, I’m sure looking back on atheists anger it would not be looked at as anger, so much as righteous or holy indignation.
For more about why Atheist come across as angry, (even though they are generally very happy people), check out this article: http://atheism.about.com/od/atheismmyths/a/AtheistsAngry.htm
Or this excellent book:
Or better yet, just watch the author as she highlights the main points in this excellent speech: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=GUI_ML1qkQE