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Atheist anger, explained

October 16, 2007

I’ve been trying, unsuccessfully, to write a post about atheist anger for quite a long while now.  Some of my fellow atheists are really pissed off at religion – not just bible thumpers and jihadists but also the pastor of your local Episcopal church.  There are lots of reasons for this but the most common one is that ‘moderate’ religion provides cover for extremists to operate as destructively as they do.

My writer’s block stems from too much empathy.  I’ve been that guy, but I’ve been the other guy too and it’s made it difficult for me to stay angry for long even at people whom I think are tragically mistaken.  And it wouldn’t be unfair to say that annoys the living hell out of the angry set.  It’s a complicated topic and I have not yet figured out how to boil it down to a single post or even a series of posts.

Greta Christia has done some of the work for me, though, in an excellent post on atheists and anger.  It is lengthy but punchy in a way that lengthy posts seldom are.  She does an outstanding job of illuminating the angry end of the atheist spectrum, then goes on to discuss why she gets especially torqued off at religious people, or even worse, other atheists, who try to tell her she shouldn’t be so angry.  Here’s one short paragraph from the set:

I get angry when believers trumpet every good thing that’s ever been done in the name of religion as a reason why religion is a force for good… and then, when confronted with the horrible evils done in religion’s name, say that those evils weren’t done because of religion, were done because of politics of greed or fear or whatever, would have been done anyway even without religion, and shouldn’t be counted as religion’s fault. (Of course, to be fair, I also get angry when atheists do the opposite: chalk up every evil thing done in the name of religion as a black mark on religion’s record, but then insist that the good things were done for other reasons and would have been done anyway, etc. Neither side gets to have it both ways.)

If the post I’ve been trying to write is a thousand-piece puzzle, Greta’s post is like finding someone has put three hundred of the pieces together for me.  I recommend it to everyone interested in religion or atheism from any point of the anger spectrum.

Categories: Religion
  1. james old guy
    October 17, 2007 at 10:24 | #1

    Makes me wonder where I fit in? Is it possible not to care about either view ? I think a reasonably intelligent person can punch holes in either sides arguments, but that gets boring after a while, since you will never change enough minds to make a difference in either camp.

  2. October 17, 2007 at 11:04 | #2

    Is it possible not to care about either view ?

    Yep.  I happen to have involvement in this issue but there are some other issues people get really worked up that I just can’t seem to care about.

  3. October 17, 2007 at 13:43 | #3

    There isn’t much for me to write, Greta did a wonderful job stating my views and what pisses me off about both sides. I just can’t wait for the day when people can have a civilized discussion of religion.

    I think this whole idea that there are three things you never discuss with friends, politics, religion, and something else… is complete bulls***! The person that came up with that meme is an a**hole.

    James, it doesn’t matter to me if you aren’t involved with religion. In fact, I have atheist friends that don’t get involved in any aspect of religion. It just means you would rather spend time doing something else, and in my mind this doesn’t reflect your character at all. But I will say that there are things people do in the name of religion that may concern you, such as local governments giving tax dollars to churches, and other issues.

  4. james old guy
    October 17, 2007 at 17:27 | #4

    $120,00 to two church’s, at least they might do something to help somebody with it. I am tad more upset about these.

    $13.5 million for an Irish group that funds the World Toilet Summit?
    $1 million for water-free urinals?
    $500,000 for a teapot museum?

    I don’t see the ACLU going after congress for those.
    Here is the link to more wasted dollars http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/12169524/

  5. October 17, 2007 at 18:13 | #5

    The ACLU is only interested in cases that violate freedom of speech, try to constrain religion, or try to entangle religion with government.  They are a First-amendment protective organization the way the NRA is a Second-amendment protective organization.  The other examples would be outside their charter.

    The toilet one is not difficult to explain – it’s a straightforward public health measure similar to malaria mitigation campaigns.  Apparently waterborne diseases kill a lot of people and sanitation helps. SeeTragedy of death by diarrhea.

    The water-free urinals one is a bit weirder; such urinals already exist and they’re very cost-effective in high-traffic locations.  They may also simplify sewage treatment and may become the core of a profitable new chemical industry as urine has some pretty valuable components in it.

    The teapot museum one, well hell, we’ve got stuff like that right here in my town.  Public funding for an arena the voters said NOT to build (and which is hemorrhaging money – guess who will have to pay), tax incentives for a hotel the voters said NOT to build (under construction now), and a children’s museum right in the middle of downtown traffic (it isn’t making a profit, either). 

    My teapot museum would consist of two teapots.  “This one dribbles, but here’s a new design that doesn’t.  Thank you for visiting.”  It would fit in a store window and you wouldn’t need to pay a guide.  The teapots would have price tags on them.

    All reasons I liked the idea of a line-item veto.

  6. October 17, 2007 at 19:42 | #6

    Ditto DOF, the ACLU’s purpose is to go after issues of separation of church and state. And they do a pretty good job at that.

    $120,00 to two church’s, at least they might do something to help somebody with it. I am tad more upset about these.

    Except that 120 is from State taxes and those others are from Federal. Granted this isn’t your state, but if it was I can’t imagine you would be okay with it? $120,000 is a lot for any state to use on non-government purposes.

  7. james old guy
    October 18, 2007 at 17:52 | #7

    Amendment I

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

    This only applies to the federal government, I have no idea what the state constitution of Louisiana has to say on the subjet.

  8. October 18, 2007 at 20:49 | #8

    This only applies to the federal government, I have no idea what the state constitution of Louisiana has to say on the subjet.

    Take it up with the supreme court, James – they have consistently ruled the First Amendment does apply to the states.  It is settled US law.

    Anyway, the point is that the ACLU only addresses First Amendment issues.  As often as they oppose the establishment of religion by government, they support the free exercise of religion by individuals.  And they support free speech in all but a few extremely narrow cases.  They are to the First Amendment what the NRA is to the second.

  9. Ted
    October 18, 2007 at 21:50 | #9

    They are to the First Amendment what the NRA is to the second.

    Ouch! Now that you put it that way, I feel like I’ve thrown fistfulls of money out the car window while driving at high speed.

    On the other hand, the NRA has bitchin’ museum in DC. I highly recommend you take your camera and snap away.

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