An Angry Atheist (for the Right Reasons) October 15, 2007

An Angry Atheist (for the Right Reasons)

Greta Christina‘s angry.

For good reason.

And not just one reason. There are (unfortunately) plenty of them:

I’m angry that women are having septic abortions — or are being forced to have unwanted children who they resent and mistreat — because religious organizations have gotten laws passed making abortion illegal or inaccessible.

I’m angry about what happened to Galileo. Still. And I’m angry that it took the Catholic Church until 1992 to apologize for it.

I’m angry at preachers who tell women in their flock to submit to their husbands because it’s the will of God, even when their husbands are beating them within an inch of their lives.

I’m angrier when religious leaders explicitly tell children – and adults, for that matter — that the very questioning of religion and the existence of hell is a dreadful sin, one that will guarantee them that hell is where they’ll end up.

I’m angry that I have to know more about their fucking religion than the believers do. I get angry when believers say things about the tenets and texts of their religion that are flatly untrue, and I have to correct them on it.

Ok, I could go on for a while quoting excerpts.

There are many of them, and she makes 3943234829 excellent points (by my count).

Did she forget anything to be (rightfully) angry about?

[tags]atheist, atheism, religion, God, Jesus[/tags]

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • I’m angry about those things too.

    Let’s just not let it stop at anger.

  • Richard Wade

    Mike C, beyond anger where would you like to see it go?

  • Arlen

    If an atheist is angry about these things, think of how frustrating it must be for a Christian who feels the same way. Jesus taught healing, social justice, and humility; I just can’t fathom how so many of my fellow Christians can read that story and then wield it like a whip to propagate and perpetuate oppression.

    Non-fundamentalist Christians like myself are in the unfortunate position of fighting for our philosophy on two fronts: Those outside Christianity see us as evil because they see the evil things done by others who call themselves Christian; Fundamentalist Christians see us as evil because we don’t subscribe to the same doctrine that they do.

  • Mriana

    She has a lot of good reasons and many of them I highly agree with too. I can’t say which one I agree wtih most.

    Richard, I think what Mike means is that we need to try and do something about it. Educate, communicate, and a host of other non-violent ways to make changes.

  • Rob Linford

    The last point is the one that tends to give me heartburn. Anger is not a very healthy emotion, for me it is frustration and incredulousness. It never ceases to amaze me how supposedly devout Christian friends or family members never read the bible, don’t care about the history of Christianity or the origins of the bible, take communion without spending a second thinking about the fact that they are performing a primitive ritual involving eating the flesh and drinking the blood of their dead martyr, or exercise their brains in any way with regards to their religion. (Obviously not all Christians are like this.) By watching this in my own family and spending time talking to an atheist psychologist friend I have come to the conclusion that people are genetically predisposed to religious belief – is it is a hardwired emotional need for many. It is the only way I can explain why otherwise rational intelligent people act and believe in such silly nonsense. Unfortunately no amount of rational discussion or logic will ever sway a religious person if they have a hard wired need for religion. I think we can hope to make atheism a mainstream and accepted state of being, but I would not hold my breath that we will ever represent more than 20% of the population.

  • Mriana

    Rob, some people are under the falicy that if they do everything you suggest, they might lose faith. OK that maybe true for the majority, but the thing is they are too scared to read the Bible and research the history of Christianity and the Bible. My mother constantly blames getting an education is what caused me to not have the same beliefs as she does, but she doesn’t understand that I was questioning religion long before I went to college. Since she doesn’t question it, she stays not only in denial, but also in ignorance. Her belief might take on a different form if she did OR she just might lose believing in religion. It just depends on the person.

  • Rob Linford

    Mriana, that sounds like my Mom. She has said to me – “Dont confuse me with the facts, my mind is made up!” No kidding, thats a direct quote.

  • Karen

    I don’t know any devout Christians who don’t read the bible. Where does that idea come from? Heck, we were supposed to read the bible EVERY SINGLE DAY. Every sermon in my evangelical church involved the phrase, “Turn in your bibles to … ” There are myriad versions of the bible being marketed, there are beautiful leather bible covers, there are bible study guides – this stuff is out there and selling well because Christians DO read the bible. Incessantly.

    The thing is, they read it with a particular slant, or interpretation, that they get from a particular doctrinal mindset. That interpretation is not supposed to be open to question. They are also taught a particular story about the reliability of the bible (it’s divinely inspired and without error) and about the origins of Christianity. All this comes from the top down, and unless they go to divinity school, most pew-sitters don’t learn anything beyond what they are taught.

    They’re sheep – that’s what Jesus himself called them – and sheep don’t do a heck of a lot of thinking outside the box. They’ve been bred to be docile followers and I’m afraid that’s what many rank-and-file Christians have been trained to be also.

  • HappyNat

    When I went to Church we hardly ever read the bible. The preacher would pull out a couple of verses to go with the lesson, but we never read them in the pews. Even the bible studies would just focus on one small section. Maybe we weren’t “True Christians” 🙂 It wasn’t until I started to question my beliefs that I read the bible and then became and atheist.

    My Dad’s current church uses even less of the bible. The pastor quotes from it a bit but then goes on a big show with lights, power points, singing, dnacing, painting, and a band playing. It is quite entertaining, but doesn’t really focus on anything God or Jesus said or did. Just lots of “he loves us, We love him” BS.

  • Rob Linford

    Karen – it is probably the definition of “devout” where we differ. If you take the position that you cant be a devout Christian without spending a lot of time reading the bible then you would find many churches full of un-devout Christians. My wife is deeply involved in her Methodist church. Runs the VBS, attends church most Sundays, considers herself a Christian, believes in the Christian idea of spirits and heaven, etc. She has to my knowledge never sat down and read the bible. I know many of the people she attends church with are the same, as are many of the people I work with – the same ones that advertise their Christianity on the back of their cars with little fish symbols. I suspect that in an evangelical church setting you would find more deep devotion to reading the bible, but I don’t think that’s so much the case in the older established religious. My observation is that many (not most) people attend church for an emotional comfort reason and not for the dogma. I agree with the comment above to a certain extent. Some people subconsciously avoid reading the bible because they don’t want to take a chance on challenging their faith. My wife tells me that when the pastor gets into a section of the bible she disagrees with (like Ephesians 5:22-24 of course) all she hears is “blaa blaa blaa”. It is selective listening at its best. If you are evangelical then you are likely so deeply convinced in the infallibility of the bible that there is no potential for disappointment and therefore there is no threat in reading it. If your like my wife and have some serious doubts about the divinely inspired nature of the bible then it is threatening. Just an opinion.

  • Polly

    The “fear factor” in reading the Bible never occured to me. I read it from childhood and all the way through. Ignorant child that I was, I started, naturally enough, at the beginning (a very good place to start per Julie Andrews), which is in the Old Testament. What horror assaulted my innocent mind! Animals and people getting slaughtered willy-nilly. What an awful being that god is. But, then I got to the NT and pretty much focused on that for my adult life. For a few years I refused to even refer back at the OT ‘cuz I’d get so angry and vexed. Then I started reading it again. It was just as awful, actually, worse cause now I read it with more comprehension.

    Nevertheless, I kept the faith until I finally read ABOUT the Bible – how it came to be, the telltale signs of redactors, the political infighting and propaganda that were the legends of the Davidic kingdom, etc. The length of time from JC’s supposed resurrection to the writing of the Gospels, the disconeect between those accounts and the apostle Paul’s, and on and on and on…
    The basis for a fundamentalist’s faith is the Bible. Show them what it really is – a collection of propagandized mythology – and maybe a few will see the truth. I did.

  • Rob Linford

    I totally agree with Polly that it is the physical history of the bible that turns me off. Maybe because I was raised LDS and came to a conclusion very early that Joseph Smith was either crazy or dishonest based on historical research about his past, and that the book of Mormon was fabricated entirely from his mind. I see similar parallels with the bible it is just harder to prove because of it’s age and a lack of corroborating or countering data. To me the bible is just a messy and poorly written assemblage of ancient ramblings on religion that should not be taken any more seriously than an ancient Greek text on mythology. Sure there are a few beautiful ideas in the NT (we should all get along and love each other) but to me the vast majority of it is just a mess not to be taken seriously at all.

  • Mike Skrypek

    Getting back to Greta Christina’s comments:

    She is ranting. I find it hard to listen to, and then try to dialog with someone who is ranting. I can’t listen to Christians ranting about what God is thinking, or athiests ranting about God not existing, or Cubs fans ranting about how a baseball organization is cursed.

    It’s emotional, I’ll give you that. But so is a temper tantrum.

  • I’m fascinated by the LDS church. I’d say Joseph Smith was a great showman with a flair for the dramatic, and a keen eye for what people wanted. On the other hand, I’d say he was illiterate, and probably cooked up the Book of Mormon with Oliver Cowdery, a fellow swindler, and “treasure hunter.”

    On the main topic, there needs to be more then anger. And there needs to be understanding as well. Christians I know, aren’t nuts. They have deep spirituality, but it’s far removed from Biblical literalism. It’s my own judgment to say one is better then another. Even Mormons I have spoke with, when shown examples of Humanist values, will agree with most of them, except for the disbelief in a deity. I’d say there is far more common ground with well meaning faithful and atheists with a strong desire to make the world a better place. Although, I still think, combined, that there is a minority.

    I want people to feel comfortable to make their own choices, to not feel pressured to stay with the Catholic, or any other church, because that is what family expects. I also don’t want any atheist to put another down for contemplating an after life. Our minds are free, after all. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t ask questions, but be respectful.

  • Karen

    Rob, thanks for your thoughts. There’s a huge variety of doctrine throughout the so-called “mainstream” denominations, from very liberal “all paths lead to god” to very conservative, like the Presbyterian Church in America, which split from the mainline Presbyterians in the 1970s over the idea of women ministers.

    If you measure devotion by things like church attendance and involvement, I agree that bible reading is not necessarily emphasized in all denominations. But if you examine how seriously believers take the inerrancy of the bible, the more serious they are, the more likely they are to be fundamentalists.

    You’re right, there are very religious people who don’t emphasize the bible, like your wife who selectively listens to certain scriptures, but that idea would never fly with fundamentalists and evangelicals. They pretty much worship the bible, similar to how Muslims think about the Koran, and discounting or denying parts of it is not acceptable.

  • Richard, I think what Mike means is that we need to try and do something about it. Educate, communicate, and a host of other non-violent ways to make changes.

    Yeah, what Mriana said.

    And more specifically, communicate with those you’re angry at. The further we entrench into our sides, the less likely it is that anything will ever change.

  • Mriana

    The thing is, I’m upset with religious extremist who want to kill others who for speaking out against what they do- like abuses to other human beings and alike. Such things really upset me. 😥

    How do we communicate that when those who want to do harm in the name of religion would sooner kill you than listen?

  • monkeymind

    How do we communicate that when those who want to do harm in the name of religion would sooner kill you than listen?

    Run away!

  • Siamang

    How do we communicate that when those who want to do harm in the name of religion would sooner kill you than listen?

    Pretend to be God, then they have to listen to what you have to say.

  • PrimateInRepose

    I don’t think we are that angry. I think theists are angry because we are more open and they are projecting their anger onto others.

  • The thing is, I’m upset with religious extremist who want to kill others who for speaking out against what they do- like abuses to other human beings and alike. Such things really upset me. 😥

    How do we communicate that when those who want to do harm in the name of religion would sooner kill you than listen?

    I don’t know. Honestly, I can’t say that I’ve ever actually met anyone like that personally.

  • Greta Christina would seem to be angry with conservative and fundamentalist religion, as another Mike C points out, liberal religious believers are angry about that too. I’m angry with atheists who are so wedded to their own faith that they won’t make common cause with religious liberals but who will insist on throwing elections to Republican fundamentalists. Here’s a small hint, you don’t win elections by insulting the majority of the voters. For some strange reason that fails just about every time in a democracy. Talk about clueless.

    I’m also angry with atheists who are too stupid to realize that their pointless rudeness and bigotry is part of the reason most people have a negative image of atheists.

    She is ranting without nuance but with distortion. Galileo, by the way, didn’t seem to be so very angry with the Catholic church. Read about his family if you want a clearer picture. Though he couldn’t have been so happy with Vatican politics, a lot of Catholics feel that way.

    I’m angry that with all the money and effort spent on biological and scientific education Americans can fall for creationism pretending to be science. I wonder if she’s angry with Watson and Crick using Rosalind Franklin’s material without acknowledging it.

  • 123

    You notice that the problem is with the religious leaders/people… not the religion. Don’t be so quick to judge the actual beliefs. Humans are not perfect and the church and its beliefs are often misrepresented by these religious leaders who appear to be hypocritical and weak.

    The ultimate source of all the church’s beliefs should not be its leaders, but the word of god, the bible. I guess you need to look at whether the church’s beliefs come from God or from their own traditions.

    Athiests will select and twist the words of the bible to get their arguments across. All the books i have read on athiesm which attack the bible do this- taking words out of context to find inconsistencies.

    In response to the the third point, the bible says yes, wives submit to your husbands, but it says immediately after that, husbands love your wives. Of course if your husband is beating you you dont submit to his beating- submission here does not mean put yourself in a position of subjugation, but rather honour love and support your husband.

    Questioning religion is not a sin- in my view it is good to question your beliefs or else we are blindly following a cult. I would encourage everyone to explore and validate their own beliefs. There is nothing wrong in questioning or trying to learn more about a religion to understand it. The thing that gets me is that all the athiests i have met are so arrogant and think that they know and understand everything about the bible and the way a christian thinks. In fact I have found that most athiests who have read the bible have a shallow and superficial interpretation of it and consistently take it out of context to find so called “inconsistencies” and falsehoods. The bible says that we need the spirit of God when we read the bible so that we can understand it properly- something angry athiests are too proud and arrogant to humbly ask God for. While many athiests are intelligent, wisdom comes from God. Please don’t let pride come in the way of your exploration of religion with a clear and objective mind. Please look at both sides of the coin.

    Again, she is angry at the people of the church who imperfectly and soemtimes hypocritically reflect the beliefs and teachings of christianity. No man is/was/ever will be perfect, except for Jesus. All christians can hope to do is emulate Christ so that we can be a better witness to others, but unfortunately not all people in the church will try to do so

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