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Why are atheists so angry?

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"Why are all atheists so angry?"

First and foremost, Not all atheists are angry. This is an unfair characterization. This is like asking, "Why are Christians such hypocrites?" It's inappropriate to make such a sweeping generalization.

It is true, many atheists may seem angry or aggressive, but what you need to understand is that these are the atheists that have chosen to go public and express their opinions about theism, and the vast majority of atheists typically keep their atheism to themselves. The more outspoken atheists obviously have more passionate feelings about the issue and therefore may be more outgoing and confrontational. Many theists confuse honesty with aggression and anger.

However, there are many outspoken atheists who are frustrated, perhaps in some cases even angry, but there are reasons. Also see Why atheists care about religion and Why are Christians so angry.

Hambydammit from the RRS forums has this to say:

I hear this question all the time. Today I was reading an article about the debate between Sam Harris and Rick Warren, and was struck by Warren's statement, "I've never met an atheist who wasn't angry."

My first reaction was denial. Many atheists, myself included, are happy most of the time. My atheist friends are great fun to hang out with. We laugh and joke and drink beer, and hardly ever mention religion.

My second reaction, I confess, was anger. How dishonest of him to try to discount atheism by labeling us all as angry malcontents! This is exactly why people like him make me angry!

That's when it hit me, square in the forehead. He's not being dishonest. I don't doubt that every atheist he's met has been angry. If I met him, he'd almost certainly make me angry, too. That's just it! HE makes atheists angry, so they're all angry around him. So, I forgive him for thinking that all atheists are angry. I understand how he made the mistake.

Anyway, I'd like to reflect on "Atheist Anger" for a few minutes, and ask a couple of questions.

First, why is it a bad thing to be angry? The suffragists were quite angry, and for good reason. New Zealand had granted women equal voting rights in 1893, and America, supposedly the land of equality, was violently opposed to the idea twenty years later. There are still plenty of women who are angry because women make less money doing the same jobs as men in many industries, and women are often not even considered for promotions when they're equally (or better) qualified for the position. Are they wrong for being angry? Should they just sit quietly and wait for men to realize the error of their ways? Some people think so. I've noticed that the majority of them are men.

Am I making a valid comparison? Is it reasonable to compare life as an atheist in America in 2007 to life as a woman in the early 20th century? Clearly there are significant differences. Atheists can vote. They can, in theory, hold public office. They can get married, sign contracts, work wherever they're qualified. So, do we atheists have a right to be angry in the same way suffragists had?

To answer that question, I'll recall some more history. In Mosaic law, as we all know, women were slightly better than slaves. They had no property rights. In Roman law, women were completely dependent on male relations for all legal matters, and when they were married, it was a matter of purchase between two families.

Here, we can ask a pointed question. Do women have the right to be angry that they're not making as much as men in the workplace? After all, they can vote, own property, divorce their husband, sue him for child support and alimony, and live quite happily on their own. This country is one of the best places in the world to be a woman! What right do women have to be angry?

If your skin prickled a little bit when you read the previous paragraph, good for you. You're halfway to understanding why atheists have a right to be mad. The reason women still have a right to be mad is that things are still not equal. They have no obligation to remain silent simply because they have it better than someone who lived a hundred, or a thousand years ago. The reason women have it better now is that people were angry all through history, and made small gains here and there over many generations. Without the fuel of anger, women would still be property, and wouldn't even have the opportunity to be mad about making less money in the workplace.

So, what about us atheists? Do we have a right to be mad? Actually, yes. Did you know we've had atheist presidents? We have. I'll let you do your own homework on this, but it might surprise you to learn that many of the leaders of the U.S. throughout history have been openly atheist. Is this possible today? One congressman in California recently admitted to being atheist, and it caused a nationwide stir! It remains to be seen whether he'll be reelected. To be sure, he'll be attacked for being godless and amoral when election time comes around.

Until the McCarthy Era, the pledge of allegiance didn't have the word "God." Money didn't have "In God We Trust." Until the 70s, Christians were not actively involved in politics for the purpose of legislating religious values. Clearly, America is more theist than it used to be, at least politically. So, are things getting better for atheists? I dare say they're not. Unlike women, our situation is not improving. We are not being afforded more respect. Rather, we are being legislatively pushed farther into the margins where we have been quietly lurking for sixty years since the Red Scare.

To bring things back around, recall my comment about my atheist friends and I sitting around having beers and laughs. This is a good picture for you to hold in your mind's eye when you think of me, or any other atheist. This is what we want. We don't like being angry any more than women who'd like to be paid more. I'm sure all the angry feminists would rather things were better for women so they wouldn't have to be angry anymore. It's the same with atheists. If we were a bit less hated, vilified, and marginalized, it would be a lot easier for us to be in the presence of theists and not get angry.

Why are atheists so angry? Because things could be better, and we don't like being marginalized.

Ryvius from the freethoughtpedia forums has this to say:

1. The demonization of other religions, e.g. Christianity demonizing Pagans ("They're devil-worshippers!"), the Romans demonizing Christians ("They're atheists and cannibals!").

2. Vilification of homosexuality, resulting in discrimination, parents disowning their children, murder, and suicide.

3. People and animals sacrificed as an offering to gods.

4. Food destroyed because it doesn't comply with specific religious beliefs.

5. Women treated like second class citizens, or even slaves, based on religious teachings.

6. Children growing up without music.

7. Children growing up to hate and fear science and scientists, because science disproves their parents' religion - leading to appalling scientific illiteracy.

8. Tens of thousands tortured and killed as witches (a practice which still continues today).

9. Millions of cats killed in the belief that witches use them as familiars, leaving rats free to spread the black death throughout Europe, killing millions of people in turn.

10. People bothered and sometimes woken up by door-to-door religion salespeople.

11. People dying because they believe their faith makes them immune to snake venom, or other lethal aspects of reality.

12. People dying - and letting their children die - because their religion forbids accepting medical help.

13. People choked, starved, poisoned, or beaten to death during exorcisms.

14. Female genital mutilation endorsed by religious texts.

15. Psychological and physiological conditions blamed on demons, preventing believers from seeking medical care.

16. People disowning family members for leaving their religion, in some cases symbolized by mock funerals.

17. Friendships and romances severed or never started over religious differences.

18. "Abstinence-only" sex education, resulting in five times the amount sexually transmitted diseases and teenage pregnancies - often leading to ill-fated "emergency" marriages.

19. Campaigns against safe sex, with similar results - responsible for much of the AIDS epidemic in Africa.

20. Women having septic abortions -- or being forced to have unwanted children they resent -- because religious organizations have gotten laws passed making abortion illegal or inaccessible.

21. Censorship (often destructive) of speech, art, books, music, films, poetry, songs and, if possible, thought.

22. The discouragement of rational, critical thought.

23. Believers whipping, impaling, poisoning or crucifying themselves during religious festivals as a demonstration of their faith and piety.

24. Children spending the period of their lives when the brain is most receptive to learning new information reading, rereading, and even memorizing religious texts.

25. People who believe the world is about to end neglect their education, are not financially responsible, and in extreme cases take part in mass suicides.

26. Environmental issues ignored because of beliefs that God will magically fix everything.

27. Wives told they will be tortured forever if they leave their abusive husbands.

28. People in times of trouble relying on advice from religious leaders without any sort of training in counseling or therapy.

29. Holy wars - followers of different faiths (or even the same faith) killing each other in the name of their (benevolent, loving and merciful) gods.

30. The destruction of great works of art considered to be pornographic/blasphemous, and the persecution of the artists.

31. Persecution/punishment of blasphemers (Salman Rushdie still has a death sentence on him), and blasphemy laws in general.

32. Slavery condoned by religous texts.

33. Children traumatized by vivid stories of eternal burning and torture to ensure that they'll be too frightened to even question religion.

34. Terminal patients in constant agony who would end their lives if they didn't believe it would result in eternal torture.

35. School boards having to spend time and money and resources on the fight to have evolution taught in the schools.

36. Persecution of Heretics/scientists, like Giordano Bruno (burned at the stake) and Galileo Galilei.

37. Blue laws forcing other businesses to stay closed so churches can generate more revenue.

38. Mayors, senators, and presidents voted into office not because they're right for the job, but because of their religious beliefs.

39. Abuse of power, authority and trust by religious leaders (for financial gain or sexual abuse of followers and even children) - but hey, atheists are the immoral ones.

40. People accepting visual and auditory hallucinations unquestioningly as divine, sometimes with fatal results.

41. Suicide bombers, who are certain they will be rewarded in heaven.

42. Discrimination against atheists, such as laws stating they may not hold public office or testify in court.

43. Missionaries destroying/converting smaller, "heathen" religions and cultures.

44. Violation of establishment cause of the first amendment of the national motto of America and the currency.

45. Forced circumcision and disputations with religious parents motivate their beliefs of ritual circumcision to their male children.

46. Sexually abused children condemned to post traumatic symptoms while their abusers move up the religious echelon.

47. Evangelical Christians vacate logic, reason, and science altogether and accept contradictions and impossibilities, willing to sacrifice their lives for their personal God.

48. People believe they should pay for tithes and more when they could compensate for education and anything productive, though regardless reading the Bible is capably independent.

49. Hardship compounded by the guilt required to reconcile the idea of a fair god with reality ("why is God punishing me? What have I done wrong? Don't I have enough faith?").

50. Human achievements - from skillful surgery to to emergency landings - attributed to gods instead of to the people actually responsible.

51. Mother Teresa, prolonging the agony of terminal patients and denying them pain relief, so she can offer their suffering as a gift to her god.

52. Suppression of logical and critical thought.

53. Billions spent to build, maintain, and staff houses of worship.

54. Grief and horror caused by the belief that dead friends and family members are tortured as punishment for disbelief.

55. Opposition to scientific (especially medical) progress on religious grounds.

56. Whole societies divided by minor differences in belief or doctrine, often resulting in violence.

57. Natural disasters and other tragedies used to claim God is displeased and present demands to avoid similar events (it's like terrorism, but without having to plan or do anything).

58. The attempted genocide of followers of a particular faith (e.g. the Jewish Holocaust, "ethnic cleansing" in former Yugoslavia)


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