2/25/2011 | Share this article: View CommentsBy WizenedSage (Galen Rose) ~
We atheists are frequently subjected to this question - or criticism. Often, it appears the questioner thinks she already knows the answer, and is simply implying that we’re angry out of defensiveness, as one gets when he is backed into a corner with no arguments left. It’s not that simple.
But I want to offer an answer to the believer who is genuinely curious and really wants to know. Now I can’t speak for everyone, but I think most atheists would agree that we get angry for a great number of personal and social or civic reasons.
You see, we all grew up in a god-saturated society, everyone does. No one is born believing in a god. We were all indoctrinated in belief, to one degree or another, if not by our parents, priests, or pastors, then by our peers and society at large. We all began hearing about this god when we were toddlers, just old enough to understand a bit of our native language. We were told that there is a very powerful, invisible man in the sky, and he is very uptight about how we should act. We were told he not only knows everything we do, but he listens in on our every thought.
Most of us also got the standard stick-and-carrot lesson, as well. See, there’s this kind of deal we have with this god, even though we were never asked and never agreed to any deal. If we largely do what people and the bible tell us what god wants (he never speaks to any of us directly, of course, so we have to take their word for it), then we can go to heaven after we die, to live again. If we don’t do what they tell us he wants, then we go to this god’s concentration camp after we die, to live again, in eternal torment.
Many of us took all this stuff quite seriously. We were only kids after all. But, over time we began to have questions about this god and what he supposedly did and wanted. And we got too many unsatisfactory answers. Very often, we were shocked at what we found in the sillier (Leviticus) and nastier (Exodus) parts of the bible. As just one example, it simply made no sense to most of us for a god to create humans, if the majority of them were destined to suffer eternally in hell. We treat our children better. If we knew that most of our children were destined for such a future, we wouldn’t have them in the first place. Why would a god do what we found so repugnant, and so immoral?
For others of us, we simply saw no logical necessity for a god in this universe, and saw no credible evidence of one, so we simply abandoned that hypothesis.
Now, where the anger comes in, is that once we see the light, once our reason tells us there is no god and never was, we feel that we have been had, been fooled, hoodwinked. Ask yourself, do you get angry when you feel you have been lied to, or cheated, played for a fool? Anger is a very natural and expected response in such situations.
Many atheists feel that their society has been unfair to them in subjecting them to religious indoctrination before they had developed fully developed brains and enough maturity and confidence to question what grown-ups told them. Watch some little children for awhile and see how often you hear them yell, indignantly, “But that isn’t fair!” A sensitivity for fairness is hardwired into all of us, and in many other animals, too. Chimpanzees, for example, have been observed to become downright vicious with members of their tribe who have treated other members unfairly.
Many atheists also get angry at the way believers throw their weight around in the public square against abortion rights, gay marriage, the teaching of evolution, and such, when all of their arguments are ultimately based on ancient writings by primitive tribesmen.
Many of us feel the anger of helplessness since the system is stacked against us, as most people are god-believers. We are convinced that religions are based on falsehoods, and decisions based on false premises are usually wrong. For instance, I get angry that people lobby against gay marriage simply because some primitive people wrote that god abhors homosexuality. The same book says god abhors eating shellfish and people who work on the Sabbath, too, but believers conveniently ignore the obvious fact that the bible preaches a very primitive “morality” which our own legal systems have sensibly outgrown. We have no laws against any of these things that god supposedly abhors (or thinks are “abominations,” if you prefer the exact biblical language).
We get angry that politicians can’t be honest about their lack of belief and still get elected. Fifteen percent of Americans are non-religious (even more among those with higher education degrees, such as those in Congress), but only one member of Congress admits to being an atheist. Now there are 535 members of Congress, so there should be at least 80 who are non-religious, but they dare not admit it. And if the hidden non-believers in Congress are opposed to religion-backed legislation, they have to be very subtle or be found out and not re-elected. And are they justified in keeping the secret of their non-belief? Absolutely! Without them, we non-believers would have no representation at all.
We atheists also get angry that we are forced to subsidize religion through unfair taxation; churches in America pay no property tax and there is a housing tax benefit for clergy for which the rest of us don’t qualify. We get angry when we think how stupid our governments are, in this 21st century, to provide special benefits to some, solely because they are pushing ancient superstitions onto the populace.
We get angry that the members of each religion are convinced that all other religions are mere fantasy, yet they cannot see that that in itself is a clue that they are ALL just fantasy. They ignore the fact that no on has ever had enough evidence or proof of the truth of any one religion to cause the disappearance of all the other religions. And they never will! All religions are based on blind faith, not evidence gleaned from the real world, yet the believers of each all persevere in their smug assurance that they alone know the Truth. They’ve made their guess, and they’re stickin’ to it!
We get angry that our national Pledge of Allegiance had a “god” put in it in the 1950s, that our government promotes such a divisive superstition. We get angry that here in America, we have the most powerful military in the world, the CIA, the FBI, SWAT teams, the border patrol, billions worth of new airport security all over the country, and yet all of our money says, “In God We Trust.” Given the facts of the matter, doesn’t that motto ring kind of hollow? We certainly aren’t trusting in any god for our security. There’s a blatant lie in all this.
We get angry that various god beliefs have made our world such an unsafe place, with Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and others all fighting each other in various combinations all over the world, sometimes involving different sects of the same religion (Sunni vs. Shia, Catholic vs. Protestant), and for century after century. And, perhaps most of all, we are angry that defenseless children are still being indoctrinated in these ancient superstitions; and many of these children will be on the front lines of religious terrorism and the religious wars of the future. All in subservience to man-made, make-believe gods which never existed. Doesn’t it frustrate and anger you that millions of helpless little children are being indoctrinated into that silly, and false, Hindu religion? Now, do you begin to see how we atheists feel, since we think all religions are false?
Now, if you asked another atheist why atheists are angry, you would get a different list, and hers may well include some things that are not part of my experience; things like the waste of thousands of their dollars in collection plates, thousands of hours wasted in church, Sunday school, helping out with church benefits, etc., and the hypocrisy they encountered in their congregations. And, likely, their anger includes a frustration with themselves for not seeing that it was all based on a lie. They know now that it’s extraordinarily unlikely that a man died 2,000 years ago, and then got up several days later and walked away (they no longer believe in zombies). The “evidence” couldn’t be any weaker. That they believed it just because the story was written in the Gospels (and nowhere else), in a superstitious, pre-scientific age, now seems almost unbelievable to them.
Now there are some atheists who say they don’t get angry, and that appears to be true. And that is their business. But, for myself, I believe the anger most of us feel is absolutely necessary to achieving positive change in the god-saturated world we live in. Anger is a great motivator. Anger gets things done. Without anger there would have been no American independence, no end to slavery, no women’s voting rights, no civil rights for blacks, no broad acceptance of gays, and this is obviously just the short list. Passive people don’t fight for change.
Atheists are fully justified in their anger, and that anger may be the last, best hope for our species surviving our own ignorance and gullibility. If religious forces ever manage to quell our anger, then they will have won the battle . . . and lost the world.