Monday, October 11, 2010

I am an Angry Atheist and Happy About it.

When I first started the blog, the first two posts were asking whether I was an angry atheist.  The answer was yes.  I still am angry.  This expressed anger by many atheists, especially the "Gnu Atheists" as they are called, is not changing.  It is being asked if it should.  Should atheists be less angry?

Greta Christina has a fantastic blog post on the subject.  It is quite long, but well worth the read.  It is filled with all sorts of examples as to why atheists are angry.  She sets out to answer the three questions she outlines below.
I want to talk about atheists and anger.
This has been a hard piece to write, and it may be a hard one to read. I'm not going to be as polite and good-tempered as I usually am in this blog; this piece is about anger, and for once I'm going to fucking well let myself be angry.
But I think it's important. One of the most common criticisms lobbed at the newly-vocal atheist community is, "Why do you have to be so angry?" So I want to talk about:
1. Why atheists are angry;
2. Why our anger is valid, valuable, and necessary;
And 3. Why it's completely fucked-up to try to take our anger away from us.
So let's start with why we're angry. Or rather -- because this is my blog and I don't presume to speak for all atheists -- why I'm angry.
I mentioned a blog post from PZ Myers yesterday that talks about why accommodating religion is a bad idea.
I've been told to hush, there are good Christians who support science, and a vocal atheism will scare them away...and I have to ask, you question my support for science education, when you pander to people who you admit will put their superstitions above science if someone says a harsh word about Jesus? 

Yesterday, Jerry Coyne had an op-ed piece in USAToday about how science and religion cannot be friends.
The religious approach to understanding inevitably results in different faiths holding incompatible "truths" about the world. Many Christians believe that if you don't accept Jesus as savior, you'll burn in hell for eternity. Muslims hold the exact opposite: Those who see Jesus as God's son are the ones who will roast. Jews see Jesus as a prophet, but not the messiah. Which belief, if any, is right? Because there's no way to decide, religions have duked it out for centuries, spawning humanity's miserable history of religious warfare and persecution.
Why are atheists angry?  Because we know the truth and not because we were told the "truth," but because we learned it.  We worked at it.  We acknowledged when we were wrong and we learned from it.  When has religion ever learned anything?  It can't, by definition, ever learn, because learning would put you in conflict with belief.  Even by the most basic applications of logic, religion fails in every conceivable way, yet, we continue to battle its ignorance.  That is why I'm angry.

Why is our anger valid, valuable, and necessary?  I'm not sure I can do this answer any better than Cristina does,
Because anger has driven every major movement for social change in this country, and probably in the world. The labor movement, the civil rights movement, the women's suffrage movement, the modern feminist movement, the gay rights movement, the anti-war movement in the Sixties, the anti-war movement today, you name it... all of them have had, as a major driving force, a tremendous amount of anger. Anger over injustice, anger over mistreatment and brutality, anger over helplessness.
You know what other movement has been driven by anger?  The Tea Party movement with a massive push from the dregs of the Moral Majority.  They are every bit as angry at the collapsing walls of their faith as they see their God pushed into smaller and smaller gaps of scientific knowledge.  Everyone has a right to be angry.  How you use it.  How you project it.  How you harness it, can make all the difference in the world.

Christians are angry as the Manhattan Islamic Cultural Center.  They are using that anger as political motivation without regard to the unconstitutionality of their cries.  They project it using fear, hatred, and demagogy.  They are trying to harness it with votes come election day.

So, don't sit there and tell us atheists that we are not allowed to be angry.  We will use it.  We will project it with laser precision, and we will harness it.  Perhaps that is why they don't want to see us angry anymore.

It's not necessarily about being angry either, but being told you shouldn't be angry, especially when you look at all the good things that have come from people becoming angry enough to take action. Then it becomes an issue of how you channel that for good rather than for harmful purposes. 9/11 was the result of Muslim anger. This has hurt their cause. As a result, Christians are angry and seemingly willing to throw away their own religious rights (if they actually understood the issue). This results in more recruitment material for the angry Muslims. This is definitely anger projected in the wrong way. Right now, atheists are just angry, but we take up those battles in school board meetings and courts of law. This is not to say that there aren't a few bad atheist apples out there (such as the guy that took hostages at the Discover Channel building several weeks ago) who project their anger the wrong way. It is a movement that needs to build momentum, how it gets harnessed will be the ultimate test. if you haven't done so, I would encourage you to fully read the linked blogs. They are far better writers than I am.

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