The Discouraging Disregard of The Theist
A Reaction Post
I recently came across this blog post on Twitter titled, “The Encouraging Anger of the Atheist”. Its subject is the apparent anger expressed by atheists engaged in discussions about religion and how that might not be a bad thing (for religious agendas). It starts like this:
Here is a little something that I have always wondered.
When it comes to atheists engaging the question of God (that is, his existence, his providential love, his judgment, and his narrative for our lives from their beginnings to eternity), I have wondered why there is often so much anger? If there is no God, all faith is falsehood, and eternity is simply a covered hole in the ground, then why should the atheist care so much to prove it? Why do some insist on erecting elaborate arguments and systems of thought around some truth if there is no source of truth? Why obsess about it?
Seems like a reasonable question, given the perspective. It’s well written and makes some reasoned points regarding these discussions, but…
The entire blog post contains exactly zero examples of a single atheist’s perspective.
This is what compelled a response. This is my second reactionary post and the last was for the exact same reason. It certainly brings the sincerity of the author into question. “Have you really always wondered that?” It seems entirely irrational to have a genuine curiosity about a group’s perspective and attempt to describe that perspective without so much as asking a member of that group.
Imagine an Attenborough style nature documentary, but with people standing in front of the narrator as he speculates about their thoughts without interacting with them.
Believe it or not, there are atheists that will willingly discuss such things with minimal animosity. While none speaks for all, one is better than none.
Whether it’s about what’s moral or immoral, fair or unfair, good or evil, or something else, it becomes about more than the belief. It would be inaccurate to claim that atheists are innocent at large in this regard as everyone has an agenda. The difference lies in justification and rationalization. The atheist has no claim to divine doctrine, so appeals for their versions of progress are necessarily secular and it follows that they are unsympathetic to religious pretext. When a religious objective infringes upon others, a more acrimonious response can be expected.
There is no doubt that religious discussions get heated. This holds true between religions, within them, and with the nonbeliever. Perusing the hashtag: #ThingsTheGodlySay will provide some balance for the “angry atheist” perspective.
Why? Most reading this are lucky enough to live in a society where people are allowed to believe and/or worship whatever and however they like, so why would one group be concerned about the others?
There’s a very good reason for this: Religion isn’t personal.
A shining example of this in the attempt to ban homosexual marriage. Marriage is a secular institution. One person’s marriage doesn’t infringe upon someone else. Why would anyone want to ban an agreement between consenting adults? The only rationalization for this is religious and it’s not a religion we all share. This infringement is commonly referred to as “pushing one’s religion on others”. Naturally, people who are not members of the corresponding religion would find this unacceptable to say the least. They might even be expected to be angry.
Imagine that your child is enrolled in public school in a country with a secular government. Religious people concerned with the direction of society have started demanding, “Bring prayer back to our schools!” If you’re a Christian in the US, you might not think it a bad idea. If you’re a Christian in Turkey, you’d probably not feel the same way. An atheist parent no more wants a public-school teacher to tell their son that worshipping Jesus will give them a ticket to heaven than a Christian wants one to tell their daughter that she should ignore her studies and focus on pleasing a husband of someone else’s choosing. Anyone who finds themselves in this position just might appear angry.
If you lived in a state where your beliefs or lack thereof were a legal basis to prevent you from holding office, would that make you angry? If a loved one had necessary medical treatment withheld because of the doctor’s beliefs, would that make you angry? How about if an adult suggested that your five-year-old would burn in hell? What if you just wanted to get your hair styled, but you were instead told that you’re an abomination, sick and twisted? What if someone told you all of these things were the will of a god you don’t believe exists? How would a reasonable person feel about these things?
Atheists are generally not trying to prove no gods exist. We’re nearly all aware that it isn’t an achievable goal. No one can prove that Djinns aren’t among us and no one can prove that Jesus isn’t the son of the creator of our universe. Atheists DO contradict religious claims because they’re the basis for oppression.
Without God, why shouldn’t we simply “live for today,” slake our carnal thirsts, and immerse ourselves in hedonistic pleasure? Why don’t we stop asking “the big questions” about life and accept that there simply are no “big answers.” But few—other than the most misanthropic people—are actually doing that.
Atheism doesn’t discourage the seeking of answers. It just rejects the idea that some answers should be taken as fact. Regarding the moral valuations of atheists, it’s discussed in depth here. TL:DR Moral foundations are natural and when it comes to religion as a source, any standard is demonstrably absent.
Perhaps the anger of atheists is rooted in feeling that God has been unfair (or simply inscrutable) to them.
Perhaps if you could wrap your head around the notion that people actually don’t believe your god is real, you wouldn’t make this kind of statement. Wouldn’t a Christian find it laughable and a maybe a little bit irritating that someone sincerely suggested that they were secretly just angry at Zeus?
Next the author moves on to make his point about the fact that the vocal atheist cares.
Elie Wiesel once observed that “the opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. . . . The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference.” To be sure, the angry atheist is not indifferent. She cares enough to argue, to criticize, to detract. She may fume and fuss, curse and spit, but she is invested. And perhaps that investment is the door cracking to conversion.
Did Elie Wiesel feel indifference toward Nazis at Auschwitz? I have my doubts. Was he “invested” as a prisoner there or at Buchenwald? Certainly. A door cracked to conversion? Get real.
We may disagree with our searching brothers and sisters over many matters of faith, but we don’t disagree that it is a conversation worth having.
Then act like it and have one.