Why are atheists so angry?

Why are atheists so angry?
Atheist Answer: 

I hear this question all the time. In fact, my Rambo-Kitty avatar is partially inspired by the question. Anyway, 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.

Rational Response Squad
My article on this was originally posted here.

Is Hemant Mehta really an atheist?

I would just like to see your comments on that book "I Sold My Soul on eBay" by Hemant Mehta. I was suprise that Christians promote this book, even though it was written by an atheistr. Hmmmmm...I smell something fishsy about this (well...what can I do? I'm too sceptical to trust Christians) Do you think, Mr. Mehta is becoming an atheist "guinie pig" for Chriostians who want to "witness" an atheist?
Atheist Answer: 

Question reposted from RRS forums visit the thread for side discussion about the intent of the Christians who Hemant is working with.

Response from Brian Sapient

I consider Hemant Mehta a friend, he is the real deal. Hemant takes a tact I feel I wish I could take, a tact I used to take before I realized someone needs to shake people up a bit. His interaction with theists are similar to mine with my closest family members who are theist. He is a good guy with a good "soul" which happens to be gone now as he sold it to a Christian. With that said Hemant has been succesful with a peaceful, gentle, and kind approach. We can't all be assholes or we wont make as big of an impact as we can or should be able to. I've joked with him that I have a pill of truth that I shove down the throat of the theist when they aren't looking and he has a glass of water that he politely hands to them so they can swallow it. He also can appreciate our role, the role of RRS and supports us as much as you could expect him to. Furthermore the SSA is a group he helps manage, a group that helps unite students on campuses with other freethinkers. The leadership of SSA much like Hemant is highly friendly and pleasant, and they are always willing to work with us so we can support each other. Recently I opened up with a personal story to a special email list of 30 atheists leaders, August Brunsman head of the SSA and Margaret Downey were the only ones to reach out to me and express their feelings about what I had expressed.

You should support Hemant, he supports us, and try to find the perfect balance of who you want to be between the two groups. Are you more stridents? Are you more peaceful in your approach? I say peaceful as he doesn't consider himself passive, however I consider myself peaceful as well. I think we can tell there is obviously some difference, and you can affix whatever word you want to it. The approx $600 he raised for his soul went to the SSA. The deal was that he would go to church for every $10 raised, and the man who won didn't hold him to such a high number. Hemant wrote about his journey and while he speaks about positive things he sees within the church he never once fell into a "god is real" position. He's polite, but he's not a sell-out. His book was a wise project, a project I support. I don't normally do this but considering that you are a skeptic, here is a free copy of his appearance on our show along with a link to purchase his book, in which 6% of the purchase price goes to RRS.

Show 57 Hemant Mehta "The Friendly Atheist"
His new book "How I sold my soul on Ebay" is out in April of '07, he discusses the book with us and some of his activist experiences including his work with The Secular Student Alliance. Medium Quality (download the show here)

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