Friday, August 26, 2011

The Ire of Athiests

In a post titled Atheists and Anger, this blogger first lists ~50 things about religion that make her angry. Seems self-serving to vent that much ire and then expect to be taken as anything but justifying when she gets around to explaining why that anger is appropriate. I am not really interested in the list of personal pique, as this seems like your usual list of wrongs cobbled together across all religious activity, whether extreme, contemporary, or not.

What I do want to address is the justification for expressing this anger.

Because anger is always necessary.

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.

First you will notice that the very large majority of her examples are causes meant to secure more rights and equality for some quarter of society. This seems to be common in atheistic apologetics. The agenda forwarded by the most vocal atheists is the express restriction of the rights of their opposition, namely, freedom of speech, access to government, and parental rights. Secondly, whereas their opposition maintains the majority in most cultures within which atheism has the freedom to act, such restriction is the blatant advocacy for oligarchy.

Do you see the stark difference? More rights are progressively ensured in a democracy, but rights are removed in order to create a disparity in favor of a minority in an oligarchy. So such justifications for anger are unwarranted.

I mean, why the hell else would people bother to mobilize social movements? Social movements are hard. They take time, they take energy, they sometimes take serious risk of life and limb, community and career. Nobody would fucking bother if they weren't furious about something.

People "bother" every day without being expressly "furious". Granted, it helps to have a group of like-minded and supportive people to work with, and I surmise it may be the lack of such that angers many atheists. They often express feeling isolated or unaccepted. It may be difficult to separate these social feelings from the issue.

So when you tell an atheist (or for that matter, a woman or a queer or a person of color or whatever) not to be so angry, you are, in essence, telling us to disempower ourselves. You're telling us to lay down one of the single most powerful tools we have at our disposal.

And here I was under the impression that the power of the atheistic argument relied solely upon objective reason. The ironic part is that straying from reason creates for the atheistic cause more harm than benefit, as emotional arguments are perceived as contrary to rational ones.

(emphasis added) I'll acknowledge that anger is a difficult tool in a social movement. A dangerous one even. It can make people act rashly; it can make it harder to think clearly; it can make people treat potential allies as enemies. In the worst-case scenario, it can even lead to violence. Anger is valid, it's valuable, it's necessary... but it can also misfire, and badly.

This is the only rational sentiment I can find in this post, and exactly why anger is counterproductive. Anger easily leads to defensive and exaggerated posturing which tends to make for much more collateral damage. Those agnostics and undecideds who may very well be prime recruits to the cause are not prepared nor interested in fighting such a pitched battle. Anger just is not a number growing strategy.

And you know what else? I think we need to have some goddamn perspective about this anger business. I mean, I look at organized Christianity in this country -- not just the religious right, but some more "moderate" churches as well -- interfering with AIDS prevention efforts, trying to get their theology into the public schools, actively trying to prevent me and Ingrid from getting legally married, and pulling all the other shit I talk about in this piece.

The perspective really needed here is that we live in a democracy where people are free to vote and attempt to form government in agreement with the opinion of the majority. How exactly would an atheist somehow manage to keep any particular opinion of theirs from effecting how they vote? Yet they expect the religious to schizophrenically divorce themselves from their core beliefs. The perspective here is that such unilateral idealizations as "freedom from religion" are simply not compatible with freedom, democracy, or even what one could reasonably hope to expect from any human.

Because the other thing I'm angry about is the fact that, in this piece, I've touched on -- maybe -- a hundredth of everything that angers me about religion. This piece barely scratches the surface.

And that may be a personal problem. Might I suggest anger management?

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