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Activism, Atheism, Christianity, Politics, Religion

Why Are Atheists So Angry?

“Why are all atheists so angry?”

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.


11 thoughts on “Why Are Atheists So Angry?

  1. Wow, Hamby, and I thought your name was long. I got through this post ok, but the others… addressing topics that get me fired up like the meaning of life and morality… I’ll probably read your other posts, but not all in one sitting, and I’ll probably comment on one section at a time.

    As for this post, yes, I think atheists have a right to be angry. Did you see Elizabeth Dole’s campaign ad slamming her opponent for associating with atheists? That ad portrays us as monsters! Can you imagine what would have happened if she had run that ad with blacks in the place of atheists?

    Not only are we marginalized by the dominate culture, but theists wont keep their dogmas to themselves. Evangelical Xians are trying to take over government affairs. They want to base civil laws on their dogma. And when theists base important decisions on fairy tales, they put us all at risk. Damn right our anger is justified.

    Posted by Jackie | October 31, 2008, 2:18 am
  2. Thanks, Jackie.

    I’ve discovered as I’ve delved deeply into several academic fields that some things just take a lot of words to explain. There’s a reason most PhD’s take at least 10-12 years of intense study (counting undergrad degrees).

    Religion is an easy answer to many questions. It offers sound bytes and slogans. Unfortunately, religion, by it’s very definition, is opposed to science. (More on that in another blog.) Science is hard.

    I appreciate your effort to read the longer posts, and I totally understand your desire to read them in smaller bites. Trust me, each of them took more than a few minutes to write.

    Posted by Hambydammit | November 1, 2008, 6:14 pm
  3. I agree with your thoughts on why Rick Warren would perceive atheists as angry all the time…he says things that gets a person to appear defensive and corners them to fight.

    Could you imagine working for a boss that constantly picked apart your work and you were left to always defend yourself over and over and at review time the boss claims you are always “angry” LOL

    I don’t know why but I don’t get as ‘angry’ when I read about women not getting paid the same as men for the same job. Not as angry as I get when reading articles like the debate between Warren and Harris.

    I wonder if this is because the awareness of my atheism is new (I really came to understand it just 7 years ago or so) and being a woman, well I have been aware of this my entire life πŸ™‚

    Posted by Renee | January 17, 2009, 3:58 pm
  4. Anger is a natural human emotion and I suspect it has an evolutionary explanation. The head doctors tell us that anger that cannot be expressed turns inward and damages the person. Depression is commonly thought to be caused by suppressed anger. For example, the women who are treated unequally on the job have to cage their anger or their situation will just get worse. Children who are whipped are another classic example. What is a small child to do if they cannot express their anger at a parent. It is not healthy for anyone to repress natural emotions.

    Posted by Richard Collins | February 1, 2009, 11:40 pm
  5. Of course it’s “natural” to get angry when you are oppressed, suppressed, denied by those around you, and under attack for a position based more in science than logical fallacies.
    One of my bumper stickers that said “I belive in life before death” got taken/ripped off my car, and yes, I was angry. I disagree with all the apocalyptic, anti-female, pro-christian bumper stickers I see, but I respect them and leave them alone. Funny how those who are fundamentalist don’t think apply such christian values in return………………

    Posted by riki | February 2, 2009, 7:32 am
  6. Thanks for directing me to your blog, will read regularly. This is a great post.

    Posted by April | February 8, 2009, 4:27 am
  7. Actually, within my own lifetime, women have gotten it worse because of the nation’s conservative Xtian “Religious RIght.” Access to reliable contraception and abortion is far more difficult to come by today than 20 years ago becuase of “fetal personhood” laws and “conscientious objector” laws that allow pharamacists the right to refuse to sell women birth control because of “freedom of religion” β€” which means that women face being conscripted to childbirth chattel slavery against our will, a violation of our 14th Amendment right.

    Women are STILL not considered as equal citizens in the US by rule of law. In fact, because of “fetal personhood” laws, the rights of fetuses outweigh the rights of already born living, breathing, thinking, and feeling women.

    Congressmen have elliminated access to birth control and abortion for many women across this nation, depriving us of ownership and control over what happens to out bodies. If you think that is “nothing”, I would ask you to read this post here:

    and the commentaries and watch the vid in one of the commentaries and think about the “nothing” women are forced to endure by religious pro-forced birth zealots.

    But women’s suffering because of this “pro-life” agenda is triviliazed because women still aren’t seen as human enough for any harm done to us to matter. In addition to the permanent damage to women’s bodies that childbirth can cause (and often does), pregnancy and childbirth is used as an excuse to keep women poor by cutting welfare and discriminating against women for jobs and benefits that are FAIR. I am a godless radical feminist β€” and I refuse to apologize.

    Posted by Jacqueline S. Homan | December 30, 2009, 8:31 am
  8. Thank you very much for the comment, Jacqueline. I have nothing to add. You’ve stated the situation very clearly.

    Posted by hambydammit | December 30, 2009, 4:11 pm


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