New on Ebon Musings: Turning Away Anger

Now that Ebon Musings is up and running at its new host, it’s past time for a new article, and by an amazing coincidence, I’ve just posted one there. The essay’s title is “Turning Away Anger“, and it deals with the stereotype that atheists are intrinsically angry people.

This is an open thread. Comments and discussion are welcome.

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • Aerik

    What the hell, man. Every time I go to your ebonmusings.org links in the last day and a half, I “can’t find the server at http://www.ebonmusings.org.” Yet I was there less than 3 days ago, and I bookmarked a wad of tabs, so I can open every one of their Foundational Essays at once. I read them just 2 nights ago.

    How come from the minute you announced they are back online, I suddenly can’t connect?

    PS: Does that “I am a spammer” thing really work to prevent spam?

  • Alex Weaver

    The Des Moines Register link seems to be broken.

    Also, are there any more articles like these that you have lying around, Adam? Especially citable examples of more widespread and less extreme prejudice against atheists; I have a specific dormant argument I want to reinforce. When I brought up the Chuck Smallowski case (which would have made another great example, incidentally) on a discussion board, most of the other participants downplayed it as an aberration, claiming that there isn’t a general climate of hatred or discrimination against atheists in America. I’m quite certain this is sheer ignorance rather than deliberate obfuscation, but I suspect that if I’m going to get through to them I’m going to have to be quite thorough, and one point I want to make is that the extent of discrimination and persecution directed at atheists extends far beyond these extreme examples, much as the extent of racism in America extends beyond the Ku Klux Klan. One good metaphor, for future reference, is that prejudice against atheists of the sort analogous to the racial prejudice implicit in Crayola’s selection of the label “flesh” for the crayon now labeled “peach” is both extremely widespread and easy to overlook.

  • Aerik

    Yet I still sometimes see a kid using an “Indian Red” Crayola crayon.

  • http://dark-sided.blogspot.com Dark Sided

    Stereotypes are powerful weapons in the culture war. Between “God Warrior” Margaret from Trading Spouses, Jim “God Hates Fags” Phelps, and that dumbass who committed an act of domestic terrorism agaisnt a womens’ health clinic that didn’t even perform abortions, I’d rather be mistaken for angry than stupid any day.

    Except, now that I think about, all three of those examples involve extremely angry people!

    THE RISE OF THE ANGRY CHRISTIANS! THEY’RE TIRED OF JUST BEING IN THE MAJORITY! THEY’RE NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE! :)

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    How come from the minute you announced they are back online, I suddenly can’t connect?

    The DNS changes may still be propagating in some parts of the world – your local router may have outdated information in its cache. I’d suggest waiting a day or so, and if you still can’t connect, let me know.

    PS: Does that “I am a spammer” thing really work to prevent spam?

    It seems to cut down on the volume, yes. I have other defenses as well. If it annoys you, you can always register and get to bypass it completely thereafter.

    Especially citable examples of more widespread and less extreme prejudice against atheists; I have a specific dormant argument I want to reinforce. When I brought up the Chuck Smallowski case (which would have made another great example, incidentally) on a discussion board, most of the other participants downplayed it as an aberration, claiming that there isn’t a general climate of hatred or discrimination against atheists in America.

    Hah, are they kidding? I’d recommend two surveys: a Gallup poll that found that less than half of Americans would vote for an atheist for president (less than a gay candidate got), and the March 2006 study by the University of Minnesota (which I’ve written about) that identified atheists as “America’s most distrusted minority”, below Muslims, recent immigrants and gays.

  • Interested Atheist

    Hi, Adam. I’m in China, and I can’t connect to your new website either. Hoping it will clear itself up soon!

    Especially because I’d like to read this article. It might be useful for me. I’ve just started posting on Christian Forums. It’s so easy to get angry at them! Especially when they say stupid (“Well, you know, if I’m wrong I lose nothing, but…”) things. It’s also very tempting to be sarcastic.

    But the best atheists and agnostics I’ve seen on the forums are the ones who keep their cool. When arguing, all they do is point out the logical fallacies again and again. It doesn’t look so much fun, to be honest, but it may be more effective in changing people’s attitudes towards atheists.

  • http://blog.atheology.com Rastaban

    I suspect that the primary reason atheists are considered angry is because of the assonance created by combining the two words (“angry” repeats the first two vowel sounds in “atheist”). “Angry atheists” creates a nice-sounding slur. At the same time it proposes an explanation for atheism which encourages believers to sidestep the troubling questions atheists raise about God’s existence.

    On a related matter, are you familiar with psychological explanations for atheism based on the notion that we atheists had “defective fathers” when we were children? For example, Paul C. Vitz proposes that in “The Psychology of Atheism” where he argues that

    once a child or youth is disappointed in and loses his or her respect for their earthly father, then belief in their heavenly Father becomes impossible. There are, of course, many ways that a father can lose his authority and seriously disappoint a child. Some of these ways-for which clinical evidence is given below-are:

    1. He can be present but obviously weak, cowardly, and unworthy of respect – even if otherwise pleasant or “nice.”
    2. He can be present but physically, sexually, or psychologically abusive.
    3. He can be absent through death or by abandoning or leaving the family.

    Vitz adds that

    it was in reading the biographies of atheists that this hypothesis first struck me

    and goes on to point out a number of prominent atheists who apparently had “defective” fathers: Freud, Marx, Feuerbach, d’Holbach, Nietzche, Russell, Sartre, even Madalyn Murray O’Hair.

    To be fair, I think Vitz goal is simply to counter & neutralize psychological explanations for belief. Nevertheless, the idea of atheism being due to defective fathers has gained some traction among theists. Perhaps it should be addressed along with the “angry atheist” claim.

  • Alex Weaver

    BTW, Adam, about your essays…did the phrase “Into the Clear Air” originate with you (your essay is the first link Google turns up, and one of the only full phrase matches), and do you have any objections for it being used as a title for a hypothetical rock opera/concept album by a hypothetical band?

  • Interested Atheist

    Thinking about it, doesn’t it seem more logical that someone with a defective father would become a theist rather than an atheist? :)

    Also – still can’t get onto the new Ebon Musings website! I am feeling most distressed about it. Could someone kind soul copy it into an email and send it to me at rowankohll@hotmail.com, please?

    Thanks!

  • Aerik

    Yeah, somebody email it to me, too, please! onlyaerik@gmail.com . I still can’t connect. I get

    The connection has timed out

    The server at http://www.ebonmusings.org is taking too long to respond.

    .

  • lpetrich

    And why is God supposed to be a Father and not a Mother? Does it reflect dislike of one’s (human) mother?

    And I note that pagan religions have typically featured female as well as male deities, which makes a bit more sense than a single male god.

  • Alex Weaver

    And why is God supposed to be a Father and not a Mother? Does it reflect dislike of one’s (human) mother?

    My inference has always been that it’s because (insecure) men wrote the books.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    Hmm… The DNS change shouldn’t have taken this long, I think, but maybe some ISPs are slow to update. I’m going to look into this. In the meantime, if anyone still can’t get to Ebon Musings, here‘s a copy of the new article.

    BTW, Adam, about your essays…did the phrase “Into the Clear Air” originate with you (your essay is the first link Google turns up, and one of the only full phrase matches)…

    Yes, it’s original to me, as far as I know. It’s a term that arose in an e-mail conversation I was having with a person who had recently deconverted.

    and do you have any objections for it being used as a title for a hypothetical rock opera/concept album by a hypothetical band?

    Not at all. :)

  • Interested Atheist

    Thanks a lot, Adam. Great read as usual.
    And a lot of worrying stuff in there…

  • http://inthenuts.blogspot.com King Aardvark

    No offense to Christians, but in my experience, Christians seem to have the anger issues, and merely try to repress the anger more. In fact, many of the Christians I know become Christians in large part because the whole faith thing helps them to either “give their anger to God” ie, be no longer angry by transferring it to their imaginary father figure, or repress it so they can get on with their lives.

    Granted, a large percentage of the Christians I know come from one big extended family that has a temper and generally don’t resolve issues very well, so that may skew things a bit.

    I would say that atheists would generally not be as angry. They are more likely to view the world as indifferent and view other people as natural, instinctive beings, kind of like animals. You can’t get mad at a rock, nor can you get mad at a raccoon that eats your garbage; they are just raccoons doing what raccoons do. Likewise with humans, therefore it’s difficult to get very angry. Well, it can still be damned annoying, but it’s harder to take personally.


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