“Angry Atheist”: A Stereotype?

“Angry Atheist”: A Stereotype? April 22, 2015

Yes, says Amanda Marcotte:

And I wonder if she would admit the same about evangelicals and fundamentalists and political conservatives?

The fact is, shrill voices find a way to be heard.  And public voices who are shrill become the well-known voice of the atheist, not least Christopher Hitchens or Sam Harris.

The stereotype of the angry atheist, much like the stereotype of the angry feminist, is widespread, used by believers to stigmatize and discredit atheists. The eagerness to discredit atheists makes sense, as many of the faithful fear that arguments against the existence of the supernatural are too persuasive and so want to discourage even listening to atheists in the first place. But it’s always seemed weird to me that calling someone “angry” is supposed to be such a slam dunk insult, suggesting, as it does, that complacency is some kind of virtue.

Not that this is a new observation, of course. Greta Christina, in a post she later developed into the book, Why Are You Atheists So Angry, explained that anger in the face of injustices wrought by religion is the appropriate response. “Because anger has driven every major movement for social change in this country, and probably in the world,” she wrote. Without anger, you have complacency, which allows injustice to continue.

Atheists are well within their rights to be angry, but new research shows that the image of the forever-raging atheist is a stereotype concocted by believers, and not upheld by any real-world evidence. A recent paper published in the Journal of Psychology details how researchers reviewed seven different studies about atheists and anger. The studies showed that believers generally claim that atheists are angry. The study’s finding that believers frequently call atheists “angry” is easy to see in the real world. The world of religious media is full of examples of believers accusing atheists of being “angry.” Believers in social media love to lob that accusation, too, sharing endless memes and cartoons portraying atheists as spittle-flecked rage machines.

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