Just How Angry Can One Be At A Literary Creation?

Just How Angry Can One Be At A Literary Creation? January 10, 2011

CNN reported last week about Case Western University research psychologist Julie Exline’s study about anger at God.

If you’re angry at your doctor, your boss, your relative or your spouse, you can probably sit down and have a productive conversation about it. God, on the other hand, is probably not available to chat.

And yet people get angry at God all the time, especially about everyday disappointments, finds a new set of studies in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

It’s not just religious folks, either. People unaffiliated with organized religion, atheists and agnostics also report anger toward God either in the past, or anger focused on a hypothetical image – that is, what they imagined God might be like….

I decided to actually take the survey and see what kind of anger was being elicited from us non-theists.

I answered a whole lot of questions about my beliefs and personality.  I also detected one big problem with the survey.  Once you’ve self-identified as a non-believer, the survey continues to ask questions about God as if he really exists.  It does preface this by telling us to discuss our “anger” toward a hypothetical god or what we imagine a god to be, but the god presented is described as a real being throughout the survey.  This makes the questions confusing.  The survey asks about God in a person-like way, not as a literary creation.

The questions about God’s affect on me personally were easy.  I answered “not at all affected.”  When it posed questions regarding my estimation of God’s “personality,” the questions were trickier.  In answering, I indicated my interpretation of the character’s many negative or contradictory qualities.  I’m confident that strong believers would not see God that way.  Does that make me look like I’m angrier than them and that this is my motivation for rejecting theism?  Anyone who engages with important fiction summons up judgments about the characters.  This is in no way a delusion that such characters are or were real.

If we non-theists have any real anger, it’s directed at the people who cause pain and harm in their gods’ names.


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