On various discussion threads on AN, you can often find questions or statements about atheist attitudes towards various subjects, as if there is an atheist position on gay rights, climate change, or politics. I've found that that just isn't so.

People always try to pigeonhole other people (and to an extent themselves as well) into specific categories, but the truth is that atheists come from all walks of life, and have different backgrounds and outlooks. Atheists can't be easily catagorized. That fact is what makes social networking sites so informative at times. (I for one have learned a lot from other AN members.)

However, one thing that I have noticed again and again is there is an ongoing debate as to whether or not atheists should or should not be angry at religious people (or at each other). Some people think it is too aggressive or counterproductive to be angry, while others think that is is justified and acceptable.

But my questions are: Do we have to choose one or the other? If people feel anger, aren't they entitled to their feelings, and shouldn't they be allowed to express them? If others aren't angry, why do some people try to encourage them to get angry? What purpose can be served by that?

Personally, I am often angry at many people, especially the religious. But not always. Sometimes I am sad, or excitable, or irritable, or impatient, or patient, or forlorn, or giddy. Shouldn't that be okay? And why do I have to choose one perpetual state in which to be, as if perpetuity is the only mark of sincerity or validity?

What are your opinions and experiences in dealing with personal anger, anger from religious people, or anger from atheists?

Is anger ever a persuasive argument? Is it effective or ineffective?

Can anger be a catalyst for change?

Tags: anger, atheism, debates, discussion, politics, religion

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You've answered your own question.
Sydni I agree, when confronted with such things I feel it is immoral and self defeating to not get angry and speak out, or take action as the situation dictates. You and Felch I think are both correct when it comes to controlling rage, or just not loosing our tempers. That is when the debate goes out the window.


ps: Which means I'm going to have to respond to the Fathers Day Neandertal piece from the N.Y. times. I put it off because I didn't wish to loose my temper.
Well, perhaps the dark ages were an inevitable period in man's evolution. Kind of like being a teen is inevitable.

(This is off topic a little, but I also hate that so much of history and art was destroyed by invaders and missionaries. Xtians burned a lot of the Mesoamerican codices and artwork, which I think is a real shame. I find Mayan, Incan, Aztec, Toltec, and Zapotec history to be very interesting. Did you see the recent Nova special on breaking the Mayan heiroglyphs? Does that stuff interest you?)
The better to write their own version of history.
Oh so true, SGecko. Just like when they burn books, or when China imprisons dissenters.
Two thousand (or more) year old practises still being carried out today. Yeah , gets your blood up a bit!
Yep.

My father did it. His father before him, and his father before him, and his father before him, and his father before him....so it must be right.

It never occurs to them that it might not be a good idea that got passed down. But good and bad ideas both pass down through the ages.

Kind of like Dawkins brought up in The God Delusion: genes and memes only want to replicate themselves. They don't care if they are good or bad or useful or useless, they just want to replicate. That is their goal.

If only people understood this better.
Interesting topic to bring up, thanks Dallas.

Felch beat me to posting the difference between anger and rage. Anger certainly has its place in discussion, rage however, is only needed when its fight or flight time. ( I wish I could recall the article that mention anger elevated our senses in do or die situations)

As for rights, I have to go with George Carlin, " We don't have rights people, all we have are privileges, if we had rights, no one could take them away."

Even the "golden rule" is arbitrary, but that is not to say that almost all humans are prevented from doing so because of "evolutionary inhibitors". Of course, having society say it will jail and/or execute you for killing another human probably helps curve it as well.

I would not use anger in my opening defense or rebuttal, wait, in some circumstances, I suppose I would.There are rare occasions, at least for me, when anger is the only way to get someones attention.
It would be enjoyable to only have to partake in civil discourse, but knowing our species, you can never underestimate the ignorant and arrogant.
I think anger can be a catalyst for change. I also think mockery, humor, patience, facts, reason, logic, etc. can be catalysts. It depends on the person I'm dealing with, how receptive they are to my viewpoint, and how much they've pissed me off. I definitely have an axe to grind in terms of religious doctrine, the brainwashing, and the rampant child abuse that occurs in religious homes. But I also have theist friends and relatives. One of my non-theist friends (doesn't want to call herself atheist) says, "It seems like you've been an atheist, you're always bible-bashing." I don't think she understood that my anger IS justified (trust me, they screwed me up) and that it matters what people believe. I'm not a live and let live atheist - I want people to abandon their faith, kill their god, and become more moral and less callous to earthly human suffering.

But most days I'm more happy than angry, because I don't spend my entire day having religious debates (although they are fun!) I spend most of my day playing with my kid.
I respectfully disagree that anger and rage are two different things. Rather, rage is a degree of anger. Annoyance is at the other end of the scale.

A problem with trusting the anger that one feels to be a guide for action is the fact that it sometimes arises not in response to a real threat or offense but from a misperception. This is even more so the case in individuals that find "angry" to be their default mode. Example: The theist that hates God for all that is wrong in his life. Is his anger justified? Is it useful? Not at all. The object of his hatred does not exist. Example: The theist that's filled with righteous indignation when he sees others transgressing the laws of his deity. Is his anger justified? Is it useful? Not at all. The author of his anger does not exist.

We can't always trust our anger.
...rage is a degree of anger. Annoyance is at the other end of the scale.

That's a good way to look at it, now that you mention it. Perhaps it is just a matter of degree. Like you can be content happy and giddy happy.

...that it sometimes arises not in response to a real threat or offense but from a misperception.

Very well said. I think that that is one of the biggest problems in politics and political posturing, which I think is more true coming from conservatives who claim liberals hate America, blame America first for everything, and want to tax business out of existence, etc., which creates a lot of anger and resistance for something that is completely not true.

Same is said about atheists: they're baby killers and pornographers, etc., take your pick.
I agree 100% with what you've expressed above, Dannyisme. Even the part about the sugar in the coffee. :)

As for the mention you made of frustration, I see that as a more constructive approach and one less likely to inflict damage- internally or externally. Hurt, disappointment and frustration- all healthy psychological responses to not getting our needs met- can lead to anger if the causes for these feelings aren't examined and dealt with.

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