From Angry Atheist to Happy Humanist: How to Stop Hating on Religion and Start Celebrating Secularism

I deconverted from Protestant Christianity over 5 years ago, right after I began my freshman year in college. It was, I suppose, a fairly typical and drama-free deconversion: I progressed out of the fundamentalism of my childhood, becoming more and more concerned with the verity of my worldview all throughout high school, only to then be exposed to a diversity of new ideas and information in college. I participated in a fairly moderate, non-denominational Christian congregation for the beginning of my freshman year, until eventually coming to the conclusion at my dorm one night, under the stars, that I was, indeed, an atheist.

angry-atheistThe first 3 years of being “religion-free” went by for me with a certain level of ambivalence for all things spiritual. However, in more recent years, I have noticed a less tolerant trend in my attitudes and approach to religion. For a while, whenever I encountered religion or a religious person, I would become frustrated and discouraged, and my mood would be immediately dampened. “Religion in all its forms is backwards, outdated, and just plain wrong,” I would silently say to myself. “Why is it that a majority of people in my culture believe in an anthropomorphized, invisible deity in the sky, when there is so much real beauty, majesty, and wonder in the universe surrounding us?”

This article is not going to attempt to answer that question. Instead, it will focus not just on denouncing the religiosity around us, but on what we freethinking, godless, and sometimes angry atheists can do to better represent ourselves and our worldview, while being empathetic and diplomatic towards believers. I am confident, given global trends towards secularism, plus the truth value of atheism, plus time, that religion will continue to diminish as a cultural force, until it no longer holds the level of normative sway that it currently enjoys in most parts of the world. Below is a list of things to remember that might help atheists and secularists be less angry at religion until then, while also being able to communicate with those who are still very much invested in religious worldviews.

1. Religion doesn’t directly threaten me or mine.

It is easy to bemoan religion as a stumbling block to progress and a harbinger of antiquated ideologies. Religion doesn’t have the best track record in terms of free thought and supporting paradigm-shifting innovation, and it is natural to feel threatened (perhaps rightly so) when fundamentalists impose their bias on the classroom, the marriage certificate, or any number of other familiar spaces. However, be sure to step back on occasion and consider whether the religion in your culture directly threatens you in a tangible way. What effects does your culture’s dominant religion actually have on you as a nonbeliever? How is your life actually negatively impacted by the religiosity of others?

Don't CareFor me, when I have considered these and other questions, I have realized very quickly that the answer is that there are very few direct effects that religion has on my daily life (even if it can cause broader problems in my government and culture). The only effect that it has had on me is that I let it anger, annoy, or threaten me. Instead, whenever I feel threatened by religion in my daily life, I pause and consider what the roots of these threatened feelings are. It is frequently the case that my threatened feelings reflect more on my own frustrations about the kind of secular world that we could live in, and the disconnect between this possible world and the religiously normative world of today, rather than religion necessarily being a direct and immediate threat in my life.

That said, I must make a privilege disclaimer: I am writing this as a white, straight, cis, American person. In many ways, but especially in terms of religious freedom, I am extremely privileged. I realize that, for those belonging to certain sexual or racial minorities, religion might be more of a daily threat. I also realize that, as an American, I do not face any blowback for freely expressing non-normative, atheistic thoughts. I realize that there are certain countries where someone like me could be severely punished for writing a blog like this. While this point might be helpful for others who are similarly privileged, please do not take my words as attempting to discount the number of people all over the world who are directly harmed everyday by religion. However, if you do not live in those portions of the world, and if religion isn’t a major threat to your everyday life, consider stepping back, taking a breath, and learning not to become so frustrated or discouraged by it.

2. Religion is, for the most part, a minor annoyance in my daily life.

flyerThese days, after moving to a very progressive region (SoCal) and travelling in slightly more secular social circles, I encounter religion about once or twice a day. Usually it is passive: a sign along the road on my morning commute, a religiously-normative or assumptive statement from a colleague, a flyer from a church or preacher on my car window, or a news story on the radio. Sometimes it is active: I am confronted by an evangelist on the street, or by a believing friend or family member about why I don’t go to church any more.

Regardless of whether it is an active or passive encounter, such interactions can leave me feeling down because they remind me that, in terms of religious belief, I and other freethinkers are still the odd ones out. However, as in the point above, it becomes important for me to step back and to remember that, of all the annoyances I encounter on a daily basis, those stemming from religion are actually a very small, very insignificant percentage (LA traffic is a much larger annoyance and inconvenience in my daily life, for example). It is up to me as a secularist to brush off these encounters and to not let them get under my skin.

3. Individual religiosity is already becoming less normative.

It is no secret that religion, on the whole, is becoming a less and less important part of people’s lives than ever before. Polls from around the world — for example, this one about trends in North America, this one about trends in South America, and this one about trends globally — show that religious affiliation is actively decreasing, while apathy towards religion and sympathy towards atheism or agnosticism is actively increasing. Religious leaders decry the rise of these non-affiliated ‘nones’, and, noting this trend especially among the young, try to find ways to increase church membership and participation.

church-for-saleBut the truth is simply that, for a variety of reasons, religion is becoming less important to people now than ever before. While many readers will live in states and countries that are religiously normative and that have a dominant religion practiced by the majority of the population, what polls like those listed above show is that, for individuals (and especially for the “under 30” crowd) religion holds diminished influence on their lives. For me, these and similar statistics are very encouraging, and sometimes I imagine they mean that, by the time I am older, I will live on a more secular globe. Though religion still holds strong in a majority of communities, these polls show the diminishing normativity of religion over time. So don’t be mad… this is actually a pretty great time to be an atheist!

For more reasons on why I think atheism will eventually win out over religion, please check out my blog “5 Reasons Secular Humanism Is Winning.”

4. Ignoring religion will make my life easier.

Life Without ReligionSometimes it is crucially important to challenge someone’s religiously-motivated assertion (consider this street preacher from my alma mater, who I think did deserve people serving back his rhetoric), just as sometimes it is important to challenge non-religious assertions that are hurtful or wrong. However, if you feel the need to challenge every “Jesus loves you” or “God bless,” you are probably working yourself up over nothing. Where it is reasonable, consider letting others have their say without needing to have the last word in regards to religion. Doing otherwise and trumping up your own atheism will only cost you time and may only serve to hurt the feelings of your religious counterpart. How is that helping anyone? I have found that a nod and a smile in response to minor expressions of religion is oftentimes the better “high road” to take — and it certainly makes my life easier to take it!

As a note, however, I do think that it is appropriate to be frank when believers say things like “I’ll pray for you.” Such statements are not always condescending or ill-intended. But they are self-serving to the religious believer, or are at least designed to reinforce their religious beliefs. For my own part, when I am confronted by a believer who says that he or she will pray for me, I remind them that prayer is something that, for variety of possible reasons, helps them. It does not help me and it is not relevant to my life. I think it is fair, when a religious believer actively says that they will pray to change your mind, that you should let them know that your mind is your own, regardless of what they pray for.

5. Religious people often don’t choose to be believers.

Until my deconversion, I was a fairly fundamentalist Protestant who put a lot of identity stock in the teachings of the church and the Bible. Until I was 18, I was that obnoxious Christian railing against gay rights, professing my confidence in the foolishness of evolution, reciting verses by heart, and literally watching the clouds waiting for the second coming of Jesus. But that was never the person I chose to be; it was the person I was raised to be by fairly fundamentalist Protestant parents.

Screenshot 2015-03-29 at 5.53.20 PMOne thing that is very important for atheists to remember when interacting with our religious counterparts is that many of them — perhaps the majority of them — didn’t choose to be religious. Rather, it is very likely that the religion they presently practice is the one that they were indoctrinated into as children, and that, for one reason or perhaps for many reasons, they have continued practicing in their adult lives. If you were raised in a normatively-religious culture, brought up by believing guardians and role models, and instructed in a school where the normative religion is given some privilege, then your chances of adhering to that religion into adulthood are fairly high. Many of those you meet who are strongly religious likely never chose their religion consciously but were raised in it as children (note that if you know people who consciously converted to a religious practice later in life, then this point obviously does not apply to them). For more on religious indocrination and how it involuntarily affects our lives, see Darrel Ray’s The God Virus: How Religion Infects Our Lives and Culture.

This story of being raised in religion until finally breaking from it later in life is my story, and, if your are an atheist or agnostic reader of this blog, it is likely your story as well. For me, choosing to accept the fact that I am an atheist was one of the scariest and most freeing things I have ever done. Maybe it was for you, too. If that is the case, I’d encourage you, whenever you feel angry about the levels of religiosity in your culture, to instead celebrate yourself and your own journey from religion to secularism. Celebrate the fact that you have had the opportunity, the freedom, and the courage to admit to yourself a truth about your worldview. Be proud of the fact that you have overcome one of the most common comformities of the human species.

And above all, never become angry with someone who is still religious. Maybe they are like my younger self, still religious but moments away from breaking free. Maybe they are religious for reasons that are deeply personal or familial. Most of them probably did not choose to be a part of their religion, but were rather brought up in it, and even for those who did choose, it is still best to be empathetic and diplomatic when explaining your disagreements. For each of these groups, anger is never the correct response; replace it with a compassion for your fellow human and a celebratory self-confidence in your own secularism. Perhaps instead of pushing them away with anger, they will remember you as a friendly ear and a reasonable person when having doubts of their own.

6. I know that the atheist view is more correct.

One of my biggest pet peeves is when, after hearing that I am an atheist, people say something along the lines of “Don’t you mean agnostic?” or “But how can you really know there is no God?”

First off, don’t ever let a religious person or an apologist (or even an agnostic who insists that true atheism is impossible) tell you what you believe. Many (not all) will try to shoehorn you with weaker representations of your views and false dilemmas that they have prepackaged slogans to refute (see, for example, the C.S. Lewis’ style of straw manning atheism). Instead, be firm and prepared to clearly articulate what you yourself actually believe.

For me personally, I keep a list of philosophical resources handy to introduce people to the strongest and best articulated philosophical defense of my atheism. I refer people to professional philosopher of religion Graham Oppy, for example, who has written a comprehensive case for strong atheism and the rejection of theism in The Best Argument Against God, and who has compiled a whole resource for countering nearly every theistic argument throughout history in Arguing About Gods. I also keep a resource handy that clearly defines what my atheism philosophically is, in particular Κέλσος article “Defining Theism, Atheism, Supernaturalism, and Naturalism,” Likewise, I point out that 70% of professional philosophers with a PhD are atheists; not agnostics, atheists. If atheism allegedly can’t be proven, or at least rendered highly probable, the majority of trained philosophers have not come to any such conclusion.

The idea that you shouldn’t call yourself an atheist since you cannot definitely “know” that there is no God is, frankly, malarkey. When people make these statements, it feels like they are attempting to undermine a foundational pillar of the atheist’s worldview, especially when this is a misrepresentation, since atheism can also simply mean the lack of belief in God, or that the existence of God is improbable enough to render a confident negative verdict. For me, this sort of generalized approach to atheists — that no one can really be an atheist because no one really, definitively knows that God doesn’t exist — allows those around me to feel they can safely disregard my worldview as incomplete or unfounded. Claiming that true atheism is impossible is often used as a way to illegitimize my worldview and to try to give me less of a leg to stand on in the marketplace of ideas. Which, in turn, can make me one angry atheist.

If you are an atheist, and it also angers you when people dismiss the possibility of atheism, then, instead of getting mad, try what has worked for me. Simply remember, when anyone challenges the legitimacy of your atheistic views, that you know at least that your atheism is more correct than any version of religious practice. Atheistic conclusions are supported by a litany of research in a variety of fields (the majority of philosophers and scientists, for example); religious conclusions are supported only by the religious system from whence they originated. As an God Not Foundatheist and a secularist, you can be confident that your stance that there is no God is at least more correct than the religious stance that there is one.

So don’t be angry when someone attempts to discount your atheism; instead, rest assured in the knowledge that you are living with the worldview that, for all intents and purposes, is aligned more closely to the truth of reality than any religious worldview ever has been.

7. It’s none of my business.

I know you all were waiting for this one. What is the absolute best way to not be an angry atheist? Remember that is is really none of your business whether an individual chooses to be religious or not (at least when they are not trying to legislate their beliefs upon you through the government).

This is a hard one for me. I base my system of morality in large part on the “harm principle”; essentially, that things causing harm to human beings are bad, and things that do not cause harm or that work to diminish harm are morally neutral or good, respectively. Per this morality, I view religion as a good thing in the short-term (religion can inspire great medical outreach, artwork, and compassion) but a bad thing in the long-term (religion can pull society away from reality, can limit individual freedoms, and ultimately must suppress free thought over time to perpetuate itself).

kermitHowever, instead of getting mad about the long-term damage that I think religion is doing to my culture, I need to remember that it really isn’t my business if those around me choose to be religious. At the end of the day, what I really want for myself and my species is not freedom from religion, but freedom from bad systems that try to limit human thought or experience. If I put my nose too far into my neighbor’s business, I risk perpetuating the very systems (like religion) that I claim to be against.

Conclusion:

The above list documents some of the ways I have found to reduce anger at religion in my atheistic worldview and to replace that with a celebration and appreciation for my secularism. This list is far from exhaustive; what are some items you would add to it?

To wrap things up, I’d like to touch briefly on something I learned as a young Protestant that has stuck with me all this time. There was a notion in my church that, as Christians, one should always be sure to “love the sinner, hate the sin” when interacting with non-believers or others who had fallen into transgression (for the record, this maxim is not found in the Bible, and was actually a teaching of Gandhi). That is, the idea was that you could honor, respect, and lend support to a non-believing person (i.e., “the sinner”) without honoring, respecting, or supporting their sinful, despicable behavior (i.e., “the sin”).

Gandhi

I’d like to encourage my fellow atheists, especially those who tend to bristle after brushes with religion, to adopt this mentality. If, as atheists, we can learn to be less annoyed by day-to-day encounters with religion, and can remember to view our religious counterparts more holistically — if we can learn to “love the believer, hate the beliefs” — not only will we begin to replace the stereotype of the angry atheist with that of the happy humanist, but we will also be able to reach out to people on the other side, and to help assist our world and communities in the transition from normative religiosity to secularism.

Onward and upward,

Francis Adams

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18 thoughts on “From Angry Atheist to Happy Humanist: How to Stop Hating on Religion and Start Celebrating Secularism

  1. Reblogged this on Κέλσος and commented:

    This article was just posted on Civitas Humana, the sister-blog to Κέλσος; however, I have decided to share it here as well, since the points made in the article reflect the attitude and approach to discussing atheism/secularism/humanism that I likewise seek to promote here on Κέλσος.

  2. A good read. How do you feel about people who label themselves “agnostic atheist” as I label myself? I’ve never crossed the line where I claim that some sort of godlike being is impossible, but I’m quite comfortable emphatically stating that every religion I’ve ever encountered is wrong.

    • Hi Stan, Thanks for your comment! I think that it is wonderful for people to explore a variety of ways of expressing secular views. Some choose to be more hard-line atheists, while others (like many agnostics) take a perhaps more graceful route in not being religious, but also not taking the same rigid metaphysical stance. I think identifying as an agnostic atheist is great, especially since it moves the focus on to the social and cultural aspects of religion; that is, you are able to make your approach more about disavowing the immediate impacts of religion rather than necessarily about the abstract discussion of whether or not there is a god.
      Thanks for reading!

    • Hi Stan,

      Rather than view atheism vs. theism on a one-dimensional grid, where agnosticism is somewhere in the center, I actually like to view these different terms on a two-dimensional grid. On one axis there is atheism vs. theism, and on another there is agnosticism vs. gnosticism. The following link has a chart that explains this idea pretty well:

      http://www.noforbiddenquestions.com/2010/10/defining-agnosticism/

      When you say that you are an agnostic atheist, what I understand is that you do not believe that God exists, but are also not certain that God does not exist. Also note that one can be an agnostic theist from this perspective, and believe that God exists, but not be certain that God exists.

      For my own part, I consider myself to be a gnostic athiest, but I am not at equal points on each axis. On the atheist vs. theist axis, I am pretty far towards the atheist end. On the agnostic vs. gnostic axis, I only lean a marginal amount in the gnostic direction. This is because I think that we at least have a number of good inferences to render the existence of God improbable, even if I am not 100% certain that he/she/it does not exist. But since I am more than 50% certain by a substantial degree, I do not consider myself to be agnostic.

      • I’m familiar with the two-dimensional view. I think it’s unlikely that someone would consider themselves agnostic-atheist or gnostic-atheist without being exposed to it. As far as the gnostic/agnostic axis, I tend to fall in the camp that claims the question is unanswerable. I don’t believe in the theistic view of a personal god, but to me a deistic universe would be indistinguishable from a purely natural one. Then again, a deistic god makes no demands on people so it wouldn’t matter if you believed or how you lived.

        I have read some of the arguments which say the question of the existence of a god is answerable. I really need to sit down and absorb them before I consider whether I would reconsider how I label myself. I think even if I switched to a strong atheistic point of view, it would have little effect on my life.

  3. “Religion doesn’t directly threaten me or mine.”
    Depends were you live. My taxpayer money is used legally and illegally to promote religious ideas and organisations which do hurt the community where I live. And if I would come out as an openly atheist my business and income would take a big hit. But this clearly does not concern you.

    “Ignoring religion will make my life easier”
    Ignoring religion protected paedophilia, money laundering, anti-science fight on all levels, Pope’s condom/AIDS denialism, genital mutilation, religious courts, LGBT/female/atheist/minority discrimination, religious laws imposed to all of us, pro-religious tax laws, ongoing religious wars our tax money goes into etc. makes your life easier. Some of us want a better place not easier place.

    “It’s none of my business.”
    Anger is good. It drives the change. You need to be annoyed about a social problem before you commit to get the change done. Remember King, Gandhi, Wilberforce, Anthony – they made it their business.

    ““harm principle”… I view religion as a good thing in the short-term (religion can inspire great medical outreach, artwork, and compassion)”
    How mnay kids can be raped and paedophiles sent to country clubs/other parishes/placed in diplomatic immunity to offset “medical outreach”?
    How many forced genital mutilation to offset “artwork”?
    how many kids deaths at faith healers instead of going to real doctors to offset “compassion”?

    “love the believer, hate the beliefs”
    – don’t hate beliefs, understand it –
    After being in the atheist and humanist “movements” for 10 years there are very few angry atheist. Almost all of millions of us are positive and happy people. Don’t buy into religious propaganda of “stereotype of the angry atheist” or “fool said in his heart…” Don’t propagate it. But we do need more angry atheists willing work for a better future.

    Get out of indifference and change the world for a better place. You owe it to yourself.

    • Hi Jon,

      Firstly, in response to my point that I try not to be angry at religion because it doesn’t actually harm me, you mention how your life, and the lives of many others are negatively impacted by religion. I am deeply sorry that you have been impacted in the ways you describe; I cannot imagine how frustrating that must be. But I do have a privilege disclaimer in the article; I do know that I have it especially well. In fact, that I have it especially well is one of the reasons I try not to be too angry about religion I encounter in my daily life; I know that others have it way, way worse than I.

      Regarding your second statement, maybe “ignore” is the wrong term to use, but what is really meant is not over-reacting to religion when it is not a direct and immediate threat to your life. Especially when are more constructive ways of countering religion, besides anger.

      I also agree with the point about anger being a motivator for change, and that has made me realize a very important component that was left out of this article: anger IS a powerful tool oftentimes! Part of the point of this article was that anger is just not always the best recourse, not that we should abandon it entirely.

      In all, after reading your comments, I can appreciate many of your concerns, but I am disheartened by your tone (contrary to the statement that certain tragic events “clearly does not concern you,” I am concerned and still trying to learn how I can be a positive agent of change in my community). We here at Civ are not trying to dictate our ideas to the masses; we are merely trying to add new elements to this hugely-important discussion on emergent mainstream secularism. Comments can help us get better at articulating these new angles, but only when they are polite and when you can be patient enough to wait for a response. Hopefully, though you had several problems with this post, you did get some value from it.

      If not, however, I would appreciate it if you would tone down your acerbic tone, if you wish to continue this dialogue.

  4. “Your comment is awaiting moderation.”

    I see that my comment where I disagreed with the article did not bet published. It looks like only comments that agree with the article or compliments the author get published here.

    If you don’t publish my comments you probably don’t publish any other critical or interesting comments, and it make this blog less interesting; A boring echo chamber for ideas not open for public scrutiny.

    Well… your blog, your rules. Unsubscribing civitashumana and adversusapologetica feeds now.

    Good Luck!
    Jon

    • Whoa, sorry bro. By informal policy, we usually don’t publish comments that require a response until we have a chance to respond. Prioritizing that now since you seem in a rush.

    • Jon,

      Feel free to unsubscribe from both blogs if you are going to behave like this. The fact is that if you can’t even wait a 24 hour period before posting a comment like this, the odds are that neither Adams nor I will probably have the time (or the patience, for that matter) to deal with you.

      Both of us have to deal with LA traffic on a daily basis. Adams has to commute from Long Beach not only to UCLA (on a horrible stretch of the 405N), but also to Pasadena to work for NASA JPL. Yesterday, I had to get up at 4am to make a commute to Santa Barbara. I considered responding to your comment when I was staying in a Motel 6 up there, but the fact was that I was very tired and had other work to do. I have just driven back down to Long Beach and this is the earliest reasonable time that I have had to respond to your comment. I should also note that my apartment is a mess and I haven’t even had a chance to shower today. And yet I am taking the time to respond to your comment. You’re welcome!

      I should also note that both Civ and Κέλσος allow multiple comments from people who disagree with their articles, from both atheists and religious believers alike (see here, here, here, here, and here). The fact that we have even approved this comment of yours, despite its rude tone, refutes the very point you are trying to make in the comment that we allegedly don’t approve critical comments. Most people can be patient enough to at least wait a couple days before behaving like this.

      Now to the points of criticism that you raise:

      Frankly, I think that you have ignored a lot of qualifying statements in this article that address the very concerns that you raise. Furthermore, I also think that you have misconstrued and jumped to conclusions in interpreting this article, so that you have constructed a straw man against the majority of its points.

      “Depends were you live. My taxpayer money is used legally and illegally to promote religious ideas and organisations which do hurt the community where I live. And if I would come out as an openly atheist my business and income would take a big hit.”

      Yes, and Adams not only addressed this issue with the privilege disclaimer, but also stated:

      “Remember that is is really none of your business whether an individual chooses to be religious or not (at least when they are not trying to legislate their beliefs upon you through the government).”

      This article clearly, clearly makes a provision stating that we should oppose the imposition of religion by the government. However, the main point was that the amount of religious harm done needs to be put in perspective and addressed in proportion to the damage. People in the Western world used to be burned alive and hanged because of religion. Now of days, the amount of persecution caused by religion in these regions is substantially less. It still exists, and both Adams and I oppose it.

      However, when you do live in a country where religion is not a direct threat to your life, you should remember this and put it in perspective. I still speak out against religion all the time through blogging and social activism, but I also don’t pretend that it is as great a threat today as it was during the Middle Ages. I also adjust my response accordingly. If I lived in the Middle Ages, I would be using violence to defend myself and would probably be fleeing from my home. Today, I have freedom of speech, and I oppose religion through more moderate means, such as blogging counter-arguments.

      “But this clearly does not concern you.”

      You are obviously jumping to conclusions here. When did Adams ever say that, Jon? You are doing nothing but interpreting her words uncharitably.

      “Ignoring religion protected paedophilia, money laundering, anti-science fight on all levels, Pope’s condom/AIDS denialism, genital mutilation, religious courts, LGBT/female/atheist/minority discrimination, religious laws imposed to all of us, pro-religious tax laws, ongoing religious wars our tax money goes into etc. makes your life easier. Some of us want a better place not easier place.”

      You need to make a lot of qualifications here. First off, yes, I agree that religion can cause the damages listed above. But things like wars and child rape can also be caused by things other than religion. Even if we annihilated all religion tomorrow, many of the things you describe above would still exist. Moreover, the number of religious people who engage in those activities are a minority of the religious population as a whole, and there are also atheists who do those things.

      I agree that religion is, net average, more harmful than good. But the degrees of harm that it can cause varies and it is important to respond in proportion. My thought is that religion is primarily wrong simply because it is an incorrect map for sailing reality. Having the wrong map can lead you crashing into rocks, but not always. Sometimes religion only causes minor harm, such as wasted time praying, or unrealistic goals and expectations, etc.

      This article clearly states that Adams opposes all of the religious harm that you outline above (in fact, Adams even linked to John Loftus’ Christianity Is Not Great, which provides an anthology addressing them). However, the point the article is making is that not all encounters with religion will be like that. If you treat religious people who don’t engage in rape like child rapists, because some religious people engage in child rape, then you are just going to piss them off and push them away.

      Both Adams and I want a better, more secular world. The easy way to respond to that is to simply get angry and be vitriolic towards those we disagree with. The harder, but better way is to be patient, empathetic, and to use reason, not anger, to address the problems that religion causes.

      “Anger is good. It drives the change. You need to be annoyed about a social problem before you commit to get the change done. Remember King, Gandhi, Wilberforce, Anthony – they made it their business.”

      Yes, and I admit that there are many things about religion that make me angry. I am angry about being raised in a cult for 10 years in the middle of the desert. I am angry for being circumcised as an infant, which I consider to be a less severe form of genital mutilation. I am angry at apologists for spreading misinformation.

      However, while anger might motivate me to oppose religion, it is not my platform and approach to debating religion and fixing the problems that it causes. Instead, I work to patiently explain the problems that I think religion causes and to communicate to people on the other side why I think that they should change their minds.

      I’ll admit, I live in a country with free speech, so I have the luxury and privilege to engage in this more moderate approach. If I was in certain areas of the Middle East, I would be fighting to leave. But, it is important to keep things in perspective. If you have freedom of speech and are safe, maybe you can tone down your anger just a little, enough so that it doesn’t cloud or diminish your ability to reach out to people on the other side who may not need anger, but patient and empathetic dialogue.

      Also, Adams quotes Gandhi above! Hate the sin, but not the sinner. That is what she is saying. I also oppose religion, but that does not mean just getting angry and being acerbic towards religious people is going to solve the problem.

      “How mnay kids can be raped and paedophiles sent to country clubs/other parishes/placed in diplomatic immunity to offset “medical outreach”?
      How many forced genital mutilation to offset “artwork”?
      how many kids deaths at faith healers instead of going to real doctors to offset “compassion”?”

      A lot of that stuff happens without religion, for one. Also, a lot of religious people do help people. I do not think that religion is in any way necessary for medical outreach, art, etc., but it is important to remember that religion is not all bad. As Adams has explained, in the long run, she considers religion to be net negative in its effects. Hence, she opposes it, but she also puts into perspective that this is not a black and white issue.

      “After being in the atheist and humanist “movements” for 10 years there are very few angry atheist. Almost all of millions of us are positive and happy people. Don’t buy into religious propaganda of “stereotype of the angry atheist” or “fool said in his heart…” Don’t propagate it. But we do need more angry atheists willing work for a better future.”

      And both Adams and I have been working in the atheist and humanist community too. We don’t buy the angry atheist stereotype at all. This article directly fights against it. But the best way to oppose it is to calmly explain what atheists actually believe and to encourage other atheists to adopt a civil, rather than angry approach to countering religion.

      I should also note that, having blogged for over two years now, I have noticed that a lot of Christians and other religious people read what I write. Being an angry atheist will only rally people who already agree with me. I work to be patient and non-acerbic, because I want to change the minds of some of the religious people who happen to read what I write. Some will never change their minds, sure. But others are doubting or exploring, and if they read nothing but an angry and negative message they will be pushed away.

      “Get out of indifference and change the world for a better place. You owe it to yourself.”

      Both Adams and I have invested a ton of articles and time into opposing religion and seeking to reduce the damage that it causes. We do so by directly countering the arguments of religious apologetics, seeking to understand why religion exists in the human condition, and then promoting secular humanism as an alternative philosophy to fill the void.

      The fact is that, for better or for worse (and both Adams and I think worse), religion has been and still is an important part of many people’s lives. It is a major part of the human condition. That doesn’t mean that religion is right, but it does mean that if we are going to ask people to make the emotional and intellectual commitment to leave something that is so important to them, we need to be empathetic, patient, and civil.

      We also work on this blog to not only attack religion, but to put up something else in its place. That is, in fact, the whole point of Civitas Humana. Apologists like to claim that atheists only attack something that they are angry against without having any beliefs of their own. But that is entirely false. That is why we advocate secular humanism on this blog and seek to not only hate on religion, but also to promote secular humanism as a positive alternative, so that atheism is not just about attacking, but building as well.

      On a final note, I would like to state that I plan to work in Religious Studies in the academic community one day. I am going to have tons of students of multiple faiths that I disagree with. I will still write articles and blogs that counter the arguments of religious apolegetics, and I will still encourage people to become humanists. But I will do it in a civil and appropriate manner (outside the classroom). There will be a time and place for opposing religion, and there will be correct ways for doing it. This article is about how, even if you are angry at religion (and perhaps rightly so), your approach to fighting it should not be anger (at least in most modern circumstances). Instead, the article encourages atheists to be empathetic towards believers, because most of them did not choose to be raised in their religion, and likewise most aren’t murderers and child rapists (even if some are). Instead, take the time to be friendly and to give a reasonable account for why you disagree and what you think is true in religion’s place.

      If you disagree with that message, feel free to speak out, but do not misconstrue Adam’s statements like you did in your first response.

  5. There are so many religious people in the world that they can’t all be de-programmed to think normally. So in our world, normal people have to suffer their lunacy. You would think that in this day and age, and with all of the available information out there, that people could take an objective and rational view about these dopey convictions, but every day there’s a new batch of fervent nuisances who insist that their vision is the right vision and woe-betide you if you don’t agree. Religious people have very little common sense and suffer from below average IQs as well as social disadvantages. It’s a sickness and unfortunately for normal people, there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight.

    • “Religious people have very little common sense and suffer from below average IQs as well as social disadvantages.”

      This is a blatantly inaccurate statement. You’re never going to gain any credibility from unbiased individuals when you go around spewing crap like this. Atheists and agnostics do not have a monopoly on intellectualism and rational thought. You THINK you do, but you DON’T. You can go around bitching and moaning about how you want a more secular world, but I assure you, it’s never going to come.

  6. Thank you for this. I am searching for a way not to be so angry and frustrated by comments that I feel challenge me, but I cannot find the right words without sounding like a jerk. Even when someone send some angel chain letter asking for a response and I reply thank you but I am atheist, they reply with some passive aggressive comment, followed by a story that it came from a sweet old lady, so we should just do it. I want to respect others beliefs but I just dont feel the same respect back. I try to leave ego aside but I take it as a challenge to my intelligence when others tell me their version of the truth, but me sharing mine is considered a direct insult to them. Frustrating, but its all in my mind, so I do have the power to change how I react.

  7. Well said! Bravo! I have been dealing with the same type of anger for many years now and although I still struggle with it, it helps to have someone else verbalize our frustrations and offer some valuable insight.

  8. I’m an agnostic theist, to be perfectly honest. So while i might philosophically degree about a few bits on “true atheism”…at large, i find myself very unhappy lately with the harms of religion and I personally believe humanity’s biggest flaw is division or divisiveness. So i want to stand in opposition to that flaw, naturally….but i can’t do that too easily if im spending my time seething with frustration at christians. To use a “christianese” term…i want to be longsuffering. So this list really helps a lot. Thanks. I’ll have to remember to come back to it probably more than once. Thanks for putting this out there 🙂

  9. God actually exists. Whether you deny Him or accept Her, God exists. The problem is that God does not require of you to have a religion. And God does not require you to have a certain set of beliefs to be in communion with you. Your soul knows this, but your mind is trying to deny it, trying to ignore religion, and then getting all angry at people who believe in God.

    To tell you the truth, by denying God, you have denied yourselves, and sooner or later, you will face the consequences. Not by going to Hell, but by suffering the results of your silent resentment and hatred towards those who believe in God, and by discriminating one part of you from the other two. Your Soul/spirit is made of God stuff. And refusing it is leading you to no happiness at all. Your peace of mind is most definitely non existent by now, and your physical health will soon follow. Other than fighting yourselves, and your higher self, why don’t you just refuse to acknowledge any religion at all,…

    And instead find God and have communion with God. He & She is not all what religions say, but ,,… God does exist. And denying Him will not bring you what you seek by running from Him.

    WordPress.com / Gravatar.com credentials can be used.

    • We’ve all heard authoritative proclamations of this kind in one form or another. Season with presumptuous pop-psychology about the state of other people’s character. Also some low appeal to emotion about what will cure all your ails or actions you should take out of fear.
      So you’re being arrogant and insulting people’s intelligence. Can’t imagine why people would be personally angry at you.

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