Confronting Atheist Anger
By William Cooney
In her 2012 book, Why Are You Atheists So Angry?—99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, Greta Christina contemplates the reality—and mythology—of atheist anger. One question often asked of us skeptics is indeed, “Why are atheists so angry?” Many religious people contend that we atheists are angry with God because in their eyes we experience no redemption, no purpose, and no transcendence. They assume that we wander the world in a vacuum of morality, meaning, and wonder, in so doing resort to anger to palliate the sadness and confusion we must be experiencing.
First off, we are not angry with God. How could we be angry with something we do not even acknowledge to exist? But the perception of a lingering anger haunting our psyches is not totally without merit. It’s just that the things that do anger us are probably things most religious people would not readily comprehend.
For those of us who were raised in a strict religious environment, we are angry with the dogmatic desperados who took it upon themselves to forcibly inculcate us in the ways of faith, doctrine, and superstition. We are angry that our intellectual freedom was stolen from us. We are angry that our instinct to question everything was supplanted by a commandment to simply obey. We are angry that a large part of our childhood was taken away from us. And frankly, all of these are good reasons to be angry.
Despite its good intentions, the problem with anger is that is holds the potential to consume its victims. Angry people must transform this virulent emotion into something constructive and life-affirming, and we atheists believe we have achieved precisely this transformation. By accentuating the positive, we find strength when we look to each other for answers; we achieve a worldly redemption when we cooperate with one another to improve the human condition; we love ourselves and each other more completely when we embrace the humanist values guiding our day-to-day lives. Yes, some of us atheists are angry, but our anger is righteous, and without it the motivation to try and make a difference might be hard to find.