The Atheist Academic: I’m NOT Angry!
“You’re not an atheist… you’re just angry at God.”
Yeah, you’ve heard that too? Ugh. It drives me up a wall. My mom is Catholic through-and-through. I was, too, for a long time. Catholic schoolgirl. Confirmation. Church choir. Eucharistic minister at the college Catholic church. I think, in some ways, it defined who I was in my mom’s head. Maybe it helped her to let me go out into the world and find my own way… if I had a church to cling to, no matter where I was living, it was like I had an extended family around. Nothing TOO bad could happen to me if I was going to church on Sundays.
But, of course, I started realizing that church wasn’t for me. And as I got older, I eschewed organized religion and defined myself as “spiritual”. And then, a few years later, I started reading more, and I defined myself as agnostic. And all of those definitions, my mom could handle. I think she was fine as long as I had SOME guiding religious principle. But one day, I specifically used the word “atheist”, and it was like I had slapped her in the face.
And so my mom started voicing her opinion that I wasn’t actually atheist — I was just angry. And since then, I’ve heard that same sentiment voiced from many other people. I don’t know where that comes from. Actually, since I’ve realized that I’m atheist, I’ve become a much LESS angry person. I’m not angry at a God — I don’t believe he exists at all.
Where does the notion that atheists are angry come from? I would love to know who started this myth that atheists are wild, crazy, horrible people. Why is it so shocking to find out that your daughter, or your son, or your best friend, or your coworker is atheist?
I remember the first person that I ever met who told me that he was atheist. I was 16, and Lowell was in his 20’s, and we were chatting, when he casually mentioned that he was atheist. I was in the throes of being super-Catholic, but like all good little super-Catholics, I should have been horrified. I should have never talked to him again; at the very least I should have tried to convert him. But, instead, I asked Lowell questions — and my only real thought was that he was brave. So brave.
Why can’t other people’s reactions be like that? I was a damn cool Catholic! I never tried to change Lowell’s opinion, and he never tried to change mine. We just talked, noted some interesting facts about each other, and then went on to just be friends. When I finally figured out that I was atheist, 10 years after I had met him, his reaction was something less than surprised. Maybe, deep down, I had been an atheist all along.
It’s sad that people equate atheism with anger. I think it makes non-atheists feel defensive. But if their religion is so fragile to start with that an atheist can rip it to shreds, then maybe it wasn’t so strong to begin with. Anyway, I’m not angry. At least not at religion. Don’t get me started on the government, though.