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Are atheists “angry at God”?

People have sometimes tried to discredit atheists by claiming that they’re just “angry at God”. It’s meant to dismiss nonbelief as merely a personal issue of sorts, something that’s the result of a bad experience or a bad attitude. Apparently it just isn’t possible for someone to genuinely not believe in a god – as if this belief is so universal that those of us who profess otherwise must be deceiving even ourselves. That’s very presumptuous on the part of believers, no matter what their faith. Surprising as it may be, it’s not as if everyone secretly believes in your god.

In case it isn’t obvious, atheists are not “angry” at something we don’t believe in. That would make no sense. But when believers treat a difference in views as pathological in nature, it allows them to refuse to consider the actual merits of the position they don’t agree with. And without even listening to someone else’s perspective, it’s easy to see why they might not understand what atheists do take issue with. Just because we’re angry – and not all of us are – it doesn’t mean we must be angry at your god. What we do object to is the belief in a god, which is the only sense in which “God” can be said to exist: as a concept in people’s minds. When we look at how people act on this belief, we do get angry. And there’s a reason for that.

We’re angry at how religion is treated as a license to ignore reality. We’ve seen how faith is used to elevate beliefs from complete uncertainty to complete certainty, simply by choosing to believe. And that bothers us. We find it absurd that mere strength of belief is considered sufficient to constitute knowledge, and we’re outraged by what this has been used to justify. We’re angry about how religious texts are regarded as unimpeachably authoritative for no reason other than the belief that they are. We’re upset with how this is allowed to take precedence over actual facts about science, history, medicine, sexual health, and reproduction. We’re shocked when religious claims with no evidence behind them are considered just as good as empirical knowledge and actual research.

We’re angry when believers center their ethics around something totally unproven rather than real-world concerns. We’re angry when they argue in favor of eternal torture as a valid form of justice. We’re angry at how religious beliefs offer a divine stamp of approval to completely human failings, and give believers permission to hate people and even kill people – all the while, assured beyond a doubt that this is what God wants. And we’re sickened when they try to claim a monopoly on morality, as if we need all of this to be an ethical person.

We’re angry when they don’t treat our life on earth with the respect that it deserves, because they don’t realize that this is the only life we get. We’re disgusted by all of the conflict that’s resulted from disagreements over something that isn’t even real. And we’re very angry when they tell us we shouldn’t say it isn’t real, when there’s never been any evidence of it. We’re angry when believers act like a lack of faith is something wrong with us, as if refusing to believe in something when there’s no reason to must be a character flaw of some sort. We’re angry that the unquestioning acceptance of religious claims, with no standards whatsoever, is treated as something to aspire to. And we’re just astonished that so much of the world has come to revolve around what people believe about something that doesn’t even exist, and who can believe it harder. We’re tired of it.

We’re sick of the bottom-of-the-barrel expectations for reasons to believe in things, the intellectual dishonesty excused by faith, the mistreatment of our fellow human beings, the endless reserves of gullibility, the disregard for evidence, and the denial of reality – and all of it for nothing.

Yes, we’re angry – not with God, but with belief. And we have every right to be. Twisting this into a personal attack against those who don’t believe in gods only serves as a way of ignoring actual objections to religion. Treating any disagreement with your beliefs as nothing more than someone’s issues is just condescending and arrogant. A valid position should be able to withstand dissent, without having to run away from it or write it off as some kind of dysfunction. And if you’d like to know what atheists are really angry about, maybe you should try listening.