You ever get dragged into an argument that, as far as you can tell, has nothing to do with you?
I followed a link on my tracker to this article.
One of the most enduring stereotypes spread by religious people about atheists is that we are "angry". Some particularly creative apologists add the detail that what we are truly angry at is God - which is impossible, by definition, since a person must first believe in God as a precondition of being angry at God - or that we react with anger or hostility to the mere mention of the religious beliefs of others. However, many theists who make this claim leave it at stating that atheists carry around some kind of generalized, diffuse anger at everything and nothing.
I don't really know if this is accurate or not. That is to say, I don't know if religious people actually "spread" these stereotypes or not. While I've personally met some angry atheists, I wouldn't say it's not a general quality of being an atheists. I can't say that I've ever heard anyone say these things either, but that certainly doesn't mean they aren't being said.
The closest I've ever come to hearing any of these is the "angry at God thing". I've not ever heard anyone say that actual atheists are angry at God. I have heard of, and actually met, people who had previously been very religious and later abandoned their religion when something bad happened in their lives. They claimed to be atheists, but when pressed it was obvious that the truth was that they still believed in God, they were just very pissed off at him.
None of that, however, is what this post is really about. One of the arguments, and I summarize greatly so I hope I'm not misrepresenting things, that is is put forth in this article is that there's actually a great deal of hate from religious people directed at atheists. Perhaps moreso than the other way around. To make this point the author quotes a lot of really vile hate messages directed from people who purported to be Christians (or at least religious) at very atheists.
To serve as contrast, the author then quotes a post I put up several years ago.
Ironically, the evidence that religious people adduce to prove that atheists are angry usually never even approaches this level of vitriol. Consider the following e-mail, held up by a Christian blogger as an example:You think you know the truth? Do you talk to god? Why are you blindly supporting bush, and his boys? Because bush is a christian? That's the problem with christians. They take a fairy tale (the bible), and make it the truth. Since you know the truth, this is a waste of my time writing you. But I had to vent, because you people (all religions) are ****** up this planet.
This e-mail is certainly harshly worded and none too polite. But does it even approach the level of hate on display above? Does it display the drooling lust for violence that much of the religious hate mail shows? Does it threaten the poster personally, or attack his sexuality or personal appearance? No. It criticizes his beliefs and his actions, heatedly to be sure, but that is still a far cry from the psychopathic spasms of rage regularly targeted at atheists who speak out. However uncivil the language, this was neither a threat nor an ad hominem attack, whereas atheists regularly experience both. Too many religious individuals, when criticizing atheists for their supposed anger, confuse strong criticism with personal attacks.
The problem is , of course, that I never said this e-mail proved anything of the sort. Here is the post, in it's entirety.
After more than 2 years of blogging, I got my first genuine piece of hate mail today. Say hello to firstname.lastname@example.org.You think you know the truth? Do you talk to god? Why are you blindly supporting bush, and his boys? Because bush is a christian? That's the problem with christians. They take a fairy tale (the bible), and make it the truth. Since you know the truth, this is a waste of my time writing you. But I had to vent, because you people (all religions) are ****** up this planet.
Well, on the bright side he's got better grammar than your average hate mailer. But here's a tip, he complains that it's a waste of my time talking to me because I think I already know the truth, yet he makes no arguments of any kind. What exactly do I have my mind made up about? Well, obviously he dislikes both Bush and God, but we have no idea why.
Oh well, I'm officially hated now. Must be doing something right.
From the author's comments, you'd think that I was holding up this post as evidence that atheists are haters. I certainly didn't "adduce [the e-mail] to prove that atheists are angry." In fact, I specifically state that it's the first piece of hate mail I'd ever received. (And even now, years later, I rarely receive e-mail of any kind.)
I don't doubt the author that their are religious people who go around accusing atheists of hatred, but I'm not one of them. I certainly have met a few angry atheists, but I've never held that up as proof of anything. In fact, I thought the whole posting was pretty flip and I thought the whole "must be doing right thing" made that pretty evident.
In short, I have no earthly idea why I got dragged into this.
Since I'm here, let me note a few other things. This article involves a classic case of arguing from anecdotal evidence. The author quotes lots of examples on one side and a single example on the other. (If you can even count my post, which I don't.) Plainly this was designed to build up the impression that hate mail against atheists is far more common than hate mail from atheists. That may be true, but his argument certainly doesn't prove it.
Also, most of the people being attacked in his examples are prominent, or at least in the public eye in some respect. Who am I? I'm nobody. Just a random obscure blogger. I certainly wouldn't expect to be able to generate much vitriol. This is clearly an "apples an oranges" comparison.
If you want to use anecdotal evidence, consider that the phrase "I hate Christians" generates over 11,000 hits on Google. The phrase "I hate atheists" appears less than 1,300. Does that prove anything? Not at all, but if I wanted to I bet I could use that fact to generate a decent sounding argument.
Shoot, for that matter people have been known to kill Christians just because they are their Christians. Does that prove anything? No.
Anyway, the author may be right, but he doesn't prove his point and I certainly don't understand why I got dragged into it.