As some of you may know, I spent a good number of years back home in the US being involved in the atheist and humanist movements. I wrote articles, a book, founded groups, and was even a humanist chaplain at one point. I met tons of people this way, some that are still very dear friends to this day. I even met some very lovely people who didn’t think the way I did AT ALL but who were as respectful and curious about me as I was about them.
But because I’m a rather extroverted and outspoken person, I was a bit of a lightening rod for people who were antagonistic to those who had a very different (or no) god concept. And when they saw me becoming upset about, for instance, the state using religious arguments to curtail reproductive freedom or the clergy sex abuse scandal, the question was always, “Why are you so angry all the time?” The follow-up was usually, “You’re just angry at God.”
So, let’s unpack this. Yes. I was angry. I’m still fucking angry. I am SO MAD. And if you aren’t, that probably means you’re white, male, or otherwise super down with imperial religion because trust me, there is a lot to be upset about whether you’re religious or not. And, whether you’re religious or not, the collusion of the church with the state to further oppression can be absolutely rage-inducing (thanks, Constantine).
And that whole thing about “being mad at God”? That’s some bullshit that says way more about you than atheists. If you believe that atheists are angry at a God they don’t even believe exists, it’s because you’re conflating God with your own interests. Because what pissed off atheists are angry about is not the existence of God (which they don’t even believe in, remember?) but rather the public face of religion which, every time, seems to side with abuse and injustice. Personally, I can’t blame atheists for this. How are they supposed to care about things like liberation theology or post-theism, open-theism, and Christian non-theism when all they see is some jerks standing around outside clinics? How are they supposed to know that there are thousands of alternative, intersectional, anti-oppressive Christian theologies with adherents all over the globe when Pope Francis is in the news talking about women being unfit for the priesthood? How are atheists supposed to see us as anything other than complacent assholes when they encounter the deafening silence of many churches to the crisis on the border? Or, even worse, the religious people who are speaking out IN FAVOR of the cruelty happening on the border? What angers atheists is not God. It’s the brutality perpetrated in her name, the domination that you seem to think God calls you to. And personally, I don’t blame them for that.
And we “good Christians” aren’t exempt from the assholery. We need to fiercely interrogate the moral assumptions put out there by conservative Christianity if we want to demonstrate our seriousness about cultural change. For instance, let’s challenge the idea that abortion is a moral wrong that we only tolerate because sometimes it’s best. Let’s challenge the idea that people who cross borders are doing something wrong. Hell, let’s challenge the morality of borders! Instead of working for “prison reform”, let’s abolish the fuck out of prisons altogether and get creative. Instead of “rescuing” sex workers, let’s stop a minute and wonder where the hell we got such idiot ideas about the morality of sex work.
Maybe atheists will stop thinking we’re such dicks if we stop allowing the moral assumptions of the hard right to infect our own discourse and action.