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Category Archives: Atheism and Religion

On Rage

There is much cause for anger for an atheist. Everyday I am confronted with new evidence of the unbelievable stupidity and ignorance (not to say violence) that religion causes. People around the world are suffering from the effects of religion, not just because religion is misappropriated by Bad People, which it is, but because religion and its texts are engines of extremism, in the words of Sam Harris. No religion that professes a text that supports slavery and capital punishment to be the Word of God will ever be free of extremism. It is not Bad People that are solely to blame: religion is inherently to blame.

The causes for rage are many – not always a personal rage, I must admit. These are things that are to some degree removed from my personal experiences. But isn’t the idea of sociopolitical and humanistic awareness basically the expansion of one’s own experience to include the happenings of wider society? The concern (and indignance) is valid, I feel.

Yet there is, from another point of view, little cause for rage for one such as myself. I have religious friends who are as much human beings as anybody I know. The ideological hatefulness of religion shouldn’t negate my mostly-positive personal experience of religious people and religion in general.

What I’m saying I guess is that as an atheist I should be on my guard against the sort of dogmatic hate-mongering that is the mark of extremism. Which is not to say that I should not be highly outraged whenever a human being’s dignity is compromised over some laughable point of theology. However, the quality of outrage is not personal, if it doesn’t happen to me. It is a specific outrage directed at injustice, not a spiteful and personal vengeance. It is too easy to be monolithic about morality and blindly apply narratives across the spectrum of my experiences.

I think that the acceptance of reason as a guide to living necessitates accepting the plurality of experience. No One Thing is true – if it is we are incapable of understanding. This might mean that I find religion reprehensible on one hand and deeply love my religious friends on the other. It doesn’t make much sense, but at times the reality of feelings and experience don’t make sense. It is only human to make the best we can of it.

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
-Walt Whitman, ‘Song of Myself’