Non-believers as targets of anger

October 1, 2006 | By | 6 Replies More

Check out this post called “Turning Away Anger,” by Ebonmuse at Daylight Atheism. This post is a good collection of the sorts of abuse one can expect whenever one publicly expresses doubt that supernatural beings exist.  He gives lots of examples.

[T]here is a huge amount of anger seething and fuming among religious people. Not all religious people are angry or embittered, of course, but a very great number of them apparently are. The surest evidence of this is that whenever a public figure speaks out against religion, or worse, takes any sort of action to oppose the encroachments of religion, such as filing a lawsuit to defend the constitutionally mandated separation of church and state, that person inevitably becomes the target of a blistering torrent of profane, obscene, violent, and threatening messages. Many believers, it is apparent, lash out with furious and disproportionate rage and hatred when their beliefs are challenged or opposed in any way.

Also check out his detailed review of the new book by Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion.   Daylight Atheism is not one of the many atheist sites that primarily rant and name-call.  It is a thoughtful and well-written collection of posts. 

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About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (6)

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  1. Jennifer says:

    You know… I recently de-converted after spending my entire life as a Christian. I have written a couple of posts about the backlash I've received, but I've actually withheld quite a bit. It is shocking – shocking, I tell you – the way I have been personally attacked. Ok, whew, I feel better now. =)

  2. Mike Phillips says:

    I have one question here.. One that has NEVER been answered… And one that is generally ignored…

    (1) Where IN THE CONSTITUTION is is stated that there is a SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE….

    If you prove that to me.. who knows what I might do..

    (2) you said… """""""Many believers, it is apparent, lash out with furious and disproportionate rage and hatred when their beliefs are challenged or opposed in any way."""""" I guess I would have to have you clarify what "Many Belivers" means. The only believers that I ever hear about are the 3 or 4 that are ALWAYS intervied BECAUSE they can be relied upon to say something Outrageous for the Cameras….. Such as Jesse Jackson, The Right Reverend Al Sharpton, Dr. James Dobson, Pat Robertson and Others of their Ilk….. Get your Butt out and about and talk to "Christian" people who live a life of grace and kindness.. You might be totally surprised…

    Jennifer……….. would you like to comment on the vilification that the Christian Religion gets as a constant and daily diet on MSM TV, Radio and News papers and Magazines… Not in particular because of some of the NUTS that claim Christianity, but just BECAUSE…. I live in a small rural town that currently has white, Black, brown and yellow folk as residents and adherents to "Their" religion… We do not have war, we do not fight with each other.. we get along…. Why Not, we are all God's people… And if you were vilified as much as you indicate, you were definately running with a crowd of "Christians" who were worshiping the wrong Christ…

    Mike

  3. Jason Rayl says:

    Good question. The so-called Establishment Clause is based on the First Amendment of the Constitution, which states:

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

    It is ambiguous. It was in response to state religious institutions, which existed in England, and also within the colonies, and existed at the pleasure of the state assemblies and received state support. In fact, in some states, local bishops were selected by the assemblies and had a voice in said assemblies. Competing creeds could by law be kept out of such states.

    The end result in our Constitution was the logical conclusion of a long chain of argument dating at least from Henry VIII when he declared that the Pope had no business meddling in state affairs. His solution was to make himself head of both church and state in England. Later, a variety of minority sects were prevented from holding office, voting, working in certain fields, etc because they did not subscribe to the Church of England. This led, of course, to the Pilgrims leaving for America, etc.

    Several of the Founding Fathers, who were Enlghtenment Deists–which meant they subscribed to no orthodox religious institution, but were not personally atheistic–recognized the implicit danger in allowing a commingling of church with politics. Jefferson wrote letters which eloquently hold forth his opinion that a wall must be kept between the two. The danger at that time was that government would unduly harm religion. But the opposite danger is likewise implicit, that religion could harm government, certainly could harm advocates of disfavored creeds. The central problem is with the religious view that god cannot be cross-examined and his word is absolute. This is de facto anti-democratic and impossible to formulate in due process law. IN other words, you can’t subpoena the lord to find out what he really meant.

    For most of American history, this was pretty much a non-issue because we were predominantly Protestant, and there weren’t enough other sects to make a fuss. Catholics, however, were severely discriminated against in the 19th century, and it wasn’t until John F. Kennedy was elected president that we started to get over an anti-Catholic bias.

    The best solution–Supreme Court case Lemon vs. Kurtzman–was set up to basically ascertain if any public funding or involvement could be construed to support or harm a religion by its actions. The test was threefold: to escape invalidation under the Constitution, governmental action must (1) have a SECULAR purpose, (2) have an effect that neither advances nor inhibits a religion and (3) must avoid creating a relationship between religion and government that entangles either in the internal affairs of the other.

    The most loudly touted protest among the religious is school prayer. The argument ought to be a non-starter. Advocates of school prayer refuse to accept the premise that prayer is personal and cannot be prevented when conducted by an individual, silently and privately. Kids praying in school–unless they violate some other rule, like disturbing the class–cannot be prevented. This is not acceptable. Advocates want vocal, group prayer. This is not to be condoned because it requires the establishment of a common prayer, which becomes a DE FACTO state approved, state sponsored prayer, and will inevitably leave some creeds out. Better to disallow group prayer, which is not something done for the good of the individual, but for the purpose of advocating a doctrine.

    The vilification of other creeds in the current climate has been constant and ranges from subtle to overt–particularly against Muslims. The vilification against atheists has been a constant for over two centuries and has largely been subtle. The anger discussed has been toward a perceived group mindset and can be seen in religious rejections of science and condemnation of perceived moral relativism in social policies like sex education, welfare, and foreign policy. The involvement of religious fringe groups in current foreign policy is anti-rational and to hear some of the spokesmen for these groups during their Sunday spiels is to feel that anyone not professing devotion to Jesus is lower than an amoeba. I would be surprised by individual attacks on atheists, but I myself get chided, teased, and called a liar when I profess my lack of belief. I suspect if the circumstances were right, I would be vilified. But to be fair, a lot of this may be a part with the perception by devout religious people that Christianity and religious belief itself are somehow the underdog in this country. A little media fluff goes too far in making people feel under siege.

    Given the history of religion in politics, though, even if the Establishment Clause were more ambiguous, I would support an absolute separation because personal principles often get mangled when translated into political ideology. Form becomes more important than content and room is made for the Robespierres and McCarthys to ride roughshod over reason.

  4. Mike Phillips says:

    Mr. Rayl,

    Your response was very good and I really appreciate it…..

    Establishment can be supposed to mean that, Unlike some countries, the USA does not have "The Church of America" as our official religion and most if not all are expected to belong. And that is the understanding that I normally apply to it.

    There are many reasons a Christian person feels that their religin is under seige…. Currently (and I do not know the progress of this) the ACLU has a suit going to allow Muslims to have Prayer in school… ???? The ACLU is constantly active in KEEPING Christian prayer out of school…. We are talking here of PUBLIC not PRIVATE prayer…

    I personally don't even bother to get bothered by whatever is said about me or my religion… but I am aware that it is pervasive…. You, obviously, are an intelligent person, your writings show that so I challenge you to a very simple task..

    Search out the comments on Christianity or Christian people (Other than Jesse Jackson, etal) in the New York Times (THE PAPER OF RECORD.. self proclaimed) , The Washington Post, NewsWeek, Time, etal… And then evaluate your statement """""""A little media fluff goes too far in making people feel under siege."""""""

    The Sad thing is that most of the Media take their talking points on Such things from the Idiots of the Fringe…. Such as Falwell, Jackson, Sharpton, Dobson rather than from the average person whose faith is important to them..

    I am Ranting.. LOL… but let me give you one expample that was so blatent that it was comical..

    In the recent Past, there was a Media Frenzy over the Judge in Alabama (I think) and the Large stone Monument that had the 10 commandments on it…. THIS has nothing to do with whether you think the monument was ok or not… But has to do with the media and their reporting tactics… Toward the last of the problem before the Monument was removed, there were large gatherings of people around the courthouse… Of course the media was there in great numbers and they had several interviews with people that were there… Were any of the people interviewed SANE and RATIONAL..???? YOU KNOW THE ANSWER… The only people who appeared on the nightly news were the RABID, DROOLING, RADICAL IDIOTS that were in the crowd… NOT a single "everyday" Christian was intervied… WHY should they be, they might actually have something worthwhile to say…

    Does Pat Robertson utter an insane news bite.. Does he get carried on every news outlet in the world….. You know the answer to that also….. Is any "Sane" Christian Leader asked to rebut what Pat had to say….You know the answer to that also….

    Thats all folks……. I am quietly living in a small town in a rural area, I am (according to some) fat, dumb and happy….

    Mike

  5. grumpypilgrim says:

    As regards the comments above, I don't think anyone seriously considers all Christians to be (to use Mike's words) "rabid, drooling, radical idiots." The problem, which both Mike & Jennifer mention, is that the extremists are the ones who are the most memorable (e.g., in personal encounters) and get the most attention (e.g., from the MSM). Accordingly, there is undoubtedly a tendency for their behavior to reflect poorly on other Christians.

    As regards prayer in school, Mike asks about the ACLU defending Muslims while attacking Christians. I'm unfamiliar with the specific case, but my hunch is that the two situations are totally different. The ACLU attacks — and rightfully so — Christian prayer that involves school administrators leading the student body in prayer; i.e., organized prayer. Organized prayer is just the sort of official government "establishment" of religion that is banned under the U.S. Constitution. Conversely, the ACLU is probably defending INDIVIDUAL Muslim prayer in school, because Muslims pray by prostrating themselves toward Mecca, and that necessarily involves a more overt physical behavior than does Christian prayer. The ACLU is probably in a case where Muslims were denied the right to prostrate themselves for their personal prayers — a situation totally different from the usual sort of case involving Christian prayer.

    Unfortunately for all of us, Christian leaders (and others) routinely ignore such critical distinctions when they attack groups like the ACLU. They do so because they have an agenda: they want to push *mandated* public prayers back into the schools, and villifying the ACLU helps them further that goal. In fact, the ACLU has never tried to keep *individual* Christian (or Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, etc.) prayer out of public schools; they have merely tried to keep mandated public prayer (Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, etc.) out of public schools. If *individuals* want to pray, that's fine with the ACLU — where it crosses the line is when school administrators, parents or student groups try to make prayer an organized school event.

  6. Jason Rayl says:

    The incident in Alabama over the Ten Commandments was well and fairly covered in certain media, but not in most. Attention of the issue–whether or not the monument was espousing a religious creed (it was)– was overwhelmed by reportage on the crowds gathered in support of the judge–who did not lose his position based on religion but on violation of an order by higher authority.

    True, we saw a lot of the frothing-at-the-mouth types. One has to ask, though, if moderate people, reasonable in thought and action, would even have been there. The odds are that most so-called mainstream christians actually disagreed with that judge and would not have been outside that courthouse. By default, those left would be those who are the biggest source of embarrassment to mainstream christians.

    They call themselves christians–loudly and assertively–and often go so far as to claim they are the only TRUE christians. What would you call them? How would you label them if you were to reject their label for themselves? I've posted a new article above on just this issue.

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