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The Carletonian

‘Angry Atheists’: the Ultimate Oxymoron

<m was raised Catholic and my dad was raised Missouri-Synod. Now, although both are sects of Christianity, their marriage caused some controversy within their two families. Both sides wanted them to get married in their church and promise, when they had kids, to baptize them and raise them in the “right” religion. My parents decided to go rogue and raised my twin brother and me Lutheran. However, this didn’t mean that their parents liked their decision. Throughout my early childhood, I was involved in what I like to call, “The Cold War of Crazy Christianity.” I was secretly brought to Catholic Mass, given books on both Catholic and conservative Protestant theology, and given lengthy talks by my grandparents about the state of my soul. At first, I didn’t understand what was going on. Even when I began to understand the theological war I was a part of, I had gotten to the point where listening to either side seemed futile. Thus, I learned at an early age that extremism cannot be fought, and that there is no “correct” form of extremism. Even though I’ve become disillusioned with many types of organized religion, many aspects of the atheist agenda also disillusion me. Right now, neither religion nor atheism appeals to me, but I feel like militant atheism can be the most hypocritical of the two. I’ve become disillusioned with the angry promotion of ideas in general, especially when those ideas preach “goodwill towards men” and freedom from oppression.

I can’t tell you how many times my Carleton peers have called me stupid and irrational for believing in a higher power. The thing is, I’m not even institutionally religious. I don’t care what other people believe…as long as they don’t shove their beliefs in my face and gain some twisted sense of moral/intellectual satisfaction for doing so. However, the one thing I can’t stand is when people call me absurd even though I’m not an extremist; I just happen to be spiritual. Whenever I get in a confrontation with someone over religion, I just don’t get why they care.

While doing research for this article, I came across a piece in The Guardian by Alom Shaha titled, “Thank God (and Richard Dawkins) I’m no longer an ‘angry atheist’.” In this piece, he states that ‘angry atheists’ “seem to think that tackling such beliefs is a question of dispelling ignorance, of educating people in the “right” way of thinking” (Shaha). Going off of this statement, I guess I would revise my previous statement about “not getting why they care” to not understanding the reasons behind why people care. Especially when ‘angry atheists’ make their agenda not to stay out of religion, but to actively dispute religion. If they were truly atheists, why would they care what/who people are praying to? Why do they care, since they believe that those people are praying to nothing?

On the other hand, I understand the argument that religion has caused many wars and social divisions. However I believe that militant atheists are also causing conflict. Just like other extremist religious groups, they believe that they are in the moral “right,” which gives them an excuse to ignore the beliefs of others. In some ways they are more technically “correct” than religious people. I’m not going to lie, it’s a bit mad to believe in something without any scientific or quantifiable proof. However, it’s also silly to abhor extremism and the repression of freedom while at the same time contributing to both of those things. The thing is, if militant atheists are really against religion, why don’t they just ignore it? Extremist mentalities will never disappear, but ignoring extremism decreases its power.

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