I’ve decided to do some reviews of books, movies, and video games relevant to atheists. Without respect to timeliness. So to start things out, I cracked open Greta Christina’s Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless.
Greta is focused like a laser. With incredible clarity, she makes the case for what we should be angry about, which is available to read for free on her blog. That part is inspiring and rousing on its own, but Greta also makes a perfect case for why anger is the appropriate response to injustice. You may already be persuaded on the efficacy of anger, but this is not true of the general population. When I posted Greta’s talk about the subject, the reaction I got from a lot of people was revulsion. Not at the crimes she lists in her Litany of Rage, but at the idea that anger is a useful or even acceptable reaction to those crimes. I was told that the way to deal with these religiously-based problems is with “respect.” Not just by criticism-shy theists, but atheists also had a problem with anger. This is of course absurd on the face of it. I’ve never once seen someone stop persecuting gay people because someone was respectful to them. Rather, such respect validates their beliefs and encourages more bad behavior.
The case for anger is one of the most important ones we can make. Not only is it useful and appropriate, but in a conflict averse society we need anger to wake us up enough to take action. When good people stay silent, the bad people get to do what they want.
Greta spends the rest of the book demonstrating that the fault for these problems belongs to irrationality. Whether it’s fundamentalist religion, “nice” Christians, or free-range-crystal-worshiping Wiccans with fully balanced chakras. Not caring about whether something is true is always a recipe for trouble, no matter how nice you are about it. The cultural norm is to give people a wide berth with their pet beliefs, and it’s seen as rude to correct someone. Greta does an excellent job of articulating why we should take ourselves out of that comfort zone and point out that the emperor is buck naked.
Not only is Greta one of the best communicators I’ve come across, she’s also damn funny(I’m a comedy writer, I have my biases). Throughout this book about anger, I found myself disturbing my coworkers in the lunch room with my guffaws. I particularly enjoyed this line from the chapter “Why This Really Is Religion’s Fault” pointing out that she isn’t placing the blame for all evil in the lap of religion:
“I’m not arguing that a world without religion would be a blissful utopia where everyone holds hands and chocolate flows in the streets(and then we would all die, because the chocolate is drowning us and we can’t swim because we’re holding hands).”
I’m not by nature an angry person. When my old apartment manager tried to scam me out of several hundred dollars, my wife said it was the first time she’d seen me mad. I don’t debate about religion at work, I tend not to talk about it with my religious family members, and I take great pains to criticize ideas and actions rather than people. However, all of this is often unnoticed by the religious and I am still considered “militant.” As much as we may may not want to rock the boat, we’re already considered disruptive and mean just for disagreeing with them about magic being real. For out atheists there isn’t a social benefit to not rocking the boat, but there is a net downside to letting irrational beliefs go unchecked. Because of that, I’ve been trying to be more outspoken. It’s very difficult for me, but often the most important things we can do in this life are. And this book has helped nudge me in that direction.
Why Are You Atheists So Angry? was a great read and I recommend it to any atheist or to any theist who is curious about us. It’s available in ereader and dead tree format. If you already have a copy, check out her sexy time stories in Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More.