Response to I get angry too post  

Monday, November 26, 2007

I received a response back to my I get angry too post from Randy. Also, Derek responded in the comments section of the post.

Hi [OG] -

Sounds like I made you angry! Sorry about that. Yes, I have a limited pool of atheists to draw on, but they all have a rather unlikeable angry streak running through them -- the most notable are Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. I don't care what you say, if you show a clip of those two guys to any group of average Americans, the first thing they will say is that they are arrogant, then if you show them enough, they will probably eventually say they are angry as well.

I'm not sure what to say about your statements that atheists aren't angry. At one screening I had a whole group of 5 atheists tell me they liked the movie but wished it had a little more anger and outrage towards intelligent design.

But I don't believe in anger and outrage nearly as much as I believe in the power and importance of persuasion. The U.S. today is more polarized than 30 years ago and things seem to only be getting worse. Part of this is due to the media world which has fallen into a polarized approach to marketing. But so much of it is just a self-perpetuating belief that no one wants to listen.

I don't know if my films are the least bit persuasive to anyone, but I do know that I don't want to be part of the chorus of hate-speech directed at religious groups (or atheists). It just isn't helping the world, and there is a clear positive feedback dynamic to communication -- i.e. to a large extent, you get back what you send out.

And I guess the worst taste of the "new atheists" has come from the people on P.Z. Myers blog, Pharyngula. All I can say is that they simply are not likeable. They have a lot of fun reassuring each other on their blog that everything they say is right, and trying to out-perform each other in their insults and ridicule of intelligent design, but to the outside world they just come off as a very gross bunch of losers.

I am in no way a supporter of intelligent design or even a defender of religion, and I originally thought I'd find a lot of kindred spirits among atheists because I'm probably pretty close to being one, but after a while of listening to their anti-social ranting all I can conclude is that they deserve each other.

I'm still waiting for a spokesperson for atheism, in the real mainstream (meaning on television a lot, sorry) who is likeable. It would be nice and I'm sure it's not impossible, but it doesn't exist right now. Dawkins and Hitchens are just irritating (unless you're on their team), and they are the only ones appearing on talk shows and thus reaching the mass audience, which is about all that matters in mass communication in the U.S.

Or am I missing some really wonderful broad voice for atheism who doesn't zealously think that religion needs to be attacked and eradicated?

thanks for writing,

Randy Olson

I haven't sent a response yet.

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8 comments: to “ Response to I get angry too post

  • The Exterminator
    Monday, November 26, 2007 at 12:02:00 PM CST  

    Perhaps you ought to ask him to define that subjective "likeability" factor. Is "not being an atheist" one of the requirements?

  • ordinarygirl
    Monday, November 26, 2007 at 4:04:00 PM CST  

    I was thinking of also mentioning Ellen Johnson, who has been on television and is cordial and polite in ever instance I've seen her.

    Of course I just see that as a side issue. The real issue is addressing why atheists are angry or why they may be perceived as angry when that may not always be the case (both are true in my opinion anyway).

  • Lifeguard
    Monday, November 26, 2007 at 7:37:00 PM CST  

    I think many folks perceive atheists as "angry" based on fear and defensiveness. Even the calmest, most rational discussion about the existence of god can produce a lot of anxiety in someone who (1) believes that questioning faith is a sin, and (2) fears you may "get inside their head" and get them questioning (therefore, sinning).

    As for cordial and polite atheists, I think Daniel Dennett fits the bill. The man is outspoken, but I find it hard to believe anyone could seriously describe him as "angry" in an interview. Check out his interview with Bill Moyers on YouTube. He's downright friendly.

  • John Evo
    Monday, November 26, 2007 at 11:47:00 PM CST  

    Lifeguard, I would include Steven Pinker, E.O. Wilson and Steven Weinberg. All of those guys fit the generic "likeable" unless, as Ex points out, just being an atheist and talking about it makes one unlikeable.

    I exchanged some emails with Olsen while he was in the process of completing his movie. I think his head is basically screwed on straight, but I do think he misses some points.

    Sure there are some "angry" atheists out here. We have a right to be angry about a number of things. We could be a lot angrier than we generally are. There is a place (as we have discussed before) for the angry voices. The case FOR atheism has not been fully heard (or made) and until it is, I don't mind if some people are going to present the case in an angry way. I don't think we all should - and we don't all do it. Again, unless you look at all of our blogs and conclude "They're angry". Anyone who says that is being disingenuous, at best.

  • Patience
    Tuesday, November 27, 2007 at 4:06:00 AM CST  

    Frankly, I don't think he deserves a reply. Anyone who doggedly insists that simply being an atheist is equvalent to being angry ought to be ignored.

  • Keith Sader
    Tuesday, November 27, 2007 at 8:05:00 AM CST  

    Here's the problem with his response. Atheists must confront in the starkest terms religion's absolute inanity.

    Religion insists that is must be the one true world view and that no others may exist beside it. We can all thank Abraham for that :-\

    No entrenched order ever gives up power willingly. Religion, at least in the U.S., has the institutions, the government backing(in the form of tax-breaks), and the mind-share that rationality doesn't. To do other than confront this force of humanity is cowardice IMO.

    Angry or not, shrill or not, our voices must be heard or be trampled. I am not an angry person in general, but being told to in essence 'shut up about it already' does arouse my ire.

  • Wrought
    Tuesday, November 27, 2007 at 12:27:00 PM CST  

    Let's face it. Atheism is the *least* we should expect of people in today's society. There's no excuse for belief in the supernatural and there's no excuse for behaviours based on a belief in the supernatural that effect the lives of others. If atheists are angry it's because it's the absolute minimum they're asking for. Ethics, responsibility and equality are the things they'll REALLY be getting angry about supporting in the future.

  • John Evo
    Tuesday, November 27, 2007 at 1:03:00 PM CST  

    Keith Sader said Angry or not, shrill or not, our voices must be heard or be trampled. I am not an angry person in general, but being told to in essence 'shut up about it already' does arouse my ire.

    Good point. You see, it doesn't REALLY matter if you are "angry" or "shrill" - no harm done. We are still talking about angry communication, not angry actions. The bottom line is: Who's right? Who's wrong?

    I think Christians like to focus on how angry and unlikeable Dawkins and Hitchens can be, rather than substantively deal with the arguments they make. The Christian religion either is a universal truth or it is NOT...

    Any empirical view of it would tell you that it is not. Only through faith can you decide that it is.


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