19 May, 2011

An 'Angry Atheist' responds to the challenge to explain why he's angry!

The best birthday gift I received all day! An intelligent submission from a friend of 'Road'. Thank you Doug!

Some time ago Father Tim wrote a blog on why atheists are angry.  He postulated that a fear of death made many atheists angry. This caused me to contact him to discuss what he had written and offer my own observations on the subject. He very kindly offered to post my reply on his blog and I do appreciate that.

I fear many of the things I will say may be unpalatable to the people who read this, and for that I am sorry, but I think they need to be said.  If you do feel anger at my words and comments please look at why these words offend you and who is to blame. The only other thing I ask is that you read my words in full and understand that they are written by a person who is trying to make the world we all live in a better place, regardless of our beliefs or lack of them.

I am not particularly afraid of death, I have, on several occasions been very close to death - far too close for comfort - and I have found it quite a calm and peaceful experience.  Time slows and everything becomes clear and deliberate.  The clarity is amazing. Every action and thought is focused; focused on surviving and focused on those you will leave behind and how they will react.

I have stared death in the face and I respect it but I do not fear it.

(1) Why I am an ‘angry’ atheist: I was born into a religious family and attended school where the teachers were all practising Christians. I was and remain badly dyslexic. This made reading writing and especially spelling very difficult for me, difficult to the point of being impossible. To this day there are words I have no hope of spelling or even using as I can’t even spell them well enough for a spell check program to identify and correct them . At school they knew I was intelligent but blamed my lack of ability on carelessness, laziness and what they called “Deliberate Stupidity”.  To cure me of this they would regularly cane me or find other forms of discipline that were equally unpleasant.

Being a good Christian child I knew if you prayed hard enough God would answer your prayers so I honestly and earnestly prayed for help - either that or I would be able to learn my lessons and remember how the words and letters went or that my teachers would understand my problem was real and stop hitting me and yelling at me on a daily basis.  Neither happened, I knew the scriptures said if two or three gather together and pray in the name of Jesus he would answer their prayers so I gathered two other children who also had similar problems and we would sneak off to have a quiet prayer group where no one would see us.  Sadly our prayers were never answered. Greg finally succumbed to the abuse and hung himself under his house. The police and his family said it was a terrible accident but I knew he just could not take going to school anymore.

Samantha finally moved away and I lost contact with her for some years. I later found she had been admitted to a mental hospital for depression anxiety and various other disorders.  Small wonder.

I am the survivor of the group. I left school at a very young age and went to work, ending up in the military. I remained a  Christian but started asking questions of my faith and what I could believe in.  I finally found the answers when I was discharged “unfit for service life” after 7 years and several promotions. The Air Force found out I could not read or write when I was posted from active service to a desk job and failed to perform my appointed duties.  The only person on base who could have supported me was the base chaplain. He refused to take a stand as he was nearing retirement and didn’t want to rock the boat at that stage of his career.

I finally had my beliefs confirmed. There could be no God as described in the Bible, no loving heavenly father. No holy spirit who answered prayers. Even the Christians I knew abandoned me when I needed them. The friends who were steadfast and remained were the atheists and the non-believers.

At this point I abandoned my faith. What made me an angry atheist?  The actions of believers and the inaction of their God.  If there is a God and he fails so badly at caring for those who show him love and trust then he is not a God worthy of praise and respect. He /it would be a cruel and heartless god.

As I grew and studied I taught myself basic computing skills and the internet allowed me to contact others and find I was not alone in my feelings. Many others had similar stories.

(2) I found many atheists were angry, they were angry at organised religions for the abuse they inflicted on the innocent.  I will not go into detail on child sexual abuse but it is well known in the Catholic Church and similar stories come from both “respectable” churches and fringe religions. Stories of rape, sodomy, incest, sexual assault of all manner, depravation of liberty, physical and mental torture,  usually of innocent children who trust these people of religion. What kind of decent moral human being would not be outraged and appalled at these actions?  Well atheists are but sadly many many people of religion choose to ignore these problems and pretend they do not happen or that they are not that important compared to the good name of the church.  This hypocrisy is another reason we become angry.

While researching to write this I found a small article I had not read or seen before: Vatican confirms report of sexual abuse and rape of nuns by priests in 23 countries – by Frances Kennedy in Rome
Wednesday, 21 March 2001: http://ind.pn/PriestsRapeNuns

You need to read this article then ask yourselves and ask these questions,

“Did you hear about this from your church?”
“What action has the Catholic Church taken to assist these poor abused women?”
And, finally, “How many of these abusers were handed over to the police for investigation of criminal assault?”

Finding things like this make atheists angry. Finding how a large organization habitually covers up abuse and protects the abusers really makes us very very angry indeed.

(3) We then find church officials, including the Pope and several cardinals and Bishops, telling us of the evils of atheism and how immoral atheists are. That makes us angry.

Yes there are evil atheists but for every evil one there is a multitude of good kind generous ones and you never find a group of atheists in a modern first world country protecting or concealing paedophilia or sexual abuse.  While I have to agree that some atheists do engage in such abhorrent behaviour if they are discovered then they are reported to the police and hopefully charged and punished.
Then we find things like this from my home in Australia - 

Here, the church saw fit to appoint a senior  clergy member George Pell, then an auxiliary bishop in Melbourne to support a pedophile priest while they offered no support to the victims of the abuser.

(4) Yet another problem that causes anger amongst atheists is the rise of fanatical fundamentalist religious beliefs and how they seek to influence governments and organizations that should be secular. We see strange cults gaining access to schools, teaching children that evolution is a lie and that the world was made in 6 days. They actively undermine the authority and credibility of teachers. We see religious education programs in which young children are bribed to attend with special treats and gifts in the same manner as paedophiles ‘groom’ their victims.
We see   religious lobby groups infiltrate places of power and change laws that affect ordinary people. They remove rights and freedoms in the name of the same God they claim gave us freewill.

(4) I have recently been involved in a discussion over euthanasia. Whether you  support it or oppose it, you have to admit no euthanasia supporter is asking anyone who objects to this to be euthanized against their will. Honest, decent people like myself would fight violently for your rights to choose how and when you die. But Christians do not have the grace to return the favour.

While those opposed to euthanasia insist that we never have access to similar rights and freedoms, they wish to impose their will and their beliefs onto us. Again they wish to deny us what, we are told by people of religion, is a “God Given” free will. 

The vast majority of atheists openly and honestly support everyone’s right to freedom of religion and belief. Sadly, the same cannot be said for religious believers.  We do not want to force our beliefs onto others but we also will fight to defend our beliefs from attack and insult.
There are so many other issues and topics I could discuss and mention. So many things make atheists angry. All the normal pressures of everyday life, the injustice and sadness in the world, there are more than enough things to make us justly and rightly angry. Please do not add to these by making up stories about us. Don’t try to justify your beliefs by denigrating ours; that is unnecessary and uncalled for. If you wonder about our beliefs ask us and believe the answers you are given. Telling lies or spreading rumours about others is never justified.

Again, I honestly and openly thank Father Tim for his kind offer of space and for your time and effort in reading this.
I end on saying I have many, many fiends who are believers in God: The Christian god, The Jewish vision of god, the Muslim concept of god, Hindu gods and goddesses, and those with Buddhist beliefs. The common thread amongst them all is to accept, tolerate and respect others.  I am an angry atheist but it does not take much to make me a happy, friendly one. All you need to do is show respect and kindness, concern and understanding to others.

If you have hurt or wronged someone openly and honestly apologise.
If someone is angry with you, sit down and ask “Why?” don’t just dismiss them as being negative. They may have good reasons.

Cheers Doug Steley (from Downunder in Australia)


  1. Larry Green19 May, 2011

    Thank you Doug for taking the time, effort and great care to so beautifully communicate such an important message! There is no thing better for the world than the truth unleashed.

  2. Anonymous20 May, 2011

    You indeed do have a lot of courage and speak from the heart. This is the type of dialogue we need to engage in if we are ever to understand one another.

    It is indeed sad that Church of the discipline era inflicted so much damage on our fellow human beings. It should be a time for reconciliation and healing.


  3. Anonymous20 May, 2011

    Doug is my cousin. Because of a family rift we didn't meet until we were in our 40s.

    Our side of the family are atheists, but it didn't stop us welcoming Doug into our family with all the love and hugs we could muster.

    Doug has been an incredible gift to my mother and me. A better, kinder person does not exist, nor one who fights so passionately for justice and fairness and a better world for all.

    It's sad, and somewhat incomprehensible to me (and probably to Doug), that the side of our family who go to church 'religiously', spend their time at Bible study and pull out their credit cards when it's time to tithe could not have cared less about welcoming this lost sheep back into the family fold. It's their enormous loss, of course, but it does seem passing strange.

  4. doug Steley20 May, 2011

I end on saying I have many, many fiends who are believers in God:

    Edit Friends not Fiends dyslexia strikes again.

    It is impossible for me to actually see the difference between these 2 words and spell check does not tell me the spelling is incorrect.

  5. Anonymous20 May, 2011

    Good post Doug.
    Thanks for sharing your story with us. You've presented your thoughts eloquently. It leaves much to think about.


  6. Doug, what a wonderful world it would be if we could all be so open with each other. I respect and understand how you feel but when i read your wonderful statement i realized what it was that struck me...i see Jesus in you...the Jesus who on the cross cried out"My God , My God why have You abandoned me". We are all richer for knowing you:))

  7. Thank you so much for this. It can sometimes be so difficult to try to explain why we are angry but you have done it, and very eloquently.


  8. From one angry atheist to another: Well said, sir. Well said.


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