You can’t be angry with something that doesn’t exist

I came across an article this morning featuring information about a recent study done by psychologist Julie Exline at Case Western Reserve University. She was researching anger towards god when bad shit happens. Quoting from Business Week:

Exline’s study analyzed the results of five previous studies that examined people’s relationships with God, particularly during times of personal crisis or disappointment.

In addition to finding that those who were more religious were less likely to be angry with God, the researchers found that certain types of religions, specifically Protestant Christians, were slightly less likely to get angry with God in the face of personal problems.

Interestingly, those who don’t believe in God or question God’s existence reported more anger at God than people who said they believed.

Other groups that were more likely to be angry at God when something bad occurs in their lives include younger people and whites, according to Exline.

Exline said that the anger people feel toward God often parallels the anger that people may feel in other relationships. For example, if someone sees God as responsible for what goes on in their lives, they may feel betrayed by God when they receive a cancer diagnosis, as if God abandoned them in their time of need.

I bold a bit there because I feel like pointing out that anger toward a god can certainly lead people toward questioning his ability to give a damn. And, this questioning of a very basic faith-based principle can eventually lead to people toward giving up the remaining assumptions that he exists. But the anger in cases like that aren’t rails against a god, necessarily. Instead it might be aimed more toward the system that treats this supernatural mysticism as a Truth as real as the existence of the chair you’re sitting on, a truth that has no real legs of any kind to stand on. If atheists or agnostics ever come across as angry at a god, it’s far less about an actual deity and more about the beliefs that are still so damned prevalent when they should be irrelevant by now.

“Anger at God can become a vicious cycle for some,” said psychologist Simon Rego, director of the cognitive behavior therapy program at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. “You may think God has turned His back on you, then you feel guilty for feeling angry and that makes you feel more depressed, which then makes you more angry.”

Rego pointed out that it’s not unhealthy to feel some anger. “All emotions are there for a good reason,” he said, but if the anger is very distressing to you or it starts to disrupt your normal life, it may be time to get help.

“When you stop doing what’s important to you or you can’t function, get some help,” said Rego, adding that when you’re angry at your spouse, you eventually let go of that anger and heal, which often makes the relationship stronger. If you were to stay angry indefinitely, it would have serious effects on your marriage.

“If you’re angry with God and you stop going to church, you’re letting your anger stop you from doing something that’s been of value to you,” he said.

I’ll bet a cookie that Rego is a regular church-goer who doesn’t understand the atheist mindset.

I’m a unique case; I’ve always been an atheist, but I have friends who went through the pain of de-conversion and have come out of it whole and at peace with their decisions, even when it’s meant losing contact with loved ones because of them. They aren’t angry people, either.

If anger toward a deity has led you to question the existence of said deity to the point where you might very well walk away from every belief you ever had about said deity, then now is the perfect time to Google the town you are living in and add the word “Freethinker” or “humanist” into the search field. See what kind of local support you have in your area that will help you cope with the loss of something you no longer hold dear.

If there’s nothing in your area, there are numerous support groups online that you can join instead. You’re not wrong to question this stuff and getting angry over it is a good first step to getting out of it. The article suggests talking spiritual problems over with the clergy or sympathetic psychologists but talking it over with people who’ve gone through the very same thing you’re going through might be the better bet.

Think about it. Don’t let your clergy figures leave you thinking we’re all demons over here. We’re not. We’re just ordinary people, living ordinary lives, law abiding, orderly, and (for the most part) good without gods. It’s an option, is what I’m saying, and it might be a far more beneficial one in the end than it may seem on the surface. Think about it.

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