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Atheist Anger and Exmormon Offense

May 2, 2011

atheist angerOften, people ask: “Why are atheists so angry?” Similarly, many people (although probably not as many, since the Mormon sphere is a lot smaller) think that Ex-Mormons left “because they were offended.”

Too often, these groups — already used to being marginalized and having their concerns minimized — try to argue that the stereotypes just don’t fit. Atheists aren’t all angry. Exmormons aren’t all offended.

And certainly, this is true.

But we must never forget the actual anger that does exist, the actual offense that has taken place, and that these reactions are reasonable.

Greta Christina has perhaps the most comprehensive accounting of atheist anger and its justification that I’ve seen…ever. They reminded me of Diane T’s and Leah E’s accountings of what about Mormonism is often offensive to the ex-Mormon, former, or post-Mormon.

Ultimately, I can’t help but feel that indignation — however justified — is a fire too unwieldy to bear, even when we try to use it for constructive goals, to improve society. It consumes us, hinders us from progressing. I don’t think we should be considered “defective” or “deficient” for experiencing these things, but nevertheless, it is not an enviable or preferable state of affairs.


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  1. I disagree. Anger isn’t necessarily about being consumed by it. Sometimes, anger is a recognition of an ongoing offense, a kind of catharsis. The goal isn’t always to build bridges in society.

  2. I don’t think that anger is ever “about” being consumed by it (I put in the social scientist caveat…any “absolutes” are blunted to the p < 0.05 level). I just wonder whether that is often an unintended side effect. Whether we often think that there will be catharsis, but in the end, we don't feel better, and the situation doesn't get better.

  3. Seth R. permalink

    I had a fencing match back when I was in law school. It was a sabre match.

    Every once in a while, you get a match up where more physicality than you normally want happens – and it isn’t necessarily the fault of either party. The physical styles just don’t match up right. I got one of these against a freshman fencer. Fairly athletic guy, but less experienced than I was.

    The blades in fencing are flexible and sometimes they can whip around and nail you – even if you parry with your own blade. This was happening to my opponent a lot. We’d come together, and I’d attack to his sword arm (a good choice for a target if you can get it). He’d try to parry me, but he was doing it way too forcefully and without proper distance. So my blade was whipping around and smacking him in the arm – HARD. It was quite painful for him.

    I wasn’t doing it on purpose. But that’s where the available opening was, and he simply wasn’t handling my attacks properly. After the second time, he made a vocal exclamation of pain. Third time it happened, he came unglued and went after me after the ref had called halt and started smacking me across the chest.

    “What was that about?” I asked him.

    “SELF-DEFENSE dude!” he snarled back.

    I shrugged my shoulders and got back on-guard – and completely mopped the floor with him. He was emotional, losing control, fencing sloppy (moreso than before) and completely off his game. He’d let me “get” to him, and it the match was basically over at that point.

    As for me, I was sorry he was getting stung and tried to avoid it after that. But I wasn’t emotional about it. I just aimed to win.

    And I did. And he didn’t. I went on to take third in the tournament. I don’t know how he did – but he certainly wasn’t in the final four.

    The end.

  4. These things just don’t happen in epee, haha.

    Anyway, while I definitely can see your point, I’d raise a counterpoint. A lot of time, when I’m fencing any of the three weapons (especially sabre), my problem is that I’m just not active enough (especially in sabre). And what I’ve noticed is that my emotional state really changes the pace of my fencing…normal, emotionally neutral me takes his time…but hyped up, driven, or angry me has quicker reflexes, and isn’t afraid to press forward.

    I’d definitely say that what holds me back in these cases isn’t emotionality, but inexperience and bad habits I’ve formed.

  5. Seth R. permalink

    I think anger can help compensate for other deficiencies in some fencers that with experience would no longer be issues. After that, the anger is merely a liability.

    Fencing isn’t an episode of Dragonball Z where the guy who gets the most pissed wins.

  6. honestly, despite your story, I’m STILL not convinced that sabre isn’t like that.

    The only way I can unravel sabre right of way is to assume that given two lights and no obvious clank of a parry, whoever screams loudest to the judge gets the point 😉

  7. Seth R. permalink

    That was a good sabre tournament.

    The guy I fenced last, who went on to win second (I got third) had made a bit of an art of NOT charging right off the starting gun, but waiting for his opponent, receiving the charge, and then executing a perfect parry-riposte to score touches. I watched him pick apart two or three fencers like this, and decided to change the rules.

    When I fenced him, I just sat there and waited. He waited. I waited. Eventually, I managed to draw him out and off of his game to where I had a more even chance.

    One of the funnest sabre matches I ever fenced, we were all over the place – back and forth on the strip. Sometimes we traded right of way five times before scoring a hit. The entire strip got used extensively with lots of charging and retreating. Spectators said it was the best match they’d watched all day. He still beat me 11 to 15. But he definitely remembered who I was after that.

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