“I hate you, God. I hate you as though you actually exist.” – Graham Greene, The End of the Affair
A recent set of studies in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, reveals that a significant number of people who consider themselves to be atheists or agnostics are reported to have feelings of anger toward God. In fact more atheists appear to feel this way than do believers. Julie Exline, one of the lead researchers on the study, talked about this contradiction:
At first glance, this finding seemed to reflect an error. How could people be angry with God if they did not believe in God? Reanalyses of a second dataset revealed similar patterns: Those who endorsed their religious beliefs as “atheist/agnostic” or “none/unsure” reported more anger toward God than those who reported a religious affiliation.
Expressions of anger from atheists are obviously common, though certainly not universal. Indeed the characteristic that seems to distinguish the ‘New’ atheists is the vehemence and disdain with which they express themselves, but this study seems to indicate that atheists actually feel this anger toward God Himself.
In many ways this refutes the common atheist meme that belief in God is akin to a belief in fairies or unicorns or Santa. It is virtually impossible to imagine someone retaining anger toward unicorns. Indeed, atheists often say that they simply believe in ‘one less God’ than do Christians but the reality is Christians don’t spend any time expressing anger at Zeus or Vishnu, or any other entities they deem imaginary, whereas atheists fill blogs and books decrying the shortcomings of the Christian God.
I think such anger in and of itself lends credence to the existence of the Christian God – if He were so easy to dismiss, then why waste such emotional effort in pointing out His presumed short-comings? Indeed, one of the events in my life when I was an agnostic skeptic that caused me to re-think my ideas about Christianity was the realization that no other belief caused me to react with such anger. It dawned on me that perhaps this was because I detected a grain of truth in Christian claims and if that was the case, it would radically challenge many of the choices I made about how to live my life.
I would think at the very least the inherent contradiction of feeling anger toward a God one doesn’t think exists would cause certain people to question the rationality of their beliefs.