My Feelings – MINE!

“You’re just angry at god.”
“You have hate in your heart.”
“You sound bitter.”
“You’re mentally ill.”

It’s amazing the plethora of options at a person’s disposal, should they wish to ignore what you are saying. I’ve had multiple occassions where someone tried to dismiss what I was saying on the basis of the emotions I had (or the person imagines I had) when I was saying it. This is similar to the Tone Argument (hey oppressed minority, use a nicer tone of voice when you complain about being fucked over!) but there’s more to it than that. This translates almost to “What you have to say doesn’t matter. You have feelings, and that’s not permitted.”

Let me give you a for-instance. Suppose I am talking with a Christian about my atheism, and I begin to rant and rave a little bit about the contents of the Bible, or some atrocities committed by people following the Bible. Now suppose that Christian ignores every word I’ve said, every point I’ve made, and every conclusion I’ve drawn by simply saying, “Gee, it sounds like you’re just mad at god. Maybe you should fix your anger.” This person is being a rude asswipe, and they are furthermore ignoring the cause of my anger to complain about the presence of the symptom.

Atheists and nonbelievers can be just as guilty of this, even on the religion angle. An atheist who is proud of seeing through the holes in religion at an early age for good logical reasons may have a hard time identifying with an atheist who deconverted during an emotional time or following an emotional experience; aren’t emotional experiences what make people join religions in the first place?

I’ve got a pet peeve when it comes to feelings. As some of you may recall, I wasn’t allowed the full spectrum of emotions as a child. Fear was a sin. Pride a sin. Anger a sin. Despair a sin. So, I get protective of my feelings now, even the “bad” ones. And I think there are few things more presumptuous than supposing you know another person’s feelings better than they do.

There is no “You should feel ____.” That crap isn’t helpful. Telling a person with depression, “You should feel happy!” won’t make them happy, but it might make them angry, annoyed or guilt-ridden. Telling a person who is angry “You should get over it” won’t make them stop feeling anger, but it might stop them from expressing that anger in healthy ways (say like non-abusive verbal venting.)

When I was a believer, I really and truly did believe. I thought Jesus was my best friend and I felt genuinely emotionally close to him. Gods not being real doesn’t make those emotional experiences unreal, just my interpretation of them. Now that I’m an atheist, I really and truly don’t believe. I feel sadness, anger, bitterness, disappointment, betrayal, skittishness, hurt, abandoned – I feel so many things now, looking back on my faith. It does not help me to heal or to grow or to be a better person to have someone ask me to deny those feelings because they cause discomfort in others. I need to feel my feelings, and you need to feel yours.

We’re emotional creatures, and pretending that we are purely logical or rational is foolish.

On a related topic, an old vlog on my anger. (Video contains f-bombs and other swear words, so listener discretion is advised. Some of the youtubers mentioned in this video have moved channels or no longer make videos.)

5 thoughts on “My Feelings – MINE!

  1. Angie. That is fantastic. I have just been copping some shit from a brain dead person on Christians vs Atheists Discussion Board. I hit back hard.
    Keep up the good work.
    BTW I love your hair. You’re a doll.

  2. Terrific post, Angie. I checked your page after listening you at the Godless Bitches podcast, and could not have wished for a better intro to your blog. You are spot on and I feel completely represented by your take on the issue. It is like those people who will tell you to “think about the kids in Africa who have nothing to eat” when you complain that there is a hair in your soup and the steak is calcined (Dawkins and Rebecca Watson come to mind). So now you don’t just have to skip dinner, but you are besides an insensitive jerk for not thinking about all possible alternatives and audiences. This is a present for you: an ancient Spanish tradition called “derecho al pataleo”, which can be translated as “kicking and screaming rights.” The key concept is that if you have to suffer something, you have at least the right to bitch and complain about it, rather than suffering in silence.

  3. Awesome writing, and fantastic video 🙂 You speak openly and honestly, and many more of us agree with you!

    The freedom to have and express your own feelings, could not agree more. People have no right to tell you how you should feel about anything, no one, no one has lived the same life, and to judge someone else’s complex emotions and life history is arrogant in the extreme. Feelings are feelings, no right or wrong, they just are. What you choose to do about them is down to the individual. There is no should/shouldn’t, and as you quite rightly said, telling someone they should feel differently is unhelpful, at best.

    Regarding people taking offense at your tone… I lost a friend today who decided to object to my criticisms of religion, saying she just couldn’t understand why I was so angry with god/religion. She also said that religion is something that shouldn’t be open to challenging or ridicule, because while there might be bad people out there, I’m also offending the many good ones who happen to believe.

    But, like you, I think that it NEEDS to be challenged, and this special consideration it is afforded is ridiculous. If it is such a fragile thing, then it isn’t worth believing in. It should be open to the same criticisms and questions as everything else.

    I finished by stating cases of women being property, cover up of child abuse by the vatican, Warren Jeffs the mormon leader being jailed for child marriages, and the appalling abuse of people born into cults such as those. Asked whether she thought we should quietly allow people to pursue these beliefs and not challenge them? It’s not only our right to speak up against it, but our duty.

    It was also her right to take offense, and I finished by adding that I refuse to apologise for standing up for what I believe in, and offense is just that, offense. It won’t kill her 😉 If she was so offended, then she knew how to block/remove people.

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