When You Hate Everyone

hate

So here’s something about writing a book about conversations between Christians and atheists that no one told me.

It kind of makes me hate everyone.

I hate the atheists. I hate dismissive language being used about religious people when I’m sitting right there.  I hate that when I’m trying to find something to dispute a misconception, all I can see is how the misconception is 100% true. I hate that I know all of the arguments before I even hear them.

And I hate the Christians. I hate seeing the political process manipulated to make atheists look like bullies. I hate seeing God reduced to “nice, manageable chunks” (as my friend Susan said) through the same apologetics process. I hate seeing people write that they hope that the children of atheists are gang raped and that they die a slow and painful death…because of an atheist billboard.

Writing this book is exposing me to ugly, ugly, ugly things. It’s wearing on me, and I’m only in the very beginning stages of this process (well, okay maybe not the VERY beginning, but still pretty early).

Most days I feel pretty much like this.

My default when I encounter stuff like that is to simply disconnect. I get really uncomfortable with controversy, so when I find myself in the midst of something that is stirring up big, angry emotions, I just want to disengage from the whole thing. Shut it down, no more callers.

But just ignoring the hurt isn’t possible in this instance. So I’m left with two choices.

I can just seethe with anger. I can go ahead and hate everyone because they’re all awful. I can turn my writing into an indictment of all of the shitty behavior that makes me want to tear my hair out. I can rant and just let all of my bad feelings out.

Or I can dig a little deeper and try to understand why people are responding the way they do. I can try to unearth the reasons for hatred and anger and fear and expose them to the light.

Some days that is a struggle. Hatred feels far more natural and right.

But when I choose to look deeper, when I choose the light over the dark, I find that my own hatred is exposed and begins to shrivel up.

When hate begins to look attractive to me, I must choose to focus on the One who is the antithesis of hatred.

I must focus on the One who is Love.

By TwoWings (own work (with scanner) … and own hand) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

  • Diane

    Thanks, Alise. True in so many situations X

  • PricelessProject

    I really enjoyed your post and I hope my brain is ready to your book when it is published. Ruby

  • http://www.inamirrordimly.com/ Ed_Cyzewski

    Phew! Fantastic.

  • Joel

    Working in a Christian nonprofit ministry, I often see the worst side of both those in need and the churches that should be stepping up to help them. It can be very defeating at times. Thank you for encouraging me to look past that and reset my focus.

    • http://www.alise-write.com Alise Wright

      Oh, I’m sure that’s a tough one. When you want to grab everyone by the shoulders and yell, “BE BETTER!” that can make going on tough. Thank you for the work you do!

  • shawnsmucker

    Great post, Alise. It’s so difficult to position yourself in the middle of the tension. Your insights from that place will be invaluable.

  • Gordon Duffy

    The dismissive language is a reaction to what can be seen as unearned deference that society usually pays to religious claims. It can feel very empowering to stand up to that and say “I’ll only give this the respect it deserves.”

    • http://www.alise-write.com Alise Wright

      Oh, I get it and that is definitely the point that I make in the book. But it still sucks when you’re sitting across the table from someone who is looking right at you and says, “I’m an anti-theist.” Cuz, you know, I’m a theist. I appreciate the honesty, but it still feels like shit.

      • Gordon Duffy

        I’m against theism, not against all theists.

        You’re a good illustration of this principle, you seem like a decent person so I’m not anti-Alise.

        We disagree about the nature of reality. But we seem to agree on a lot of other things, like about how to treat people.

        • Rebecca Kell

          I’m an atheist, but if theism brings people comfort, I applaud them. Anything that people use as a shield for themselves is fabulous. I will even defend religious beliefs that I find awful, as long as they’re not criminal and only affect the people who choose to attend those services. When I get angry is when that shield is used to hit me over the head. Sadly, this offensive (both meanings) use of religion happens very often and isn’t even noticed on a regular basis.

          My public HS classmates insisted on a prayer at graduation. I explained that I shouldn’t have to sit through a prayer and they could pray at any time. They didn’t care. That was using their religion as a weapon without even acknowledging it.

          There are many similar examples that push atheists into an angry place. The anger is a defense mechanism. It’s probably not the best, but logic and requests for understanding don’t seem to be heard.

          • Alessia

            When I was in high school I was against keeping the crucifix in the classroom in a non-religious public school when most people who weren’t even religious that much wanted it because “those immigrant Muslims want to come to our country and tell us what to do and this is wrong”. I would have stepped up against praying at graduation if I were there. Still I get atheists to treat me with condescending and patronising attitudes because of their ideas of what my life and spiritual and intellectual journeys are like, and how their worldview is necessarily the right one and the only one a mind in its full capacity can accept.
            You are really a rare gem and even if only you so far, you are the person for whose rights I stand for in the name of freedom :)

  • http://sarahaskins.com Sarah Askins

    Such a good post, Alise.

  • http://godspotting.net Sheila Seiler Lagrand

    This grabs me. I thank you for putting yourself in that place of tension. I’ve a feeling we’ll all be better for it.

    Though I’ll admit the “anti-theist” dismays me in ways that the atheist does not.

  • muchl8r

    Friend, this is fantastic. Hate is just an easy response to so many things, like misunderstanding. I’m feeling the same way today for different reasons. Oh well. Happy writing!

  • Dale McGowan

    Boy, do I hear you on this. The nastiness tends to take all the oxygen and airtime, but I’ve found there are lovely surprises below that surface in both communities, and well worth digging for.

    • http://www.alise-write.com Alise Wright

      Yeah, I expect you get it from all sides as well. But like you, I’ve definitely found lots of good in the midst of the not-so-good. Though some days I’m less inclined to go looking for it.

  • Thomas J. Lawson

    I’ve been there. I’ve come to understand that hatred is found in the jungle of fear and love. You love humanity so much that you fear we may never get it right, burning all our bridges until each of us is an island. I don’t think what I have is faith (it’s definitely not a logical conclusion), but I have a firm belief that humanity is trudging in the right direction. Our compass spins wildly more often than not, but oh what a relief on the rare occasion it points toward justice, progress, and happiness.

  • Dan McM

    Good post, Alise. It is hard to walk in that place, actively choosing to love when the same courtesy isn’t shown you.

    Or, to put it another way, it is hard to live in a state of active forgiveness, refusing to hold onto offenses as they occur. My guess is that Jesus might be the only person in history to do that effectively.

    {“Live in a state of active forgiveness.” Has someone said that before? I like the sound of that, will have to remember it…. sound like Shakespeare in that Dr. Who episode, which we just watched last night.}

  • kevinshoop

    I feel this way TONS. I’m a gay guy in Portland who is also a Christian (albeit a librul one). Have more atheist friends than Christian friends; most of them are not dogged about the atheism, but some are and it kind of sucks. I want to be more open and honest with them about my own faith-ish-ness, but worried about THE SHAMING. (Got my fill of that from the other side.) I can’t wait to read your book, Alise!

    • Monika Jankun-Kelly

      Shame on those who would shame you for your faith. It is such an oversimplification to simply say religion is anti-gay so gay people shouldn’t be religious. The reality is complex and nuanced. I think Abrahamic faiths have some truly awful teachings about sexuality, but I also know not all Christians follow those teachings, nor even interpret them as I do. I don’t know you, but if you were my bud, I would not shame you nor try to deconvert you. Your faith is your own business, and I wouldn’t even bring it up unless 1) you wanted to discuss it or 2) I had seen you self-flagellate with it. I doubt self described gay liberal Christians beat themselves up much about their orientation, so I don’t think 2 is even an issue.

  • pastordt

    Uh-huh. yes. I get this. And I thank you for landing where you did and trust that this process will be redemptive. . . in the long run. The getting there? BOUND to be tough sledding.

  • Monika Jankun-Kelly

    Thank you, Alise, for your writing, and your honesty.

    I am so saddened by the ugliness found in both groups. As an atheist, I am so ashamed when “my” people behave this way. I speak up when I see such behavior in the forums I frequent. Others do too. It doesn’t stop all of it, and the worst offenders probably aren’t even there to listen, but know you have allies.

    Your writing is among the kindest, most understanding, respectful, outreaching and bridging things I’ve seen. It is really sad that you of all people would be the target of nastiness. No one deserves such treatment, but directing it at those who reach out their hand just baffles me.

    I don’t blame you at all for feeling how you feel. I’ve felt that way. It is so natural. Nothing strange about reacting this way to being hurt. It takes tremendous effort to remain civil, clear headed, compassionate, objective, when in pain, when others won’t reciprocate. We have limits. Our batteries get drained. There’s only so much we can take before we need a break, or just give up altogether, and I don’t blame anyone who does. You don’t have to push on, you’re under no obligation, but you do it anyway, and that is admirable. Know that it is completely okay to feel as you do, to take time out to care for yourself, and that you’re appreciated and respected.

  • Nikalas Nowell

    Oh boy, I feel your frustration, and have been there too. I love your honesty, and your conclusion. Press on, and write that book! The world needs it…and you. :)

  • http://www.sistersadist.com/ Cam

    I logged in earlier today to comment on this and I had so many thoughts and so many feelings and so much sadness.

    1. Thank you for writing what you do and working so hard to bridge that divide.

    2. Thank you for spending forever on facetime with me and the husband the other night and our rantings and ravings and ramblings.

    Atheists can be real jerks. Christians can be real jerks. People who respond to a deep emotional or spiritual hurt when faced with the a representative of what they perceive to be the perpetrator of their pain can be downright horrible.

    I may not agree with theism, I may often vehemently debate theism vs. non-theism/atheism with theists in an (usually misguided) attempt to express the reasoning behind my lack of believe, and yes, possibly make someone question their own belief system, but I’ll be damned if I will ever be hateful about it. I can’t handle it when atheists call christians stupid for their beliefs and christians call atheists hateful for theirs.

    I appreciate you Alise, I am thankful for writers and storytellers and PEOPLE like you who are willing to deal with wading through all of the terrible hurt on both sides just to help us all find a glimmer of hope in common ground.

  • http://www.wazzapedia.com Warwick

    Nailed it here, Alise.

    If find it such a struggle to embrace the reality of “loving my enemies” when the enemies turn out to be the ones who really should know better, because they’re claiming that they are “being loving” and explaining away their hateful behaviour as “love”.

    In my circles, it seems that many of atheist friends are hateful towards Christianity *because* of that very thing.

    God have mercy on us.

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  • http://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/ jesuswithoutbaggage

    I, too, am often frustrated by the arguments and accusations from both sides. And I agree with you that the solution is trying to understand both sides. But then we are attacked by both sides for siding with the other.

    Your words are wise.

  • http://www.christineorgan.com/ Christine Organ

    LOVE this. So simple, so true.

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  • HQ

    Many of those groups are more like havens for atheists and agnostics than forums for discussions with theists. I hope they weren’t too rude to you.