I’ve heard/read that kind of criticism frequently from other atheists and agnostics. Most often it comes from our Humanist and Secular Humanist brethren. I refer to these freethinkers as the “pass no judgment, kinder gentler, live and let live” branch of the atheist family tree, and that’s fine.
But I cannot abide their holier than thou attitude that we atheists who are confrontational are simply angry, and that this supposed anger represents a threat to the spread of freethought among the religiously impaired.
What they frequently perceive as anger would be better described as frustration and disgust with theist non-think; theist rejection of prima facie evidence of scientific truths and reality and acceptance of the falsehood of supernaturalism. It's the same kind of frustration/ disgust one might feel for people who still believe a woman's place is in the home -- that she should be kept uneducated, barefoot and pregnant. The same frustration/disgust one has watching a shouting / sweating / bombastic shaman extract money from impoverished believers in exchange for faith healing prayers. The same disgust I have for 911 conspiracy theorists, or Obama “birther” fanatics.
Thats not to say that there are no actions that arouse anger in atheists, especially anti-theists. But this anger is directed at the actions of some theists’ -- not their beliefs. I.e.: I have anger for the purveyors of anti-gay hate who proclaim themselves "loving Christians;" anger toward people who send us to war, or who kill innocents in the name of their god; anger for those who distort history and science and try to impose their lies into our schools, government, and lives. I am angered by parents who withhold medical help from a dying child because the bible told them so. And I reserve the right to be angered by churches who turn a blind eye to, and cover up, the immoral acts of their employees. I would express that same anger toward anyone, believer or non-believer, who would actively promote hate, subjugation, lies; or allow their delusions or position of authority to degrade our freedoms, our constitution or cause harm.
That there are thinking people; Humanist, Secularist, agnostic or atheist who DO NOT feel anger for those horrendous actions is a mystery to me. That theists or some freethinkers are put off by justifiable expressions of disgust (in absurd belief) or anger (in unjust action) simply cannot be of any concern to me. Anyone who proposes that by suppressing ones sense of indignation and wrapping it in some warm and fuzzy cloak of genteel complacency it is more prone to get fanatical religionists to stop their harmful acts and throw off their ignorance, hateful prejudices and delusions—then they are just suffering from another kind of delusion.
The “angry atheist” is a myth. When I, when any atheist, expresses anger at the actions of some religionists it’s not because I am an atheist, it’s because I am a freedom loving human being enraged by the unjust acts that mindless devotion to ignorance promotes. Period. That I happen to be an atheist doesn’t make me an “angry atheist” any more than being openly angry at that injustice makes me an “angry Independent,” “angry retiree,” “angry veteran” or “angry American.”
As the bumper sticker says “Well behaved women rarely make history.” Similarly, it wasn’t well behaved atheists who won us the right to profess our non-belief openly, to have atheist organizations, blogs and books without fear of retribution.
To those who distain the outspoken confrontational nature of activist atheist & anti-theist bloggers who call it like they see it; or to those who bemoan the in-your-face style of the Dawkins’, Hitchens’, Harris’ or the Madalyn Murray O’Hairs who have done so much to pave the way for the spread and openness of freethinking, I say if thine eye offend thee pluck it out, and suck it up.