First, I want to be clear that I’m not judging humanity. Often, anger is justified. Many of us have been abused and abandoned. Sometimes by our friends and family. I get it. There’s lots to be mad about.
People are so angry. Maybe we’ve always been angry, but social media certainly (1) gives us a very public platform to spew the anger and (2) shines a very bright spotlight on that anger. I could give you a thousand examples (and I’m sure you could give me a thousand more), but it really struck me as I read through Joe’s recent article on Huffington Post. Essentially, he explained The Bible Experiment and invited readers into the adventure.
And the comment section just exploded. Lots of people bashed the experiment. (Not all, of course, but enough to leave a mark.) Some were obviously anti-religion, and they used the opportunity to hammer God, church, Jesus, the Bible, Joe, Pope Francis, Kirk Cameron. Some were obviously very religious, and they used the opportunity to hammer atheists, liberal Christians, Pope Francis, Joe, Harry Potter, Candace Cameron (okay, I made that last one up).
And that’s fine. It really is. I know Joe wasn’t hurt or angry with the comments. As someone who studies human communication and behavior, I was fascinated by them. I am certainly not immune to anger. I get upset all the time on social media platforms. I argue far too often. Sometimes I just can’t help but tell other people that their racism, sexism, homophobia, or overall ignorance is annoying. So, I totally get it. I understand the urge to lash out.
There was a big part of me that felt sad for most of the commenters. Sad because they’re so angry. Either experiencing a toxic form of religion that makes them shake a giant fist at the world and yell at heathens to get off their church lawn (that’s not freedom), or experiencing an abusive form of religion that leaves them hating anyone with faith. Look, I’m fine with doubt. I’m one of the most skeptical people on the planet. During the course of an average Tuesday, I bounce back and forth on the faith spectrum—from devout Christian, to atheist, to agnostic, and back again. But I attended an atheist meeting in 2009 during my Church Experiment, and the level of hatred for religion in that room wasn’t healthy. It was heartbreaking, not because people have to be religious, but because somewhere along the way, something traumatic had to happen in order to develop that level of loathing.
There are times when anger is appropriate. No doubt. I get very angry when I hear stories of children or animals being abused. If someone hurt my wife, right or wrong, that person would feel my wrath. But, overall, anger is destructive—to our health, our relationships, our lives.
Draw a bath. Go for a walk. Listen to a great song. Read a book. Play with your kids. Take a deep breath. Relax. Sure, you probably have every right to be mad. There are plenty of legitimate reasons for your anger. But is that how you want to spend your life? It just seems so … bleh.
Photo (Flickr CC) by Susanne Nilsson