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Anger at God common, even among atheists
January 1st, 2011
12:15 AM ET

Anger at God common, even among atheists

If you're angry at your doctor, your boss, your relative or your spouse, you can probably sit down and have a productive conversation about it. God, on the other hand, is probably not available to chat.

And yet people get angry at God all the time, especially about everyday disappointments, finds a new set of studies in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

It's not just religious folks, either. People unaffiliated with organized religion, atheists and agnostics also report anger toward God either in the past, or anger focused on a hypothetical image - that is, what they imagined God might be like - said lead study author Julie Exline, Case Western Reserve University psychologist.

In studies on college students, atheists and agnostics reported more anger at God during their lifetimes than believers. A separate study also found this pattern among bereaved individuals. This phenomenon is something Exline and colleagues will explore more in future research, which is open to more participants.

It seems that more religious people are less likely to feel angry at God and more likely to see his intentions as well-meaning, Exline's research found.

And younger people tend to be angrier at God than older people, Exline said. She says some of the reasons she's seen people the angriest at God include rejection from preferred colleges and sports injuries preventing high schoolers from competing.

The age difference may have to do with cultural norms, she said. Perhaps previous generations were taught to not question God, whereas younger people today don't have any qualms about it. On the other hand, it might be that as people get older, they learn how to handle these types of feelings better.

Anger at God can strongly resemble feelings you may have against another person, Exline found. God may seem treacherous or cruel when bad things happen, just like another individual might. Your anger may fester even more when there's no good reason for the negative event, such as a natural disaster or a disease, to occur. And strong, longstanding negative emotions of any kind can lead to physical ailments.

Moreover, distress at God is associated with mental health symptoms. Exline and colleagues found that among cancer survivors interviewed once and then again a year later, those who were angry at God at both points in time had the poorest mental and physical health. But the study cannot prove whether anger at God made them feel worse or that feeling worse made them more angry at God.

Just like with people in your life, you can respect and feel anger toward God at the same time. And you can move toward forgiveness by reframing the way you view the negative event: Perhaps God was not responsible for it or that he acted in that way for a reason.

"When people trust that God cares about them and has positive intentions toward them, even if they can’t understand what those intentions or meanings are, it tends to help to resolve anger," she said.

Granted, these studies aren't definitive; they are steps forward in this emerging field of inquiry and not the final word on the subject.

But we see it in the real world, too. Jeff Crim listens to people's anger at God all the time - specifically, people who are dying. He's a chaplain and bereavement coordinator North Star Hospice in Calhoun, Georgia, and has found that it's important to find a way to express your anger at God in order to deal with it.

Expressing anger can be cathartic, and help you move on, but how you do it is deeply personal, Crim said. Crim himself will speak aloud to God, but others find solace in a trusted spiritual leader or other person to confide in about their anger at a higher power.

"What they need is a safe place to express their anger, to know that their anger has been heard and listened to," he said.


soundoff (1,112 Responses)
  1. coupe31

    Science does not attempt nor can it concluded the existence or denial of a Supreme Being. Atheists should actually be agnostics. Agnostics like myself can NOT BELIEVE EITHER WAY.

    January 3, 2011 at 23:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • MarkinFL

      How do you feel about Santa Clause, who is equally undisprovable? (sorry for the made up word)

      January 4, 2011 at 00:16 | Report abuse |
    • Ituri

      Do you also reserve judgement on the existance of trolls? Unicorns, giants, gnomes, pixies? Dragons, Roman gods, cyclops? Scylla and Caribdis? Super powered men leaping tall builidngs in a single bound? How about werewolves, vampires, zombies?

      We can believe, as confident atheists, that deities are as real as any other mythical human creation. There is zero evidence for any of these things, and until there is it is not beyond reason or rational judgement to say with confidence that they do not exist at all. We can, in fact, believe with certainty that they do not exist, and anyone claiming we can't make that call is someone who dispenses with common sense to do so.

      January 4, 2011 at 00:19 | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      What does science have to do with it?
      I don't need science to know that magic apples and talking snakes are silly.
      Science has no part in me not believing in Zeus who was more popular in that era than your god is now.
      (Well unless your Hindu or Buddhist. I think they are the current heavy weight champs)
      Do I need science to disprove the Easter bunny?

      We don't have to prove anything.
      All we need to do is separate reality from fantasy.
      We're pretty good at that.
      The burden of proof isn't on us.
      We're not pushing anything.
      You're the one trying to sell us something.
      We just aren't buying.

      January 4, 2011 at 09:49 | Report abuse |
    • Kate

      You misunderstand the two words. A-without Theism- belief in gods. Soft atheism simply doesn't believe in gods, hard atheism believes in no gods. Most people who say they are atheists are soft atheists.

      Agnostics say there is no possibility of knowledge of gods. A-without Gnostism – knowledge of gods. An agnostic may believe in a god or not, but they don't think it's possible to have knowledge. That is the basis of that word. It has become corrupted after a while.

      January 4, 2011 at 12:16 | Report abuse |
  2. Dave Donahue

    Lance. You are wrong on two points. First of all I wasn't raised in a Christian home and I wasn't ever exposed to the Bible, I never knew anything about it until I was about 30 years old. Prior to that I spent about 12 years as a merchant marine sailing the seven seas, with out regard for the God of the Old Testament or the God of the New Testament. I use to say that if there is a hell or heaven, I would rather be in hell with all my friends. Second point. I wasn't dire streits or starving or anything like that.I was in an old cabin by myself, no one around. I was challanged by some one to just open my heart to God. I did so that night and what I experienced that night changed my point of view for ever about God. Why should I ever want to get mad at God. He done me all but good. Can you name me thee things that atheism has done for you Lance? name maybe two.
    God Bless you and try opening your heart to God. dave

    January 4, 2011 at 00:07 | Report abuse | Reply
    • MarkinFL

      I'm not Lance, but atheism has brought me much joy and happiness. I am free to wonder at the universe and question EVERYTHING. I do not have to waste time or emotion on senseless baggage (prayer, church, guilt, fear, etc.)
      I have NO fear of death, just a healthy aversion. I will willingly lie down and die when my time is up. I am perfectly open to ALL possibility, even of a god thing should evidence of one finally show up.
      Anyway, that's just a little bit of why I'm perfectly content with atheism. My life is full and has more room in it for all the good things without religion cluttering it up.

      January 4, 2011 at 00:24 | Report abuse |
    • Mr. Sniffles

      MarkinFL has described my experience as an atheist perfectly.

      January 4, 2011 at 00:32 | Report abuse |
    • Lance

      Dave,

      If I read your account right, you sailed as a Merchant Marine from 18 until you were 30. I used to be a ship chandler in Savannah, bringing supplies to the guys in the ships. I asked a lot of questions because I wanted to travel the world and was in college. Later in life, I lived in Seattle, in a Merchant Marine retirement home, that was 1/2 apartments (a newer retirement home had been opened in Tacoma, this one was being turned over to a new owner). Merchant Marine guys live a lonely life, with weeks on end at sea, and little time to themselves when in port, due to the amount of work you had to do.

      That's a lonely life. You were in "an old cabin by yourself" and had been challenged by someone to "just open your heart to God". It's standard practice for people selling their religion to find the most likely customers. Those who are lonely, wounded, coming off an addiction, etc. are always the best targets.

      I'm sure your point of view "changed that night", and I'm guessing for the better. You found fellowship and a world-wide community of fellow believers. If you were unhappy before that, and more happy after that conversion, then I understand why you made it. I'd never tell you to "get mad at God". But think of it this way...

      ...if you had been a sailor of Middle Eastern origin, someone would have offered you the fellowship of Islam and the love of Allah.
      ....if you have been a sailor from Israel or eastern Europe, someone might have quoted you Moses and asked if you wanted to come to the Temple.

      That's what religion does.

      You asked me 3 things that not believing God has done for me.
      1)I make my decisions politically based on the evidence, not on what a book written in a mistranslated group of languages. So I make better decisions
      2)I don't judge others based on what a book that is full of contradictions tells me to judge them with. I look at them as a compassionate human being, try to use science in understanding human nature, and try to "walk a mile in their shoes" before forming any strong opinions.
      3) I will never go to war or harm another person based on my religion and theirs being in conflict by claiming to have the only truth
      4) I will not condemn any two gay people who wish to form a bond for life and take care of each other and make the world a better place by becoming happier themselves
      5) I will not believe any of the foolishness of "Intelligent Design" (i.e. Creationism), and I will fight it tooth and nail in schools so children cannot be made ignorant of science because of someones religious beliefs

      There's more Dave. But that's 5 where you asked for 3. And look, I don't begrudge you having a happier life due to your conversion. I've known Christians who weren't anti-gay, anti-evolution, anti-science, anti-other-religions...but often the belief system of Christianity (or any religion) comes with a lot of judgment of others and anti-science belief that makes the world a darker place for humanity.

      January 4, 2011 at 00:34 | Report abuse |
    • Drew

      Dave don't listen to these hate mongerers, I have not seen one post from top to bottom on this entire page where a Christian is bashing you atheist, quite the contrary. We are taught to love and not hate and that my friends is what makes you so angry. You want us to lash out and be these things you've envisioned in your heads but the simple fact is you are wrong. There is no reason that Dave or I can't express our faith on this board just as you atheist are doing. If you had knowledge about the Bible then you would know that all that is happening was foretold by the prophets. i hate to say it but you are just a piece of the puzzle and the world needs you just as much as it needs Christians and other religions. Just like my friend Dave above, God Bless you in your journey through life it really is quite spectacular and being a Christian only makes it that much better. I am praying for each and every one of you.

      January 4, 2011 at 09:07 | Report abuse |
    • ctaya

      Dave, I do not quite get what you mean when you said "was in an old cabin by myself, no one around. I was challanged by some one to just open my heart to God".
      Did you mean that you were all alone by yourself with no one around and then you heard a voice to challenge you?

      January 4, 2011 at 09:18 | Report abuse |
    • Kate

      I've heard a lot of people who supposedly had that experience, except none of them came to the same conclusions. They all had different gods, different rules and all were about joining groups that were right there in front of them. Later some have found out those groups weren't all that interested in you, just that you went along with whatever agenda they had. As soon as you stop saying the same thing, they will cast you out like yesterday's garbage. It's not pretty.

      Personally, I can't pretend something is true when I can see obviously it is not. Having people accept me into their group is not important enough to try make reality what it is not. Truth is more important to my being than people.

      Atheism is not accepting something someone says as true that has no evidence, nothing more. I can't think of a more honorable, moral ethical way to live. I'm sorry you gave up, but I understand it can be hard to be alone.

      January 4, 2011 at 12:25 | Report abuse |
  3. Mike H.

    Something I know is I have no control over what others believe to be true. Something else I know is God exists and as long as we're on earth we will likely never understand His motives or intentions.

    January 4, 2011 at 00:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. John Hamilton

    If you are an Atheist that gets angry at God, then you are not an Atheist.
    I feel the same amount of anger towards God as I do Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny.
    A belief in an all powerful father figure that watches all you do, is simply primative and childish. I do not need to be bribed with "heaven" or blackmailed with "hell" in order to be a moral human being.

    January 4, 2011 at 00:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Sapient

    Atheism frees the mind. Know God, know myth. No God, no myth.

    January 4, 2011 at 01:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. tom

    The arrogance we emit today is scary. We mock God like we know for a fact that He doesn't exist. We need to humble ourselves. Actually God makes it very easy. He saves us first, and then we learn what it means to worship Him. There's nothing we can do to earn our salvation.

    For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

    January 4, 2011 at 01:29 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Lance

      If there were to be a God, it would be a woman. Life springs from women, not men. Men begin life as women for the first 3 weeks in the first trimester, then things change as our X chromosome kicks in.

      So, if you want to talk about arrogance, you should apologize to the female half of our species that your version of God/originator of life begins as a man. Because that doesn't even reflect the truth of nature.

      Since you want us to "humble ourselves" to God, let me ask you this:

      When was the last time you humbled yourself before Allah?
      When was the last time you humbled yourself before Zeus?
      When was the last time you humbled yourself before Ra?
      When was the last time you humbled yourself before Vishnu?

      ...you call us arrogant for not bowing to your God. Yet you're just as arrogant for not bowing to the worlds other Gods.

      Begone with your arrogant and hypocritical biblical quotations you modern pharisee. Learn some humility before you call others arrogant.

      January 4, 2011 at 01:36 | Report abuse |
    • Pastafarian

      I humbled myself before Flying Spaghetti Monster once. We'd been drinking heavily and I got sick all over the beer volcano he usually keeps in heaven. Very humbling. He forgave me with his noodley appendages, but he never invited me over again.

      January 4, 2011 at 01:54 | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      You mean like the arrogance of trying to make me believe in a god that is based on an old book and word of mouth?
      If so I'm comfortable with mine.

      January 4, 2011 at 09:57 | Report abuse |
    • Kate

      How is it not complete arrogance to act as if you know what gods wants? Especially, since I know for a fact, you have no evidence other than your own ego talking.

      You are pretty disgusting tom.

      January 4, 2011 at 12:29 | Report abuse |
  7. Sapient

    What some view as "arrogance" atheists simply view as rationalism. Part of that rationalism stems from the fact that the alleged "word of God" is, and always has been, spoken by humans.

    January 4, 2011 at 01:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Potty Mouth

    Why is everyone picking on the unicorns? They aren't here to defend themselves!

    I was raised in a religious family who remain religious to this day. I, however, cannot bring myself to believe in something as ridiculous as religion. It just makes absolutely no sense to ME. I'm not mad at god. I do, however, use "his name in vain" as my grandmother says. To me, it's a fun thing to say. I really enjoy how fluidly it rolls out of my mouth.

    I think all religions are hog-wash and don't really understand how people are getting so worked up about "non-believers". I know lots of "believers" who don't get mad at me when we discuss it, they just say subtle things like "I'll pray for you." and "God will forgive you." like I'm some kind of moron. So, in a way, that makes me mad at god. But again, there's no sense in getting worked up about it. By the way, I love christmas.

    January 4, 2011 at 02:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. jayman419

    Given that atheists generally outperform their religious brethren when tested on religion, I assume it was the people who did the study or the person who wrote the article that decided atheists can be angry at something and deny it's existence in the same breath.

    January 4, 2011 at 02:53 | Report abuse | Reply
    • ctaya

      I have found that I am more knowledgeable in Christian theology and Bible than many of my Christian friends. I have to understand it more before I am going to believe it. But the more that I have studied, the further I move away from it.

      January 4, 2011 at 05:45 | Report abuse |
  10. Burt

    "Even a fool knows there is a God." Proof that atheists know there is a God and reject Him anyway. Not smart.

    January 4, 2011 at 03:18 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mr. Sniffles

      That's why he's a fool. But thanks for the not smart post, Burt.

      January 4, 2011 at 03:38 | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      Let me give that a go.
      "Even a fool knows there is no God." Proof that atheists can also make silly posts. 🙂

      January 4, 2011 at 10:03 | Report abuse |
  11. Potty Mouth

    There are roughly 2,000,000,000 (that's alot of zeros) christians in the world. Is it really rational to think that your leader hears all those prayers? But even some christians can rationalize and say "well, he answers, but you just don't realize it." Really? That's ridonkulous. I can't wait for Obama to straighten this whole thing out. He and Boosh are gonna get together and squirt water guns at each other until somebody gives up, THEN we'll know the truth.

    Also, I think it's interesting how when your leader doesn't take the leukemia from your 4-year old son or daughter that he so lovingly gave to them, that it's because "he has a plan".

    January 4, 2011 at 04:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. kidvelvet

    The problem with the article is that we don't know how the study was conducted. After all, as many have pointed out, it is hard for the atheist to be angry at god, as an atheist doesn't believe in the existence of god. So how would that conclusion be drawn? Most likely, the questions were probably worded in such a way that made any answer lead to that conclusion.

    For example, if I ask "When was the last time you were angry at god?" and I said choose from the following: 6 months ago, 1 year ago, 2 years ago, over 3 years ago. The answers do not make sense to the atheist, so the atheist answers "none of the above. I have never been angry." However, I have been instructed by my boss to mark at least one of the answers (leave none blank). So I put "over 3 years ago" as the answer. Is that accurate? Nope.

    Also, this makes the assumption that the atheist was once a believer, which is not always true. So if someone grows up atheist, stays atheist as an adult, then why would that atheist ever be angry with god? It simply doesn't make sense.

    In short, the article is bunk.

    January 4, 2011 at 04:50 | Report abuse | Reply
    • BigJ

      If you follow the link about future research, you can take the survey. I took it, and the way the questions are presented is striking. After indicating that I am an atheist, several questions were presented with a disclaimer along the lines of "Answer this question from your experience when you believed in god, or pretend that you do believe in god." Of course, these questions about personal history and playing make-believe are misrepresented in the article as "Atheists are angry with God!!!!!"

      January 4, 2011 at 10:35 | Report abuse |
    • Kate

      Internet surveys are not valid studies, is that what this is talking about?

      January 4, 2011 at 12:32 | Report abuse |
  13. Huh?

    By definition theists and atheists are in the same category: they know what is going on.
    Agnostics, I am not sure. Christians/Muslims/Jews blame Satan. I need to check the statistics further to understand.

    January 4, 2011 at 04:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. jose

    god is dead.

    January 4, 2011 at 06:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Mike Schumer

    I had a slight epithany As I drove into the Wal Mart parking lot (go figure). The universe is so mystifying, so unanswered why not just take a short cut and say there is some Being that just created it all. End of story. You can go about your business now. Nothing to see here. Just go about your lives and worship the being and all will be well. Now get back to work! Don't waste your time trying to figure out how all this came to be. It was him and he is all mighty and good. Didn't I say get back to work! Hey does anyone know how god came into existance?

    January 4, 2011 at 06:52 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mark

      God comes into existence in mysterious ways.

      January 4, 2011 at 10:07 | Report abuse |
  16. Dave Donahue

    Lance. It doesn't cost me anything to believe in God. What if I am wrong? What do I have to loose? What if you are wrong? What do you have to loose? And if God is only a figment of my imagination,Then I thank God for my imagination.
    On another note. Lance as a sailor I can't ever remember being lonely except on my first trip away from home but I soon got over it. I wasn't loneness that bought me to God, it was a lot of questions I had about life that did it.
    God Bless You all

    January 4, 2011 at 08:13 | Report abuse | Reply
    • ctaya

      Old Pascal Wager once again.
      What if you are wrong and Jesus is not God? Then you violate the Number One rule: there is no other god but Me.
      What if you are wrong about other religions?
      You are also taking a wager in the eyes of other religions. The same question can be thrown back to your face.
      The number one problem for those taking the Pascal Wager argument is that they assume that God (or gods) will not punish them in believing wrongly.

      January 4, 2011 at 09:41 | Report abuse |
    • Ituri

      Doesn't cost you anything? Surely you're joking?

      You lose your ONE life, spend it worshipping things that don't exist. You invest yourself, your time, and you likely give when the collection plate comes by. My parents put in a 20 every week, have for my entire life. Lets assume more, a round 30 years. Thats 20 dollars every week for 30 years, and you say there's no cost? They could only afford to send one of two kids to college, can you imagine having to tell the younger kid no?

      No cost my tukuss. It costs you your life, and it impacts everyone around you.

      January 4, 2011 at 12:54 | Report abuse |
  17. Ernie

    Burt, come back to bed. The Teletubbies are on!

    January 4, 2011 at 09:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Drew

    A Christian does not have to memorize the Bible to be saved my intelligent friends. Christ was focused on the forgotten in society and his coming was to fulfill his prophecies from the Old Testament and save us from ourselves. Can you accept the fact that you and I are predisposed to sin? Potty mouth you are blasphemous and your justification for using the Lords name in vain proves that point. I pray for everyone not just for you. Who am I to judge what,how, when, and why a prayer is answered if at all?

    January 4, 2011 at 09:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Mark

    We don't believe in sin.
    We're atheists. LOL

    January 4, 2011 at 10:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Drew

      call it whatever you want man, you are the intelligent one and remember you are smarter than me so you should understand what I am saying. I agree with the thought that atheism cannot be a religion because none of you believe the same things. If you have ever been out in the woods and were lost you remember that wasn't a good feeling. I feel your pain man, really I do. The sheep argument was a metaphor, a sheep cannot live without a shepherd. We are sheep, you can draw your conclusion from that illustration, thank you

      January 4, 2011 at 10:32 | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      Atheists agree on one thing.
      There is no god.

      The article states we hate god.
      This is fundamentally incorrect.

      My conclusion?
      My intellect, your sheep, your metaphors, getting lost in the woods, and feeling my pain are irrelevant to the topic.
      You're welcome 🙂

      January 4, 2011 at 11:46 | Report abuse |
  20. Jon

    I'm angry at Gandalf for being a self-righteous twit and feeling he has to throw himself off a cliff to be holier than thou.

    January 4, 2011 at 15:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Jon

    And I'm angry at Marian for not telling Indiana Jones that she had his kid. Makes my blood boil.

    January 4, 2011 at 15:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Jon

    And the god of the bible is just is fancy term for men. God is a man. I"m angry at men.

    January 4, 2011 at 15:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. KG

    As an atheist, I'm not angry at God any more than I resent leprechauns for not showing me the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow – even as a fictional character, he's just not sufficiently well-drawn or convincing for that, deeply unpleasant though he is portrayed as being – a pathologically jealous, controlling, manipulative, misogynistic, genocidal, sadistic psychopath. But I certainly can get angry at the worshippers of this imaginary tyrantl.

    January 4, 2011 at 17:25 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mark

      I got to admit I'm not too impressed with the modern day god either.
      I think if I were to champion a god I'd want him to be cool like Thor or Mars.
      Something that screams "Hard core". The current one is kinda generic.

      January 4, 2011 at 19:16 | Report abuse |
  24. james

    This is a false and misleading headline. I challenge the authors to rewrite it. It is clearly an absurd thing to say, and makes no sense. I'm not angry, just concerned that as an Atheist I am so blatantly misrepresented, and that people who really do not understand what it is to be an Atheist will draw some very silly conclusions.

    January 4, 2011 at 18:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Jimmy 2x

    @ JDK
    The interesting about the comment you made is that there are indeed many gods that people have worshipped over the recorded history of man and many gods that people worship today. The reason I choose to believe in the Christian God is because he is the only one whose son left and empty tomb. All other prophets died and that was that. Jesus left an empty tomb.

    January 4, 2011 at 21:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Hawthorne Wingo

    Is the the Onion? Funniest thing I've read all week.

    January 4, 2011 at 23:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. olmon

    It is easy to understand why people are angry with God. They have been lied to by the religious leaders about What He is, Who He is, and almost everything else. God is blamed for all sorts of things that a person who has an understanding of the Bible knows are actual the fault of Satan, the demons and man himself. Satan has done a very good job through the apostate churches of Christendom in making people ignorant of the truth of God and His Son and perverting the peoples worship into something unacceptable to God. The people are to be pitied for their ignorance put on them by the religious leaders that are supposed to teach them, but for the most part, they don't want to learn better.

    January 5, 2011 at 01:48 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Anthony McInnis

      Thank you for saying that.

      April 20, 2011 at 14:09 | Report abuse |
  28. Anon

    Hogwash.

    January 5, 2011 at 09:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. WOW

    There sure are a lot of angry Athiests out there. Thiose who claim to be angry at believers and not God should remember that the same freedom that allows people to practice their faith is the freedom that allows Athiests to practice their non-faith. God bless!

    January 5, 2011 at 09:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Julie Exline

    Thank you for all of the comments and interest in our work.

    Just to clarify: We are by NO means claiming that all nonbelievers are angry at God (or, more precisely, angry about the idea of God). We are also not claiming that anger is the primary source of nonbelief. We recognize that there are many factors that feed into people's decisions about whether or not to believe in God: For example, intellectual, social, cultural, and emotional factors could all play a role in religious belief (for believers and nonbelievers alike).

    What we have found is that SOME (not all!) people who do not believe in God report either: a) anger toward God as part of their history or b) anger when prompted to focus on a hypothetical image of God.

    We interpret these findings to mean that the topic of anger toward God may have relevance for at least some nonbelievers; thus nonbelievers should not be automatically excluded from conversations about the topic. Our goal in our studies, then, is to be exclusive rather than leaving nonbelievers out of our research. We do recognize that anger toward God by a believer is not the same as anger focused on a hypothetical image of God by an atheist or agnostic.

    Based on the comments received here and elsewhere, we have made some changes to our study to try to improve and clarify the questions that are intended for atheists and agnostics. We sincerely apologize for any errors or misunderstandings.

    Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.

    January 5, 2011 at 10:30 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mark

      Thank you very much Julie.
      I think where I got annoyed was I wasn't sure if the errors were being misunderstood or intentional.
      (The impression I originally got from the story was that atheists actually believe in god which was kinda patronizing and insulting)
      I really appreciate your reading the feedback and taking the time to respond. 🙂

      January 5, 2011 at 11:47 | Report abuse |
    • Tori2

      To further clarify Dr. Exline's statement above, it should have said "inclusive" rather than "exclusive." Mark, thank you for taking the time to read Julie's response to all the comments. The interesting thing about this study is that the atheist/agnostic view or lack of view toward God/anger at him was NOT what this study was focused on...it was an unexpected finding. Let me assure you, Dr. Exline in no way focused on this, she just wanted to include everyone in her study. It's because of all the comments here that she actually took the hours necessary – until 2 a.m. – to correct things that were unclear or appeared biased. I've had the pleasure of working with Julie in the past and running her lab, and I can unequivically state that she will listen to everyone and judge no one. Oh, and by the way, she does not watch Fox News – she rarely watches TV!

      January 5, 2011 at 12:35 | Report abuse |
    • Maynard G. Krebs

      Maynard G. Krebs

      The "prompting to focus on a hypothetical image of God" bit pretty much destroys your credibility. You report findings based on having a group of people disregard their core values and pretend something in which they do not believe. Then you decided that the make believe session was their true feelings, and reported that. You artificially created the anger by making atheists and agnostics focus on something they rejected. It takes very little imagination to realize that the method of the test ensured the frustration and anger.

      In short, your methodology is terrible, and you got garbage results. Finding that people who don't believe in a god are mad at what they don't believe in should have been a red flag for you.

      January 5, 2011 at 23:02 | Report abuse |
    • Mr. Sniffles

      Isn't there something else you can spend your research time and money on? With all due respect, your research does not seem to offer any hope of providing any practical use or value whatsoever. What benefit do you expect from this research? How will peoples' lives be improved? There are so many areas in psychology where research can have an positive impact on the real world, so why bother with this?

      Also, the article seems to reveal a strong pro-God bias on the part of the researchers, though in fairness, this may be CNN's writer who did this – she has done it before. Is it your intent to fuse theology into psychology?

      I sure hope you are not spending taxpayers' money on this.

      January 5, 2011 at 23:35 | Report abuse |
    • Ron Jamieson

      Ms. Exline,

      I did the online survey but had to abandon it in the end. I am a Buddhist, and your questions on religion could not be matched with my beliefs. Would it be fair to say that you are a practicing Christian? Your questions often presume a Christian-type God in what your believe a God does. Many of your questions about me couldn't be answered very accurately, either.

      I looked at your other publications, and they are all focused on Christian values. I do hope you find it possible to consider that some of us are not within your frame of reference, and trying to account for us in your study is a bit too much of the pounding of round pegs into square holes.

      January 6, 2011 at 02:00 | Report abuse |
  31. You Know

    You cant see love, but you believe in love. Maybe there is more than we can see. The unknown will always tower the known. Do blind belive in moonlight? Do deaf belive in songs? How much more do we not know? You know.

    January 5, 2011 at 11:47 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ituri

      The blind can sttill feel the rays of the sun. The deaf can still feel the beat of the base.

      Your romantic notion of a tower of unknowns is nothing but your own vapid hope that you're opinion is right.

      January 5, 2011 at 14:50 | Report abuse |
    • the truth

      this kind of pretentious pseudo-logic can be applied to any number of the hundreds of gods that have been invented throughout history as well as all kinds of supernatural fictional characters. why would you ignore all the bad things that are allowed to happen via religious belief just because we can't prove the non-existence of something that by definition can never be detected?

      January 5, 2011 at 14:50 | Report abuse |
  32. Tori2

    To further clarify Dr. Exline's statement above, it should have said "inclusive" rather than "exclusive." Mark, thank you for taking the time to read Julie's response to all the comments. The interesting thing about this study is that the atheist/agnostic view or lack of view toward God/anger at him was NOT what this study was focused on...it was an unexpected finding. Let me assure you, Dr. Exline in no way focused on this, she just wanted to include everyone in her study. It's because of all the comments here that she actually took the hours necessary – until 2 a.m. – to correct things that were unclear or appeared biased. I've had the pleasure of working with Julie in the past and running her lab, and I can unequivically state that she will listen to everyone and judge no one. Oh, and by the way, she does not watch Fox News – she rarely watches TV! 🙂

    January 5, 2011 at 12:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. TikiHead

    Believing in a personal God who's personally interested in your affairs warps your sense of the world. When something awful happens, you're left feeling betrayed. I don't see how atheists fall into this.

    January 5, 2011 at 12:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Pull my finger

    All you Godless basturd heathens are goin strait to hell.

    January 5, 2011 at 14:52 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mark

      But... there is no hell.

      January 5, 2011 at 17:20 | Report abuse |
  35. anonymous

    This is SO misleading. I participated in this study and I can say, without a doubt, that this article is completely wrong. It's not that "athiests are angry at God." That doesn't make sense whatsoever. Atheists do not believe in God at all – how can you be angry at something you do not believe in?

    I took this study as an atheist and there were questions like, "If this happened, how would you feel about God? If you do not believe in God, try to answer this question as if you did." That hardly shows that I'm angry at God...

    January 5, 2011 at 15:15 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tori2

      Out of curiosity, when did you participate?

      January 5, 2011 at 15:55 | Report abuse |
    • Mr. Sniffles

      @ anonymous: Do NOT answer Tori2's question: it is inappropriate and probably unethical for a researcher to do that when the survey promised confidentiality.

      January 6, 2011 at 02:41 | Report abuse |
  36. Tori2

    Oh, and did you read Dr. Exline's response above?

    January 5, 2011 at 15:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Ben

    How utterly ridiculous! I'm don't believe in any "gods" and I'm not angry at any "gods," because none exist! There's no "thing" to be angry with. I'm angry at the disingenuous, lying, self-righteous prigs that keep spreading the MYTH, taking money for spreading the myth, and at the same time, raping little boys and girls. And for the record, atheist is a nonsense term that simply means "someone who does not believe in something that does not exist.

    January 5, 2011 at 16:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Mike

    I'm sorry Ms. Landau, but do you even proofread what you have penned before posting? Do you even have a clue regarding the totally illogical nature of what you say right out of the gate?

    Even atheists are mad at god??? Please spare us this kind of dead end reasoning; if I dare call it reasoning When I read something like this from someone who is probably getting paid to write an article, it makes me realize why our citizenry has lost the ability to think and reason.

    Please tell us that this is just an honest mistake and that you don't actually think that what you have written makes any sense.

    January 5, 2011 at 18:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Timmy

    Atheism is, in it`s self, a belief, therefore, an atheist cannot say he/she doesn`t believe in anything. God is the ovious choice for the blame.

    January 5, 2011 at 18:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Timmy

    Atheism is, in it`s self, a belief, therefore, an atheist cannot say he/she doesn`t believe in anything. God is the obvious choice for the blame.

    January 5, 2011 at 18:49 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mark

      That's a given.
      What we've been trying to say is we don't believe in god.
      I don't think you grasp that concept.

      January 5, 2011 at 19:51 | Report abuse |
    • Mike B.

      @Timmy
      "Atheism is, in it`s self, a belief, therefore, an atheist cannot say he/she doesn`t believe in anything."
      Not quite. Atheists simply do not believe in the god(s) they have been exposed to. They may, in addition, believe that NO gods exist. But all the label "atheist" requires is a lack of belief in god(s).

      @Timmy
      "God is the obvious choice for the blame."
      Uh, no. When god is not believed in then ANYTHING EXCEPT GOD is the likely choice for any blame (since a "god" does not exist and therefore cannot do anything to be blamed for).

      I do not think you understand what being an atheist means.

      January 6, 2011 at 13:05 | Report abuse |
  41. Richard Wade

    Timmy, it's apparent that you don't actually know any atheists personally, so you don't know what you're talking about. I'm an atheist, and I know many atheists very well. The vast majority of atheists simply lack belief in gods. Very few take the extra, and completely unnecessary step to hold a firm belief that there are no gods.

    It is often hard for believers to comprehend the absence of belief, but just because the concept is unfamiliar to you presently, that does not mean it is not possible. The absence belief in something does not necessitate the presence of belief against that thing. The absence of dollars in my pocket does not mean there must be pesos in my pocket instead. It can be empty. It is very possible for a person to not persist in the assumption of the truth of something in the absence of supporting evidence, and it is very possible for that person to not have a counter-assumption in its place.

    Think of it this way. We're simply unconvinced. Believers try to convince us with very faulty arguments, self-contradictory descriptions, and zero evidence. They're making the biggest claim in the world, and they're very poor salespersons who arrive at our doorstep empty handed, with no product to show us. Sorry, very unconvincing.

    As for this ridiculous "research," it seems to demonstrate that same bewilderment and lack of comprehension of the ability to be free of belief without a counter-belief in its place. I can no more "blame" or "be angry" at any gods that believers have described to me any more than I can "blame" or "be angry" at leprechauns. Do you believe in leprechauns, Timmy? No? Would it make any sense for me to say that you don't believe in them because you're angry at them?

    January 5, 2011 at 20:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Michael

    You saw through me, yes I am mad at your god for not answering my prayers. Here are some other things I'm mad at.
    1) Genies, they have never come out of any lamp I rubbed and granted my wishes.
    2) Leprechauns/rainbows, they are too good at hiding and not giving me access to the pot of gold
    3) Witches/Wizards(excluding Wiccans) I can't find one to perform a spell to give me what I want
    4) Zeus; I've had lightening strikes near my house twice in 3 years causing damage to electrical equipment. He started it too because I never had anything against him until he tried to zap me.

    January 5, 2011 at 20:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Dr. Linda Christensen

    Wow...quite the intense discussion...I've been teaching in the area of comparative religion for over 20 years at a university and must say this is a very complex subject.(www.ConsciousLivingPrograms.com) I have met many "angry" atheists who are in a state of hatred towards "God", generally hatred and anger do go together, many are at war with religion/God. (Note: it's an agnostic who is truly neutral, neither committed to belief nor non-belief) This is interesting for psychological reasons. One must ask why such venom, anger, hatred to have to be on a crusade against "God"? What personal experiences in their past is driving them to this? Obviously some deep wounds, disappointments, difficulties in resolving the problem of evil and suffering in the world, for which many blame "God". Why? because it is ASSUMED that God is the cause and source of our suffering. But is that the case? There are a lot of assumptions being made here regarding the nature of God, how "God" may act or not, direct events or not, how "God" relates to this world, humans and life...lots of assumptions here that need to be examined. People too simplistically assume certain things that may not at all be legitimate and the parameters of the debate are fundamentally flawed. Exactly who or what is "God" anyway? When one looks at human history and widespread experience it is attested rather universally that there is "Something More" to life, reality, a higher intelligence in some way that's behind all this, yet...quite the mystery. Religion in general points to that "Something More" and in their feeble ways try to describe, define "it" but alas, our understanding is incomplete. Let us be humble in our approach of this subject.

    January 6, 2011 at 02:13 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mr. Sniffles

      Your response reveals a profound misunderstanding of atheists, as well as a complete lack of recognition of the venom, hatred and anger of religious people towards those who believe in other or no religion. Look above for hundreds of examples. Your judgementalism about "angry" atheists is totally at odds with my experience with them – We only get angry when religion intrudes itself unwanted into our lives.

      Do admit that you are not a psychologist, so your psychological judgements are of no more weight than everyone else's here.

      Your finding that "it is attested rather universally that there is "Something More" to life" is inaccurate, and of course is not evidence of any such divine existence. First, that is hardly a universal view – 1 in 7 in the world are irreligious, and second, that is like saying that in 1940 in Germany it was universally attested that Hitler was a great man and Naziism was the right way – the universality in no way makes it true. So much for your evidence of the existence of God.

      Your post really boils down to your religious fervor making you see all atheists as angry. That's your fervor speaking, guided by all the received prejudices your religion filled you with from birth. Perhaps you don't even notice your own anger and hatred and condescention towards atheists that is so apparent to rest of us.

      January 6, 2011 at 03:13 | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      I think you've been mislead.
      Any atheist that are angry, have a hatred of, or is pursuing a crusade against god can't be an atheist.
      In doing so, it makes them believers. 🙂
      We don't think "Who is god anyway?"
      We think "There is no god."

      I really wish you people would quit telling me what I think simply because you can't grasp the concept of a godlessness.

      January 6, 2011 at 05:39 | Report abuse |
    • ctaya

      I am an agnostic more than an atheist. But I think your explanation of the so called "anger" of the atheists towards "god" is not right. They may be angry, but definitely not towards "god, but organized religions and people which impose their values on those who do not hold the same belief systems.

      January 6, 2011 at 09:52 | Report abuse |
    • MandoZink

      This is a bit silly. Did you get angry at Santa, or the Easter Bunny, when you realized the truth? What kind of mentality would it take to do that? This is just not as logical thinking. Could I possibly be mad at, say, my child's invisible friend.

      Funny what "faith" will bring out in a person. Hmmm, lets see. I don't believe in Klingons, but maybe I should stay indoors in case they attack. I really hate them. A lot. Seriously. I believe I do.

      January 6, 2011 at 16:29 | Report abuse |
  44. Uncle Egg

    I'm a nonbeliever. The idea of being angry at god doesn't even make sense. I am no more angry at god than I am at leprechauns. Even if I were a believer, why would I waste anger at god? It is properly directed at the real human beings who cause so much misery.

    January 6, 2011 at 10:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Rose

    I 'm a believer, but i've lost some much in the last couple of years–of myself. Jobs, trust issues, etc. Recently he took my mom. Got her back then he took her away.....

    January 7, 2011 at 09:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. mrs. white

    we NEED to put religion back into schools!!

    January 7, 2011 at 09:20 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mark

      I strongly disagree.
      There's already a place to learn about god.
      Almost every religion has a place of worship.
      I can't speak for other counties, but grades in the U.S. are already low in comparison to other countries.
      What schools NEED is more schooling.

      January 7, 2011 at 11:37 | Report abuse |
    • Equal Opportunity

      Yes, I agree!! The students should be meditating like Buddhists, chanting mantras like Hindus, praying like Muslims, celebrating the Jewish holidays, and practicing charity and generosity like Christians. How wonderful if the students could learn about the religions of the world and their rich traditions!

      Oh wait. You're probably talking about forcing just YOUR religion on all the children through school, right? Yeah, no thanks.

      February 23, 2011 at 10:37 | Report abuse |
  47. Curtis

    The Bible is filled with accounts of upright individuals who faced personal adversities. Although he was a loyal servant of God, Joseph endured years of unjust imprisonment. (Genesis 39:10-20; 40:15) The faithful Christian Timothy suffered from “frequent cases of sickness.” (1 Timothy 5:23) Even Jesus Christ, who never did wrong, was cruelly mistreated before suffering an agonizing death. (1 Peter 2:21-24) Hence, it is a mistake to conclude that adversity must be an expression of God’s displeasure.

    January 7, 2011 at 09:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Karen

    Yes, I have been angry at God sometimes, it's a natural human reaction when things go bad, but sometimes when things go bad, I have to wonder if maybe I went wrong somewhere, and God is just trying to correct my mistake. God is a parent, and as any good parent knows, discipline is sometimes necessary. No parent likes to discipline there child, but we do it out of love, so as to protect our child....So does God.

    January 7, 2011 at 09:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Skooter

    I have asked why is "God punishing us like this, a lot in the last 6 months". I am a believer in god and know things happen for a reason. But why would he want us to worry about being able to pay our rent and afford our medicines that we need. Looking to be evicted if the help we applied for does not come through. Not looking for sympathy just needed to speak my peace; just as I do with God everyday to thank him for what we do have,

    January 7, 2011 at 09:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Aleyna Strayer

    my God is NOT a genie in a bottle. He doesn't OWE us anything, we owe Him EVERYTHING. It angers me when people use Him as a scapegoat for everything bad in the world. When we are hurting, we should reach out to other hurting people. If you think you got it bad, take a good look around you.

    January 7, 2011 at 09:47 | Report abuse | Reply
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