Atheists angrier at God than believers, study claims

A STUDY by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that atheists tend to report more anger at God than believers.

Julie Exline, a psychologist at Case Western Reserve University and the lead author of that 2011 study, said her interest was first piqued when an early study of anger toward God revealed a counterintuitive finding: Those who reported no belief in God reported more grudges toward him than believers.

She said atheists reported anger toward God either in the past or anger focused on a hypothetical image of what they imagine God must be like

Exline notes that the findings raised questions of whether anger might actually affect belief in God’s existence, an idea consistent with social science’s previous clinical findings on “emotional atheism.” In other words, atheist belief can be more of an emotional than intellectual response.

Studies in traumatic events suggest a possible link between suffering, anger toward God, and doubts about God’s existence. According to Cook and Wimberly (1983), 33% of parents who suffered the death of a child reported doubts about God in the first year of bereavement.

In another study, 90% of mothers who had given birth to a profoundly retarded child voiced doubts about the existence of God (Childs, 1985).

In other words, anger toward God may not only lead people to atheism but also give them a reason to cling to their “disbelief.”

It is in line with other studies that examined whether atheism is rooted in reason or emotion.

C.S.Lewis talked about his time as an atheist: “I was at this time of living, like so many Atheists or Anti-theists, in a whirl of contradictions. I maintained that God did not exist. I was also very angry with God for not existing. I was equally angry with Him for creating a world.”


35 thoughts on “Atheists angrier at God than believers, study claims

  1. It’s reasonably well documented that the “Red Wedding” caused a number of highly emotional responses from viewers and readers. There are probably a few who’d say they passionately hate Walder Frey.

    Doesn’t mean that they think he’s real though does it ?


    • Hey if you want to avoid the topic that’s tine. Plenty of other stuff to talk about, like the cricket. Will Harris be able to come back from surgery. There’s a worthy prayer if you all want to get on it. 🙂

      But yeah seriously if CS Lewis is genuine in his statement that:
      “…….. I maintained that God did not exist. I was also very angry with God for not existing. I was equally angry with Him for creating a world.”

      Then he was having an emotional response to a fiction.

      Unless he wasn’t being genuine and it’s a cute piece of puffery and projection.


    • Fair enough you obviously have a much higher opinion of the works of CS Lewis than I do (well apart from the Narnia series of course).

      But if Lewis genuinely believed that there was no God while at the same time being angry at the God he didn’t believe in he was therefore being angry at a fiction. Or a perceived fiction at any rate.


    • I’ve never even heard of Red Wedding.

      Yet I constantly hear atheists go on about God.

      They talk about Him incessantly. They follow blogs about Him. They protest monuments to Him. They put banners on buses about Him.

      They put a lot of effort into it. I break out the popcorn.


      • Hey Kathleen,

        Well some do, I doubt every single atheist does, or even the majority

        On the other hand some Christian’s go on about atheists a lot….. 🙂


  2. I think atheists are very insecure. They seem to have a need to be seen and heard. I dunno, really; just voicing my impressions. But you certainly are a miserable lot. Perhaps it’s because real joy can only come from knowing who we are in Christ.


    • Monica: “Perhaps it’s because real joy can only come from knowing who we are in Christ.” This is one of the most self righteous statements I have ever heard. Basically you are telling anyone who doesn’t share your beliefs that their joy is substandard. Bit rich to accuse anybody else of insecurity.


      • Hi Stu,

        The joy I speak about is a supernatural God-given gift/grace, or state of being, if you like. It is something that cannot be experienced apart from God. And I do not expect atheists to understand. Is it something that only Christians can experience? Yes, I would have thought so because it centres around Jesus’ saving work of salvation. But I can see how my words would sound self-righteous to you. I can assure you though that it wasn’t my intent. It’s just an observation…..of the radical atheists who insist that society should be devoid of all religion and signs of faith, like the ones featured in this thread. I think they are a miserable lot.



      • Oh, I’ve commented in the wrong thread. I thought I was in the “atheists try to censor history” one. They are the ones I am referring to. And as for being angry at God, well lots of Christians are angry at God too, and I was one of them.


    • Monica, regardless of your intent, the statement is self righteous. It says that the joy atheists feel about the wonders of reality and everyday life and the joy people of other religions find in their faith “is not real”.


      • To give Monica her due, her original statement did say ‘perhaps’. I find it hard to believe that anyone could really know the quality of another’s joy.


      • I also said “I dunno” 😉

        Yes, you are right Strewth.

        But I still maintain that “The joy of the Lord is our strength”. It is truly something special/supernatural—God’s grace. It does not depend on circumstances….Look at the stoning of the disciple Stephen for example. It’s like once you know the reality of God and His love, no one can snatch your joy away regardless of what’s happening in your life. It truly is grace.


      • Mon,
        Are you suggesting that it would be impossible for an individual who had been ‘twice born’ as a Christian, and served for years with the conviction that he had been saved, to lose his faith and become an atheist?



      • Hi Rian,

        No—the thought didn’t even enter my mind. Interesting question though. Isn’t that what the ‘once saved, always saved’ doctrine is about? I personally believe that if you truly are saved then you will always belong to the Lord, in that you will never turn your back on Him and your faith. But I also believe that we have free will and that people have fallen into apostasy, but perhaps those folk were never truly saved to begin with. Of course, only God could know the answer to that.


    • Believers must be totally insecure if they have to rely on “faith” (determined wishful thinking in the face of evidence to the contrary) for their joy. Only more and more faith can keep your delusional “highs” going.

      At best it is manufactured and pretend “joy”. The fact that you cannot tell it from the real thing based on real events just shows how far from reality you can go without knowing it.


  3. I don’t think the anger that might cause atheism is actually against God, but rather against events that no god has stepped in to avert. If there was a God He wouldn’t have let this happen.

    In their warranted distress people see only the here and now. It’s too hard to think of an eternal future, let alone have faith that it will be better than our present. Better to deny it altogether.


    • Hey Strewth,

      Well there’s also the God that is described in the bible. In some part’s he’s a pretty nasty chap. I can understand if somebody disliked him.

      To me it seems that Christians have a bit of a “Jewish mother” syndrome when it comes to their God. Highlight the good bits, gloss over the bad bits and then tell everybody he’s perfect.


  4. I think the “anger” expressed by atheists is not directed towards any god, but points up the anger that believers ought to feel towards their god if they really think he did all of the terrible atrocities against humanity he is “recorded” as doing in the bible.

    They say, “he did this or that” in horror at the supposed events, vainly expecting that believers might actually look objectively at the “evidence” as atheists do.

    The anger of atheists is akin to what would be felt if a belief in Father Christmas or the Tooth Fairy was considered a necessity in those who make the laws that control the rest of us..

    There is a certain anger which comes from seeing the very stupidity of it all.


    • I can go along with that, Rol. I believe Jehovah was a reflection of the psyche of the people, and therefor showed as many personalities as the writers.

      Doesn’t stop me in believing there is a great power, benign in the long term, and a loving guiding personal presence (or presences – angels if you will) with my personal interest at heart in the here and now.

      I may not be Christian, but have been termed so. 😆


  5. Yes, Strewth, I can understand your wanting to believe that there is some great power with your interests at heart. I can even understand your believing it, given the huge amount of publicity and institutional support such a belief has been accorded for thousands of years.

    But the uncanny parallels of religious beliefs to computer virus programs in almost every respect, and the fact that our brains are simply complex biological computers which even use a binary system of on/off neural switching, makes it imperative that we study this line of connection.

    Once having thoroughly examined religions in this light, the truth of the comparison is impossible to ignore, even to the disabling of our mind’s “Anti-virus” software (our logic and critical thinking) by using the method of transmitting a package with the built-in antivirus-disabling “belief” as a primary imperative..



    • “our brains are simply complex biological computers which even use a binary system of on/off neural switching,”

      True, as far as it goes. But computers are designed, are they not? A great deal of thought was necessary for them to be invented. Or inspiration?

      I know I’m inviting a stir, if I’m saying computers are divinely inspired! What I’m more trying to say is, what thought went into developing the brain?


      • Well designs for the computers we’re using now didn’t just pop up out of thin air one day did they ? Before there was windows there was the DOS based 8086 and 8088 processors. Before that there were punch card machines and vacuum tube processors. Before that there was Charles Babbage and his mechanical difference engine. Before that Pascal and mechanical calculators. Before that logarithmic tables. Before that there was the abacus. Before that they tally stick. Before that people probably just put rocks into piles when they wanted to count something,

        There’s been a very long progression over time to get where we are today. Gee a long progression of changes over a very long time what process is that evocative of again ?

        AS to the brain what if thought went into it. Does that also mean that thought went into the design of psychophrenia, psychosis, autism etc etc etc ??

        Have a read of one good real world example of how our brains work in handling an ordinary day to day activity.
        To quote in part
        “The human brain, he says, is a magnificent but jury-rigged device in which newer and more sophisticated structures sit atop a junk heap of prototype brains still used by lower species. At the top of the device are the smartest and most nimble parts: the prefrontal cortex, which thinks and analyzes, and the hippocampus, which makes and holds on to our immediate memories. At the bottom is the basal ganglia, nearly identical to the brains of lizards, controlling voluntary but barely conscious actions.”

        So by design you reckon ?


      • Bubba, you’re asking me to explain God’s methods, action, will? Granted science has revealed a little, comparitively very little, you’ll have to go to someone wiser than I am, I expect wiser than all of us, to find that out.


      • Heya Strewth

        I though I was just asking for your opinion. If the brain is designed are the disorders of the brain also designed? And if the brain is so designed why so many faults and flaws ?


  6. Hi Strewth,
    No thought needed. You could read The Blind Watchmaker.

    Evolution doesn’t require thought, just sifting out those complex molecules that don’t reproduce themselves as well as others, then killing off all except those best adapted to their environments (and which then pass their DNA to their progeny). This continual sifting ensures that the only the best-adapted life forms continue. And the growing complexity born of errors in DNA copying and doubling and mutating, all add to the growing data-bank of information for evolution to work on.

    In that way, you could start with a single neuron and gradually arrive at the complex brains that all animals of today possess.

    In this way, evolution continually fine-tunes life to its surroundings, rather than the other way round. i.e. the universe is not fine-tuned for life. If life is to develop and thrive it must fine-tune itself or die out. And it doesn’t do that consciously. It either lives to reproduce its advantages or dies.

    Conditions on the planet have changed so dramatically since life first began that only resilient, adaptable life-forms could have survived to thrive in the very different conditions of today.
    If we were transposed to the earth of 3.5 billion years ago when life began, we would die instantly, being unable to breathe the methane and carbon dioxide that the atmosphere would have consisted of.

    Evolution can seem to be counter-intuitive, but once you understand the vast time-frames involved and the very gradual, minute changes taking place, it is clearly the answer. In much the same way it is hard to realize that whole continents have moved halfway across the planet at the speed your nails grow. But we know it happened.


      • There are plenty of beliefs that facts won’t alter.But that doesn’t really change the nature of either facts or beliefs


      • I should have said “Agreeing with all that, Rol. Doesn’t alter my belief, because it shows no reason for me to do so.” 😆


      • Hey Strewth,

        Forgive my bluntness but I think you really meant “those facts won’t alter my belief because my belief was never based on facts.”


  7. Strewth,
    Someone said:-
    “You can’t reason someone out of a belief if they didn’t reason their way into it.”

    If you argue from the basic premise that there is a god, then your argument will be flawed because you will have ignored the most important point;- that you should never start with a premise that itself has not been proven and can never be proven. Every point of argument you use from that stage onward is wrong-headed, even if you then employ strict your argument.

    This is why faith is always faulty. It disables your critical faculties and commonsense born of experience, so that you are prepared to accept propositions about religion that you would never accept in any other area of your life, simply because they would seem totally unlikely and unbelievable.

    If somebody told you that Aloysius died for your sins, you would think “Who’s Aloysius, and who asked him to die for my sins? And furthermore, if he died for my sins, what on earth does that mean, because there’s still “sIn” everywhere so it seems to have been a waste of time and why on earth should anyone else deciding to die for my sins have any effect whatsoever?”
    And you would be perfectly reasonable to ask such things.

    But change the name to Jesus and it comes with such a load of obfuscating baggage and supposed history and anecdotes that many people swallow the whole concept. It still isn’t any more sensible but they dismiss any reasonable objections because they have been befuddled by the sophistry that comes with every religion.

    Somebody claims that Bobby can walk on water. Would you believe it? Of course not. People don’t walk on water. Nobody knows anyone who actually could walk on water. Sure, people claim that Sai Baba can walk on water. They even claim to have seen him doing it. Do you believe that he actually did it? No, of course not. It just doesn’t happen. There have been cases of people who set up underwater platforms so that they looked as if they were walking on water. But why would anyone want to appear to be walking on water except to trick people anyway? But if somebody says that Jesus did it, or somebody just decides to say to someone that Jesus did it, then that’s different. Of course it MUST have happened. Why? I wonder, except for the fact that you want it to have happened, but that is a very different thing.

    If you prefer sophistry to truth then by all means have faith. By all means fool yourself, though you do yourself a disservice.

    But you shouldn’t try to fool anyone else.


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