Sunday, August 12, 2007

Why we atheists think Christians are so stupid

That ^ is irony, for the impaired among you.

First, let's talk about the idea that atheists think religious people in general are stupid. I actually think there is something to this criticism of atheists. Many don't fall into this trap, but I have come upon the meme often enough that I don't deny it is prevalent. The mistake people are making is in confusing a selective, compartmentalized rejection of rationality with stupidity. It is abundantly clear that manymany intelligent, otherwise reasonable people turn off their critical thinking when it comes to religion. I don't think this detracts from their intelligence, merely from their rationality. And yes, intelligence and rationality are often treated as synonyms, or at least closely linked, in our culture, so it's understandable that people conflate them.

In fact, if you are religious and reading this, you probably bristled when I accused you of being irrational. Generally rationality is highly prized, and you probably protested in your head that you're very rational. Perhaps you even defend your religion as a rational conclusion, pointing to various apologetics. However, if any facet of your religion requires faith, (in the "belief regardless of evidence" sense), you are rejecting rationality. I don't dispute that in every other facet of life, you may be highly rational, and I don't think you're stupid.

But when someone rejects standard methods of discovering truth, and embraces beliefs pretty much just because they feel good, it is understandable that someone who doesn't share this propensity is going to feel a gut reaction that the person is stupid, or crazy, or both. Sometimes it's hard to get beyond that gut reaction to the empirical truth that lots of intelligent people are religious.

As a thought experiment, imagine some belief you consider total, obvious codswallop - whose roots and causes are clear to you as mistakes of observation or well-known foibles of human perception. Perhaps alien abduction stories, the healing power of crystals, astrology, or bigfoot sightings. Now, don't you just have a visceral reaction along the lines of, "How could anyone believe THAT? How could someone be so blind as to what is actually going on?" If you know a believer in this stuff who is otherwise bright and sane, don't you boggle at how they can carry both of these personality aspects in the same brain? That mystified disbelief is just how your atheist friends feel about you!

The second issue here is that Christians seem to feel that atheists unfairly target them, above all other religions. Some Christians complain that we're not anti-religious, objecting to irrational beliefs whatever their form, but that we seem to be gunning for Christianity and ignoring Islam, Hinduism, Wicca, Jainism, and so on. Perhaps it's just the natural tunnel vision we're all subject to falling into. Perhaps it's that Christianity teaches a lot about how its practitioners have been persecuted. But take a step back and realize that English-speaking atheists seem to focus on Christians because that is who surrounds us! 85% of the U.S. self-identifies as Christian. Christianity is the established state religion of Britain. The people trying to inject their religious beliefs into the schools, politics, and laws of my country are certainly always Christian, in my experience. Trust me, if the Wiccans mount a campaign to teach that the Goddess gave birth to her consort the Horned God in public school science classes, we'd go after them with equal gusto. If Buddhists smugly proclaimed from campaign platforms that those without Enlightenment were obviously incapable of morality, we'd be writing invective against them too. It's nothing personal - you're the most powerful people out there right now. Sorry.

23 comments:

AlisonM said...

"Why do atheists pick on Christians" is a question asked not only by christians, but by people from other more secular countries as well. They often don't realize how hard the christian right is trying to inject itself into schools, government, and law. We can quietly shake our heads and smile at the religious beliefs that people hold, as long as they're kept in private, where they belong. We might protest smaller infiltrations, such as woomeisters taking money from credulous people and getting away with it, but even that would be done more out of altruism. When it comes to something that threatens our freedom, and in fact the freedom of all non-christian Americans, it becomes necessary to take a stand. The current vociferousness of atheists and agnostics isn't an attack against christianity, it's a defense against it.

Cogito said...

Absolutely - speaking out is a defensive action. Yet a certain subset of Christians (and it seems from the reactions to The God Delusion it may be larger and more diverse than you might expect) consider it their right to foist their beliefs on everyone around them, using the government's power to do so. They also think they should have final say over what is disseminated by all media, and general control over the culture at large. So you get Christians, who are undeniably the most powerful religious group in the U.S., whining about how our country is against them, is riddled with atheists, and is persecuting them.

The evidence of this "persecution" consists of people asking not to have jackbooted thugs enforcing what religion people may practice, or carrying on life without really thinking about what the Christian fringe wants - e.g., making movies about gays, publishing Harry Potter novels, and so forth.

casey said...

I think this is a wonderful post. It lets christians, and other religious people, look at themselves from our perspective.I don't consider religious people stupid, I consider the section of them that believes in "insert belief here" to be stupid, and irrational. Thank you for this insightful post.

Proud not ot be a christian said...

Yes Christianity is absolute stupid and its followers are idiot and fanatics. Hope the earth will be free from christianity someday

Anonymous said...

I don't find atheists to be smarter or dumber than Christians. On the other hand atheists THINK they are smarter, and that's just unwarranted arrogance.

Anthony said...

Alright well this is by far one of the best, and thought out posts i've ever read in my life. I am 17 at this moment in time, and have been thinking this way since I was about oh 10ish...nicely done even though I stopped being atheist as I hate the church term for it. Being a Heretic isn't as bad as what religion says it is. Some of my Friends, along with myself have started our own religion taking parts from Satanism, Buddhism, Islam, and afew others. We are the true heretics

Anonymous said...

"I don't find atheists to be smarter or dumber than Christians. On the other hand atheists THINK they are smarter, and that's just unwarranted arrogance."


Sorry, but Atheists have a collectively higher IQ than everybody else. And learn how to use commas, you delusional fool.

And no, that isn't arrogance. Nor is it unwarranted.

Anonymous said...

also, spiritual matters go beyond the so called 'rational'. Spiritual matters can be thought of as belonging to a 'super set' of all the attitudes we can take vis-a-vis reality. To try to 'refute' spirituality by claiming it is 'irrational' is misunderstanding what spiritual reality is. What the atheists need to ponder is that denying the existence of any kind of conscious spiritual being independent of a physical body forces you into a rather small corner. If I had the time and the inclination I would explain it to you but it's so hard to get through to the (pseudo-)atheists.

Diamagnetic said...

I have recently carried on a lengthy debate with Christian family members who find my Agnostic prowess to be unnerving. The difficulty I have in any of these debates is their unwillingness to approach the subject from my viewpoint. If a Christian has bought into the propaganda, hook, line and sinker, then the ability to carry on an intelligent debate is forever lost. In the end, they just simple state, "we will pray for you". I say, "don't waste your time."

Anonymous said...

Why be an atheist?

Just because God doesn't give you the 'proof' you want doesn't mean he doesn't exist.

Why not believe in him? If he doesn't exist oh well. But if he does in the end, wouldn't you feel pretty amazed?

If you don't even believe in him Hell is your only choice, if you do, you have a shot at heaven, if neither are true what really is?

Anonymous said...

Why be an atheist?

Just because God doesn't give you the 'proof' you want doesn't mean he doesn't exist.

Why not believe in him? If he doesn't exist oh well. But if he does in the end, wouldn't you feel pretty amazed?

If you don't even believe in him Hell is your only choice, if you do, you have a shot at heaven, if neither are true what really is?

Anonymous said...

Why be an atheist?

Just because God doesn't give you the 'proof' you want doesn't mean he doesn't exist.

Why not believe in him? If he doesn't exist oh well. But if he does in the end, wouldn't you feel pretty amazed?

If you don't even believe in him Hell is your only choice, if you do, you have a shot at heaven, if neither are true what really is?

Anonymous said...

Why be an atheist?

Just because God doesn't give you the 'proof' you want doesn't mean he doesn't exist.

Why not believe in him? If he doesn't exist oh well. But if he does in the end, wouldn't you feel pretty amazed?

If you don't even believe in him Hell is your only choice, if you do, you have a shot at heaven, if neither are true what really is?

Anonymous said...

Why be an atheist?

Just because God doesn't give you the 'proof' you want doesn't mean he doesn't exist.

Why not believe in him? If he doesn't exist oh well. But if he does in the end, wouldn't you feel pretty amazed?

If you don't even believe in him Hell is your only choice, if you do, you have a shot at heaven, if neither are true what really is?

R-E-S-P-E-C-T = Happiness said...

Atheist are dumb. Christians are dumb. Why cant the madness stop. Why cant we just learn to respect each other and their religious beliefs. Me being a christian, we learn to love one another, not just Christians, everyone. So my question is why do Christians say they hat atheists, when they should be the bigger person and just respect them. Same things as for atheist. They always say how bad Christians are, that they aren't rational, faith is for losers, they don't follow what they are taught. But really who are you to judge. By moral and constitutional laws we have the right to pray as we please. And atheists a lot of the time say that something that requires faith is wrong, when really you are wrong. How can you not have faith in something, when that has not even proved itself to you (in this case God, and you haven't even given it a chance to. We should
all just learn to love.

Dumb Atheist peopls said...

Athiest dont have a higher IQ than christians, it depends entirely on the person initially, not their belief you fucktards

X32WaysToDie said...

Well you see why would I want to force to believe something that i consider totally illogical and down-right crazy because of the scare tactics employed by Christians (and other religions). I bet that's what got a lot of fanatical Christians in the situation they're in. I find it amazing that a god, who tells us essentially not to be full of ourselves, can be so narcissistic as to say "believe in me and worship me or i will make you suffer for all eternity. by the way i love you". It's just ridiculous. here's some things for you Christian readers to ponder:

1. What happened to people who during and after the coming of Jesus and the writing of the bible had way of learning of Christianity, such as the Japanese, Mayan, etc? Did they go to Hell? that seems awfully unfair.

2. If God is all-powerful as he likes to boast in his book why doesn't he just destroy Satan now and end the all the sin that he apparently hates?

3. Why did he put a tree that was not supposed to be eaten in the middle of a garden with people and tell them not to eat it if it wasn't meant to be eaten? wouldn't it have been so much easier if he just didn't put it there int first place?

4. Doesn't God seem like an older, and more effective Santa Clause character? You never see him, he's always watching and knows if you've been good or bad.. it seems to me that originally Santa was a tool used by parents to make sure their kids were behaving when they weren't around.. and if you don't believe me, there are COUNTLESS other children's stories that used to be told to keep kids in-line, like the Behinder-Beast (i think is what it's called). Well God just seems like a grown up version used to keep people doing what the powers that be (aka church and governments that support the church agenda) want to do..

the list goes on and on.. my point here is that religion is just so illogical. it makes me wonder if 2000 years from now people will dig up old Star Wars DVDs and start believing in the force.. Oh wait Jedi is now legally a religion (look it up). the truth is i am very open minded to other's beliefs so long as they respect mind, and when you try and shove your thoughts down my throat guess what.. i cough it up and spit it in your face :)
this will probably make as much difference to any Christians reading this as what the Christians on here posted changes my views.. but it was fun anyways

X32WaysToDie said...

Well you see why would I want to force to believe something that i consider totally illogical and down-right crazy because of the scare tactics employed by Christians (and other religions). I bet that's what got a lot of fanatical Christians in the situation they're in. I find it amazing that a god, who tells us essentially not to be full of ourselves, can be so narcissistic as to say "believe in me and worship me or i will make you suffer for all eternity. by the way i love you". It's just ridiculous. here's some things for you Christian readers to ponder:

1. What happened to people who during and after the coming of Jesus and the writing of the bible had way of learning of Christianity, such as the Japanese, Mayan, etc? Did they go to Hell? that seems awfully unfair.

2. If God is all-powerful as he likes to boast in his book why doesn't he just destroy Satan now and end the all the sin that he apparently hates?

3. Why did he put a tree that was not supposed to be eaten in the middle of a garden with people and tell them not to eat it if it wasn't meant to be eaten? wouldn't it have been so much easier if he just didn't put it there int first place?

4. Doesn't God seem like an older, and more effective Santa Clause character? You never see him, he's always watching and knows if you've been good or bad.. it seems to me that originally Santa was a tool used by parents to make sure their kids were behaving when they weren't around.. and if you don't believe me, there are COUNTLESS other children's stories that used to be told to keep kids in-line, like the Behinder-Beast (i think is what it's called). Well God just seems like a grown up version used to keep people doing what the powers that be (aka church and governments that support the church agenda) want to do..

the list goes on and on.. my point here is that religion is just so illogical. it makes me wonder if 2000 years from now people will dig up old Star Wars DVDs and start believing in the force.. Oh wait Jedi is now legally a religion (look it up). the truth is i am very open minded to other's beliefs so long as they respect mind, and when you try and shove your thoughts down my throat guess what.. i cough it up and spit it in your face :)
this will probably make as much difference to any Christians reading this as what the Christians on here posted changes my views.. but it was fun anyways

X32WaysToDie said...

Well you see why would I want to force to believe something that i consider totally illogical and down-right crazy because of the scare tactics employed by Christians (and other religions). I bet that's what got a lot of fanatical Christians in the situation they're in. I find it amazing that a god, who tells us essentially not to be full of ourselves, can be so narcissistic as to say "believe in me and worship me or i will make you suffer for all eternity. by the way i love you". It's just ridiculous. here's some things for you Christian readers to ponder:

1. What happened to people who during and after the coming of Jesus and the writing of the bible had way of learning of Christianity, such as the Japanese, Mayan, etc? Did they go to Hell? that seems awfully unfair.

2. If God is all-powerful as he likes to boast in his book why doesn't he just destroy Satan now and end the all the sin that he apparently hates?

Anonymous said...

I dislike religions (and the people that follow them) simply because I had christianity forced down my neck in primary school.. (had to pray and sing every day).

I also do not like being classed as Athiest... simply because its another classification of religion.
I would much rather just be 'nothing' rather than belong to a mainstream group.

Also,
When you die... YOU DIE. Period.

Anonymous said...

"If you don't even believe in him Hell is your only choice, if you do, you have a shot at heaven, if neither are true what really is?"



This is a perfect example of dealing with irrationality. There is no proof that God exists. Yet, I should believe in him because this non-existent being believes in me. And if I don't I go to hell to suffer for eternity.

Threaten me with eternal damnation all you want. It won't change the fact that you believe in something that isn't true. Sadly, one day you will discover this very fact. Or rather, you won't. Because you'll be dead.

Anonymous said...

Not sure if you are actually interested in any responses to these ?'s, but I'm going to offer up a few ideas anyway:

1. What happened to people who during and after the coming of Jesus and the writing of the bible had way of learning of Christianity, such as the Japanese, Mayan, etc? Did they go to Hell? that seems awfully unfair.

Prevenient Grace- look it up- covers those who have not had the opportunity to hear the gospel. Hell is reserved for those who hear and choose to turn their backs on God. I, by the way, don't assume that every person who calls him/herself an atheist now will necessarily end up in hell. Never know what you might change your mind about in the moments before death... or how long that time feels when you are there, etc..

2. If God is all-powerful as he likes to boast in his book why doesn't he just destroy Satan now and end the all the sin that he apparently hates?

Because God created us with the gift of free will and the opportunity to make our own choices. If you want someone to love you, why would you force them to do so? Forced love, forced worship, does not come from a person's heart. God wants us to CHOOSE him as an act of volition, not as a bunch of robots following blindly.

3. Why did he put a tree that was not supposed to be eaten in the middle of a garden with people and tell them not to eat it if it wasn't meant to be eaten? wouldn't it have been so much easier if he just didn't put it there int first place?

See the above response.

4. Doesn't God seem like an older, and more effective Santa Clause character? You never see him, he's always watching and knows if you've been good or bad.. it seems to me that originally Santa was a tool used by parents to make sure their kids were behaving when they weren't around.. and if you don't believe me, there are COUNTLESS other children's stories that used to be told to keep kids in-line, like the Behinder-Beast (i think is what it's called). Well God just seems like a grown up version used to keep people doing what the powers that be (aka church and governments that support the church agenda) want to do..

I don't follow God out of fear of what will happen if I choose not to, though I'm well aware of that outcome. I follow God because I know He is real. Because I know that He gave the ultimate sacrifice on my behalf. Because I see and feel Him move in myriad ways daily in my life and in the lives of others. It has nothing to do with brow-beating others into thinking like I do. All I ask from people who disagree is the same basic respect that they would give anyone else. I don't consider atheists to be "stupid, dumb, fanatical", whatever... We have a difference in a fundamental viewpoint. Okay, that's fine. But have respect enough for your fellow man, regardless of belief, to treat them with dignity, without name-calling and pointless lambasting.

I find it interesting that someone said we'll learn the truth when we die, or won't b/c we will be dead. I could say the same thing. If I'm wrong, the worst that happens is that nothing happens. If you are wrong... well, you do the math.

phxwv said...

u dont speak for me. im 100 percent athiest and i think all "insert religion here" 's are stupid fucking idiots