It has come to my attention that amongst the non-relgious communities (particularly online) some of us seem to think that being an atheist guarantees that you are the smartest being in the universe and being a theist guarantees stupidity.

There are so many problems with this mentality. To start off, it enfaces a stereotype that atheists are arrogant know-it-all elitists who regard a theist (no matter the mildness of their beliefs) to be worth no more than a molecule of dust on the ground. Obviously we all know this is an inaccurate stereotype. 

Next there is the simple fact of reality that faith nor lack of faith will never guarantee a person of any level nor lack of intellect. There is after all such a thing as being so intelligent it literally drives one a little insane. Then of course there is the simple fact that there are religious scientists for example Georges Lemaître who proposed the very first principals of what later became known as the big bang theory. 

I have been debating religion, the corruption of religion and atheism on the internet for a very long time.  I myself used to be what you would call a "militant atheist". I absolutely detested religion to such an extent that I entirely blamed all the bad in the world on religion itself. I viewed religion as the source of all evil and I'm not the only non-believer who has ever thought this. The world would be better off with no religion at all I used to think. Now in saying that part of me still thinks the world would be somewhat better if people just lost interest in religion, maybe it would. 

But what I have noticed between militant atheists and fundamental theists, is a level of extremism. And that is the real problem here. The problem is not religion, the problem is not atheism; but extremism as a whole. Any form of extremism is dangerous. And this extremism (whatever is form) is developed by obsession over a belief, idea, attitude, and sometimes misguided information. Extremism with atheists comes about very different to theistic extremism. With a fundamental Christian for example. They believe the bible literally to such an extent that they see themselves as warriors for God and will do literally anything to honour the name of God. There minds have been so twisted and warped into fully immersing into this belief system that they really believe they are doing the right thing. They believe its right to tell women they have a place, they believe its right to condemn or convert atheists, they believe its right to attack / discriminate against homosexuals. This is because they have become obsessed and have resorted to extremism. If they were not obsessed, they would not become extremists and would use their religion as a personal belief system in order to feel happy in life etc

Now extremism in atheists does come about very differently, but the core problem of obsession is still there. A lot of atheists are former theists. I've met a few atheists that have never been part of a religion (all online, none offline). But for the most part, most atheists were theists who renounced their faith. Now because of that there are a number of atheists who have had bad experiences with theists. I was subjected to a certain degree of homophobia when I went to Catholic school. We were punished in Catholic school if we did not attend mass and I viewed that as very fascist.  Lets just say the attitude of some egotistical theists gets in our heads, we get very irritated and develop a hatred for religion and even the religious. Some atheists even go as far as calling themselves anti-theists. Now granted atheists are less extreme than the fundamentalist theists. Its very rare that you will meet an atheist who despises theists so much he/she wants every theist exterminated from the face of the earth. Joseph Stalin (as mad as he was, and even though he did have psychological problems) was one of such atheists. This was largely due to how he was treated by the religious as a youth. One might even argue that it was indeed the religious extremists in his institutions that pushed him over the edge. Never the less he hated religion and did what he felt was necessary to solve the problem of religion by banning it. For those of us who know the history of the Soviet Union, know that didn't exactly work out. And now it seems Russia has traded one form of extreemism for another as the current leader of Russia undergoes some very anti-gay laws inspired by the beliefs of the Russian Orthodox Christian Church. 

I guess the point I am making here is not only that extremism has more than one form or another, but also that the existence of extremism is being used to generalise a group; be all theists or all atheists. Not all atheists are anything like Stalin and for that matter not all Christians (or other theists) are like Adolf Hitler.  Both atheists and theists are guilty of generalising each other and making assumptions based on the most extreme of our communities. It is vitally important to acknowledge that not every theists is a scriptural literalist, there are many ways they can interoperate their holy books. It still doesn't persuade me to believing in it, but at least I understand that not all theists think I'm evil on two legs. There are even Christians who just accept what Jesus specifically said in the bible. This is how gay Christians balance faith and accepting themselves for who they really are. 

And from a social perspective we just need to learn to live with each other. If one was to add up the population of theists in the world and compare it with the population of atheists; we would still come up as a minority. And as a minority, we are going to be in positions where we are working, studying, and even become friends with persons of faith. If one was to cast aside persons of faith due to identifying as an anti-theist, well lets just say you might have to experience a very lonely life. 

As a humanist, for me what comes first is treating other human beings with dignity and the same respect I expect. I'm more interested in a persons characteristics in regard to how they treat others rather than their beliefs or non-beliefs. And I'm not saying all atheists are like this, there is number of us who are; so don't take this the wrong way.

Tags: elitism, intelectual, snobbery

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Milos,

It should be discussed at an appropriate venue or setting. For example online forums or even Q&A sites, perfect place to discuss it. A chat show can even be a great place to discuss this or even in a news article or column.

Now I wouldn't recommend anyone to go to a party with a group of friends, and tell them all they are delusional idiots because they are of a specific religion. its awkward, uncomfortable, random and its a great way to lose your friends. Who wants to cause unnecessary arguments amongst friends or family members? I don't. 

Well if you look at the intellectual pyramid, majority of the people there are all top scientists, mathematicians and engineers, many of which are Atheists. 

The idea that "Atheists = smart and theists = dumb " may sound very elitist and condescending, however it does arise from positive stereotypes of statistics that show that Atheists tend to have a higher IQ than theists.

@Adam,

Then how do you answer to the matter that there are religious scientists, such as Georges Lemaître who I mention in the original text of this discussion. Albert Einstein was a deist. Charles Darwin was a Church of England Christian for a significant portion of his life and admitted he was not an atheist. 

There is simply no nice way to tell someone their beliefs are irrational and foolish - believe me I have tried. And if that's classed as 'intellectual snobbery' then so be it. 

I always hope for two things out of a discussion:

1) The discovery of why I am wrong.

2) Communication in a manner which allows my ego to accept it.

#2 is always a problem if I am honest so try to avoid that. ;)

Perhaps someone could help with phrasing of a question which seems to fundamentally inflame, or at least to inflame the fundamental?

"I cannot differentiate between your unsubstantiated beliefs and the utterings of someone who is experiencing a mental health episode. Can you please explain how I may do this?"

It is a genuine question.

Norm,

"I cannot differentiate between your unsubstantiated beliefs and the utterings of someone who is experiencing a mental health episode. Can you please explain how I may do this?"

Well a person having a mental health episode has no awareness to their surroundings for the most part, and is totally disconnected from reality. Most theists (who are not fundamentalists) are not totally disconnected from reality. They have an idea to reason why the universe and everything in it exists. They can't back this up and for the most part its a personal belief system that they don't make a public spectacle about. 

When you are talking to someone with a mental disability, they may have certain ticks or mannerisms that you don't get with a sane person. They may have no communication skills whatsoever. When you talk to a moderate theist about an everyday topic such as a movie you went to see, or the weather, or maybe the latest iPhone; they will respond to you in a perfectly sane manner, no different from an atheist would. 

Not all theists are insane, they just see certain things differently than we do

Not all persons having a mental health episode are totally disconnected from reality, that is an extreme view of mental illness. I wonder if you have direct experience with people involved in the mental health field as it seems not according to your comments. It is not uusual for someone to function normally in one framework or within some range of reference but to have difficulty in another. One might, for example, have an extreme phobia which cases them to behave irrationally in response to the trigger but otherwise not to apparently affect their coping.

I am not understanding your definition of "sane" as those experiencing mental health episodes vary from my unwillingness to handle snakes to someone unable to manage a coherent appreciation of reality. There is not some cut-off line between sane and insane. Some insane people are in all ways wonderful with whom to interact excepting that they may function in a unmanageable & irrational manner with regards some circumstance.

Denying reality, obeying voices within one's head, offering contradictory proofs appear to be irrational. Unless someone making claims can offer some means by which I may differentiate them from someone who lacks an effective connection, how am I to differentiate?

As for "seeing things differently than we do", slavery is good according to many Christians. Is that good? Can we not demonstrate that the keeping of slaves does not make for a moral society? Judging whether something is acceptable based on revelation is irrational, especially when those claiming to be plugged into the same source cannot find agreement.

What one sees is either real or it is not real. What one sees is either true or it is not true. Perceptions are not the measure. Reality/truth is the measure.

One cannot filter one's perception of reality through irrationality to arrive at truth. 

Logical lunatic, 

Well you could try not tell them their beliefs are irrational and foolish, there really is no need to say it unless a religious person is interrogating you over you not sharing their beliefs. You can always tell them you don't share their beliefs and are simply just not interested. 

I think part of the problem is that Theists do not believe in their gods for intellectual reasons. Their faith is driven mainly by the emotional impact it has on their lives. They do not reason themselves into their faith but when they have it they see it as a choice that they made, even though they never did make one. They get all caught up in the rituals and theology of it and invest so much time into reading their books that they come to the conclusion that they have attained special knowledge and truths that are not available to non-believers.

However we Atheists know that this “knowledge” is not what we consider knowledge to be. We certainly do not hold to any statements about it being the “absolute Truth”.

I think this is where the conflict lies. When we engage with them in debate it never takes long before lines like “Science is always changing it mind” or “I do not believe in Evolution” to get a mention. They confuse their subjective beliefs with our objective statements of fact and think that both should have equal merit in a debate.  Example when I told a YEC that the Earth is proven to be almost 5 billion years old and not 6k as he believed, I was told that the debate could not continue if “My mind was going to remain closed to other possibilities”. I said that the subject is not open to debate any more than arguing about the Earth not being a sphere was. I was then accused of intellectual snobbery. However peer reviewed scientific facts will always trump unsupported dogma.

I value critical thinking and scientific knowledge above subjective beliefs. I value reason over faith. It may appear as intellectual snobbery but only to those suffering from the delusion that a god exists. Such beliefs in gods will always keep the mind anchored to one spot and not allow for freethinking or logical reasoning.

I recently debated a Mormon (I don’t know either) who told me that my lack of faith was a weakness of the intellect. I told him that was a horrible thing to say about the 1 billion Hindus that also did not believe in his god. “Ah but at least they have Faith in something”………

If I am in a room with 1 million theists I “know” they are all wrong and I am right. Does that make me an intellectual snob??

Just stumbled on this article......

Thought provoking article. I've read it and its "friends" and agree (what does that matter to its validity?) but do notice some communication problems which seem to confuse people or provide grist for Theists.

When someone states that god is not testable, or that science cannot consider god, this seems to accept that the god concept is valid. There is no such rational position in science so would it not be more accurate to state that god claims provide no evidence for scientific investigation?

I doubt that I am more intelligent that all Theists but, as Forest Gump said, "Stupid is as stupid does."

Our house rabbit sometimes considers my feet to be suitable mates but this does not make it so.

One of us is operating on faith.

Great post. I am probably guilty of getting dangerously close to this form of extreme atheism that you are referring to. I have caught myself thinking some of these same things that you posted about and, when I think about it, that makes me no better than the extreme religious zealot types out there. I'm glad I came across this post. It makes a lot of sense.

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