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.

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Here here!

I agree the whole atheist=smart/theist=dumb mentality is a very dangerous road to go down. I went to a Christian college where, of course, the majority of students were Christian and several of them were the smartest people I ever met. I too used to be a theist and left my religion, but not because I had a bad experience or was treated horribly. I just up and stopped believing. Even after I went publicly atheist the majority of my closest friends were theists (although, that is probably due in part to the fact that where I am from, atheists are very few and far between). Anyways, I guess the short version of this reply is that I agree extremism is bad and difference in beliefs is no reason for atheists and theists to hate/generalize each other.

I like the burning building analogy, Belle. I also agree with the faithful's own self description in that they are like sheep or children. Are sheep very smart? No. Maybe a sheep is gifted in a particular area like math or science...but still a sheep is a sheep, none the less.

Ultimately I think the slaves of god often lack courage and intellectual honesty. Dreams of heavenly eternity and angels and virgins that await us if we play some prescribed role in one of 1,000s of the religious pageants. If atheists come off as being more intellectual, well it is what it is.

There are millions of people being blinded by smoke, and they are all trapped inside.

If only it were so, Belle. Many of those people decide to set themselves on fire and run out to their neighbour's house and try to burn it down as well, and spread that fire as much as they can because they think that their particular fire is good, and everyone needs to burn like they do.

Theists have every right to hold their beliefs, and I would never take that away from them. I must respect their right to believe, but there is absolutely zero reason why we need to respect the belief itself, especially when it is so unfounded, divisive and harmful to the greater good and progress of our species.

Either way, my answer to your post is:

Hello Bell, first of all I like your analogy, its very interesting. However, in this case one has no option but to make a tough choice, to save this girls life while risking their own life. 

The vast majority of theists are not a fire needing to be put out, will not necessarily behave extreme and you'd be surprised how many ideals in reference to social liberties they share with you. 

As a former Catholic I know what religious teaches too. But I also know that there are alternatives ways of interpreting many scriptures. There are many Christians for example that only focus on what Jesus said (or what they believe he said). There are also many Christians who mostly follow the positive aspects of Christianity (and yes it is cherry picking). Not every theist is forever trapped in a mental burning building. Many see faith as a private matter with its time and place. Many do put their faith aside in certain circumstances, for example they file for divorces, they manage to be gay and Christian at the same time, the have abortions under certain circumstances, they have sex outside marriage etc. 

What I will say about your response is this, it is putting forward a generalisation. Generalisations never accomplish anything. 

No, I'm actually making the point that not all theists are one way

Thats an observation Norm. 

Theists may have strange beliefs to us, but they are still human beings and should be treated as such. When I say they are not all "one way", I mean they can be just as versatile in their thinking as we can be. And I am also talking about the fact that many of them interoperate their belief systems in many different ways. They are not all out of control or dangers etc. 

I totally agree that no theist has been able to offer a good reason for believing in God or proving the claim that there is one. But that doesn't necessarily make them a bad or dangerous person. 

My point and suggestion, is that we put the God question to one side, but our differences to one side and just get on with each other. 

And I have no idea what "theity" is supposed to mean

I just heard this today as I was working.....

"Let me just tell you something: For hundreds and thousands of years, this kind of discussion would have been in most places impossible to have, or Sam and I would have been having it at the risk of our lives. Religion now comes to us in this smiling-face, ingratiating way, because it’s had to give so much ground, and because we know so much more. But you’ve no right to forget the way it behaved when it was strong, and when it really did believe that it had God on its side.

- Christopher Hitchens

Can one be a militant non - believer in leprechauns ? A militant non - collector of stamps ? Atheism is simply a lack of belief , based on the woeful paucity of evidence , in any gods . That's it . I for one , would change my belief , if empirical evidence came to light demonstrating that one or more gods ( or leprechauns , or Bigfoot , or Nessie ), existed . Lack of belief in any gods based on absence of evidence for their existence is not equivalent to believing in a particular god or gods in spite of the absence evidence for their existence . The perceived snobbery you suggest certain atheists " inflict " upon theists , isn't snobbery at all . It is merely a refusal to place ignorance on the same plane as knowledge . That being said , I harbor no ill will toward theists , in the same way I harbor no ill will toward the mentally ill .

Militant atheist goes beyond the simple definition of atheist. It was a phrase coined to explain extreme atheists who have a very strong hatred towards religion and sometimes also the religious. Its basically the same thing as an "anti-theist". 

It seems to me that you are comparing theists to the mentally ill? If that is what you are implying here you are generalising them and assuming they are all deranged. They are not all deranged. As a matter of fact a minority of theists today (at least in the western world) are not psychopathic). An atheist can very easily lose his or her mind while remaining an atheist and would be regarded by man as "mentally ill"

The psychological definition of a delusion is a rigid system of beliefs with which a person is preoccupied and to which a person firmly holds , despite the logical absurdity of the beliefs , and a lack of supporting evidence . To date , this is by far the most accurate description of religious beliefs I have encountered . Delusions are symptomatic of several mental disorders , including paranoia , schizophrenia , bipolar disorder and major depression . You would be correct Keith , in your assumption that I do consider religious belief to be a form of mental illness , though not a psychosis . I would categorize it in the camp of neuroses .

There is not a professional psychologist in the world who you regard a religious or spiritual person and mentally ill. If they did, the mental institutions would be more over-populated than the prisons. 

I will grant you that many of not all of their beliefs defy reality. But how can we really come to the conclusion that this necessarily makes them insane. The have a view point, sometimes several viewpoints about the world based on faith. Is it really any different from being wrong about other topics, issues and subjects? 

I suspect you may want to respond with how some of them may behave based on false ideals. But to assume that a person is going to behave badly just because they happen to have beliefs you don't, is a vast and unrealistic generalisation. It would be like a person assuming that all white or caucasians will eventually want to have African Americans put into slavery again. There was a time in the past when many white people felt it was right to do such a thing, they felt to be a superior race of humans and it wasn't always for religious reasons. As a white man, I can tell you right now that I view all races, groups, labels, non-religious etc as equals. 

There was a time when I used to cringe at the site of a crucifix necklace, but not now. I look past this, and take into account that these are human beings. They have some different views and opinions; that doesn't mean I have to vilify them. 

It would be unethical practice to regard a person to be mentally ill because they are religions and it would not be regarded as professional, rather unprofessional I would say. 


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