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.
I dont even identify myself as an atheist anymore because of the strident "I KNOW I am right and you're Wrong!"atheists that give the term a bad name. And it really pisses them off when you refuse to accept the label. Good.
It is just another label to box us in and lump us all together.
I think you've nailed the issue, Amanda.
From my perspective, the fundamental difference between Atheism and Theism is: While an Atheist may or may not act based on a rational premise, a Theist always acts based on an irrational premise.
From there, whether Theists offer something which is true is simply a matter of chance so their judgment/assessment cannot be trusted by anyone.
After stewing over this question I feel that another example might better explain my perspective on religion than does the lady in the fire story.
How about this:
A very pleasant young couple move into a small anywhere city which is typical of the mildly deteriorating social commmittment, focus in irrelant past times such as gambling and sports, less focus on family. After only a short time it becomes obvious that this young couple have formed the nucleus of a change in which people are joining them to offer assistance to the disadvantaged, are encouraging others to move away from spending so much time and resources on irrelevant activities. Families are doing more together and seem to be thriving.
Things seem to be improving in the city so much that the young couple are given charge of the city's social assistance initiatives. Their activities are given tax free status and direct official support. They are given extraordinary powers to act. Other parallel initiatives gradually fall away in the face of the higher committment.
All is so much improved! But then, the health services notice a gradually increasing level of treatment resistant TD in the city and begin quarantining those affected however this does little to decrease the infection rate so frantic searching for the vector is undertaken.
Some checking reveals that the city from which the young couple moved has a very high infection rate with high death tolls and that this infection had been traced back to that young couple. After a raging controversy, people began to shun them, following which they picked up and moved to the new city.
When this is reported to the public, demands are made that this couple be placed into quarantine but they and their supporters refuse, justified by the amount of good being done. Some assert that even if the deaths are directly attributable, the quality of life before death and the quality of life experienced by the general population is enhanced to more than compensate.
Doesn't this young couple have the freedom to go where they will and to associate as they will? Doesn't the good they are doing justify....?
"a Theist always acts based on an irrational premise."
Thats an unfair generalisation and not at all accurate for all theists. Not all theists are fundamentalist, or scripture literalists. An atheist who has a radical hatred of religion can very easily behave irrational, their judgment can be clouded by hatred.
"...whether Theists offer something which is true is simply a matter of chance so their judgment/assessment cannot be trusted by anyone..."
So basically anytime a theist says something of intellectual merit, its a fluke? I simply cannot accept that assumption. Its a vast generalisation. There are plenty of theists who are very intelligent, very scientific too and have thought out their arguments very well. I would call your argument an example of what I am talking about.
On matters of religion and theistic belief, I think atheists are clearer about what is and what might be. So if I'm talking to a run-of-the-mill person who is religious about that, then I'm not sure we are going to find a meeting of minds. But if I'm talking to that same person about a political issue or a social one, or even a mechanical one, I'd have no reason to feel either 'superior' or 'inferior'. It really depends on the subject matter.
I don't think you can assess the intelligence of another person simply by their attitude to spiritual matters. In that area, you might find them odd or illogical, but I don't think that necessarily spreads to other subjects.
Exactly, I think its very important that we not only look at the Shirley Phelps' of the world but your everyday casual theist. A casual theist, who may or may not go to church on Sundays, has a belief system he or she regards as a private matter and does not try to enforce it upon others.
Unless and until someone demonstrates that their god manifests in the real world and that the dogma to which they adhere has demonstrable authority from that god, then it is without basis in reality and so irrational. From there one needs address the questions of whether the dogma is moral and rational.
If Theists offer something which is true but which they attribute to their god's revelation then it must be considered to be true by chance, does it not?
I have answered multiple choice question correctly without any idea of the subject. This does not indicate that I understand the subject but simply that I happened to choose the answer which was correct. 1 out of 5. That I managed this for a series of questions does not indicate competency in the subject any more than shaking some bones onto the floor, then making a correct call about the future indicates "powers".
This discussion has nothing to do with the evidence or lack of evidence regarding deities. It is about the relationship between theists and atheists and them living with each other on this planet.
They believe in God and we don't. Just as the hippy down the street believes in karma and I don't. Different strokes for different folks. They are still human beings.
It seems that I misunderstood your original assertion of "theists offering something true". I thought we were talking about their intelligence overall. Since you are specifically talking about claims in their religion and them coming up with something supporting that which seems to make sense. Its quite possible and probable that it is a fluke. Yes I will grant you that. This would mean they are wrong about that one issue, while being very knowledge worthy about other issues. Just as there are theists who accept the theory of evolution and other such explanations and so forth.
Not intending that this be perceived as adversarial.
Isn't the fundamenal of Theist/Atheist relationship that of evidence versus lack of evidence ?
If one bases one's principles on revelation which does not manifest, then how can there be rational basis?
We certainly all are human beings in my view but this is not shared by everyone. Most Theists of my acquaintence view human beings within the qualification of their deity's dogma. While it should be possible to find general agreement, without verifiable evidence, revealed dogma will tend to foul any process.
Well thats part of my point. It is a form of extremism and all human beings have a chance of behaving extreme or radical etc
It is a form of extremism
Religious enterprises have billions of dollars and government protection surrounding everything they do to a degree that the injustices resulting from these protections which would under any other circumstances cause outrage by citizens, are merely overlooked, forgiven, skimmed over, or ignored completely, all in the name of a god that has no relevance to society. As atheists and possibly the only group of people who can or would oppose these injustices, it requires a response greater than or equal to the fight they put up to silence us into submission along with their believers. If they weren't extreme we would not need to be either. Someone has to put their foot down and say they will not tolerate it, otherwise nothing will change.