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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@Simon

You are wrong about religion being fundamental to extistence. Humans have a propensity for false agency detection which often manifests as a propensity for superstition. But the operative word is "false". The inclination for superstition is usually satisfied by religion but that does not negate the underlying falsehood.

Mild belief can be benign for an individual. Unfortunately those weakly religious people provide support for the militantly religious. So religion is generally bad for everyone.

And onto that the misogynistic attitudes of most religions and you have our current situation where religion is more than just bad for women - it is often dangerous.

"... what "works" for women is having a loving supportive husband who will treat her with dignity and respect and allow her to continually grow as a person. It's a huge stretch of the imagination to say that the Bible teaches men how to do this much less command it."  - this is interesting, that perhaps Christianity fails in this regard.  I know that St Paul left us some of the best writing on love in the history of the human race. 


"... most women in Christian marriages who are being treated like shit are chastised by the very people who say they care by telling a woman who is being mistreated to "submit" and "look at HERSELF" and to "live a quiet reverent live and your husband will eventually wake up and smell the roses.""  - I've seen this set-up in other abusive situations, where the culture of bullying is systemic and unspoken, assisted in various ways by most people in the organization, whether they know it or not.

 
"... they are paralyzed from acting in any way that would suggest self-gratification, and their entire self-worth is built on a premise that they are not worthy and are helpless."  - if the husband is kind and supportive, then hopefully the wife would not feel like this. 

Breathtaking, Bell Rose!

You are, truly a person of amazing capacity. The really wonderful aspect of your progress is that it will continue now that you have determined what you will do. Best hopes for you and for your on.

I hope that he recognizes the shining example of the possible which you exhibit.

I continually joke about women/men interactions because I recognize so many issues which are damaging to both. Humor seems one way to hold these things up to ridicule because, deep down, I cannot accept that women are less than men. One would only have to know my mother, my wife, or (frankly) any other of the women in my extended family to see that I could not possibly make any rational case for such foolishness.

Does anyone think that there has been a secular model based on reason which places women into a lower status? Religion can do this because it is based on irrationality, IMO.

Thanks for an amazingly uplifting story, Belle Rose, you have made my day!

You will find that when you look at most cases of religious extreemism right now, such as the acts of Anders Brevik and the attitude of the Westboro Baptist Church; that moderate theists actively speak out against this behaviour. 

Where? How many religious organizations, or even politicians spoke out against Brevik's radical Christianity? From what I saw in the media everyone was too preoccupied with his World of Warcraft account, Call of Duty and islamophobia. His Christianity was mentioned in passing and then brushed aside as soon as they saw video games as one of his hobbies.

The media called him a Christian extremist a few times, but the Christian community was very quiet about it. The only vocal ones were the far right who were trying to link Brevik to Darwin and evolution or flat out deny any connection between Christianity, its traditions and Brevik's views.

Unless I missed a lot of articles somewhere.

Milos, 

I am not talking about "organisations", I am talking about people, that is individual human beings. Of course organisations are going to be corrupt. It wasn't just lack of evidence that caused me to turn my back on the Catholic Church. But in saying that organisations that are not affiliated with religion can be just as corrupt, such as the mainstream education system, the police force, medical institutions etc. Does this mean that all the doctors, teachers and police officers are all corrupt? Of course not. There are extremists in every group. Which goes back to my point, its not group its the corrupt extremists themselves. 

Now back to what I was saying about individual theists being against WBC and Breverik. I have discussed these topics immensely online and have talked with Christians about this through email about this. They claim that WBC and Breverik are not acting Christ like or they might say that he is not a true Christian (I'm not going to get into the whole true and untrue Christian debate here its not relevant). The fact is, they don't support his and their actions and believe they are immoral people for acting like this. 

Organisations don't speak for the masses, the world simply doesn't work that way. So its not that you missed any articles, its more to the point that you are talking the word of organisations to represent the faith of the masses. When in fact their representation isn't really that accurate to begin with. 

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.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^  THIS  ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

The moderate behaving religious may shake their heads at the acts of the extremists, but on the odd chance they read their own holy books, there it is- GOD HATES FAGS, and WOMEN are NOT EQUAL. So like my former self I was both a bit ashamed of my religion, yet guilty about not really be a true "follower". The moderates are the base of the pyramid; the provenance of the extremists.

I don't think it is based so much on intelligent. There are brilliant people who seem to need the crutch of christianity and other religions.They feel a need to belong to something that means this isn't the end . that we only get one life to live. That can be really hard emotionally to wrap one's head around. Logically it's easy to look at evidence and say there is nothing out there. Emotionally not so much. Took me forever to let go of the vague hope that this life isn't my only chance. I think for some they have a need to cling to there is a positive end to what can be a really hard life. Is it rational? Not even close to rational thinking. Humanity as a whole is not rational. Our very actions as a whole shows you that.

I think I heard Michael Shermer observe that smarter people are simply better able to defend their irrational positions.

Assuming that they go around promoting and defending said positions. What if they chose to keep their beliefs as a private personal ordeal? 

They say one should never discuss religion or politics in polite company. Most religious persons I know never discuss religion unless something terrible is being discussed in the news. And even then they don't support fundamentalism 

They say one should never discuss religion or politics in polite company.

Why not? Why are two things that have such a huge impact on the world a no-no topic for "polite company'? Because people might get upset for not being able to defend their beliefs?

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.

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