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.
Perhaps I'm still going through phases of understanding and enlightenment too, and just don't realize the enlightenment yet to come.
Meanwhile, Reagan turned me into a democrat, and Bush (II) turned me into an atheist. At the moment, I'm even wary of politicians from Texas, in general. My prejudiced, cartoonish picture of them (and of people who put them into office) is that they are blindered, fear-driven (especially by God), anti-intellectualists. I've heard way too much now of their militant, anti-reason, pro-order, pro-reactionary, flag-waving, good vs evil, with us or against us, patriot vs America-hater, patriarchal mentality symbiotic with fundamental/absolutist thinking, because it's easier and more contagious than working toward unbiased observations, deeper contemplation, and finding verifiable evidence.
I imagined hearing cheers while writing that. But, I don't know if anything written in that last paragraph could enlighten any Texan flocks. I could be wrong, but I think the only way I know how to communicate "effectively" is by finding ways to ask sheep the right questions, somehow helping them to think for themselves instead of me feeding them with my "superior" point of view.
To be honest, it was Bin Laden + Bush (II) that made me want to vocalize my atheist stance, reinforced later by the Palin, Bachman, Tea Party (etc.) wanting to "take their country back".
I'm looking forward to the day when atheist voices are no longer needed as a response to the sheep herds.
I've tried explaining to theists that I don't think I am smarter than them, but they just didn't get it. Probably because they're all a bunch of idiots who can't grasp my genius.
In the places I've lived, religion was a very minor part of day to day life. In high school, there was almost no way of knowing who was religious or not without getting to know them first. As a result, you would form a rather unbiased appraisal of one's intelligence. While it is a bit of a head scratcher for me as to why intelligent people would profess belief in the supernatural, it was readily apparent that intelligence and religious belief are far from mutually exclusive, regardless of statistical trends.
Most politicians in my ridings and in high profile positions have also made a habit of not stepping too deep into openly mixing religion and politics. I can't say it never comes up, but the last time an MP -- a Conservative -- tried to motion for a pro-life policy, even a number of his own party members rolled their eyes. I don't like the PM or his religion, but he's not a stupid man and he's not going to rock that boat even if he did agree with the MP in question. It's not that all religious people are stupid; it's just that sometimes the stupidest ones stand out most clearly because they lack the common sense and shame to not act like jackasses.
I stopped calling myself a Christian long before I lost my faith. Too many "Christians" were acting in an anti-Christian manner. I loathed them for being themselves.
As I have learned more I have come to realize that religion is the real problem and without it most of the Christians wouldn't be slimy asswipes. (Some still would be but that's true of any group.) So I am no longer anti-theist-ist but rather anti-theism-ist.
I am not more intelligent than all theists. That is something to be evaluated on an individual basis. Theists can be very intelligent - except in one area: their beliefs. For example, I have met theists online who show intelligence in many areas but when the discussion turns to their beliefs they get incredibly stupid. Then sadness (or anger) envelopes me - I don't understand how they can be so irrational.
Some of the greatest scientists and philosophers were theists up to the 20th Century. Sticking with just Catholic scientists, how about Galileo Galilei, Roger Bacon, René Descartes, Isaac Newton, Marie Curie, Nicolas Copernicus, Louis Pasteur, Blaise Pascal, André-Marie Ampère, Gregor Mendel, Charles-Augustin de Coulomb, Pierre de Fermat, Antoine Laurent Lavoisier, Marin Mersenne, Alessandro Volta, Augustin-Louis Cauchy, Pierre Duhem, Jean-Baptiste Dumas, Roger Boscovich, Pierre Gassendi, and Georgius Agricola,
And that doesn't even get into Greek and Muslim scientists as well as the scientists of Egypt and the Maya culture.
Perhaps the percentage of Theists pre-20th Century might have been influenced to some degree by the reality of pursecution were one to offer any other label?
Galuleo, for example....
One encounters this viewpoint often, such as Brendan O'Neill's ridiculous essay for the Telegraph last month (http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/brendanoneill2/100230985/how-athe...), but it has some major problems, and I believe it contains some dangerous and damaging assumptions.
First, it is illogical to compare the extremism of a religious person with 'extreme' atheism (which I take to mean active attempts to combat the spread of religion or religious thinking). This is a fallacy often committed by the religious, used to explain away the frightening idea of atheism: succinctly, 'atheism is just another sort of religion'. No, it's really not. Atheism is a logically justified state of open-mindedness and provisionary rejection of unfounded conclusions. The fact that religious belief can and often is used for 'good' ends, such as making an individual feel better about his or her life, does not in any way make up for the fact that the religious attitude, no matter how moderate the expression, encourages blind acceptance or uncritical thinking. Anyone who admits that religious extremism is the problem must necessarily recognize that you can't hope to solve that problem by eradicating only extremism; the problem is the religious attitude, and all of its expressions are therefore enabling and unhealthy. The conceptual gap between religious doctrines such as remission of sins (a 'safe', mainstream western belief) and martyrdom (an 'extremist' belief) is not very wide.
You seem to be extolling the virtue of politeness, which I applaud and support, but let's be sure to make a clear distinction between politeness and 'tolerance', which I abhor. At what point did it become mandatory or morally appropriate to give a free pass to people's crazy unfounded beliefs? The level of 'tolerance' in this country is so high that we have a whole group of people who put the lives of children, their own and others', in danger because of frankly stupid beliefs about vaccinations, ranging from 'it's against God's plan' to 'vaccines cause autism'. Who is to make the distinction between beliefs that should be tolerated because they are harmless and those which should be questioned and remorselessly ridiculed? It's obvious to me, and to most people, that anti-vaxers should have their beliefs questioned, and yet far fewer people would agree that a presidential candidate's private religious beliefs should be up for discussion in a campaign. I fail to see the intellectual distinction; people with obviously bad ideas should be forced to defend those ideas in the face of better ones, no matter the nostalgic or comfort value those ideas have.
Importantly, this is NOT a snobbish attitude. The right person can make any attitude snobby, so of course there are atheist snobs, but I think that, in general, the person who says 'I know very little about the world for certain' is generally less snobbish than the person who claims to have big answers to big questions, as the religious do. The fact that atheists are often so vehement is evidence of the fact that they want to combat the damage they see religion doing, whereas the zeal of the religious is often (in my experience) an expression of a deep fear of uncertainty, looking for confirmation of comforting lies in the credulity of others.
.Good one Brian!
Atheism is a logically justified state of open-mindedness and provisionary rejection of unfounded conclusions.
A nit to pick here, but atheism is nothing more than the lack of a belief in god. It does not necessarily confer a generally skeptical attitude towards any other unfounded conclusion.
I've certainly known my share of dogmatic atheists--they aren't dogmatic about doG, but rather about other things. The religious are right to chide them about their dogmatism, but wrong to blame said dogmatism on their atheism.
"If it nay be Scottish, it be CRAP!!!"
First, let me say that religious people do the same thing to us all the time. In fact, in my experience, they go out of their way to do it. If you haven't experienced this yet, just wait, you probably will.
Second, religion is so patently false that believing in it raises questions about the mental state of the believer. If not stupidity, then some other mental malfunction has to be at work.
Third, you might want to read these: