First of all, I don't think religious belief is extremely destructive.  I agree that intrinsically divisive, irrational and unfalsifiable beliefs about the nature of reality are frightening in the 21st century.  You don't need to look far in this age of terrorism for evidence of this.

Yes, religion has committed atrocities.  Yes, nonbelievers have less reason to act so destructively.  And yes, religion is not necessary for a good life.  Most of us agree there.

BUT, religion is not always or even often destructive.  Although most Christians (I have no experience with members of other religions, sorry) would be fine without their religion-I'm not claiming they can't- it's a characteristic of religion's circular logic to convince people that God is the only source of meaning and morality. It is extremely sad when a delusion is all a person relies on for self-worth, but, there are people who DO rely on it to get along.  For example, I know a couple Marines who can only cope with the guilt of having taken human life by believing that God forgives them. 

I may be preaching to the choir here, but I hope you all realize that being religious also does not make a person stupid.  Neither does it make a person immoral, or crazy, or particularly different from you!

If I've learned anything from losing my faith, it's that there is always a chance I'm wrong in holding a particular belief.  We all are equally succeptible to confirmation bias and logical inconsistency.  Waving around the banner of "intellectual" "skeptic" and "freethinker" as a way to exalt yourself is betraying the very values we are representing. 

Now on to my main point.  Nonbelievers are in the minority, de facto atheists even smaller.  Are we hindering our own progress by being so strident?  Not all people who label themselves with a particular religion subscribe to all its ideas.  Are antitheists like thunderf00t and Hitchens for example isolating moderates and liberals?  Please tell me what you think.

Thanks guys, and this is an awesome forum :)

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I don't know if this was meant sarcastically or not ("Ha! If religion doesn't make a person stupid, what does?").  I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt, because I think you raise an interesting question.  Honestly, I don't know.

I am not sure what makes a person "smart" versus "stupid," or if labels that broad are even useful.  While I don't consider myself a stupid person, I know I've acted stupid in various situations.  In those situations, I didn't think about the consequences of my actions, and acted impulsively.  So I'm tempted to define stupidity as a lack of reflection on your actions, or an indifference to reality.

While I realize that religion can lead to a lack of honest self-reflection and an indifference to reality, this is only in one aspect of a person- philosophy.  I have fundamentalist Christian friends who completely reject evolution and refuse to even consider they might be wrong on that particular belief.  However, those same friends scored incredibly high on the PSAT, get great grades, are very articulate, etc. 

This is all over the place, sorry. It's interesting, though.  One more thing- I can't come up with a decisive definition for intelligence, either.  Raw "computing power" for language/math/etc. doesn't seem sufficient, without intellectual honesty, self-reflection, and a depth of experience.

How would you define intelligence/stupidity?

So Renee, here's the question:

If someone does something that you would define as stupid because of a religious belief, was it not religion that made them stupid?

Correlation is not causation.  They might have been stupid, and therefore they both held that religious belief and behaved stupidly. ;-)

I would add that just because somebody does something stupid, it does not make them stupid.  A person would have to show a pattern of a given behavior to qualify for the given label.

Everybody does something stupid on occasion.  It's part of being human.

Dear Dr. Bobbie,

It sometimes helps to read with understanding,

this part:

"...as stupid because of a religious belief..."

is what makes it a 'causation' question.  If you will notice the root of the word 'because' is 'cause' the same root of the word 'causation'. 

It was not a correlation question.

It's good to have ya back Bob. :)

If someone does something that you would define as stupid because of a religious belief, was it not religion that made them stupid?

I'm sorry, @Gregg, I skipped too many steps for you.

Causation is the question, of course, but all you have presented is a correlation.  The only measurable variables are the person's religious belief, their action, and perhaps their self-reported motivation.  That is insufficient in this case to establish true causation.  All you have is correlation.

A boy grows up in a racist family, in a racist community, engaged in an economic system which reinforces racism, and is a member of a racist church.  The boy may behave in a racist manner, and may even self-report that his motivation was religious.  That's insufficient to establish that he is racist because of his religious belief.  Racists families choose racist churches.  Racist families also teach children to be racist. 

Correlation is not causation.

ReNee's original statement:

"I may be preaching to the choir here, but I hope you all realize that being religious also does not make a person stupid."

The question in question:

If someone does something that you would define as stupid because of a religious belief, was it not religion that made them stupid?

Bobbie,

     The 'cause' is stated in the question ie. 'religious belief', the source of the belief is the 'religion', this is a causal relation, there is no correlation involved.

Maybe this will help,

Religious ideology -} Religious Believer -} Religious Belief -} Something considered stupid.

This is an unbroken causal chain there are no correlational conditions.

Here, I'll give you a another causal question, contained in my question above:

In the moment of committing/performing a 'stupid' act can the agent/person be considered 'stupid'?

If the answer is no, then my question is mute and ReNee's original statement is validated (in this one case only).

If the answer is yes, then we must consider my question as valid and in need of an answer.

"Religious ideology -} Religious Believer -} Religious Belief -} Something considered stupid.

This is an unbroken causal chain there are no correlational conditions."

False. Human beings are not closed systems in the way that you posit. No competent psychologist or sociologist or neuroscientist would accept this premise; it has been roundly disproven.

"How would you define intelligence/stupidity?"

First I would separate the two terms, I don't see them as related.

Someone I would describe as of high intelligence could do something I would describe as stupid (like joining a church for example) :)

The IQ test measures in 3 categories I score very high in one which leaves me with an average of 136 which is misleading because I'm lower then that in the other 2 categories.

So what is intelligence?

Whenever I think about this I keep coming back to the condition of making yourself understood, this seems to me to be a talent most intelligent people have.  But there are people of high intelligence who are poor communicators.

Is common sense a condition of intelligence?

This subject would likely lead to a very long thread on it's own.

Stupidity:

The unexpected undesirable outcome of an action that we could have perceived beforehand we term as a stupid action. 

When it happens to us we call the action stupid when it happens to someone else we call them stupid.

So did Forest Gump's mother get it right?

"Stupid is as Stupid does."

Maybe.

Yes, religion has committed atrocities.  Yes, nonbelievers have less reason to act so destructively.  And yes, religion is not necessary for a good life.  Most of us agree there.

Dear me, I hope most people wouldn't agree. 

Religion is a philosophy, a worldview.  Actually, it's one of a few dozen or hundred philosophies or worldviews.

Philosophies don't commit atrocities.  People do.

I think the notion that nonbelievers have less reason to act destructively is an interesting hypothesis, but it's one that has very little evidence behind it.  I suspect non-believers are just as motivated by self interest, greed, envy, pride, etc. as anyone else.  Being an officially atheist leadership in China certainly doesn't seem to prevent corruption, oppression of minorities, or military adventurism.  

Religious folks might just as easily assert that non-believers have less reason to act generously or heroically.  We might even cite evidence like the relative percentage of income given to charities by the actively religious vs. non-believer in the U.S.

So I think perhaps you have answered your own question.  If you come across as irrational, overly biased or just obnoxious, of course you alienate thoughtful religious folks, and move even those of us who are inclined to be understanding and supportive into roles of diffidence or active opposition.

  I should have worded it, "People have committed atrocities in the name of their religion." 

"I suspect non-believers are just as motivated by self interest....etc. as anyone else"- good point. Thank you, I didn't think of it that way.

I should have worded it, "People have committed atrocities in the name of their religion."

I will certainly agree with that.

To bring this back around to the interesting discussion with @kris, one of the things that the product marketing people tell us is that most people make decisions for emotional / impulsive reasons, and then back-fill a rationale and justification to support the decision.

I suspect that happens for almost all atrocities.  Rather than causing the views or behavior, the claims of "doing things in the name of" are post hoc justifications.

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