If you have to be Genius to be Atheist, We are in Real Trouble


Over the past three years I have been using Stumble Upon as a resource for atheist sites. I have read thousands of blogs and arguments between atheists and “christians.” I know how frustrating these debates can be because there is clearly no convincing some christians that what they believe is completely ridiculous. Regardless of how frustrating debates with “believers” can be, my deeper concern is that most of the current population does not have the opportunity for higher education and because of this, most don't have the chance to become critical/skeptical thinkers. Unfortunately, the tenor and attitudes that some in the athiest community have aren't helping this situation. Instead of being open-minded and debating in a civil fashion, many christians are instead ridiculed and berated by athiests—eventually causing many of them to leave these debates feeling “non-bielevers” are rude, hostile, and arrogant. I see this as a missed opportunity.


I work and volunteer with the rural low income populations. Most are christian and probably will never be open to atheists perspectives—but I believe many other may, if presented the right information, in the right way. I believe many of these people are open to skeptical thinking (not towards religion) but towards the system that represses them. People begin to see the injustice around them, and start researching facts in hopes of improving their lives. Learning facts develops leadership and many community groups are being developed by low income people focused on gaining evidence and facts that exposes how they're being exploited or ignored. This type of critical thinking isn't far from the very same skeptical thinking necessary to understand the faults in their religious beliefs.


What I observe in many (but not all) atheist sites is atheists boasting about their high levels of education, and belittling others who don't have the basic knowledge or even education to even understand the argument. I also observe harsh judgment on grammatical errors, this prevents people from asking questions and communicating: and when there is no discussion there is no learning. Because of OUR inability to discuss atheism with those less educated, less fortunate, I believe we miss a great opportunity to show that atheists are NOT snooty and snobby elitists who look down on the dumb and blind masses. I think its time we atheists take a different approach.


Personally, my own transition from catholicism to atheism many years ago was not an easy journey. I spent years in transition, mainly because I wanted to continue a relationship with my family, who are die-hard catholics. Growing up in a very religious, blue-collar town, I did not become an atheist because someone smarter than me explained how ridiculous being catholic was, nor by someone who berated my spelling and grammatical errors; I did not become an atheist because I went to college and became impressed with the minions of intellectualism; I became an atheist because I realized innately (as many do) that something just wasn't quite right about everything I had been told growing up about religion and life. That spark of skepticism led me to research even further. Luckily, I completed this transition to atheism before I ran across any super-elitists bent on pummeling me about my ignorant ways and the stupidity of my improper grammar. Had I been ridiculed and laughed at by a puffed-up atheist interested in his/her own superiority, I may have taken many more years to “open up” to the ideas of atheism.


We as atheists need to ask ourselves who we have turned away and what opportunities we might have lost to open eyes and minds? How many poor, rural Indiana girls have we chased away? You don't have to be a genius to be an atheist or a skeptical thinker. Perhaps its time to re-evaluate our language, intentions, behavior, motives and whether a different approach might have different results.

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Comment by Godless Conservative on January 15, 2012 at 6:02pm

Eh...we don't have to make friends to get converts.  We only need to get them to think and to start asking questions.

I get where you are coming from, but really that's how the religious win people over.  Ridicule is often effective at getting people to think, and if we do that we don't have to guide them.

Comment by Brian Kinsella on January 23, 2012 at 8:23pm

I definitely agree with your point, but I don't see this nearly as often as it seems you have.  You're going to meet jerks and sweethearts on both sides of the fence if you are looking at comments on Youtube or message boards, but as far as stumbling upon many sites that are openly attacking theists with insults, I can't recall a time I've seen it. 

When conversing with a theist, I make it a point to realize that at one time, I, (a person I feel who is of at least average intelligence), used to believe the same absurdities, and it's not that theists are stupid, but rather, they are being duped.

Comment by Diane on September 29, 2012 at 7:57am

I am perfectly fine with being civil and non-pompous with theists, and I have even been complimented on my ability to do so.  However, I don't want to be a doormat.  I do not try to de-convert them, but instead try to increase their understanding that my existence as an atheist is just as valid as theirs.  Several theists with whom I have had lengthy discussions must at least understand a little bit more that atheists can be caring, thoughtful, real people who simply don't believe in a deity,

On that note, I sometimes listen to Christian radio just to try to understand them better, and for a strange form of amusement.  I recently realized more about how incredibly organized and powerful evangelical Christianity has become.  If there is a rural farm girl in Indiana who hasn't heard the Word, they are trying to reach her in many ways.  I sometimes think that I aggravate myself too much by talking to theists like I do, and it's a drop in the bucket, but at least I'm being true to myself and, I hope, enabling some theists to have less disdain for and fear of atheism. 

I must also admit that sometimes, although it has become less and less I hope, I become totally disgusted and get snarky at theists.  I do not do this to people who are just asking questions reasonably and seem to really want to know, but to people who are on the offensive, trying to push me into a corner.  I will fight back.

Comment by SteveInCO on September 29, 2012 at 10:03am

The grammar complaint is ofttimes legitimate.  My personal policy is to ignore the occasional mistake (except when made by someone being a grammar Nazi themselves, or trying to puff themselves up).  It's the people whose grammar is so bad as to render themselves incoherent, or who I *know* are native English speakers and make the same basic errors over and over again, who THEN try to tell me I am stupid, that I will try to hit with a broadside.  (A non native speaker oftentimes will appreciate a polite correction; unfortunately there's no way to do so privately without "friending" them.)

We had a guy come on here a couple of weeks ago with questions on evolution, and I seemed to be the last person here to decide he wasn't sincerely curious.

Comment by Marc on September 29, 2012 at 1:35pm
Interesting comparison to delusional disorder. It makes you wonder what would happen if all theists were prescribed Risperdal....
Comment by James Cox on September 29, 2012 at 4:01pm

"..many christians are instead ridiculed and berated by athiests—eventually causing many of them to leave these debates feeling “non-bielevers” are rude, hostile, and arrogant.."

Well gosh, I feel the same way, but from them. I have spent most of my life trying to grow a good mind, but then theists or trolls, spend their time spouting crap, that I have sometimes tried to wade through to make sense out of it.

With my wife and her newage stuff, our daughter with her indulgent attitude with air travel-antirecycling-but pro-ecology, to family extreamist politics, and the growing sense of cultural radicalization, it is enough to wear me out trying to make sense out of anything! Is it possible that WE ARE NUTS? Consider this as an open question!    


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