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 Scarlette Blues on March 20, 2011 at 5:22pm
Very well said!
Comment by dataguy on March 20, 2011 at 10:04pm
I relate to what you've written, and I agree, very well said perspicacity.
Comment by Walter Maki on March 21, 2011 at 1:40am
I have not experienced this personally. I have a pretty decent IQ and comprehension and have a good grasp of science. But when I try to explain something to others not as fortunate I do not talk down to them but making an effort to make them understand. My wifes cousin who exposed me to atheism is also of decent IQ but is very much down to earth. Being smarter to me means you are in a position to teach not alienate. You can't open their eyes with a hammer.
Comment by Heather Spoonheim on March 21, 2011 at 2:30am
I agree with what you are saying and don't feel that attacks on a person's grammer/spelling (or any other ad hominem attacks) are of any value. My approach has almost always been to avoid tearing apart the documented mythology by pointing out contradiction within itself and with scientific observation.

The strategy I usually employ is to ask the person why they came to the conclusion that a god exists in the first place. For most, the only authentic answer to that question is, "Because my parents believed there is a god." The trouble is that most religions fill the heads of their congregation with all sorts of pseudo-science these days in an attempt to dissuade them from presenting such a weak, although authentic, claim.

The most recent theist to engage this group refused at every turn to offer an authentic reason why he had come to the conclusion there was a god. He instead tried to wow the crowd with some pseudo-scientific resources that were meaningless. There was no way to point out the scientific forgery of those resources without discussing the actual science and argumentative fallacies behind those resources.

Now I would love to keep my counter-arguments much simpler, but I must admit that I don't see how. I ask you then, what do you think would be a better counter argument to use when a theist asserts that god is real because archeological evidence has proven that many of the places mentioned in the bible actually existed?
Comment by Richard Noah on March 21, 2011 at 6:49am

I think a key element in a discussion with a 'believer' is the idea that they may not really know very much about their religion. I find that distressing that a person will defend something they really don't understand very well. However, they think they do, so you are fighting two battles at once. 1) the original argument 2) correcting them when they make erroneous quotes concerning their argument.

A great deal of folks I converse with are actually ignorant of their own argument elements. They are, at best, parrots. Seems a LOT of christians do that... the parrot bit. Just keep repeating the same stories across generations.  Parrots are especially hard to argue with as they didn't create the original item being argued, so it gets frustrating. They just keep it up and get all angry and stuff when you refuse to buy this faulty line of reasoning. It gets to be the-- "repeat it often enough and it must be true" way of thinking. (A christian favorite... and an ignorance "flag", to me) Folks at that level aren't even fun. I think most of them are lost in rhetoric they'll never comprehend.  It's unfortunate they vote, but that's my own opinion.


Heather-- yeah, it gets tough when you see pseudo-science shows where the archeologist sits on a stone bench, in a garden, and says -- "Just think... Jesus may have once sat right here." Ugly stuff... and because they saw it on some 'science/history" channel, they make a connection that this scientist believes Jesus was there, so (obviously) Jesus is real. Think I saw that show several times and still shake my head.








Comment by vjack on March 21, 2011 at 7:08am
Excellent points here. Many atheists seem resistant to the idea of outreach because they mistake it for evangelism, but I think this critique is spot on for those of us who would like to reach a larger audience.
Comment by Heather Spoonheim on March 21, 2011 at 7:12am

Yes, it's very difficult to speak to a Christian about the historicity of Jesus.  It's even more difficult to get them to understand that even assuming that Jesus was an historical figure AND that he performed the described 'miracles', you still haven't said anything that wouldn't equally well apply to Harry Houdini.


Furthermore, I think that it's even more difficult to accept that you've been conned after you've spent years giving 10% of your gross income to the con artist.  Just think about how foolish one must feel after spending literally thousands of dollars just to hear the secrets of Xenu!  It's would be much easier on your ego to just swallow the lie at that point than admit your foolishness.

Comment by Arcus on March 21, 2011 at 7:41am

I don't believe in religion, but I do believe in brainwashing.

I think you might want to look into how psychologists treat victims of brainwashing and those who suffer from dilusions, and apply whatever knowledge you can gain from that.

Apart from the last part, which seems to be designed only as to exclude religion, the definition of dilusional disorder is eerily close to that of what is observed within a number of the most religious people: "False beliefs based on incorrect inference about external reality that persist despite the evidence to the contrary and these beliefs are not ordinarily accepted by other members of the person's culture or subculture." (http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/292991-overview)



Comment by Gregor Basić on March 21, 2011 at 9:03am
People who don't investigate don't become atheist, so it's not about intelligence snobbery but I-investigated-and-you-didn't snobbery.
Comment by Walter Maki on March 21, 2011 at 11:39am
I witnessed from my own household and those I know in person that is not a lack of intelligence per say but being lazy about research. Looking for easy answers without digging deep for validity. It was easier for me since I have alway been of the curious sort and not having religion rammed down my throat. My first taste of brainwashing happened just before I went into the navy but nothing took root. My second stronger dose is when I was married to my first ( deceased ) wife who's family was very religious. I just accepted their way of life because I loved my wife so it became part of my life. My wife of present days family was not hard core but they did go to church and participate in some of the church activities so I did likewise. I am just quite fortunate that my dad base programmed me (so to speak) to think for myself. Which ended up being revived by my wife's cousin. Looking back on it I never felt quite right about feeling terminally guilty most of the time. What seems to be hard for my family is how much of themselves they have invested in religious and my "sudden" change of belief. Only two people in person know I call myself an atheist is my my wife and her cousin (who opened my eyes) I don't use the term in front of my children due to the extremely emotional riffs it causes.


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