I am an Atheist and No, I Don’t Think You’re Stupid


It seems to be a common assumption that atheists are a bunch of arrogant pricks who think that all theists are necessarily stupid. It is true that there are a number of atheists who do think this, and many of them considered leaders within the atheist community. But to say that all atheists think theists are stupid is as wrong as saying that all Christians are homophobic. A number of Christians are homophobic, and many of them hold leadership positions within their given communities, but does that mean that all, or even most, Christians are homophobic? From my personal experience, I would be willing to argue that only a small percentage of Christians are homophobic. It is probably similar to the percentage of atheists who believe all theists are stupid.
I believe that one of the biggest causes of this assumption, other than the fact that people equate the loudest group with the biggest group, is the fact that atheists and theists often talk past each other. We try and prevent such interactions here, but at times it seems as though atheists and theists, even within the same country, do not speak the same language. This is endlessly frustrating, but I have no idea how to change it. I came to this realization when it was brought to my attention that the “I find God as convincing as I find Santa Clause” argument comes across as calling theists stupid. But this is not what that argument is saying. In fact, that argument has nothing to do with the theist and everything to do with the atheist. To say “I find God as convincing as Santa Clause” is not to say “I find theists who believe in Santa Clause as dim-witted as adults who believe in Santa Clause,” it is to say “I see as little evidence for the existence of God as I see for the existence of Santa Clause.” I can understand how one might view the argument as meaning the first version, and I’m sure some atheists have implied that theists are basically adults who believe in Santa Clause, but that is not what is generally intended by that phrase.
To be perfectly honest, while I have never met an adult who still believed in Santa Clause, I can’t say that I would find that person dumb for holding that belief. After all, intelligence is a complicated matter, and there are many types of intelligence. I, for example, am good at writing. I’m good at researching and arguing (in the philosophical sense) too. Were I to be judged solely on my ability to do those things, I’d likely be judged to be very intelligent. However, I am not that great at math. Were I to be judged solely on my ability to do math, I’d likely be judged to be far less intelligent. An adult who believes in Santa Clause may be smarter than me where math is concerned but be less intelligent where critical thinking is concerned. As such, I would not feel comfortable judging them as dumb until I know more about them than simply that one belief. I’m not as willing to say that a theist may be less intelligent than I am where critical thinking is concerned, because theism is a lot more common than adults who believe in Santa Clause are. However, it is likely that most theists are smarter than me in certain regards and not as smart in others. This is simply because very few people are highly intelligent in all areas, but most people are intelligent in some areas.
But even if I didn’t understand that, I doubt I could truly think theists are dumb. I know too many intelligent theists that I respect. We may disagree on the existence of god(s), but we agree on a lot. Those things that we agree on tend to be what have formed our relationships and what keep us friends, but they are also what we discuss on a given day and why we respect each other. Those are why we view each other as intelligent. We don’t focus on the one thing we disagree on, and we don’t let it affect our relationship. Instead, we respect each others beliefs and each other.

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21 responses to “I am an Atheist and No, I Don’t Think You’re Stupid

  • What kind of atheist am I? | Christians Anonymous

    […] other incident was the Twitter exchange, which had actually started with a blog post and exchange in the comments section of Hessian With Teeth. The post is titled “I am an Atheist and No, I Don’t Think You’re Stupid.” […]

    Like

  • What kind of atheist am I? | Paul's letters...

    […] other incident was the Twitter exchange, which had actually started with a blog post and exchange in the comments section of Hessian With Teeth. The post is titled “I am an Atheist and No, I Don’t Think You’re Stupid.” […]

    Like

  • theprozacqueen

    I see that you’ve written responses to other posts. Would you be interested in reading a response to this one, or at least one inspired by it? If not this one, another one? I’m a Christian and have dealt with the “all of you are stupid” stuff ad nauseum.

    Like

  • I am an Atheist and No, I Don’t Think You’re Stupid | EMPIRICAL REALITY

    […] I am an Atheist and No, I Don’t Think You’re Stupid. […]

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  • Anna Marion Howell

    I am a theist and no, I don’t think you’re going to hell. No, I don’t think you’re inferior. No, I don’t think you’re in any way morally deficient. And no, I will never stop fighting for atheists to share full legal and social equality with Christians.

    Liked by 2 people

  • Seth Warner

    Very well done. If only more people were as even-handed as you. I would add once caveat to your final paragraph. It’s very possible to appreciate people more *because* of your disagreements.

    My best friend is an atheist, and I’m a theist. When we come to that subject, I’m taught to learn about the identities and perspectives of others. To a certain extent, I stop seeing it so much a disagreement, even, as a difference. And that diversity gives me a broader and hopeful view of the world.

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  • Paul's Letters

    I think what bothers me the most as an atheist is how many theists are incredibly smart and intelligent people who nevertheless find a way to allow a supernatural belief in a god to live in their mind alongside their deep knowledge of the world, a critical nature, and reliance on evidence in the face of myth.

    Like

    • paidiske

      Sorry about that. 😉

      In all seriousness, though, why does it bother you? Do you see it as an uncomfortable reminder of human foibles, or something like that?

      Like

    • AthenaC

      I assume this is because you see belief in a deity as inherently in conflict with a deep knowledge of the world and critical thought rather than as harmonious and integral with the same?

      Like

      • hessianwithteeth

        Well I can’t speak for Paul, but for me it’s more that it can be bothersome that people can be quite rational for the vast majority of what they do and belief, but then belief in a deity which make next to no sense, even when the teachings of the related religion which they often also follow would contradict with their other rationally founded beliefs.

        But ya believing in most deities goes directly against any critical thought. Since most are related to impossible claims, and have no evidence for them, and are often associated with blind faith and a doctrine of not questioning your authority figures.

        The particulars vary depending on the context and which deity/deities your talking about, but yes, religious beliefs which are based on supernatural claims fly in the face of knowledge and critical thought.

        Liked by 3 people

      • Paul's Letters

        That’s very well said.

        To paidiske, I think it goes beyond human foibles, after all, I think we’re all susceptible to situations of cognitive dissonance, from the very serious, like a battered wife who believes this time her husband will change, to falling for advertising that we know is too good to be true, yet we switch detergents anyway. When I meet an otherwise intelligent believer, I see a very serious cognitive dissonance- the evidence for many of the claims in holy scripture just aren’t there, yet they shelve the critical thinking skills they use in other parts of their lives and don’t question this part. And this belief may be the part of their life on which they base their morality, their values and their views of others.

        To Athenac, that’s a trickier question so I want to answer it carefully- I see the literal existence of deities – whether it’s the Abrahamic god, Vishnu, Thor, Zeuss, etc.- as incompatible with what we know about the world.

        Belief in these deities usually involves an explanation of how they govern or interact with the world, and these man-made explanations can offer insight into knowledge of the world. Does that make sense?

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        • Ros

          ‘…yet they shelve the critical thinking skills they use in other parts of their lives and don’t question this part.’ That’s a vast generalisation. Perhaps they do question ‘this part’… but still come to different conclusions to the ones you have come to?

          Liked by 1 person

    • AthenaC

      Both Paul’s Letters and Hessianwithteeth –

      That’s interesting. Two things –

      1) Quite a few very smart people who have a firm grasp on both historical evidence and the philosophical and metaphysical arguments for the existence of a deity see belief as a logical necessity. So for them belief results from a use of (rather than suspension of) logic and critical thinking.

      2) Given how easily smart, fair-minded people can come to different conclusions even while looking at the same information, I think it would be wise to be very careful when we assume that certain conclusions are the only possibility when thinking critically.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Paul's Letters

        It seems like you’re saying belief is a logical necessity- which while I don’t quite agree with the phrasing, I certainly could see belief being something to which we are predisposed as an evolutionary adaptation (Even the famously staunch atheist Richard Dawkins has said as much). But belief in and of itself is not proof of the existence of a deity.

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      • theprozacqueen

        …to add to this, might I point out that perhaps belief in a deity or spirituality in general can meet *another* need a person has-emotional, psychological, “community”, etc. Not to say that these needs can’t be met in other ways, just to say that they exist. I think a lot of people miss that.

        Like

  • J. Kris Halley

    I am no one’s judge, but do you believe that there are no higher powers? I have read every passage from the bible for educational purposes. No, I am not affiliated with any organized religion, but I am acquainted with the book from which Western Civilization has its roots.

    I exist in that area where science and religion agree. Like overlapping circles, I have an open and objective mind. The wisdom throughout the book is unmistakable. Jesus, the founder of Christianity, wielded such charisma that not only did he talk two fishermen right off their fishing boat to become “fishers of men.” but he changed the entire course of history, the world as we know it, in only three years of ministry.

    How did Moses know that the earth was “a globe that hangs upon nothing?” In my view, I believe it is a healthy view that life has purpose and we are not merely agents of chaos. Now, more than ever, we need something to put our faith into. If the bible does teach us how to live a better life, then that would explain its existence.

    We may all have a different understanding of what we believe to be our higher domain, God, a Creator, a Higher intelligence, or by unlocking the next step in our evolution, we are a sad and desperate population if we have hope extracted from our lives.

    Quantum physics has shown that we are all nothing but energy forms connected within a field of energy. The bible says “God is Love” but love is not God.”

    I fully respect your beliefs and this was not intended to be a sermon. While I believe there are higher powers unseen to us, I have concluded that using the scientific method.

    Whatever your beliefs. may you find peace and tranquility. May your life be content. The truth is out there, and, like you, I am compelled to search for it

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    • hessianwithteeth

      No no the west is way more Roman/Greek and Anglo-Saxon inspired then biblically inspired, Christianity had is role yes, but there was a whole lot more going on then that. Besides even Christianity and Judaism before it is heavily influenced by Zoroastrianism.
      You do not have objective mind, no one does, you have subjective opinions like everybody else. You may be open minded, but you are most certainly not objective, and you nor I, nor anyone else will ever be objective. We can try to be objective and that’s good, but to say your mind is objective is extremely arrogant.
      “The wisdom throughout the book is unmistakable.” Are you including all the bits endorsing slavery, murder and rape? Though Slavery is never pointed out as wrong in the bible, not the new or old testament.

      Jesus didn’t found Christianity, his disciples, if you belief the contradicting gospels, did. Further you think it was Jesus who changed the world, and you think all of the fantastical stories in the bible are true, so I have to ask you why, and why don’t you think Harry Potter is real? Wouldn’t be far more accurate to say his follower changed the world, because like you said he only lasted for 3 years of ministry.

      Hate to tell you, but Moses probably didn’t exist, besides people have know the earth was round for thousands of years Eratosthenes being a more resent example. how you determine the earth is round is by A figuring out there is a horizon, and then measuring the movements of the sun which is something people of ancient times did a whole lot of.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eratosthenes#Measurement_of_the_Earth.27s_circumference

      ” We may all have a different understanding of what we believe to be our higher domain, God, a Creator, a Higher intelligence, or by unlocking the next step in our evolution, we are a sad and desperate population if we have hope extracted from our lives.
      Quantum physics has shown that we are all nothing but energy forms connected within a field of energy. The bible says “God is Love” but love is not God.””
      What the heck is this nonsense? We all have a higher power (I don’t, neither does hessian)? Next step in our evolution? We are all somehow without hope? And how does what you said about quantum physics fit in at all with what you said about the bible?
      You may be open minded, but you lack any critical thinking skills. You have the answer you want and your fitting all sort of random things into the gaps of your reasoning. This whole comment has been shocking in how little is actually says, let alone how poor of an argument is make for some higher power.

      Withteeth

      Liked by 2 people

  • Trish

    Great post! I respect anyones belief. It’s all about kindness for me.

    Like

  • Marija

    Amazing post. Completely agree with you. Any type of generalization is wrong.

    Like

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