A former Southern Baptist minister turned atheist and free thinker due to research in Theology and Apologetics. Follow me on Twitter @apetivist
Friday, February 15, 2019
Please Stop Calling Religious People Stupid
Please Stop Calling Religious People
I’ve heard or read it many times.
Theists calling atheists stupid or atheists calling theists stupid. I
wish this would stop. It isn’t only a poor debate tactic but it is
also insensitive, rude, and in most cases, factually incorrect. In
most cases it is just hateful language. The truth is that all
atheists and theists are intelligent. The hallmark of intelligence is
the ability to attain and use knowledge and skills. It doesn’t mean
that one is always correct. If one person is more knowledgeable in
one area than another person, with most factors being equal, it is
usually because of additional experience or talent in that specific
We are all ignorant of something.
Ignorance can be remedied with education. As long as a person is open
to learning (and has no significant learning disability to prevent
them) they can establish themselves with a previously unknown subject
given enough time and effort. So where do people get off on calling
each other names?
When we think that others should
clearly know what we know, as if it is common knowledge, we can often
resort to thinking that such people that don’t hold that knowledge
are stupid. Rather than considering the reasons why people do not, at
least in the present, hold such knowledge we can often be quick to
judge them. This is in part because we feel a satisfaction thinking
we are intellectually superior or far more insightful than another
person (particularly our opponent in a argument or debate) but, by
doing so we are often mistaken.
Theists and atheists can all be
misinformed or wrong on any number of subjects. Often times we may
believe things purely for emotional reasons. Those reasons could be
good or bad, provable or unprovable. Sometimes we think we are
justified intellectually to hold a position but we could be mistaken
and our knowledge may be insufficient in the subject to rightfully
make such a claim.
When I was a believer I was capable of
using reason in almost every other area of my life except my
religious beliefs. Not only is it discouraged in Christianity to have
doubt or question but it is often judged to be a sign of some moral
indiscretion. So I cordoned off my Christian beliefs from analysis.
This is called compartmentalization (psychology) and people of many
different beliefs do it, not just for religious reasons but also for
political reasons, nationalistic reasons, superstitions, etc. When we
call people stupid we are forgetting that we are also susceptible to
such psychological defense mechanisms. These mechanisms stem from our
evolutionary past and without them we would not have survived.
Trusting authority figures and going
with the tribe often led to increased probability of survival.
Superstition and religion came on the
scene earlier than the advent of science and as such it was the only
game in town when it came to explaining the world around us. This
eventually led to the development of philosophy which in turn led to
natural philosophy (what we now call science). People raised in
religion or in a religious culture often don’t give a second
thought as to its veracity and even when they do they still subscribe
to it because they feel included in a group that provides support as
long as they continue to fit in. This really isn’t stupid. If it is
all you have known and becoming an outsider means losing support then
it is a wise strategy to stay within the in-group. It becomes even
more intelligent to stay when becoming an outsider means losing
family, friends, jobs, homes, and in some cases your life! This is
why I tell fellow atheists that it is one thing to help deconvert a
believer it is another thing to provide them an alternative support
system. A lot of people don’t have it in them to rough it and start
anew especially at such a heavy cost. So, do consider this and
realize that even when you may feel superior to a theist, if you were
in their shoes, you may very well be doing the same thing!