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Questions for Theists by Apetivist

Please Stop Calling Religious People Stupid

Please Stop Calling Religious People Stupid

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 area.

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 not provable. 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 the 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 an 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 any theist, if you were in their shoes, you may very well be doing the same thing!


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