Fischer Doesn’t Like Women Working »« Farah-founded Group Identifies ‘Terrorists’ in Obama Administration

No, Christians Are Not All Stupid and Ill-Informed

Greta Christina answers a question from a reader, who wants to know if she thinks “it’s possible for an intelligent, reasonable, and well-informed person to be a Christian? Or do you feel that no reasonable, intelligent, and well-informed person could possibly believe in traditional Christianity?” Her answer:

Yes, I think it’s possible for an intelligent, reasonable, and well-informed person to be a Christian.

But I don’t think Christianity is an intelligent, reasonable, or well-informed position.

Intelligent, reasonable, and well-informed people can be wrong. They can be profoundly wrong. They can be stubbornly wrong. They can be deeply attached to wrong ideas, with contorted and absurd rationalizations for their wrongness. They can be wrong about big, important things. In fact, I would argue that this is universally true: every intelligent, reasonable, and well-informed person is bone-headedly wrong about something. Being an intelligent, reasonable, and well-informed person doesn’t mean every opinion or idea or belief you have is intelligent, reasonable, and well-informed. You can be an intelligent, reasonable, and well-informed person, and still have dumb, unreasonable, ill-informed ideas.

As the kids these days like to say: This. Exactly this. I know I do a lot of bashing of Christians who hold particularly dumb ideas, but I emphatically do not believe that all Christians are either ignorant or stupid. And Greta is right, we all harbor dumb ideas — even those of us who pride ourselves on being rational and thoughtful. We all have blind spots, we all compartmentalize, we all behave and think in a tribal manner rather than a reasonable one at least some of the time. That should prompt us to temper even our harshest criticisms with at least a small amount of humility (though here again, we all fail to do that at times, no one more than me).

Comments

  1. sabiolantz says

    I agree:
    (1) The precaution against seeing religious people as categorically irrational is drastically important.
    (2) The precaution to see our common cognitive pitfalls is important.

    I’d would also add that it is important to always acknowledge that there are many different flavors of Christianity, thus Greta’s position that:

    “I don’t think Christianity is an intelligent, reasonable, or well-informed position.”

    can lead to yet another distorted view in the dialogue processes. There is no ONE Christianity. It is important to illustrate exactly what we are critical of. Some progressive Christianities, for instance, may be more intelligent, reasonable and well-informed than some atheist positions in life [when everything is weighed - if that were possible].

    Do you agree?

  2. slc1 says

    We have an example of a frequent commenter here, Prof. David Heddle who is certainly well informed, intelligent, and reasonable, at least relative to his specialty, nuclear physics. Another is my physics PhD thesis adviser who was a born again Christian and who, among other things, rejected the theory of evolution. The fact that they believe nonsense such as Heddle’s belief that the Sun stood still in the sky for a day is proof that well informed, intelligent, and reasonable people can be wrong.

  3. sabiolantz says

    Interesting, two FT comments (one of my first times here):

    (1) it seems the FT blogging mechanism does not automatically link to my blog — so, for those interested, see “Triangulations“.

    (2) When I first commented above, I got two check boxes for following that looked identical in results, though worded only a little differently. I wonder if that is FT blog wide or just here.

  4. Tyrant al-Kalām says

    The answer to this question should be terribly obvious to anyone who’s ever, erm, been in the world, but it’s still good that Greta answered it eloquently.

    It’s such a lazy us vs. them position to hold, simply believing that the others are stooopid. Ideally, one should grow out of this comfortable black and white thinking after kindergarten, but then one would have to give up ones smug sense of superiority, and then, what’s the point of being a skeptical atheist if you can’t even have that!

  5. Michael Heath says

    Ed writes:

    we all harbor dumb ideas — even those of us who pride ourselves on being rational and thoughtful. We all have blind spots, we all compartmentalize, we all behave and think in a tribal manner rather than a reasonable one at least some of the time. That should prompt us to temper even our harshest criticisms with at least a small amount of humility (though here again, we all fail to do that at times, no one more than me).

    Sure we all do it, but our propensity to behave badly matters. As does the quality of our reaction when confronted by behaving in such a manner; as does our avoidance or denial of our indefensible positions on big issues, especially those that have a negative impact on other people.

    So I don’t think reasonable people conceding we all demonstrate these defects in thinking gets us very far at all. More important is our having the wisdom to concede this fact, constantly keep it in mind when developing and promoting our own arguments, recognizing when our unexamined worldview is challenged that our brain seeks to avoid rational consideration, and striving to rid ourselves of our blind spots. This is where so many Christians fail spectacularly, though that’s also true of political ideologues and adherents of other religions.

    So while it’s true intelligent, reasonable, well-informed Christians exist, e.g., Andrew Sullivan, a few outliers doesn’t falsify the hypothesis that Christians in general are not reasonable. The best supportive evidence for this hypothesis is the type of thinking and behavior Christians employ to cling to faith and use to promote their beliefs to others. Such as:
    1) The incredible energy spent in church redundantly reaffirming their beliefs rather than testing the objective truth they claim to hold.
    2) Their reliance on dogma, claims of divine revelation, and how they explain, “changed lives” while avoiding science when it comes to testing the veracity of their beliefs.
    3) Christians evil promotion of their unexamined faith and beliefs to children and people from more primitive cultures which is wholly reliant on falsehoods and leveraging how our brains respond to fear.

    So yes such Christians exist, but Christians are not as a population reasonable. If they were Christianity would die out; instead their religion requires the rejection of reason to thrive.

  6. sabiolantz says

    It is exactly your over-generalized quote below that requires posts like this:

    “that Christians in general are not reasonable.”

    People are not GENERALLY unreasonable, only at certain times or on certain subjects. Speaking about a whole group of people as if the are homogenous or globally act in a certain way shows an ironic amount of unreasonableness on this issue for you Michael.

  7. Tyrant al-Kalām says

    So yes such Christians exist, but Christians are not as a population reasonable.

    But then, who is “reasonable as a population”… Have you seen the atheist population recently?

  8. slc1 says

    Re Michael Heath @ #5

    Sullivan’s blindness is double because he is a married gay man (he and his husband not live in New York City) who continues to belong to the Raping Children Church, despite its bigotry toward homosexuals and its criminal activities relative to child rape and the associated coverup.

  9. says

    I don’t criticize people for have Christian beliefs. I was there once. I like to think I was intelligent, reasonable and tolerably well informed at the time. But it took a while for me to grasp that a religion could have been made out of thin air.

    There’s a bigger problem with fundamentalist varieties of Christianity. An intelligent, reasonable person can handle apparent contradictions by going with fine nuances of meaning. But fundamentalists reject those nuances – excepting, of course, for all of their own.

  10. hunter says

    I’m pretty much convinced that people choose their religious beliefs to reinforce attitudes and behaviors they would hold/engage in anyway. Religion just gives them permission. If they espouse harsh, inhuman, judgmental beliefs, it’s because they’re harsh, inhuman, judgmental people — the beliefs didn’t make them that way.

    So if a particular Christian or group of Christians (or Muslims, or Hindus, or. . . .) say things that make them look ignorant and stubborn, that’s because they’re ignorant and stubborn anyway, but now they have authority to fall back on.

  11. says

    The core issue is on the role of faith. Believers view it as something to be fostered, at least, with regard to their religious practice. Non-believers, as something to be rooted out.

  12. sabiolantz says

    @ hunter:
    Though I agree that often our philosophical/religious positions are post-hoc stances for our preferences, the data shows that the vast majority of people don’t choose their religions at all. Dangerous ideas, like dangerous upbringings can be instilled and mold a temperament. Thus, ideas can be dangerous.

    @ rturpin:
    Using terms like “faith” may not be helpful since one sense of the word is “trust” and certainly atheists trust all sorts of positions without truly understanding them at all. But I agree, most atheists want to think they would doubt things if evidence were presented to them, but given they have the same cognitive pitfalls as religious folks, it is tough. Trust-faith is a valuable epistemological source given the nature of life.

  13. raven says

    What sort of xian?

    They really vary all over the place from Unitarians to JW’s. There are 42,000 different sects with more being formed on an ongoing basis. You can make a good case that xianity has evolved to the point of speciation and they aren’t the same religions at all anymore.

    You can be intelligent and educated and be a xian. I should know, being an…ex-xian. LOL, this is meant to be a joke although it is true that I’m an ex-xian.

    The mainline Protestants and Catholics seem to fit into this. For example, 6 of 9 Supreme court judges are Catholic. Scalia isn’t stupid, just evil.

  14. says

    sabiolantz “(1) it seems the FT blogging mechanism does not automatically link to my blog — so, for those interested, see ‘Triangulations’.”
    Under “Edit my profile” (on the top right of the page, under “Howdy, [username]“) you can add your website.

  15. sabiolantz says

    Does anyone here know how to get FT blog to put my blog link on my name, like others above?

  16. says

    @ Modusoperandi:
    Thank you, This one should work. PS = When I scroll over a comment I see a clickable “link to this comment” mouseover show up. What does that do? I clicked it but did not see a result.
    Thank you, mate.

  17. dingojack says

    sabiolantz – your website is now linked.
    Dingo
    ——–
    PS: Love the banner. Will read more fully tomorrow as it is early in the morning here.

  18. raven says

    It’s not too meaningful to say xians are dumb… or not without qualifying it.

    1. “Xians” make up 72% of the US population. If you look at any varialble, they will score near the national average because they are close the the national average is sheer numbers.

    The subsets differ a lot.

    1. Fundies score low in education, IQ, and socioeconomic status. This isn’t a libel or insult. It’s statistical fact. For example, Dennett references 46 studies on these points in one of his books. Or just look at the fundie Red states and common, ubiquitous experience.

    They do this deliberately. Some of them home notschool their kids, fearing that they might learn something in the public schools. Which they hate anyway. A lot of fundie cults strongly discourage their kids from going to college or university. They have lots of fake ones like NoLliberty U. and the bible colleges where their kids pay lots of money to learn nothing much.

    2. We’ve all seen the syndrome, Fundie xian Induced Cognitive Impairment. Michele Bachmann is the poster person. She wasn’t stupid. Three degrees, two from real universities, one in law, passed the bar. These days she shouldn’t cross the street without her minder. It might even have cost her a high status, well paid job.

    Or just look at internet trolls. This is a well defined clinical entity although the mechanism is obscure. I doubt fundie-ism causes organic brain damage. But without data, that certainly is just a guess.

  19. acroyear says

    Along the way, one must ask “which Christianity?” Catholicism? Catholicism before the 60s reforms? What the current Pope says, or what the Vatican says soon after (Which end up being very different things)?

    Evangelical Christianity as it is practiced in modern politics is NOT ‘traditional’. It is a relatively very recent invention of the last 150 years as a kind of counter-reformation to the growing liberalness (or apathy) of the mainstream churches in the 19th century. It has also gotten worse in the last 50 years to the continued changes and acceptance within the mainstream churches for civil rights (for women and blacks, and now gays). They like to think of themselves as being ‘real’ Christians, but their churches were, in spite of their claims that ‘the Bible is all True’, cherry-pick their passages just as much as any.

    And there-in lies the rub: EVERY Christian church cherry-picks the elements of traditional Catholic dogma and specific Biblical passages and calls them the ‘key’. Some require Mass. Some do not. Some will practice Mass with grape juice, others insist real wine is all that counts. Some say only Faith gets you into heaven, some say good works are enough. There is no one single ‘traditional’ Christian church. Each of the elder ones change regularly, and the ones that haven’t changed much are too knew and now politically entrenched to being unchanging.

    And now the real key: until members of a church really study another or really sit down and talk with someone from another, they often do not even realize there is a difference. Evangelical leaders in fact play on this very ignorance, by using the word ‘Christians’ (as in “attack on”) in such a way as to make specific responses to their particular political statements to be emotionally tied to the religious feelings of those that actually do not even share those particular political views. It doesn’t help that most of the mainstream protestant churches still consider themselves part of ‘One Catholic and Apostolic Church’ as one of the Creeds goes.

    So when Chris says ‘traditional’, what does she mean? Aside from the willingness to cherry-pick what they want to believe when it is convenient to do so, there is nothing ‘traditional’ about any Christian church that is common enough to describe all the churches as if they were one.

  20. says

    @ raven,
    I graduated from one of those Christian Colleges (Wheaton) and was surrounded by very bright people and profs.

    Concerning “fundies” — we have to watch causation vs correlation fallacy: Being a fundie doesn’t cause you to be stupid, but fundies who do stupid things can cause them to be more stupid. Fundies may do more stupid things than some folks but we also don’t want to commit the Epidemiological Fallacy: that there is such thing the average of a large populate points to some real ‘average people”.

  21. acroyear says

    [sic] “knew” => “new”. “but their churches were” => “but their churches still”

    next time, more coffee…

  22. ArtK says

    I absolutely agree that intelligent, reasonable and well-informed people can harbor ideas that are none of those things. What matters to me is what they do with those ideas. When those ideas are used as justification for affecting others in a negative way, we’ve got a problem. There’s a whole range of negative, from social exclusion all the way to death.

    Within a largish group that share the same ideas you’re going to find a small, but very loud, minority who want to use those ideas in a bad way. They will pick and choose from those ideas to find the ones that can be used that way, to the point of ignoring conflicting ones. Case in point: Finding bible verses that exclude gays while ignoring Jesus’ message of inclusion. This small group is loud enough and motivated enough to get themselves into leadership positions, and to take the public stage, making them appear much bigger and stronger than they should.

    There’s a larger group that share the same ideas but in a more benign way. They may live their lives in accordance with the ideas, but have little interest in affecting others. The problem is that they are more passive and let the louder ones take the lead. The net result is that the whole group ends up looking more like the fanatics than the reasonable ones. Tarred with the same brush, so to speak.

    All of this makes it much easier to be intellectually lazy and use a broad term, that covers both groups, when one really means the fanatic part. It makes it much harder to engage in dialog with the reasonable ones, because one can dismiss them as part of the larger group. It provides convenient straw-men, to be set up and beaten down. It doesn’t help when the broad label is over-broad for almost any use. Take all of the groups that self identify as “Christian” and find the intersection of their beliefs — you’ll come down to a few ideas about Jesus’ divinity and not much else.

    This applies to just about any group you can think of. Christians, Muslims, communists, fascists, humanists, members of the Society for Creative Anachronism, academics, humanists. The tendency to be lazy about labeling can apply to anyone who is examining any of those groups.

    The next question is: What do we do about this? It’s hurting our progress as humans. Fighting a straw-man is a waste of time, whether that straw-man has the label “Christian” or “atheist.” Rejecting dialog with the reasonable ones because of the existence of the fanatics just widens the us-vs-them divide. The observing group must be better about using the right labels. The reasonable members of the observed group must work to distance themselves from the fanatics.

    Neither of these is easy. Humans are very tribal and a lot of that is defining who is “us” vs who is “them.” For many people, “Christian” and “atheist” are very convenient ways of doing this. Even if we don’t like everyone who falls into the “us” category, at least they aren’t “them.” What’s worse is that it’s very, very hard to introspect and see when we’re doing that. The most reasonable, intelligent people can have enormous blind spots to their own issues.

    Labels are a two-edged sword. Broad labels are a very sharp sword. While it’s convenient to be able to say “Christian” or “fundie” rather than “person who believes that women are chattels and gays must be stoned,” it also allows us to be lazy and unfair, attributing ideas to the label and the labeled people in ways that aren’t justified.

  23. raven says

    I graduated from one of those Christian Colleges (Wheaton) and was surrounded by very bright people and profs.

    Not all religious themed higher ed is Fake. Notre Dame, TCU SMU, Baylor, and many others are OK. One of my friends (an atheist FWIW) teaches evolutionary biology at…a religious affiliated university.

    Then there are the fundie bible colleges and places like NoLiberty U. which are basically babysitting endogamy holding cells for fundie adults.

    I don’t know too much about Wheaton, but it has an ugly reputation in normal people circles. The geology department has staff who think the earth is 6,000 years old and they once fired an anthropologist who didn’t believe humans started with Adam and Eve.

    Concerning “fundies” — we have to watch causation vs correlation fallacy: Being a fundie doesn’t cause you to be stupid, but fundies who do stupid things can cause them to be more stupid. Fundies may do more stupid things than some folks but we also don’t want to commit the Epidemiological Fallacy: that there is such thing the average of a large populate points to some real ‘average people”.

    I really don’t quite get what you trying to say here.

    Concerning this, You have to watch the Ignoring Data and Facts fallacy. This isn’t Wheaton, the truth matters to us.

  24. says

    sabiolantz “@ Modusoperandi: Thank you, This one should work. PS = When I scroll over a comment I see a clickable ‘link to this comment’ mouseover show up. What does that do? I clicked it but did not see a result.”
    Have you seen Office Space? It’s like the Jump to Conclusions mat.
    Or, more accurately, you click that and the address in the address bar changes from “this page” to “this page scrolled down to that comment”.
     
    “I graduated from one of those Christian Colleges (Wheaton) and was surrounded by very bright people and profs.”
    Yes, Wheaton is a good college, but Raven said “They have lots of fake ones like NoLliberty U. and the bible colleges where their kids pay lots of money to learn nothing much”. Does Wheaton show The Flintstones in biology class? If not, it’s not the kind of “school” Raven’s talking about. If it is, then what the hell? I just said that it was a good school! I’m going to Chicago to give them a piece of my mind! Can I crash on your couch?
    Also, I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but you went to Wil Wheaton College.

  25. ArtK says

    @ rturpin #11

    If you’re using “faith” as a short-hand for “religious belief,’ then I have to disagree with your last sentence. As a non-believer, I’m not interested in “rooting out” (in the sense of eliminating entirely) faith. I’m interested in reducing its negative impact on the lives of people, particularly those who don’t share that same faith, but also children and others within the faith who are hurt by it.

    I don’t care that my neighbor prays to Jesus for guidance; I do care when that “guidance” tells him he has to harass me about my faith, or how I dress, or raise my children.

  26. says

  27. says

    @ Modus: Ahhh, interesting, in 10 min I leave with my kids to the cinema to watch the new Star Trek. I want to inculcate my kids with the same propaganda I embraced:
    — a tricorder can diagnose everything, why can’t my damn doctor
    — as long as I serve my Captain, working in the engine room every day is heaven for me

    Smile! In line with this post, I wonder if all Trekies are as unreasonable as me. Are we all susceptible to mixing up fiction and reality? Well, that is the only way the show is enjoyable — I am so glad my brain is not rational!

  28. raven says

    Bolyanatz and Wheaton:

    Months later, Bolyanatz was told that his contract wouldn’t be renewed. And although he suspects that his lectures about evolution in his anthropology classes may have played a role in his dismissal, Bolyanatz says he never really received a straight answer from Wheaton officials as to why he was fired.

    Always nice to see Stalinism alive and well. Fundies are big fans of Stalin especially the thoughtcrimes and purges. Bolyanatz was fired for teaching evolution. They university tried to claim he was incompetent instead but his evaluations were good and he is now a full professor somewhere else. They flat out lied.

    Incidents such as Bolyanatz’s dismissal from Wheaton have troubled educators across the country. Wheaton is one of about 100 evangelical Christian schools nationwide that require instructors to commit either verbally or orally to faith-based doctrines.

    Stalinism is big on party discipline. They know what to do with heretics.

    wikipedia:

    Wheaton again appeared in the news when Joshua Hochschild, assistant professor of philosophy, was dismissed in 2004 for becoming Roman Catholic.[40]

    Always nice to see the traditions being upheld. Sectarian hatred and persecution is always in style somewhere.

    Stabiolantz, I do have to congratulate you on avoiding the purges and not getting sent to the Gulags.

  29. comfychair says

    All this ‘but you can’t lump ALL versions of Christianity in together, they vary wildly!’ talk is just more nonsense. As I understand it, if it’s called ‘Christianity’, it has to at least involve a single creator god who cloned himself and sent the clone to earth to be faux-martyred (because, haha, he woke up later!). If it doesn’t include at least those basics, it’s called something other than Christianity (the whole ‘Christ-‘ thing in the name gives it away). Those things alone are deeply silly irrational things to believe, and are enough on their own to warp one’s view of the world and how to come up with the best answers to everyday issues inherent to being a human being living in a complex society on planet earth.

    “He died for our sins, but is still alive” causes the mind to tie itself into very unhealthy knots that inevitably bleeds over into other areas of life.

  30. slc1 says

    Re raven @ #30

    I can’t speak as to the current situation at Wheaton College but some 25 years ago, there was a PBS Nova program on evolution which included a segment on Wheaton College. At that time, it appeared that evolution was taught pretty much as it is taught at secular institutions. It may be that the situation there has deteriorated in the interim.

  31. says

    @ comfychair

    The point is that using the label “Christian” for anything other than those core beliefs is intellectually lazy. There are tons of beliefs beyond those that people cover with the same label, which makes it very hard to discuss specifics and to separate the dangerous beliefs from the benign ones.

    The families in the churches in Pennsylvania where the children have died due to substituting prayer for medical care are Christian. So are the very nice Episcopalians who live down the street from me and who are horrified by what happened in Pennsylvania. Failing to distinguish between the two does a great disservice to the latter and makes it harder to deal with the former.

    Don’t let your contempt for the core ideas of Christianity blind you to very real differences between people who share that label. Dangerous differences. Otherwise, you’re falling right into the trap that Greta and Ed have been talking about.

  32. raven says

    All this ‘but you can’t lump ALL versions of Christianity in together, they vary wildly!’ talk is just more nonsense.

    Speaking of nonsense, you are just wrong and know little about history or xianity.

    1, The various xians sects used to fight wars among themselves that killed tens of millions. It started right at the invention of the religion and ended in Northern Ireland about 13 years ago.

    There were and are differences that mattered to them enough to kill each other.

    The differences and hatreds still exist but since we took away their armies and heavy weapons, they just insult each other and persecute each other any way they can get away with.

    2. Not all xians are even Trinitarians who believe god cloned himself i.e. the JW’s or Unitarians.

    3. Not all xian sects believe there is just one god. The Mormons (questionable xians at best) believe in near infinite numbers of gods and goddesses. At the start, many large groups believed in multiple gods, i.e. the Gnostics and Docetists.

    4. The gods of the various sects are not at all similar. The fundie god is a humanoid Sky Monster. The mainline Protestant god is either the Ground of All Being or the god of peace and light, a modern invention but at least a benign one. Some xian gods are now hiding behind the Big Bang and not around much.. The Catholic god seems to be controlled by his girlfriend, Mary. Some sects have elevated satan to godhood and let him run the world. Others disappeared him.

    This isn’t even the Fallacy of the Argument from Ignorance. It’s just ignorance.

  33. raven says

    it appeared that evolution was taught pretty much as it is taught at secular institutions. It may be that the situation there has deteriorated in the interim.

    It might have.

    Every once in a while, the hardcore fanatics get control and purge the moderates or what passes for moderates in fundieland.

    There have been purges in the SBC by Al Mohler, and at Olivet and La Sierra. La Sierra seems to have fired their entire biology department.

    During one of the early creationism in public school court cases, the SBC was on the side of science. These days, that would get you fired at any SBC institution or seminary.

  34. slc1 says

    Re raven @ #35

    During one of the early creationism in public school court cases, the SBC was on the side of science. These days, that would get you fired at any SBC institution or seminary.

    Case in point, Bill Dumbski who had to take back his support for an old earth to remain on the faculty of the Southern Evangelical Seminary.

  35. slc1 says

    Re Raven @ #35

    I think it s stretch co consider the Unitarian/Universalist Church a Christian church, although some of its membership consists of at least nominal Christians. By the way, in the US, the Unitarian and Universalist Churches merged several decades ago.

  36. dingojack says

    Yep – it’s not true that every xtian is stupid and ill-informed. But what proportion are we talking about? Greater than 90% or less than that?
    Based on their utterances what percentage could be proved, exactly?
    Dingo

  37. IslandBrewer says

    @Dingo

    If you’re referring to SLC1’s statement about UUs not being christian, it’s not really a No True Scotsman at all. Any sort of definition of a christian religion should at the very least mention a Jesus, or a christ, or something of that sort. The American UU church doesn’t even mention any Jesus or a christ in their principles or theology. While many UUs do indeed fall into the xtian category, a lot of them are atheists (and pagans and deists and all manner of vague wishy washy spirity folk in between). The whole UU “schtick” is that each person has to “pick their own journey and figure out ‘Truth’ (TM) by themselves.”

    Sorry, but that’s not even vaguely xtian, far from a No True Scotsman.

  38. matty1 says

    A few months ago while reading Thinking Fast and Slow I had something of an epiphany. I realised something that I had known on some level but not really grasped. These cognitive biases apply to me they aren’t just a way of explaining why other people are wrong or a set of traps when thinking about new idea they shape my behaviour as much as any one elses.

  39. says

    IslandBrewer “Any sort of definition of a christian religion should at the very least mention a Jesus, or a christ, or something of that sort.”
    Why? He was Jewish. He wouldn’t want us to make a fuss. It’s fine if you don’t Him no mind. He’ll just sit there, quietly, in the corner, until He’s dead. And would it bother you to turn down the thermostat a smidge? Oy, He’s schvitzing over here!*
     
    * It might help to read that in a Long Island accent, maybe? {shrugs}

  40. says

    @ raven,
    Actually, when I was a professor in a State University, I was told to stop teaching Evolution in my Medical Genetics class. (link here)

    Also, one of my favorite professors at Wheaton was a prof who they tried to kick out after he converted to be an Episcopalian.

    PS: I suggest you put @ or some such thing when you address someone so we know who you are addressing. Just a suggestion. You made great points to comfychair — he is the sort of person this post is exactly aimed at.

    @ comfychair,
    Hmmmmm, are you familiar with any of the flavors of Progressive Christianities. By your standards they should not call themselves Christians and many other Christians agree strongly with you. Seems you have Christian allies, ironically. But I disagree with you trying to be a definition police: it shows a lack of understanding of both language and police — all in the ironic name of rationality — go figure. Your vehemence is clear, though.

    @ sic1,
    I know several Unitarian Church members who definitively consider themselves Christian and would resent being called “nominal” — tis fascinating to watch Atheists trying to decide who and who can not be considered a real Christian.

  41. comfychair says

    I don’t care what they call themselves, that’s not what this post was about. Until the comments, of which the very first one was about how you can’t just lump them all in together… which is also not what the post was about. And also not what I was talking about. A few specific examples out at the fringes doesn’t make the whole definition of ‘Christianity’ invalid.

    What a stupid, petty thing to get sidetracked by. Accusations of someone trying to play the ‘dictionary police’, and then lengthy examples of how the definitions were incorrect with … oh whatever. Mental masturbation. Have fun, guys and gals. (also, nice inclusivity and stuff, especially towards somebody who is on your side… at least, I thought so)

  42. jonathangray says

    raven:

    Fundies score low in education, IQ, and socioeconomic status. This isn’t a libel or insult. It’s statistical fact.

    So your definition of “intelligent, reasonable, and well-informed” is determined by a person’s having undergone processing by the state school system and being relatively wealthy. That explains a lot.

    As for bringing up IQ, everyone knows das racis!

  43. slc1 says

    Re sabiolantz @ #43

    Notice that qualifier at least before the term nominal Christian @ #37 I’m sure that , as Islandbrewer @ #40 said, there are Christians, Jews, agnostics, atheists, and deists who attend UU services.

    I’m not totally sure of this but the Unitarian Church in England might be a tad more Christian than the UU Church in the US.

  44. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    Sure we all do it, but our propensity to behave badly matters. As does the quality of our reaction when confronted by behaving in such a manner; as does our avoidance or denial of our indefensible positions on big issues, especially those that have a negative impact on other people.

    That’s quite an admission.

  45. Uncle Glenny says

    Some of this was very confusing until I realized there are two unrelated Wheaton Colleges.

  46. anne mariehovgaard says

    Yes, I think it’s possible for an intelligent, reasonable, and well-informed person to be a Christian.

    But I don’t think Christianity is an intelligent, reasonable, or well-informed position.

    I agree completely. And yes, the last bit is true no matter how many flavors there are – even the nice friendly liberal ones are based on faith not fact, and insist that faith is a good thing*. Unfortunately faith – not “trust”, but believing something to be true despite having no reliable evidence, or even evidence to the contrary – is not particularly useful. It just makes you gullible and generally less rational than you would otherwise be, unless you manage to compartmentalise so well that your religious faith does not influence any other part of your life.

    *Yes, this is me trying to decide who is or is not a real Christian. If you identify as a Christian, but don’t actually have any kind of religious faith… I’m going to be so bold as to suggest that you’re actually an agnostic. Christianity-flavored agnosticism is quite popular here (Norway).

  47. says

    @ comfy
    You hit the nail on the head. Some of us here aren’t here for a party of backslappin’ and makin’ fun of strawmen versions of supposed enemies. Religion offers many dangerous pit falls, but so does secular culture. Being specific, focused and careful in thinking is the theme of this post — in particular, not overgeneralizing about “Christians”.

    The irony of an atheist accusing of others of mental masturbation when they try to rein in irrationality and be take care in overgeneralization, did not go unnoticed.

    @ anne
    I’d say that most of the Progressive Christians don’t feel they have beliefs where counter-evidence is present. Actually most Christian I know don’t. Either they, like the progressives, hold such slippery, nonassertive views that they make no empirical public claims, OR other Christians just disagree with the “evidence”. But consciously holding out in spite of agreed upon COUNTER-evidence is not that common.

  48. anne mariehovgaard says

    consciously holding out in spite of agreed upon COUNTER-evidence is not that common

    Intelligent people can be very very good at inventing explanations for why the evidence doesn’t say what it obviously does, when they’re properly motivated. Some, like Christian theologists, even do it for a living ;)

  49. says

    @ anne,
    I totally agree. We humans are very clever at that.
    * telling yourself you love a spouse (or they love you when it is not the case
    * explaining the virtues of your own country and ignoring counter evidence
    * explaining why you are not a bigot or sexist when those traits are hard to remove
    * explaining why you love your job in spite of your ulcers
    * believing your lifestyle is good enough — contrary to evidence

    Humans, we deceive ourselves all the time.

  50. enki23 says

    Yeah. But here’s my own little caveat to that.

    We can all be stupid and ill-informed about *something* Or some things. But some of those things are small, and some of them are big. It is far worse to be stupid and ill-informed about things that are big. For too many people, the religious ideas that they have that they are stupid and ill-informed about are *huge* things. The ones whose particular stupidity doesn’t do much harm are the ones for whom religion has little effect on their lives. They live them pretty much as they would if they were not religious at all. For them, religion is a small thing, behaviorally. It might be a big thing for their metaphysics, but metaphysics is just a form of entertainment. For the ones whose religion is actually taken seriously? That’s not the same thing as having a stupid superstition about how your behavior can affect the outcome of a sporting event. They might, at their base, be equally stupid beliefs. But one is, all too often, a lot bigger.

    Short version: we might all be capable of being stupid about some things. But not equally stupid. And not about equal things.

  51. dingojack says

    sabiolantz – what do you do for a living? Taste-test Helicobacter pylori?
    :) Dingo

  52. says

    @56:

    I loooooooooooove Helicopter pyramidlori, It’s in my morning yogurt!

    Having read all 56 comments I can only say that if sabiolantz isn’t a concern troll, he’s certainly concern trollish.

    Christians are nice people, smart or otherwise who like to gather in groups of some size or other, praise the LORD and think nice thoughts about themselves and others.

    KKKristians (a substantial fraction of those who CALL themselves “Christian” are authoritarian dickheads and their stooges who think that JESUS or BABYDADDY GOD handed them the keys to the world and said, “It’s okay if you fuck it up a little bit more, ‘cuz it’s a junker, anyway.

    The two groups are not hard to separate, at least not for me.

  53. stumbledin says

    Well now democommie, I’d say you about nailed it. No pun intended, of course. I agree fully we must recognize our own myopia less we bore ourselves and those who love us to death. Not to mention soon enough finding onesself selling Jesus from a multimillion dollar mansion on the Florida coast.

  54. jamessweet says

    The Preface Paradox is relevant here. Though it seems counter-intuitive, it is rational to believe that not everything you believe is rational. In fact, some of it is probably really fuckin’ crazy.

    I do wonder sometimes if I have any beliefs that are crazy on par with like birther-ness or chemtrails and shit like that. I don’t think I do… but of course if I did, I wouldn’t know it, right? Not really losing sleep over it, but I do wonder sometimes… I’m sure I have blind spots, but just how big are they? Hmmm…

  55. danielkim says

    You know, this post is why I love to read this blog. I like to think that I am pretty reasonable and well-informed. I am also appalled by the positions taken by prominent people who proclaim Christ. I can’t say that my own faith is ‘reasonable.’ In fact, I know it to be unreasonable. Still, I hold to my faith, and try to live up to its fundamentals as much as I am able. Can I explain it? No really. Actually, definitely no. Also, pretty much all books that I have read that try to make rational arguments for Christianity get to sounding pretty silly.

    So, I am not offended by being told that I adhere to an unreasonable position. I recognize it as such, but still find it to be absolutely compelling. I was not raised into it from childhood, but came to Christ as an adult, but I still can’t explain why in any way that really holds water. It can be a real pain to examine myself sometimes. Oh well.

    In any case, I have found that Ed and most of the regular community here are pretty fair minded and reasonable. I appreciate the dialog here, and know that even those who disagree with my ‘unreasonable’ faith will not fault me personally, as long as I demonstrate reciprocal tolerance. I treasure that.

  56. dingojack says

    Daniel – you should talk to Heddle. He can’t explain his faith either*, he just believes it.
    Did your faith occur suddenly (like him) or over time?
    Curiously,
    Dingo
    ———
    * and believe me me he’s tried and tried

  57. says

    @ dingojack :
    I would like to think I had the bravery of discovery that Dr. Barry Marshall had, but that glory has been taken. When I was a Traditional Chinese Medical Doctor, I did experiment a lot with herbs — I almost had to trach my buddy during one of those experiments — it is a long story though.

    @ democommie:
    “Troll”, like “religion” or “faith”, are used so differently by everyone. But I assume that you don’t mean that simply challenging claims makes one a troll. Nor do I hope you see me as off topic. But see how “troll” could be a fun pejorative if one does not like the emotions of someone else’s challenge.

    BTW, I don’t know if you are aware but my I-Phone alerts me that your website is a Phishing site. FYI.

    Lastly, I think religion can be used horribly and try to fight those applications whenever I get a chance — sometimes to the embarrassment of friends. So I understand the vehemence of some folks here.

    I just posted a diagram today of how I see Religion as a tool.

  58. rbh3 says

    sabiolantz wrote

    Concerning “fundies” — we have to watch causation vs correlation fallacy: Being a fundie doesn’t cause you to be stupid, but fundies who do stupid things can cause them to be more stupid.

    Case in point: On learning that Francis Collins accepts evolution, a fundamentalist Christian of my acquaintance turned down my offer to lend him Collins’ “Language of God,” saying “I don’t need to read anything I don’t agree with.” He’s his own intellectual jailer.

Leave a Reply