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The stupid problem

This really is a constant problem. I don’t think most theists are stupid, just as I don’t think being an atheist makes you smart, but theists are led to say the most astonishingly stupid things by their abysmally stupid mythology. Ken Ham is probably a smart guy — he’s at least got cunning and business acumen — but when he announces that the world can’t be millions of years old because that would make the Bible wrong, you just have to gawp speechlessly and wonder how someone who can say something that idiotic manages to tie his own shoelaces.

Jesus & Mo demonstrate the problem.

stupid

I’ve decided that everyone has brains like swiss cheese, full of holes, but some people have giant, Jesus- (or Mo-) shaped holes in their brains that create huge dysfunctional zones. If you can avoid tripping into their religious cavities, they’re fine…but if you do, hellooooo stupid.

Comments

  1. Tigger_the_Wing, Can Fly (provided xe uses an aeroplane) says

    It is possible to fill holes up, though. With education. Which might be why so many people avoid being educated. They like their deity-shaped holes.

  2. Menyambal --- son of a son of a bachelor says

    Modern Christianity has become all about faith, with believing in impossible things as the whole point of the exercise. The sacrifice-to-God that most worshippers have made is not their money or their time, but their intellect. The dogma that they embrace cannot be true, or there’d be no point in believing it.

  3. blf says

    I’ve decided that everyone has brains like swiss cheese…

    The mildly deranged penguin has never expressed any interest in eating brains. Therefore, the hypothesis is disproved.

  4. thumper1990 says

    @blf

    But what about elephants? Isn’t that what their trunks evolved for, for sucking people’s brains out through their noses? I’m sure I read that somewhere…

    It’s conclusive proof that elephants only hide upside down in custard so as to ambush unwary custard lovers for their brains.

  5. says

    Menyambal
    “believing in impossible things as the whole point of the exercise”
     
    Forget Modern, isn’t that as old as St Augustine of Hippo (-potamus??)

  6. sundiver says

    Some people seem to need some sort of “specialness” or something. The thought of living in an uncaring universe just scares the shit out of them and they think they need religion to understand why they’re here and all that existential crap. They can’t let themselves “stand cool and composed before a million universes” as Whitman put it. They need small gods that fit their particular biases and aren’t interested in really understanding the world. And it’s true, these aren’t stupid people. Just a bit fearful, I think.

  7. says

    And the hole is protected by a lot of the brain because either by how they were raised or by how they chose to construct their life, the hole is seen as critical to a whole pack of stuff.

    You’ve got the sunk costs thing where every year spent living a life with a hole denying critical aspects of their character (denying the enjoyment of sex for sexuals, preventing one from living the life one wants to lead, doing what one wants to do) means the hole is stronger because if it wasn’t true, why did they waste all those years hurting themselves in that way.

    You’ve got the way cultures and families tie the hole to social and financial support. If you want your family to love you, the friend network carefully built inside the Church to support you, and the Church to help you out when you get knocked down in our society without safety nets, then you better damn well keep showing up and keeping the faith and protect that hole, otherwise you will lose everything and have to start with nothing.

    And then you’ve got self-image. The hole promises specialness, answers, a placing of oneself above others, as more moral, as having a chance at eternal life (well not actually eternal life, more like an unending death where your “spirit” is jerked around like a cruel puppet and there’s nothing left of you to matter because your brain is gone, but it’s eternal and that always sounds good in abstract). Removing it means accepting that you are not something special, meaningful, protected, loved, or more deserving of life than others. Things don’t happen for a reason and sometimes the world is very unfair and cruel. It can be hard to give up, especially when you’re raised that by doing so, you’ve condemned yourself to be the worst scum imaginable.

    And then there is the way the hole is tied to so many other anchor points. If blah is true, then it was morally right to reject my gay kid, tie my job with the Church, etc… And that’s before getting to the simple fact that losing the hole means one was wrong on really important issues in really boneheaded ways. The hole is stupid so what does that seem to say about you for believing it. Even though that mental equation isn’t true, even though it’s really easy for mostly smart people to believe boneheaded things about reality, it can feel true when dismantling the hole. How could I have wasted my life for something so obviously garbage? How could I have tied my self-esteem, my sense of self, my political views into such obvious self-defeating nonsense. And tying back to the first point, if that hole leads to terrible irrevocable decisions, then it becomes nigh impossible to admit one’s ignorance. How do you sleep again at night if you’ve spent the last 20 years cheering on the destruction of the planet because you thought something dumb like God’s gonna save you early? Or with the knowledge that you pushed away that only person that you ever loved and called them a sinner because of something your pastor told you a book said? With seeing yourself as a smug dumb git trying to play gotcha games with atheists and prove one’s intellect.

    When there are so many that have tied always been right to their self-image in general, something that weighty can be easier to protect with ad-hoc justifications than work to remove and admit such powerful ignorance.

    Unfortunately for the rest of us, we still have to live in the world they try and create through these holes.

  8. Scr... Archivist says

    I think that most of your average scriptural literalists and theistic authoritarian followers embrace those views in order to embrace a particular social/moral/political community. (And I’m talking about the “footsoldiers” — not the leaders, who are just in it for power.) They like the people in that movement (mostly their own families), the simple answers that make them feel important, the strict rules that make them feel safe and have direction in life, the idea that they have a piece of the power to make the world they way they like (prayer and an all-powerful referee who’s on their side), and the feeling of being better than others. It’s an emotional and social phenomenon, and science just isn’t on the list of priorities.

    For these people, naturalistic and scientific knowledge just doesn’t register against those feelings. For most everyone, the speed of light or the life of dinosaurs has no effect on their day-to-day experience of life, so these things are irrelevant. Which is something to keep in mind when debating creationists and theists. For the few who even pay attention, those arguments are just a sideshow. The main stage is all about celebrating how special and wonderful they are by belonging to (and demonstrating allegiance to) the best group in the world, every week, every day (sometime five times a day).

    Most of them are quite intellectually capable of understanding science at least at the lay level, and could probably do that while maintaining personal and emotional satisfaction. After all, plenty of ex-theists have already demonstrated that this is possible, and some of them even blog and comment here. But not all believers are willing to jeopardize their membership in their in-group (which for some is the only group they have ever known). That’s the tie that binds.

    If the adult fundies can be said to be stupid, it is only that they have willfully (in both senses) chosen to remain ignorant. But if I’m right, their reasons for doing so are not stupid. Which leaves me to wonder how atheists and anti-theists can meet those needs to better coax them from their error. Promoting scientific literacy is important. But there may be more to be gained on the social and sociological side of our efforts than has been achieved so far.

  9. voidhawk says

    I disagree, I think theists *are* stupid. But then again, so is everyone in their own way. For instance I drive a complicated machine which could break down at any given moment and I don’t have a clue how to fix it which could leave me stranded and helpless. This is clearly stupid.

  10. chigau (違う) says

    voidhawk #16
    Where are you driving?
    Why would you be stranded?
    Why would you be helpless?

  11. Scr... Archivist says

    voidhawk @16,

    The situation might be stupid, but that says nothing about your abilities. If you decided to take on the subject of car repair, do you think you would learn anything from it? If so, it’s not a lack of smarts that’s the obstacle. Maybe it’s just not important enough to you right now. (But if your car does break down, maybe it would be.)

  12. michaellatiolais says

    Cerberus #14
    So very true. Confession time. My grandfather was an atheist. We reconnected via the internet shortly after my stint in Catholicism started. Eventually, his wife made some snarky comment about religion, and we cut ties with them both. He’s dead now. He died a week before I was going to make a trip to see him(actually, to drop my dad off to visit him, but I was planning on visiting, too). He died without ever having the chance to meet my kids or wife. I never even asked him if he agreed with what his wife wrote.

    Years later, as I rejected religion, this hit me like a ton of bricks. This was my fault. I let a stupid comment about my religion get in the way of my relationship with my grandfather, and I can never, ever rectify that. Moreover, I destroyed any chance for my children to connect with their great-grandfather. My behavior disgusts me.

    I don’t think that it is really possible for me to forgive myself for this. I can only fight against this type of thinking going forward.

  13. otrame says

    Go lay down outside on a clear night with low humidity in a place with as little light pollution as possible. Pictures don’t convey it. You have to see it yourself.

    Pratchett says religions start out of a desire to get SOMETHING between you and all that vastness out there.

    That is not stupid. What you have to do to keep that something between you and the vastness in the face of everything we’ve learned about it looks a lot like stupid. It is really just fear.

  14. mikeyb says

    Faith in large part is an ideological commitment tied to a persons sense of self and community and not an examination of facts tied to the real world. This largely explains why abandonment of a set of beliefs is viewed almost like a betrayal of self and family. To question these beliefs is tantamount to questioning one’s identity; hence the reluctance to even expose oneself to views that might be challenging, and listen only to views that reinforce their beliefs.

  15. kemist, Dark Lord of the Sith says

    Go lay down outside on a clear night with low humidity in a place with as little light pollution as possible. Pictures don’t convey it. You have to see it yourself.

    Pratchett says religions start out of a desire to get SOMETHING between you and all that vastness out there.

    Am I weird to want to see, to be in that vastness very much ?

    It would explain why I’m an atheist, and why I was never satisfied or comforted by religion when I believed in it. I never understood why someone would want to hide this. It is so cool.

  16. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    I decided at some point that stupid is not the same as unintelligent. Rather, stupidity is the use of ones intelligence in the service of self-delusion. This answers the paradox of why the smartest people sometimes say the stupidest things. It also serves as a caveat that intelligence cannot vaccinate you against stupid.

  17. raven says

    The stupid problem

    This really is a constant problem. I don’t think most theists are stupid, just as I don’t think being an atheist makes you smart, ..

    This appears to be a real clinical entity.

    Fundie xian induced cognitive impairment.

    Data:

    1. Michele Bachmann is the poster person. Three degrees, one in law, and these days she shouldn’t cross a street without her minder. She wasn’t always this dumb.

    2. Fundie internet trolls. They all come across as cognitively impaired.

    3. Statistical data. Of which there are mountains of. Dennett references 46 studies showing fundies score lower in IQ and education than the general population. Or just look at the fundie red states.

    4. More data comes in every day. Always in the same direction.

    I doubt the cause is organic although the mechanism is obscure. It could be the effort of cognitive dissonance or self assorting.

    I’m sure it is transitory phenomon, likely to last just a few generations as US xianity dies out. This is a good thing. If it went on longer, the fundies would eventually end up as our own Eloi.

  18. anteprepro says

    I decided at some point that stupid is not the same as unintelligent. Rather, stupidity is the use of ones intelligence in the service of self-delusion. This answers the paradox of why the smartest people sometimes say the stupidest things. It also serves as a caveat that intelligence cannot vaccinate you against stupid.

    QFT

  19. kagekiri says

    @14 Cerberus and @15 Scr……Archivist:

    That’s some awesome insight…is this all from external observations from both of you? Because that is pretty fucking accurate.

    Giving up religion was giving up the foundation of so many thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, relationships, judgments, and morality. I’m not sure I’d describe it as a void, but it was a poor foundation that left me fragile when it collapsed. So I totally experienced most of the crap you described, Cerberus; I know it’s a lot to give up.

    I could see the anguish my family experience when I explained my reasons for atheism: it was seen as a direct attack on their foundations. They fought my arguments with every emotional attack they could, because their Biblical and theological defenses sure didn’t hold up.

    I’d already thought through every defense you could throw up against my doubts in God; I was far ahead of them with every reason I might be wrong, and I still couldn’t escape the conclusion that God wasn’t real, and if he was, he’d be a monster.

    All they had left was to stigmatize me and other me, saying I hadn’t been a real Christian, or that I’d been possessed, or that I didn’t know the Bible well enough, or that I believed in God but just wanted to sin. Every cliched anti-atheist verse was thrown at me, to try and hide themselves from the fact that I had believed every bit as much as they did, yet had deconverted so thoroughly.

    As for Scr…Archivist: yeah, it’s hard to give up the feeling of being special or those social ties, and I’m afraid education doesn’t really have much effect on it.

    My sister got her M.D. while remaining a more liberal Christian, and apparently still hadn’t really questioned creationism (not necessarily the YEC creationism I formerly believed, but it was a bit surprising anyway). She had no real arguments against my problems with religion and was supportive, but said she still believed, because she felt God had obviously guided her in her life. So she got out of fundamentalism, but not far, and remains able to totally compartmentalize her research and knowledge of medicine next to her belief in the Bible.

    My old church was mostly immigrants from Asia, with lots of people well-educated and engineers or businessmen, despite their fundamentalism. Which probably skews a lot of my defenses of fundamentalist intellect..

    I knew plenty of accomplished, smart fundies, who espoused some of the craziest conservative crap and spiritual woo you could imagine. Book and CD burnings, Harry Potter is a gateway to witchcraft, everyone should prophesy (yeah, that really didn’t pan out), everyone should be able to heal, Halloween is actually a day where demons are more active, miracles should be more common, prayer meetings that essentially became praying for Republicans to win office, the world is ending soon, etc. They did all this while still going to the doctors if sick (while sending prayer requests), still living a high-tech lifestyle, and so on.

    The compartmentalization is truly astounding, and deeply distressing to me. I don’t know how to snap them out of it, especially with the vast sunk costs in self-respect and such a large change in world-view. It took major depression and self-hatred to get me to reconsider my faith seriously instead of shutting the doubts down by instinct. I had little to lose at that point, and nothing to gain staying in a religion that had led me down that road to depression.

  20. consciousness razor says

    Pratchett says religions start out of a desire to get SOMETHING between you and all that vastness out there.

    That’s one way of looking at it. If you don’t even know about any vastness, it’s hard to say what the deal is. Something between you and all the pain and death and destruction? Something to connect you with all the important stuff in life? Something to give you power? Something, anything, other than what you already have?

    That is not stupid. What you have to do to keep that something between you and the vastness in the face of everything we’ve learned about it looks a lot like stupid. It is really just fear.

    Fear’s a hell of drug. –Lucretius

  21. consciousness razor says

    ^ “a hell of a” Obviously. But not literally. And Lucretius never said that. There goes my joke.

    And I wouldn’t really pin it all on fear or stupidity, of course. I’ll plug Pascal Boyer’s Religion Explained, since it doesn’t get near enough attention. Religions use lots of perfectly “normal” everyday thought-processes to do their dirty work.

  22. anuran says

    I think I’d prefer if Jesus and Mo followed the Quran on this one:
    O disbelievers!
    [1] I worship not that which ye worship;
    [2] Nor worship ye that which I worship.
    [3] And I shall not worship that which ye worship.
    [4] Nor will ye worship that which I worship.
    [5] Unto you your religion, and unto me my religion.

    Sad to say, a lot of the loudest ones forget this little bit of their book

  23. says

    Pratchett says religions start out of a desire to get SOMETHING between you and all that vastness out there.

    I have an old woolen sweater. It does that job.Who needs god, again?

  24. Azuma Hazuki says

    @6/richardelguru

    Actually that goes back to Tertullian, one of the early leaders of the Carthaginian/Roman center (and which center was partisan if not origin of the belief in eternal torture for the “unsaved”). He specifically said “I believe it because it is absurd.”

    I wish I could erase Augustine of Hippo from the timestream. Christianity would have been much different and better had he never existed. I have no doubt the man was mentally ill.

  25. unclefrogy says

    it is not the stars in the sky that is feared they are unknown save for their twinkling little lights.
    It is the void of none being, that other country we all must travel to that is at the heart of the faithful.

    what do you call willful ignorance?
    I read the other day someone’s defense of some outrageous statements “he is not irrational he just did not think it all the way through”
    uncle frogy

  26. Scr... Archivist says

    kagekiri @28,

    Thank you for the reply. To answer your question, it is from external observations. I was never really interested in being religious, and my parents were not interested in making me religious. Dinosaurs and Carl Sagan got to me first, and I didn’t have the emotional investment or familial obligation to believe. So, the scientific arguments ended up bolstering my existing trajectory and were not a challenge (except in the sense that sometimes it’s hard to wrap my head around them). But I know that not everyone has that background.

    Just last week I was talking to someone I’ve known for a long time and she said she was a creationist. This was a surprise, but I checked my immediate assumption and listened to her. When the conversation turned to gay rights, respect for trans people, and raising kids without pink or blue, she had the usual liberal beliefs or wanted to know more. Maybe this was another example of compartmentalization, and a hint that she believes in creationism for community reasons rather than dispassionate scientific judgement. Maybe she is like your sister in that way.

    You mentioned compartmentalization. Have you ever read The Authoritarians by Robert Altemeyer? http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~altemey/ He taught psychology at the University of Manitoba, and wrote this book to explain the psychology of the Christian Right in the U.S. One of the ways they operate is through compartmentalization. The book is free from his website.

    Finally, I am truly sorry for the trouble religion has caused you, and I hope that you are doing better now. Depression is not an easy thing to fight, and I wish you the best.

  27. David Marjanović says

    I have no doubt the man was mentally ill.

    Yeah, he had Manicheism. *snark*

  28. thumper1990 says

    @raven #26

    I don’t think it’s religion makes people stupid so much as stupid people are more drawn to religion.

  29. thumper1990 says

    Harry Potter is a gateway to witchcraft, everyone should prophesy

    These values seem inconsistent…