The Importance of Evidence and Common Sense

I like how some commenters have brought up the importance of evidence on past posts. I totally agree with you.

One big difference between theists and atheists is that atheists are flexible and will change their minds if you can back up your claim with evidence. Theists live with blind faith — evidence doesn’t influence their beliefs. If you show me concrete evidence that god exists, I will believe you. Until that day comes, I’m relying on common sense.

I am absolutely baffled when I think about some of the people in my life. How can smart people — the ones who seemingly have their shit together in every other area of their life — sincerely believe in fairytales and obvious lies? The power religion holds is terrifying. It’s like the stories just don’t fit with the rest of your life when your living and working in the present day, yet people still believe them. 

What caused me to break the cycle of generations of indoctrination? My parents were both raised in Christian families that went to church on a regular basis. And while I remember being read a couple of children’s bible stories when I was little, it was never pushed on me. When I was really little I can remember going to church a couple of times on Christmas and Easter, but that tapered off quickly as I got older. I would like to think that in most families religious beliefs become a little more relaxed generation after generation, but when I look at some of my friends, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Like I said above, I feel many atheists are flexible and open-minded, so I really have a hard time understanding how theists can be so rigid in their beliefs.

I also really appreciate the comments I have gotten regarding my daughter and my concerns about when she comes in contact with religion. Stressing the importance of evidence sounds like a good plan. I don’t want to be an asshole and just say someone else is wrong. I want my daughter to be skeptical and come to her own conclusions. 

Who else is baffled by the theists around them? How do smart people throw common sense out the window?


  1. says

    I feel the religious are just a subset of those people who are dead certain they know about stuff, without ever actually learning about it. I’ve met plenty of diehard non religious believers, their brains are simply not wired for critical thought. People who wave their hands frantically in front of their faces squeaking piteously while you try to explain the reasoning behind something. These people can only function with a linear set of instructions and find simple (e.g.religious) environments safe and comforting. I can’t teach them to think for themselves. And not all atheists are good at thinking either.

  2. sarah00 says

    I think you’re being rather optimistic about atheists. Too many think that being right gives them the authority to be assholes to those who don’t think the way they do. And many forget that being right on this one subject doesn’t mean they are automatically right on all subjects. We have just as many biases and live by just as many unexamined assumptions as theists.

  3. sonofrojblake says

    “We have just as many biases and live by just as many unexamined assumptions as theists”

    We do tend to fly fewer aircraft into buildings /blow ourselves up in crowded tube trains more rarely/ not murder doctors providing pregnancy terminations, though.

      • sonofrojblake says

        Yes, it’s only atheists who deny trans rights and only atheists should be held responsible for suicides. Not their own suicides, obviously, the suicides of people they’ve never met, interacted with or heard of.

        Meanwhile in 2020 it seems to me at least that trans rights and trans acceptance are at an all time high for my lifetime. We should not be complacent – the hard won gains of even the last twenty years should not be assumed to be something that will continue without constant attention and protest – but laying the suicide of trans people at the feet of atheists and comparing it to laying the deaths of 9/11 at the feet of 19 specific Muslims seems… perverse, to say the very least.

  4. publicola says

    @2: I agree. Ashes, I believe people are so rigid in their beliefs because , without them, they would have to accept the possibility (or fact) that existence has no intrinsic meaning, and they simply can’t accept this. They can’t face the thought of no after-life; no purpose; no heavenly reward. And they can find no substitute for these things, such as serving their fellow man. For them, it would be like falling into a bottomless pit.

  5. says

    Atheists are people who have rejected one major source of rationalizations/justifications for Being A Total Asshole.

    One major source.

    So I’d expect that, statistically speaking, the incidence of assholes among atheists should be somewhat lower than the corresponding incidence among Believers, but definitely not anywhere near “zero”.

  6. Katydid says

    Some people simply will not be swayed by facts, and since the majority faith in the USA is Christianity, they are also Christians.

    Two minor examples that are funny because they’re so trivial:

    A woman I know who if not atheist is angostic: we were chatting via email at work right before we were sent home from work and she had commented that several (dog sport) groups she belonged to were cancelling their classes and events, and the public library was also closing, so she wasn’t sure how she’d spend her time off. I responded that it sucks to have a pandemic with everything fun closed down…and she responded angrily that the walls were NOT closing in on her. I replied that wasn’t what I said, she insisted it was, and I had to forward my own email back to her so she could see it with her own eyes because in her mind, I had said something and she simply would not let facts get in the way of her belief. She knew what she knew regardless of whether what she “knew” was actually true or not.

    There’s an older, retired woman who absolutely is Christian who walks in the neighborhood for exercise. Before the pandemic, we ran into each other and walked together down the road to an older development, where we passed an old house for sale that had clearly been broken up into apartments. I had taken a flyer for the house and then looked it up on Zillow and knew the house contained four apartments. Just making conversation, I referenced the four apartment and the older woman *lost her mind* because there were three apartments and how could I possibly think there were four? Now, she’s like this about everything; she makes up her mind and facts do not hold sway, and there’s absolutely no point in arguing about it.

    My examples are funny because they’re just so trifling, but this is exactly the personality type that flies airplanes into buildings and sets people on fire because they’re witches.

  7. Bruce says

    I think reality is complex, and that social things, such as why people do what they do, will often have several different causes acting at once.
    For example, smart but religious people, like I was as a teen, may develop skill in compartmentalization. By that, I mean that one internalizes “rules”, such as the idea that religious stuff is somehow in a separate domain, so logic and cause-and-effect shouldn’t be expected or tested there. That let me simultaneously be good at science and at processing the empty algorithms of religion.
    The great scientist Stephen Jay Gould, foe example, proposed non-overlapping Magesteria, meaning that one can’t object to religion, because it operates in its own world.
    A common response to Gould in his lifetime was that if a god operates in a different world, then his believers should be quiet about how to behave in this world.
    What does it mean to claim that prayer “works”, if one feels it doesn’t overlap with or affect anything observable in our world?

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