A few questions…are atheists typically arrogant? Are we smarter?


Do you think atheists are typically arrogant? That’s definitely a stereotype out there; sometimes I fall into that category. Why can’t everyone see religion in the way that I see it? It’s just common sense to know that religion is bullshit, right?

As atheists, is it our duty to expose the evils of religion? In a way, “spread the word”? 

We may have science on our side, but it always seems to be our word vs. theirs. 

But take your average Christian in middle America – going about life, doing what they know and maybe don’t know any different – are they doing anything wrong? Is it their fault for not questioning their beliefs?

Is being skeptical a personal responsibility?

Are we smarter for questioning? Is being inquisitive an inherited trait? Why do some question and some follow blindly? I’d say that a lot of it has to do with your environment, yet so many people rebel against their upbringing. Could there possibly be a nurture vs. nature argument when it comes to faith? 

I’d like to think I’m not an asshole. Deep down I know we are all just humans with our own experiences, trauma, abilities, and flaws and most of us are just trying to get by. 

Hate the belief but not the believer? Maybe this is a case of live and let live.

Wanna take a stab at the many questions I vomited onto this post? I’d love to hear it.

Comments

  1. Katydid says

    Nature vs nurture; that’s a great question.

    I think some people are just born missing the “belief” gene. I don’t think I ever had it. I can’t remember anytime in my whole life believing, not even when I was in church and Sunday School and youth group and all the other religious stuff my parents used for free babysitting.

    OTOH, as a military brat, I grew up all over the world and saw a lot of religions and fervent believers in them all. That may have informed my belief that none of them were real.

    Does it have to do with intelligence or imagination? I don’t know. Why did I add imagination? Because it takes imagination to put yourself in someone else’s (religious) shoes and consider what it might be like to believe what they do. Imagination and curiosity. As an artist and writer, you have those traits.

    I suspect belief also has to do with fear; the most fearful people I know are also the most religious. It’s like religion is their blanket to hide under to be safe. You seem are not fearful–you put your art and your writing out for everyone to see, and that is a brave act.

    Regarding skepticism: I think some of that is innate, but most of that is learned. Schools don’t teach critical thinking anymore, but it’s a part of science (that’s also being cut out of many schools). Do you remember in science class learning that scientists come up with a theory, then test it various ways to see if it holds up, and finish with a conclusion as to whether it’s true or not? That’s skepticism and critical thinking. The same thing happens in Geometry class with proofs–or at least, it used to. Both my kids had Geometry in school and neither learned about proofs.

    I also think there are parts of the country that are more focused on everyone being the same and fitting in…and beliefs are a part of that. One of the problems the middle of America has with the ‘coastal eeeeeeleeeeetes’ is that there’s a more diverse population there, so any particular person’s culture and beliefs don’t threaten the rest of the people.

  2. txpiper says

    “It’s just common sense to know that religion is bullshit, right?”
    .
    If you mean Christianity, people like Copernicus, Francis Bacon, Johann Kepler, Galileo, Harvey, Pascal, Boyle, Newton, Linnaeus, Cuvier, Dalton, Faraday, Maxwell, Pasteur, Joule, Lord Kelvin and Lister did not think so.

    • John Morales says

      Christianity is one of many (many!) formalised religions, nevermind informal or personal ones.

      But it’s quite true that people like Copernicus, Francis Bacon, Johann Kepler, Galileo, Harvey, Pascal, Boyle, Newton, Linnaeus, Cuvier, Dalton, Faraday, Maxwell, Pasteur, Joule, Lord Kelvin and Lister all thought any other religion was bullshit.

      (Truly, religionists are known for their intolerance to other faiths of even the lack of their faith)

  3. Bruce says

    To have ANY opinion about theology or religion is inherently to believe that you are right, and that those with other beliefs are wrong. Thus, to be an atheist might be viewed as being exactly as arrogant, knowedgable, and prideful as those with ANY other religious belief.
    Does everyone think Catholics, Methodists, or Baptists are arrogant for holding to their religions? Either none are, or all are, and common word usage does not hold that all are. Thus, we atheists are NOT arrogant any further than the minimum baseline of normal humans.
    If two men say that THEY are Jesus, is it arrogant to think that at least one of them is wrong?
    So I question the premise set by society to even suggest the question to us. Thanks.

  4. Allison says

    If two men say that THEY are Jesus, is it arrogant to think that at least one of them is wrong?

    I don’t think the words “right” or “wrong” are all that relevant (and arguing about it usually gets you nowhere.) “Right” or “wrong” are relevant to what you do with it (or in spite of it.) And though people say that they do the things they do because of their beliefs, my impression from watching people is that they do what they feel like doing, and then come up with rationalizations for why their deeds are consistent with their beliefs and (re-)interpret their beliefs to fit the rationalizations. Their are Believers (in all sorts of things) who do good, and Believers who do awful things, but the same is true of atheists, as has been discussed a lot on Freethought Blogs.

    My own experience of atheists, at least the ones who I know to be atheists, is that a lot of them seem to think that their atheism makes them superior to the non-atheists, and can be quite obnoxious about it; I think “arrogant” is a reasonable term. My first encounter with capital A Atheists was on-line, and the ones I saw were very much this way. They not only thought that their Atheism was the One True Way, but felt it meant that their other opinions and prejudices were more valid than anybody else’s as well. And they had a fair amount of contempt for anyone who disagreed with them. Think: Dawkins on a good day. Not all of them were like that, but most of the ones who posted a lot were. I do recognize that there are probably a lot of atheists who aren’t like that, but they don’t seem to post about their atheism as much.

    I recognize that it’s a problem among the religious, so I don’t know that it makes Atheists worse in that respect, but they aren’t better, either.

  5. wsierichs says

    I’m sure there’s arrogance to some degree in most rational atheists (those who are not atheists because of some other, screwy belief system) and some are more open.

    But 1) Christians are probably just as arrogant, if not more so, because they generally are certain that they alone have the truth about the true god and the true religion. To many (not all) Christians, anyone who disagrees is at best blind or stupid, at worst is deliberately choosing to worship Satan rather than God. I won’t give a long dissertation, but this belief goes back to early Christianity and is the reason for a lot of Christian atrocities over the centuries. When European Christians began spreading out across the world, they initially believed that once they told the truth about Jesus to the dark-skinned pagans of all the other continents, the blindness (created by Satan) would fall from their eyes and there would be a mass, worldwide conversion. Instead, pagans generally held to their religions and traditions, which eventually led Christians to believe that dark skin was a mark of Satan worship. We know how that turned out for the dark-skinned pagans of the Americas, Africa, Asia and Australia.

    2) A portion of Christians think it’s arrogance not to accept their stories and beliefs. Creationists can be very arrogant toward people who point to scientific evidence of evolution. Pointing out the absurdities and problems with biblical stories and other miracle stories is just being rude, to many conservative Christians. “You have your beliefs and I have mine.” “It takes more faith not to believe than to believe.” “Do you think you’re smarter than all the brilliant people (insert names of famous scientists, writers, thinkers, etc. who were Christians) That is so arrogant.” etc.

    3) You can see extreme arrogance among large numbers of Christians who get angry that people complain – sometimes successfully in court – about Christians using the power of government to force Christian rituals and symbols on everyone. Several groups have collected large numbers of stories about Christian violence – rhetorical and sometimes physical – toward church-state separationists. If you get Freethought Today, every issue includes a lot of “crank mail,” frequently liberally sprinkled with the f- or s-words, telling everyone that their town (X) is a Christian town and no one complains about loud prayers in government meetings or public school classes, so the FFRF is told to keep its nose out of the business of people in X, that no one from another state has a right to interfere with Christian coercion through government. Of course, FFRF is a national group and undoubtedly has members in or near X but who keep a low profile precisely because they fear what Christians might do to them if they openly complain.

  6. says

    Bruce@#3:Thus, to be an atheist might be viewed as being exactly as arrogant, knowedgable, and prideful as those with ANY other religious belief.

    They are far more arrogant than mere skeptics. Skeptics admit eagerly that we know very little, while the faithful claim to know the desires and nature of the creator of the universe! Oddly, they are never able to explain it, though, and somehow it is arrogant to ask, “what do you mean ‘god is infinite’? unless you can define your god inductively, there’s no way you could actually observe that, so how do you know?”

  7. tuatara says

    I think that humans are contradictory animals that, like most animals, are easily spooked. Superstition appears to be the default mental state that then takes discipline to overcome.
    Is it better to have dispelled superstition in favour of not being easily spooked?

    Is it arrogant to believe that we are an evolving species that will never achieve any “finished” state? Or is it arrogant to believe, like some christian literalists do, that we are the pinnacle of creation, having dominion over the earth, with the idea of an eternity in heaven making the earth disposable?

    I have never, ever, had an atheist knock on my door on a weekend, or any other day, seekimg to convince me to join their throng.

    IMO, humans are a product of culture as much as biology. The society into which we are born provides the intellectual nutrients from which our biological brains mature into minds, building from sensory stimulus our world view. As such, many famous christian scientists of the past were products of their times. Was Newton right about orbital mechanics or optics? Was Newton right about biblical prophesy buried beneath of layers of cryptic messages? Was Newton right about alchemy? Was Newton wrong about any of these subjects? Could Newton have been wrong about religion?

    Was Galileo conceding that the religious dogma of the day was the correct explanation of the puzzling observations that he made that directly contradicted it, or did he confess and recant to save his skin? Was he embittered by the experience, secretly renouncing his faith and dying as an unconfessed atheist?

    Who knows.

    Things change. As evolution pushes us, so change to the social milieu in which we live pushes us, in an unknowable direction. But for now that direction appears to be away from superstition and religion, but who knows?.

    Is that a fair assessment? I don’t know. But I do know that, for as long as I can remember, I have considered praying to god or jesus as an insincere activity, regardless of who is doing the praying. If I see or hear you praying I will feel embarassment on your behalf, and I will feel astonishment that you are not embarassed by your own activity. I will not try to persuade you to give up your faith, but I will think less of you.
    Does that make me arrogant? Or am I just a product of being a 4th generation atheist?

    Is this a load of nonsense to you? Possibly. But I am not a scientist or academic so I cannot express myself as succintly as many who comment here.

  8. John Morales says

    Do you think atheists are typically arrogant?

    No.

    That’s definitely a stereotype out there; sometimes I fall into that category.

    Yes there is, and yes, many people perceive me as such.

    Why can’t everyone see religion in the way that I see it?

    People are different.

    It’s just common sense to know that religion is bullshit, right?

    Not really.
    Also (and again), not all religion is theistic, so not all religion is opposed to atheism. It’s not [atheism|religion], it’s [atheism|theism].
    But yes, I’m not only an atheist, I’m also irreligious.

    As atheists, is it our duty to expose the evils of religion? In a way, “spread the word”?

    No.

    But take your average Christian in middle America – going about life, doing what they know and maybe don’t know any different – are they doing anything wrong?

    Depends on what they do, not on who they are.

    Is it their fault for not questioning their beliefs?

    I do not assume none haven’t questioned their beliefs; but for those who haven’t, not really. People are different, and it’s in their nature to not question their beliefs, particularly when they’re not really falsifiable by brute reality.

    Is being skeptical a personal responsibility?

    No.
    But it sure helps if one is. 🙂

    Are we smarter for questioning?

    No. Everyone asks questions, and there are certainly stupid questions.

    Is being inquisitive an inherited trait?

    Yes.
    But: this question is predicated on the belief that there are people who are not inquisitive. I think every human is, particularly in their childhood.

    Why do some question and some follow blindly?

    People are different.

    I’d say that a lot of it has to do with your environment, yet so many people rebel against their upbringing. Could there possibly be a nurture vs. nature argument when it comes to faith?

    Yes. That’s what inculcation is all about.
    Organisms adapt to their environment (or die) — and this applies to not just the physical environment, but to the cultural environment.

    Hate the belief but not the believer? Maybe this is a case of live and let live.

    One could, but it’s a pointless endeavour.
    Belief is an abstract entity that only exists in the believer’s mind.

    Wanna take a stab at the many questions I vomited onto this post?

    Yes. (evidently)

  9. says

    Once upon a time, there were at least a few atheists who were jaw-droppingly arrogant — specifically, the twits who laughably insisted on being called “Brights.” And the old New Atheists. Nowadays it looks like we’ve kinda moved past all that rubbish. It’s rare these days that I hear an (alleged) atheist saying such incredibly stupid and insulting things; and I strongly suspect that at least a few of them are actually Christians trying to reinforce their tired old stereotype of the Arrogant Meanie Atheist.

  10. says

    txpiper @2: I may not be as well-read as I should be, but I’m pretty sure none of the people you name-drop believed every word of the Bible as literal truth, or swallowed everything their priests or popes told them without chewing. I do know there’s lots of Christians who believe in a good God and resurrected Christ while quietly (or not so quietly) shrugging off the sillier or less plausible bits of the Bible.

    Also, Augustine (who didn’t seem to make your list of Great Christian Thinkers) strongly cautioned Christians against arguing bullshit based on the Bible. So he was at least admitting that some people got bullshit from Christian doctrine.

  11. txpiper says

    tuatara,

    “Was Newton right about biblical prophesy buried beneath of layers of cryptic messages?”

    Anyone wishing to explore his thoughts can find his commentaries on the books of Daniel and the Revelation here.

    A lot of the prophetic scenery concerning the last days is neither buried nor cryptic.

  12. tuatara says

    txpiper, let me illustrate my point further for you.
    What if Newton were born in 10th century Basra? Would he have been an islamic scholar working with someone like Hassan Ibn Al-Haitham whose ideas on optics predate Newtons by 500 years or so?
    Or what about Archimedes. Were he born into 17th century christian England would he perhaps not have been born into the cult of zeus, instead being a devout christian poring over the bible in search of secrets only he had the mind to discern?
    What of Copernicus? He would have fit into the world or Nasir Al-Din Al-Tusi quite well don’t you think? No need to be christian at all, or muslim, or atheit, or a pastafarian for that matter – it is all just a coincidence really. Claiming otherwise is rather arrogant on your part don’t you think?

  13. txpiper says

    tuatara,

    My post was altered to delete the link I provided to Newton’s books. I probably shouldn’t be posting on this blog.

    • ashes says

      I apologize if that was something on my end, but I didn’t see any links in your comments. You are welcome to try again.

      • John Morales says

        There’s no indication of a link in the comment (even a failed one) when looking at the page source.

        I must either conclude our host removed it but denies it, or that it was never there to begin with. I trust the blog host.

        Note that the second alternative does not exclude txpiper from attempting to put one in, or accuse them of lying.

  14. says

    In a god-soaked culture such as the USA, I suspect it’s statistically true that atheists, considered as a group, are smarter than Believers, also considered as a group. It’s purely a matter of entrance requirements (or lack thereof).

    In a god-soaked culture like the US, every person is exposed to god-talk and god propaganda pretty much every day of their life. So in order to be a Believer, all you have to do is just sit back and accept what you’re hearing—no higher brain function is necessary. The minimum intelligence, for Believers, is whatever is needed in order to understand the stories they’ve been told.

    And atheists? Well, one of the more common events which starts someone on the road to rejecting god-Belief is that they notice problems in the god-talk they’re hearing. That sort of thing just plain does take more brainpower than merely sitting back and Believing what one is told. Certainly, noticing problems in a story requires more intelligent than just accepting what you’re told. Hence, my tentative conclusion is that atheists in god-soaked cultures such as the US are smarter, to some degree, than Believers in god-soaked cultures such as the US.

    The above clearly does not apply to any culture which is not thoroughly god-soaked. And since the above only addresses the minimal intelligence levels required to become part of whichever group, it clearly should not be regarded as an attempt to argue that no Believer is smarter than any atheist.

  15. txpiper says

    Isaac Newton’s Commentaries
    =
    tuatara,
    “No need to be christian at all, or muslim, or atheit, or a pastafarian for that matter – it is all just a coincidence really. Claiming otherwise is rather arrogant on your part don’t you think?”
    .
    I’m not a big believer in coincidence.
    In some belief systems, humans and termites are equally valuable (or useless). I do not agree with this assessment. I think in terms of personal destiny, which I’m sure some would consider arrogance.
    Prophecy, while not much of a feature in other religions, is very prominent in Christianity. Newton’s views considered both past (like the first advent) and future (like the restoration of Israel) forecasts.

  16. tuatara says

    I’m not a big believer in coincidence…..

    I think in terms of personal destiny,…

    So what was the personal destiny of Newton and Copernicus? To enlighten enough people to turn away from christianity so that god could keep the “No Vacancy” sign under Pete’s reception counter a bit longer because the 144,000 bed limit was nearly met? (as in only the truly mindless can enter heaven).
    Does that mean that by driving people away from the church Newton and Copernicus were doing gods work and were guaranteed the honeymoon suite?
    Or do you mean that they “use[d] the force”?
    Or something else?

    Actually, don’t bother answering. If you do answer I think that my destiny is suddenly to not read it. Oh no, wait, that is just the coincidence of a) my not caring for b) your nonsense.

  17. Does Itmatter says

    Anyone who thinks everything was made 6000-10000 years ago and some eternal being made everything in 6-8 days is completely mental. I honestly do not understand how so many idiots can exist but they do and I think the fathers of America were extremely smart with freedom of religion. With time and learning other religions, people will eventually wake up… hopefully… 🤞🤞🤞

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