seeing this article made me think of an old blog post i wrote here a while back. i thought this would be a good time to revisit this:
believe it or not, the inspiration for this blog post comes from an article on cracked.com, entitled 4 things both atheists and believers need to stop saying. the author asserts that Atheists in general have a superiority complex, and think of the Religious as simple minded or stupid.
while it may be true that many or even most Atheists tend to lean towards this stance, i wonder about the validity of the premise - not whether or not Atheists think they are smarter, but whether or not Atheists are smarter. i know that some research has been done on this, but the results are murky and unremarkeable. there have been studies linking high IQ to a disbelief in God http://freethinker.co.uk/features/atheists-are-more-intelligent-tha...), but i take these with a grain of salt. it doesn't prove anything. i think at best all we can do is add up what we know and discuss the information. so what do we know?
1. indoctrination is hard to break out of
or you could use the word brainwashing, no difference. i don't think that it's a coincidence that many people break away from religion as their brain grows. the human brain continues to grow into our 30's. we get smarter, not through accumulation of information, but literally with additional capacity. as we smarten up, the same traditions, ceremonies, and beliefs start to take on a different meaning. most religious people have experienced doubts when they start to question things that they've come to accept as fact. many of these questioners become non-believers as their questions simply grow too large to ignore. however, the great majority seem to brush off their questions and return to blind faith. so, the question is why some, and not others? is this where intelligence comes in?
2. not everyone is smart
visit an amusement park on a hot summer day and you surely know this to be true. about 16% of the general public have IQ's over 115. i don't know where the line between smart and stupid is, but i would think that 115 seems to differentiate the smart with the less intelligent. it's obviously coincidence, but most figures show that about 15% of people are Atheist. but if 84% (or even 60%) of humans are not exactly 'bright', is it that difficult to conclude that they may not have the mental faculties to break free of religious indoctrination?
3. scientists are smart
by their very nature, they kind of have to be. they use complex mathmatical formulas, dig deep into research, understand diverse and difficult concepts, and read ALOT. as the religious love to point out, scientists are overwhelmingly Atheist. the connection is almost too obvious to point out.
4. conversion is a one way street
while it occassionally occurs, an Atheist becoming a Christian is nearly impossible. without knowing every single case where this has happened, it is reasonable to assume that most of this kind of conversion is questionable - did this person REALLY not believe in God? it's also reasonable to assume that many of those who converted to religion did so out of pressure from family and friends. on the other hand, religious devotees are turning to Atheism in droves. thousand of former religious folk leave their religions daily. the reason is obvious - once you break the spell, you can never fall under it's power again. if your mind can be freed from religion, there is simply too much evidence against belief. all it takes are two things: information and critical thought. at some point, all believers are exposed to information that should make them question their belief, but only those who possess critical thinking skills can make the leap.
5. critical thinking is a sign of intelligence
on the surface, i'm sure that most people would agree with that statement, although it is not an outright fact. you can be highly intelligent and not possess critical thinking skills. but i would argue that is the exception, not the rule. it is essential to becoming an Atheist to put aside blide faith and use your faculities to dismiss what you've been taught. this is critical thinking, or problem solving if you like. the problem in question is what to do with the inconsistencies that you encounter when dealing with religion. i maintain that the less intelligent are not as adept at using their problem solving skills, so when they are presented with incongruities in their religion, they shuck it aside to avoid an unpleasant thought process. those who are more comfortable in using critical thinking (the more intelligent) will embrace this dichotomy of thought, research, question more, think more, and ultimately make a rational and logical conclusion. hence, Atheists converting from religion.
6. freethinkers, rationalists, reason
these are the words that describe the Atheist movement. isn't it funny that even the religious describe Atheists using these words? look at those words again - the very definition of intelligence is right there!
i'm sure i'm just scratching the surface here. i'd welcome some additional viewpoints, research, and opinions on this topic. please feel free to share your thoughts.
your welcome Tom. i'm glad you enjoyed it. this was one of the earliest posts i did here at A/N.
maybe better stated atheists and tolerance.. or patience.. that which the fundines lack always it seems.. and 'I'm" the bigot right? pfffft
When you say
"i know that some research has been done on this, but the results are murky and unremarkeable. there have been studies linking high IQ to a disbelief in God... but i take these with a grain of salt. it doesn't prove anything."
The results are far from murky. In fact, the results showing a negative correlation between religiosity and intelligence has been consistent over many decades of research.
Study found 'a reliable negative relation between intelligence and religiosity' in 53 out of 63 studies
I agree, that this is indeed unremarkable. However, it's quite logical and intuitive. You wouldn't think it remarkable if someone who went around espousing the tooth fairy were considered stupid (in the clinical sense) would you? Why does belief in god get far more much social respect than belief in Santa? Why is it less socially acceptable to question religion than it is to question aliens? The answer to this is social conditioning. The second article above points to this.
yes, this is new information than when i originally wrote this post. i included the link to this new study at the top of the discussion, and it was my reason for re-posting this topic.
..."Why does belief in god get far more much social respect than belief in Santa? Why is it less socially acceptable to question religion than it is to question aliens? The answer to this is social conditioning."...
Excellent point Bob, and in my view the correct conclusion. This extends beyond religion to assumptions like, 'X is the greatest country on earth', etc. Tribalism! It's still what 'informs' and motivates us in this very young and not yet proven experiment in civilization. Religion has been useful in this transition as means for the smart to control the not so smart, or attempts at the opposite. For social conditioning to be effective it has to either start with indoctrination of the very young (through softening the intellect with palatable notions like Santa), and/or with persistent cultural saturation.
I've lived in places like Salt Lake City and the Pine Ridge reservation and Charlotte, North Carolina where fairly irrational social norms are little questioned and vociferously defended when they are challenged. No rational case can be made for these ideas, but they are ubiquitous and socially conditioned into stable memes. People in those places aren't necessarily more or less intelligent than people elsewhere, though they don't seem likely to be places where intelligence proliferates and thrives.
We humans, distinct from most other animals, exhibit highly plastic brains -- we are able to learn and develop 'good tricks' that are transmitted not genetically but memetically. If a culture develops and stabilizes around an irrational but useful meme, it seems entirely possible that intelligence could, by differential reproductive success (see Mormons) decline within that memosphere.
I've lived in places like Salt Lake City and the Pine Ridge reservation and Charlotte, North Carolina where fairly irrational social norms are little questioned and vociferously defended when they are challenged.
One of this country's major problems, and impediments to learning is provincialism. Gather a group of people of the same background and beliefs together, isolate them, and it will be hard for them to accept anything other than what they are accustomed to.
Here in NYC, we are daily exposed to every culture, every language every belief system and every race on the planet. In places like this new ideas flourish, and sanity tends to be the norm. Diversity is the key.
Just one example:
How would such public policy be greeted in Salt Lake City, Pine Ridge reservation, Charlotte, North Carolina, or any part of our ignorant bible belt?
Diversity, exposure to divergent ideas, customs, and cultures is why Europe has a much higher percentage of non-believers and rationalists; while the U.S. wallows in ancient irrational superstitions.
"One of this country's major problems, and impediments to learning is provincialism..."
I agree with you on that. Right now I live near Greenville, SC, which is a relatively progressive outpost in an increasingly regressive South (and perhaps nation as a whole). What we think and do here has some, but not much, effect on the State House and the US Congress and our nation's policies. NYC obviously has more effect, but what I've seen in the boroughs is sort of a projected provincialism with no strong connection to realities in say, Provo, Utah. That may be a good thing -- I'd certainly rather live according to the values of NYC than Provo for the most part, but it's still provincialism.
Our newfound civilization has not yet equipped us with the means to meld into one big 'tribe'. Maybe we're getting there and maybe that's good, and maybe it will collapse like a house of cards. We just don't know yet, and so we follow or lead whatever trends seem right at the moment. Philadelphia was once our nation's capitol and now it's not. Denver may be in the future, or Atlanta, Chicago, Seattle and Tucson capitols of four distinct nations.
New York City is a unique melting pot, and I love it for that, but it's not at all representative of the rest of the country. All of those other places are diverse or insular in their own ways, and might like to bring NYC or especially DC around to their way of thinking. We have a long way to go before becoming one 'tribe', and I won't even try to assign value to doing so.
I seem to have wandered quite far from the original topic.