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Desc:The answer may surprise you!
Category:Religious, Science & Technology
Tags:religion, stupidity, atheism, psychology, intelligence
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Comment count is 27
StanleyPain - 2013-02-28
This all seems terribly subjective and somewhat intellectually dishonest. Clearly it's likely that a religious person and an atheist will have equal intelligence on a basic level, all things considered, but you cannot seriously assert that, say, a devout Jehovah's Witness and an atheist have the same abilities of critical thinking, skepticism, and rational evaluation of a given phenomena. I think many people would evaluate "intelligence" as also the ability to adapt and think through things in a realistic, functional manner and religion is unquestionably a barrier to that.
Bort - 2013-02-28
From what I've seen, the ability to be completely impartial and rational is highly compartmentalized and situational. Just because your Jehovah's Witness and your atheist are worlds apart in, say, their ability to discuss evolution, doesn't mean it can be generalized to other topics. For example, plenty of atheists are just as nutty as the Teabaggers when it comes to politics; they just approach their nuttiness from another direction.

Religion can also prove to be an anomalous "tic" in an otherwise generally level-headed person's thought processes; indoctrination from childhood will do that to a person.

TheOtherCapnS - 2013-02-28
Gotta agree with Bort here. I've known more than a few people who are somewhat religious but are fairly brilliant mathematicians and/or physicists. I think it doesn't just have to do with indoctrination and peer pressure, but also with one's ability to accept their own mortality. To me, that's always seemed like one of the biggest factors in whether someone is religious, and it just doesn't have that much to do with someone's level of cognition.

TheOtherCapnS - 2013-02-28
That said, I've never known any of those people to be extremely devout, but this isn't about a relationship between fanaticism and intelligence. Sadly, many devout atheists seem to have trouble differentiating between casual and devout religiousness.

John Holmes Motherfucker - 2013-02-28
"Realistic" and "functional" are two very different things, and nonbelievers can be pretty unrealistic about a whole lot of things. What they expect of other people, for example.

Old_Zircon - 2013-02-28
"Intelligence" is a mostly arbitrary concept anyway.

Old_Zircon - 2013-02-28
It pretty much boils down to "how much are you like me on a scale of 1-10?"

"Me" might be an individual, a demographic, or the entire species depending on how the test is implemented, but the underlying idea is the same.

Old_Zircon - 2013-02-28
Also, some of the most closed-minded, noncritical thinkers I've met are outspoken atheists.

Old_Zircon - 2013-02-28
" I think many people would evaluate "intelligence" as also the ability to adapt and think through things in a realistic, functional manner and religion is unquestionably a barrier to that."

Also, as someone who shares this belief I'm still able to step back and recognize that it's not even close to unquestionable and has more to do with my own opiions than with the way things actually are.

Bort - 2013-02-28
There is something to be said for saying "fuck if I know" or "well it's complicated". That's why I don't get on the case of agnostics, who may lean one way or the other but not so strongly that they reject the other side.

I don't fault a person for believing in Jesus, or subscribing to whatever creed; nor do I fault anyone for not believing in any metaphysical reality at all. All I expect of a person is to not pretend that their opinions should have any bearing on anyone else.

Old_Zircon - 2013-02-28
Agnosticism is the only truly rational response to the whole issue as far as I can tell.

John Holmes Motherfucker - 2013-02-28
Some might consider "imagination" to be a component of intelligence.

Old_Zircon - 2013-02-28
True, but ask them to define "imagination" and see what happens.

kingofthenothing - 2013-03-01
Agnostics, to me, (and I could be wrong) are like those people who don't want to believe that .999... = 1.

They don't believe in any gods or magic or ghosts ON THIS PLANET and even though they tend to agree that our spot in the universe is pretty much like every other spot in the universe, they don't want to rule out the possibility that those things might exist somewhere out there.

If they met something that called itself the supreme god, though, they would doubt that being's supremeness and wonder if there wasn't some other, more supreme being somewhere out there. That doubt would persist no matter what they came across, no matter what torments they were threatened with. Their thoughts would always have that nagging wonder, and even if they were shown all the multiverse, they'd wonder if some other antpile of universes exist somewhere else beyond the perception of the supremest being they know.

You have to wonder how many religions there are out there in the Universe right now. How many trillions of gods and goddesses exist in the minds of self-aware organisms, in all kinds of forms too horrible for us to imagine. I wonder how many of those gods are the "one true god" to some intelligent species.

Anything we can dream up to believe in on this Earth is blasphemy to aliens somewhere, and most anything aliens choose to worship would be considered blasphemy to the religious people here on earth.

If you can admit that maybe humans aren't all that special in the universe, that there's no god watching you jerk off in the shower, that we're all here pretty much by accident and that maybe we should focus less on the bleak nothing of death and the absurd cruelty of knowing we can't avoid it and, instead, realize the meaninglessless of our lives is in itself meaningless and thus worry more about how to spend the limited time we've got, then you're an atheist. Come out of the closet already.

Bort - 2013-03-02
kingofthenothing, I think you are wrong. An agnostic can reject every major religion, but nonetheless suspect there is more going on than meat tricking itself into believing it's conscious. This is my roundabout way of saying that "there is no God" puts the burden of defining God on the disbeliever, and if that disbeliever is being honest, that means rejecting EVERY definition or description of God he can come up with. Do you consider yourself up to the task? That's quite a burden.

And that's just the cold intellectual argument. Then there is the matter of squaring away your personal experiences with what seems to make sense, and "nothing but meat" doesn't always cover it. An agnostic may not be able to make many positive statements of belief except that there seems to be something happening that science doesn't have a handle on, which, until science can talk about it, could be considered metaphysics.

An example ... years ago, my mother died suddenly; she'd been in good health, but had a heart attack in her sleep. The same night it happened, my sister, on a camping trip hundreds of miles away, suddenly became inconsolable with grief, and was convinced that somebody had died (there are witnesses). She's not in the habit of random emotional freakouts, so to me, the most rational explanation is that she picked up on our mom's dying via means I don't understand.

Now, I don't think anyone should believe anything just because some guy on the Internet told a spoooooooky ghost story; for all you know, I'm lying. Or for all I know, my sister and a half dozen camping buddies are all trying to pull a fast one. But I have to make sense of what seems to have genuinely happened, and the most sensible explanation seems to be that consciousness has transcendent properties of some kind. Does that mean there is a God? Fuck if I know; first step would be to define God, and I'm not ready to do that based on sporadic mysterious events. But if I'm not ready to define God I'm not ready to reject God either.

Syd Midnight - 2013-03-04
It's an important line in the sand to people for whom believing/not believing in God is the one thing they think makes them better than everyone else. Those are the ones who are Doing It Wrong and I've never noticed a correlation to intelligence aside from the intelligent ones being the most insufferable.

IrishWhiskey - 2013-02-28
Turns out the answer didn't surprise me at all.
sjohnson301 - 2013-02-28
"Casual" religiousness is still religiousness.

EvilHomer - 2013-02-28
The answer's not that surprising; science has long shown that there's no link between intelligence and holding "irrational" belief sets. The only significant difference between "dumb" people and "smart" people is that smart people are able to defend and justify their beliefs more articulately.

It's important to remember that what we believe is a product of our education (both formal and informal), and that our learning process is overwhelmingly back to front - that is to say, we tend to assume that learning is "rational"; that when we learn, we build up a body of evidence related to the current problem first, and then fit our conclusion to suit the evidence. But this is not actually the case. Generally speaking, we learn the end of our lesson first, based largely on emotional cues, pre-existing biases, and the opinions we have about our teacher. Only after our lesson has been learned do we stop to examine the evidence, and then it's largely a matter of fitting evidence to our conclusion. Breaking free of this epistemological cycle is extremely difficult, even if you know what to look for, and can actually be HARDER for highly intelligent people, due to their aforementioned skill at justifying their own beliefs.

If anyone's interested, Michael Shermer wrote a dead brilliant book about this subject called "Why People Believe Weird Things". I think it should be required reading for anyone who's interested in science, skepticism, and Atheist Studies.
Bort - 2013-02-28

CrimsonHyperSloth - 2013-02-28
Thanks for that tip, I'll look into that book.

Syd Midnight - 2013-03-02
I was a little underwhelmed by "Why People Believe Weird Things", it doesn't really solve the problem. But it's still a good read, the chapter where Shermer recounts his abduction by aliens (it was caught on camera so he could later see that he'd just been hallucinating) is great. But still leaves the problem of overcoming human ego enough to realize that what you or your peers vividly experience or base their lives around may not be real.

memedumpster - 2013-02-28
This person is so wrong I must assume he's never been in a church before, but he's a very pleasant fellow who seems to be very keen on smoothing out the differences between people for a better world, so what the hell, let him be wrong.
Old_Zircon - 2013-02-28
Churches and religions are two different things.

memedumpster - 2013-02-28
Show me a church without a religion.

joelkazoo - 2013-02-28
It's not so much a case of intelligence as indoctrination and brainwashing. In obnoxiously religious families, any sort of natural inquisitiveness on a child's part is quashed and considered a threat to their very souls, and as such, kids have it hammered into their heads from an early age that they just need to accept things and not ask questions. By the time it's time to learn the more complex workings of the universe, they've had their brains trained not to be inquisitive, and to just accept the "God Did It!" answer to anything they don't immediately understand.
Jet Bin Fever - 2013-02-28
Yep, I'm not surprised by this either. Intelligence has nothing to do with being religious or not. There are scholars on both sides that are equally able minded. And, really, the smartest nonbelievers and believers realize that to impose their will on the other group is tyrannical and wrong. Sadly, their voices are drowned out by the loudest and most foolish on either side of the debate.
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