No. It’s very easy to say that someone is religious because they are dumb or they lack intelligence but it is obviously wrong when you consider the varying intelligence of both Atheists and Theists alike. Really, questioning someone’s intelligence just means you don’t have to acknowledge that there are other people out there with a different view, with your same level of intelligence or more, who have come to a different conclusion. It means you don’t have to acknowledge that you might be wrong. It takes a group of people who might have treated you badly and gives an easy explanation for why they did it, that demeans them in a way that they might have demeaned you. However good it feels though, what matters is whether or not any of it is true. Because at the end of the day, if you want to show why your position is the most correct one, you have to know what the person you are speaking with is going through.
So let’s be honest, life isn’t simple and as someone who was, albeit briefly, a ‘believer’ in Christianity I know it wasn’t because I suddenly became dumber. If we are going to be honest, it was because friends and girlfriends were repeatedly feeling alienated by my view on religion and they didn’t like hearing the sort of complicated questions I felt obligated to ask because of my position. So because I wanted to remain a part of the group that included lots of friends and a lot of very pretty girlfriends and even a possible future in Politics, I told myself that I believed it, even though I didn’t. I know that this happens to lots of fellow Atheist’s who remain anonymous in one way or another and some who even have to argue publicly for religion while their doubts and questions are just as strong as mine, without ever being spoken out loud. I’ve heard Teresa MacBain, who I recently watched on episode 780 of the Atheist Experience express something similar to this when she talked about being a preacher while also being a closeted Atheist.
As far as when I started to acknowledge I was an atheist. It didn’t have anything to do with my intelligence either. It was my desire for real answers that drove me to even read the bible in the first place. After that, it became my dissatisfaction with what I was reading and observing in reality versus what I was told about Christianity that led to my questioning of it and looking toward other religions like Buddhism, Taoism, Animism, Islam and Spiritualism. I can’t really pinpoint the straw that broke the camel’s back but time and time again over the nearly 20 years I’ve been looking for the truth, the constant lack of evidence, appeals to ignorance, science denial, quote mining by so many Theologians I have engaged with and easily refuted Pascal’s Wager style arguments for any God or any religion, have convinced and continue to convince me that although I can’t disprove a god, or any religion, or Carl Sagan’s cosmic teapot, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, etc. there is no good reason for me to believe any of those things exist.
After being a Christian though things got a lot harder than I expected. It became hard because if I really wanted the truth above anything, I not only had to truly investigate but I also had to be willing to suffer the consequences if the answers I got were counter to what my current friends, my current girlfriend and other social contacts might want. Today it may not be as bad as it was ten years ago but it is still one of the most difficult parts of admitting your view on religion when you start to realize how egregiously hateful some people can be once they realize you are an Atheist, especially when you are affiliated with either side of the two main political parties.
On the other side of the coin though, if I am going to continue to remain honest I have to remain open to the evidence and the possible consequences of claiming the title of Atheist while fully admitting that my view could change. And it could easily change, regardless of mine or anyone else’s intelligence, regardless of logical arguments, and regardless of anything I do or don’t want to believe. It could change if an actual being that knew me the same as the Bible claims God knows his creations (Matthew 6:8) or some other god with similar qualities, would provide the evidence it knows would convince me.
For someone else though, if I am trying to convince them of the truth about religion their standard for evidence is a much lower standard because of the social consequences of not believing. The fact that anyone needs ‘faith’ to believe in something that supposedly performs miracles, knows you better than you know yourself, and reveals itself in every church on every Sunday throughout the year is ridiculous to me now but after having it pounded into you by everyone you trust from childhood on and having sometimes life-changing consequences if you admit you don’t believe it, any non-theist should realize what is really at play here before you start throwing out words like dumb and ignorant.
What is at play are people with a real world vested interest. Once enough of the pressure is applied to certain people at the properly vulnerable time, they can be convinced to tell themselves that what they believe is valid through what seems like real evidence, once you believe it is. Although, yes, it is obviously circular, it has nothing to do with the evidence itself. It has to do with a new religious person, with newly found and very accepting peers among the church as long as that person continues to profess belief. These same people then start to tell a person what is true the more invested they become and generally start to alienate the person, if they start to question in not so subtle ways like dedicating a sermon to answering their questions, or telling the church there is a doubter among them, and many other embarrassing ways.
Pile on top of all the other local, and immediate social pressure, the societal pressure from the fact that there are giant organizations, making millions upon millions of dollars, with influence in politics. Who have money and are often given special access to help people when they are down and the most vulnerable. That are embedded into practically every popular culture story. That are, in general, given a sort of tyrannical power through religion that you can only gain through religion that draws people who crave power and you should start to see why people who are more than reasonably intelligent (even highly intelligent people like doctors, scientists, etc.) can be convinced that their religion is the correct one and so is their God.
It’s also the reason why the various forms of Pascal’s Wager style arguments are what people site and not evidence. ’Faith’ skips evidence altogether and appeals to what you want to be true, regardless of evidence, intelligence, or any sort of genuine truth.
So, is the battle intelligence vs religion? No, it’s much more complicated than that and I have barely touched the surface. I’m curious to hear what you think though, so please let me know in the comments section.