Saturday, February 05, 2005

Are atheists morons?

Someone recently sent me this amusing little story:
Wise Little Lucy A young woman teacher with obvious liberal tendencies explains to her class of small children that she is an atheist. She asks her class if they are atheists too. Not really knowing what atheism is but wanting to be like their teacher, their hands explode into the air like fleshy fireworks. There is, however, one exception. A girl named Lucy has not gone along with the crowd. The teacher asks her why she has decided to be different. "Because I'm not an atheist." "Then," asks the teacher, "what are you?" "I'm a Christian." The teacher is a little perturbed now, her face slightly red. She asks Lucy why she is a Christian. "Well, I was brought up knowing and loving Jesus. My Mom is a Christian, and my dad is a Christian, so I am a Christian." The teacher is now angry. "That's no reason," she says loudly. "What if your Mom was a moron, and your dad was a moron. What would you be then?" A pause, and a smile. "Then," says Lucy, "I'd be an atheist."
It's cute isn't it? But the assumption underlying this story is that atheists are morons and that Christians are not. The term moron comes from a Greek word meaning unintelligent or thoughtless. And that is precisely the sense in which it is used in this story. Many Christians believe that atheists must be unintelligent or thoughtless if they can't see the truth of Christianity. But are atheists unintelligent or thoughtless? Most definitely not! Any Christian who has genuinely listened to, or read, the point of view of an atheist would know that they are no more likely to be unintelligent or thoughtless than a Christian. There are unintelligent and thoughtless people within any group and Christians, along with atheists and other stereotyped groups, have just as many. You might be interested in reading some of the results on the relationship between religion and intelligence here. In essence, a number of scientific studies have been done on students over the years to see if there is a correlation between IQ and religious belief. Starting in 1927, Thomas Howells studied 461 students and 'showed religiously conservative students "are, in general, relatively inferior in intellectual ability."' In 1951, Brown and Love tested 613 male and female students at the University of Denver. 'The mean test scores of non-believers was 119 points, and for believers it was 100. The non-believers ranked in the 80th percentile, and believers in the 50th. Their findings "strongly corroborate those of Howells."' As recently as 1978, Robert Wuthnow studied 532 students and showed that '[o]f 532 students, 37 percent of Christians, 58 percent of apostates, and 53 percent of non-religious scored above average on SATs.' There are many, many more studies on the web site so take a look. Studies of other groups have given similar results. Overall, 'The consensus [of the studies] is clear: more intelligent people tend not to believe in religion. And this observation is given added force when you consider that the ... studies span a broad range of time, subjects and methodologies, and yet arrive at the same conclusion.' So, if these studies are to be believed, Lucy in the story actually got it around the wrong way. My purpose here is not to discuss the issue of which belief system, atheism or Christianity, is the correct one. But, as Christians, one thing we just cannot do is assume that, if a person is an atheist, they are therefore stupid, unintelligent, or unthoughtful. Not only is this untrue but, to assert such a thing actually backfires on the Christian who does so. To accuse atheists of being unintelligent or unthoughtful is, in fact, the result of unintelligent, unthoughtful thinking!

12 comments:

  1. Very good and thoughtful article!! The fact that it did not provoke any comments (except for this one so far) is very telling: mainstream Christianity is not very thoughtful. In fact, mainstream society in general is not very thoughtful. The sad truth is that the loudest voices in society tend to be the most vacuous. It is the loudest voices that tend to have the strongest influence over personal beliefs, beliefs about anything from religion to politics. I'm glad to know that there are thoughtful Christians who are willing to speak out against the irrationality of the masses. Best of luck with your blog and keep up the great work!

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  2. Thanks, AskAnAtheist.org, for the feedback and encouragement. I appreciate it very much.

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  3. Very good article. Well articulated, void of bias.

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  4. I'm surprised and impressed to see a Christian not only admitting this, but discussing it. You are a far better advertisement for your religious beliefs than almost all the Christians out there who think that belittling others somehow advances their cause. Cheers.

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  5. This was rather fascinating food for thought.

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  6. This article is such nonsense. To create a story that is obviously fictitious, just to turn it around is utter nonsense. This type of Christian bullshit is more transparent than packing tape. You Christians have got to really come up with some new shit.

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    1. Well not all packing tape is transparent but in this case you’re right this article is total bullshit.

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  7. When a Christian does a good deed it’s because it will benefit him/her in some after life. When an atheist does a good deed it’s because it was the right thing to do. Nice article though and it proves that some Christians do think deeply.

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  8. I guess I don’t understand Lucy’s put down when in fact it can be correct. It’s a proven fact that stupid parents can have intelligent children, but it does not always work that way and Lucy is living proof that it doesn’t. Christians are just as smart as atheists, it just seems like atheists are smarter because atheists don’t believe in an invisible man who lives in the sky who has magical powers. Christians are atheists also when it comes to the rest of the world’s religions so the only difference between atheists and Christians is that atheists believe in one less religion.

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  9. I guess I don’t understand Lucy’s put down when in fact it can be correct. It’s a proven fact that stupid parents can have intelligent children, but it does not always work that way and Lucy is living proof that it doesn’t. Christians are just as smart as atheists, it just seems like atheists are smarter because atheists don’t believe in an invisible man who lives in the sky who has magical powers. Christians are atheists also when it comes to the rest of the world’s religions so the only difference between atheists and Christians is that atheists believe in one less religion.

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  10. 1. Straw man argumentation (misrepresenting the other side's beliefs to make them easier to attack):
    "When a Christian does a good deed it’s because it will benefit him/her in some after life."

    "...an invisible man who lives in the sky..."

    2. "Christians are atheists also when it comes to the rest of the world’s religions"

    False. Christians accept that the Christians, Jews and Muslims worship the same God, they just disagree about his secondary characteristics. (that's why they're different religions). Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism and Daoism are non-theistic religions, so there's no God in those religions to disbelieve in.

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