Are Theists Stupid?

stupid-religionThis is a question that comes up a lot, both in conversations with theists and atheists.  Are theists stupid?  Well, that’s not really a fair question as it stands, I have to amend it to “are theists stupid with regard to their religious beliefs?”  The answer to this, unfortunately is yes.

At issue really is that so many people assume that a particular label applies to everything a person does.  I can’t tell you how many theists I’ve had tell me that they know a theist who is very, very smart and therefore, that means that their theism is also smart.  Unfortunately, that’s just not how it works.

So maybe it’s not stupidity, it’s ignorance.  Maybe they just don’t know any better.  Maybe they’re completely and totally uneducated.  That just doesn’t hold any water in the modern world as anyone with a few minutes and access to the Internet can look up the answers to just about any question and can cross-reference those answers to see if they hold water.

Just a little

Now granted, I do give some theists a little more leeway, not a lot, when it comes to their religious beliefs because, let’s be honest, some are starting with an inherent disadvantage.  If one starts from a heavily fundamentalist perspective, their education, or lack thereof, has already largely crippled them mentally.  They are told things that are simply not true, that God created the world in 6 days, a mere 6000 years ago, that there was a worldwide flood, that evolution is untrue, etc.  They’re unaware that the Bible has changed over time, that it was put together in a particular way for a particular purpose.  They’re unaware that the Bible writers heavily “borrowed” (read “stole”) from many other local mythologies, that the overwhelming majority of supposed miracles in the Bible were lifted bodily from other religious texts and that historians can easily follow who they got what teachings from and when.  Worse yet, fundamentalists, especially those who have been indoctrinated from early childhood, have been taught that they’re not allowed to ask questions and that testing the Bible or their beliefs in God is a shortcut to eternal damnation.  Those people get just a little more patience, but not a lot, especially if they’re over the age of 18 where their hyper-religious parents can’t force them into a pew to listen to brain-rotting poison anymore.

It’s not just theists who have this problem, there are plenty of atheists who similarly compartmentalize belief systems that are wholly irrational, illogical and lacking in evidence.  We also have people who will proudly proclaim that they are atheists, therefore everything they say must be true but they have the exact same issue as the theists.  That’s just not the case.  You are only right so long as you can rationally defend your position and produce evidence that you are right.

Myself, I try my hardest to exercise critical thinking and logical evaluation on every position that I hold.  I fact, I spend a considerable amount of time just thinking about what I believe and why I believe it and I work constantly to purge emotion and wishful thinking from my positions.  I am dedicated to believing as many demonstrably true things as possible, rejecting as many false things as possible and knowing how to tell the difference between the two.  I can debate any position that I hold rationally at any time.  I don’t have to study up because I’ve already done the work.  Yet it still surprises me how many people, both theists and atheists, have no clue why they hold a particular position, they’ve never given it any thought, they just hold it because they think that’s what they’re supposed to do.  The best of them, when questioned about what they believe, will stop and take a minute to think about it.  The worst will declare they have faith, whether they use that word or not, that they’re right and continue to cling to their position without a moment’s thought.

So are theists stupid?  Perhaps that’s the wrong question to asks.  Are theists stupid with regard to their  theism? Probably, either stupid or horribly intellectually and emotionally crippled.  Maybe there’s a better question to ask, is theism stupid?  I would say absolutely and without reservation yes.  Anyone who believes a thing based solely on emotion and a lack of critical thinking is engaging in stupidity, whether that thing is religious or not.

8 thoughts on “Are Theists Stupid?”

  1. I think it is not so much an intellectual vice as a moral one. Theists allow their desires to color their apprehension of external reality and only then try to rationalize it.

    1. That is certainly true and it's not just theists that do that, there are plenty of atheists that do the exact same thing. Being rational means refusing to allow one's desires to get in the way of evaluating reality as it actually stands and there are far too few people who are willing to do that.

      1. Yes, theists have no monopoly on irrationality. Your follow up replies below correctly identify the special problem of theistic irrationality–especially that of "organized irrationality." What comes to my mind on that score is the increased attention by Christian intellectuals over the last 30 years or so on the concept of a Christian "worldview." They seek to organize their religious presuppositions as well as the more commonly accepted understanding of reality as best they can into a coherent whole. They subsequently assert that their "worldview" serves as a better explanatory model for reality than secular "worldviews."
        My recent post Pilgrims and Proclamations

        1. That's actually a good point. While theist apologetic have sought to appear more and more intellectual over the years, they haven't actually gotten any more intellectual, they've just wrapped a pig in fine silk. They miss the problem that they've had all along, that their ideas are nonsensical and their beliefs absurd and no matter how much they dress them up, it doesn't change the fact that at their very core, it's the same garbage that it's always been.

  2. I would tend to agree with what you have written here. I don't like when people declare the religious stupid, but by and large they do tend to be stupid about religion. One thing in your post that really caught my attention:

    "there are plenty of atheists who similarly compartmentalize belief systems that are wholly irrational, illogical and lacking in evidence."

    This seems like it would be great for a series of posts, although now that I think about it, I do this occasionally with the tag "things atheists say". No sense always focusing on ridiculous stuff coming from the other side.

    My recent post Is An Actual Infinite Possible?

    1. I've made the point that the real problem isn't religion, it's irrationality and everyone can be irrational unless they're very careful not to be. That said though, most "organized irrationality" does come from the religious side where it's taught as a virtue. Most of the time, that doesn't happen on the atheist side, although in the case of Atheism+, you can make an exception to that rule.

        1. Ultimately, the only problem humanity really has is irrationality, religion is just one of the major arenas where that irrationality plays out and one where human culture, in general, makes it acceptable for people do say and do and believe things that would never fly in another venue. If someone said they believed in unicorns, they'd be carted away to a rubber room, but if they say they believe Mohammed flew around on a winged horse, it's fine.

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