Thursday, April 5, 2012

Belief in God is not Stupid

When talking about religion with someone who believes differently than you, it is very easy to get frustrated because they don't see things the same way. You try and make your point as clearly as you can, as reasonably as you can, but still they just don't “get it.” You may, after a while, begin to formulate reasons in your mind as to why this other person just doesn't understand you. You figure that they must not be listening to what you are really saying, or they are just plain stupid, because everyone who is reasonable and familiar with the evidence (like you are) will obviously come to the same conclusion as you, right?

Let's say you have these sorts of discussions with the other side fairly regularly, because you are a masochist. After a while of this, you might begin to think that nearly everyone with an opinion so opposed to yours must be willfully not understanding, or just dumb. This is a dangerous and ignorant way of thinking. There are clearly many people who are smarter than you who hold very different opinions on the same issues. But we all have a tendency to fall into this kind of thinking. I notice this sort of thing happen in me all the time, and I have to quickly remind myself that I used to believe as that other person did, having opinions nearly opposite to many that I have now. I also remember that even when I did believe, I had similar thoughts about people who didn't believe! Was I dumb then, or just misinformed?

I think what is happening, at least for me, is that I have a need to understand why someone can hear all of the arguments that I think are very convincing, and yet not be convinced like I am. I then have to make excuses for them. It's very much like when I was a believer – I was troubled by the presence of confident atheists. People who knew everything that I knew about the subject and more, and yet still didn't believe. How could this be so? Now it's flipped. I see from both sides now.

Now there certainly are people of all creeds who may be stupid, or unwilling to even listen to any opposing viewpoint. Those people definitely exist. But don't make the mistake of assuming everyone who holds their beliefs is also stupid. Just don't have discussions with those people who show themselves to be willingly stupid.

It may be helpful to ask yourself what your goal is in talking to people who disagree with you? If it is to convert them to your way of thinking, be careful to not get upset when they don't immediately drop everything and agree with you. Likely these issues you are discussing with them are near and dear to them, and it would take many different factors to change their mind, over a long period of time. You can't control what people think. Are you talking about these things to start a fight? Well you will likely get what you want. Are you doing it in hopes to challenge your own position and keep yourself honest? In that case, make sure you are being honest and promoting honest, civil discussion.

I often ask myself why I maintain this blog. Is it to convert the world to atheism? No. Is it to make christians look stupid? No. It is simply to express the joy and excitement that freedom from religion can bring. I wish I could share precisely how amazing this view of life really is, how much more fulfilled in every aspect of life I am now that I don't believe with everyone in the world, but it's very difficult. Still I try.

I know that true believers who read this, and other things I have written, will not be convinced and give up their belief in god. But this is not for them. This is for those fence-sitters, those who are not really sure what to make of all of it. Someone who is doubting may be curious what the “other side” is like. Hopefully I can help.

When you are having a discussion with someone who is on the other side of the issue, remember that assuming they are dumb because of what they believe is merely confirming your own prejudices, closing your mind to what they have to say. And this is precisely what you don't what them to do to you!  
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Anonymous said...

I have to say i really respect you in what you say. I do believe in god but that was a choice I made and dont hold others to do the same. I have come across people lately across the board who are agaist what i teach my children. See i teach my children about all religions and beliefs including being atheist so that they can make there own determination as to what they believe in there hearts to be true. I believe everyone has the freedom to be able to believe in however they choose and i am so glad to see someone else that believes that too.

NFQ said...

Right on, Eric. I know stupid atheists, and I know brilliant theists. "You believe x therefore you must be an idiot" is a terrible approach. I think it's fair to say that someone is being stupid if they are unwilling to consider logical arguments, or unwilling to contend with the possibility that they are wrong ... but as you say, either side is perfectly capable of doing that!

Also, I laughed out loud at this line: "Let's say you have these sorts of discussions with the other side fairly regularly, because you are a masochist." Ooh... that hit me right here. ::pats chest::

Inme Hooha said...

Belief in god is irrational, but humans have demonstrated themselves to be irrational, so it is reasonable for a human to be religious.

Anonymous said...

Having imaginary friends as an adult is stupid. That's why we typically put those people in institutions to remove them from society.

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