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Old 08-25-2019, 06:48 PM
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Atheists: Do you believe you are an atheist because you are smart?


Tell me.
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Old 08-25-2019, 06:56 PM
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It tends to be correlated.
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Old 08-25-2019, 06:56 PM
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No, I think I'm an atheist because I was brought up to be skeptical and to think critically, with no particular religious instruction. I think skepticism and critical thinking, when paired with a lack of any sort of religious indoctrination, usually (but not always) lead to an absence of religious faith (which might be characterized as atheism, agnosticism, a lack of religion, or other descriptors).
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Old 08-25-2019, 06:57 PM
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No--I believe that I am an atheist because I have a broad education and well-developed critical thinking skills. The fact that I am incandescently brilliant is a side bonus.
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Old 08-25-2019, 07:02 PM
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It is definitely not _the_ cause and since I grew up in a society where secularism is dominant and lots of idiots are atheists it's hard to argue it's even _a_ cause, even if I've spent a lot of time thinking about the topic.
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Old 08-25-2019, 07:04 PM
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No.
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Old 08-25-2019, 07:06 PM
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I''m agnostic and believe it's probably because I was born that way.

Twin studies show the heritable predisposition towards religion is about 40%. As a point of comparison sexuality is about 50% determined by heritable factors. I grew up in a Catholic family. I was baptized, confirmed, spent several years as an altar boy, and spent 12 years in Catholic school. The role of environment checked all the boxes to try and influence me towards religion. It didn't stick.
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Old 08-25-2019, 07:07 PM
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I don't think I'm particularly smart. I grew up reading stuff like National Geographic, I was raised Catholic. Around 8th grade I stopped believing in any of it. I just took a look at the natural world around me and felt that a divine being not only wasn't necessary but might even be counterproductive to producing what my own eyes showed me.

There are even times I envy people that do believe in God and an afterlife, it can make things appear even more bleak than they already are when you realize this is your one shot at happiness and contentment.

To be silly and quote a tool song:

"The universe is hostile, so impersonal, devour to survive, so it is, so it's always been".
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Old 08-25-2019, 07:29 PM
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Fuck no. I'm an atheist because when I think about things, divinity doesn't seem very plausible to me. But I've known some profoundly brilliant people to whom the idea of divinity seems not only plausible, but also inevitable.

I'm comfortable disagreeing with those folks.
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Old 08-25-2019, 07:41 PM
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No I'm atheist because I've never heard of any god-related story that didn't sound ridiculous and far-fetched and obviously made up. If I ever encounter a story that convinces me I'll be just as smart as I am right now.
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Old 08-25-2019, 07:45 PM
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In part.

I've never had a strong "belief" center, and despite religious exposure as a child, none of it stuck. In fact it took a while before I realized anyone believed in this stuff. I assumed it was something like a stage production: you've got the costumes, props, memorized lines, musical numbers, and so on.

But an active rejection of religion took longer and only came about because I was a highly motivated reader. Carl Sagan's books in particular were crucial in shaping my skepticism and critical thinking. These were pretty advanced books for a child and I wouldn't have tackled them if I weren't, in some sense, "smart." Not that that's the only way to define "smart," of course.
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Old 08-25-2019, 08:05 PM
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Fuck no. I'm an atheist because when I think about things, divinity doesn't seem very plausible to me. But I've known some profoundly brilliant people to whom the idea of divinity seems not only plausible, but also inevitable.
Same here. I've been an atheist since long before I had adult reasoning skills, so I don't attribute my atheism to superior intelligence or critical thinking or anything like that. (Also, I've known plenty of spectacularly unintelligent atheists.)

I sometimes describe myself as a "fideist atheist" or "faith-based atheist". Even if my belief system is considered the most rational worldview (that is, within a given rational-materialist epistemological framework), I didn't arrive at that belief rationally so I get no smart points for believing it.
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Old 08-25-2019, 08:10 PM
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No. Religion is obvious nonsense, it doesn't take much intelligence to see through it. It only takes the willingness to do so.
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Old 08-25-2019, 08:14 PM
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I'm an agnostic, because being an atheist is too much work and I'm probably not smart enough.
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Old 08-25-2019, 08:38 PM
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No, I think I'm an atheist because I was brought up to be skeptical and to think critically, with no particular religious instruction. I think skepticism and critical thinking, when paired with a lack of any sort of religious indoctrination, usually (but not always) lead to an absence of religious faith (which might be characterized as atheism, agnosticism, a lack of religion, or other descriptors).
Pretty well describes me. Actually I had a year and a half bar mitzah instruction, but it wasn't really religious, just learning the Hebrew prayers and after the ceremony I walked and never looked back.
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Old 08-25-2019, 08:43 PM
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Do you believe you are an atheist because you are smart?

No, but I still find myself surprised when I encounter obviously smart people who are not.

Last edited by KarlGauss; 08-25-2019 at 08:44 PM.
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Old 08-25-2019, 08:47 PM
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1) We know from archaeology or simple travel through the modern world that there have been a variety of deities over time and people have murdered and died for them. It's fair to say that faith is not good evidence since Odin earned just as much faith and now he's a fantasy trope.

2) The popular religion of a region seems to follow populations. Hindus almost always had Hindu parents. Christians almost always had Christian parents. The evidence would be that the key criteria for holding a particular religion is that you have come to believe, while still in your developing years, that magic and gods are plausible. This usually comes as a side effect of being indoctrinated into a particular religion and generally leads to you taking on that religion. Though obviously there's no rule that a person can't come to hold mystical beliefs on their own through their peers, the books they read, etc. independent of their parents, nor is there any rule that a person won't decide that they prefer the mythology and philosophy of a different religion than the one they were born in. But, as said, generally religious beliefs is territorial and that directly conflicts with what we would expect the world to look like if deities existed and had real world effects.

3) We can look back through history and watch the development of religions, seeing them change with the times. I can't think of the name of the deity at the moment but, for example, we can trace one Middle Eastern god from being a "city god" to a universal / creator god over the course of a few centuries. There's fairly decent evidence that Yahweh had a wife and possibly started out as a lesser god in the Canaanite pantheon, the Romans described what we would now call Norse mythology (Odin, Thor, etc.) as being a strange religion which believed in gods without any human form - obviously, the Norse religions had strongly anthropomorphic deities by the time the Norse sagas were written. You can find tree ribbons/ropes described as a ritual in the religions from Western Russia to Japan, going through Mongolia and this seems likely to all tie back to ancient druidic/shamanistic beliefs in it being that certain trees offer a bridge to the spiritual world. The concept of Yggdrasil seems to be related to the same World Tree that we see in Mongolian religion.

If there was a true religion with genuine effects on the world, we would expect that the religion would not evolve with time, exposure to other religions, or anything else. As it is, we can see them change in history based on political expediency, exposure to the ideas of other upcoming religions, and so on.

If we even just look at Mormonism, we see it starting as a mystical religion using ancient Egyptian writings and crystal ball scrying as part of its founder's technique. He believed in spiritual polygamy; the next generation believed in genuine, physical polygamy; then they became monogamous; then they stopped being racist; then they stopped being homophobic. Mormonism has adapted to the dominant culture and become a humanist religion, with its historic origins being downplayed or destroyed, and the plain reading of its doctrine reinterpreted to suit the modern need.

Again, none of that makes sense in a world where there are genuine deities with practical effects on the universe.

4) Any deity with no practical effect on the world isn't really a deity. They're just a Star Trek-type character. Say, for example, that the universe is simply an ongoing physics simulation on a computer. Are the programmers who developed it "gods"? To be sure, they could shut everything off, probably they could convert the Earth into a ball of gold, or whatever other godly thing but, fundamentally, they're just some scientists studying particle physics who made the decision that it was ethically acceptable if their simulation created life as a side effect.

Should you worship them? If they tell you to remove part of your genitalia or stretch your neck to be twice as long or hang yourself on hooks by the skin from a tree, does that really make sense if we're talking about a creature capable of inventing or understanding quantum physics? If they genuinely ask that of us, then why should we believe that they're asking in the name of goodness rather than simply to see how high their creations have jumped out of scientific curiosity? Have we actually proved ourselves to be noble creations if we bow to them and perform these activities?

5) There are no YouTube videos of ghosts. There's a ton of host sightings in history. What has changed that all the magic chronicled in history has disappeared? Why is it that if we know how credulous the Mormons were, even during an era where we'd largely stopped believing in dragons and fairies, that we would find any sense of evidentiary value in the records centuries and millennia earlier?

6) What did the Native Americans do to piss off God? Why didn't he teach us about germ theory? If he exists, he allowed 90% of the people of a continent to die for no objective reason. They never had a chance to convert.

7) If the teachings of a religion were good then the world would have become a better place. If you believe that meditation makes you a better person, you should note that millions of Indians practiced meditation over the centuries becoming "better and wiser versions of themselves" all the while treating a large percentile of their population as untouchable monsters for no sane reason. Slavery did not end in 1 AD nor at the birth of any religion that is in wide practice. Women were the property of their husbands until the late 19th century. That's a fair delay.

If there's a god whose only action in our existences is to punish is for not obeying his commands during our lives by throwing us into an eternal torture session after we die, I would vote that based on the rules and philosophy and culture that he gave to us and that we had to cast off in order to turn the world into a better place, I'm not strongly optimistic that there was ever a Heaven option.
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Old 08-25-2019, 08:48 PM
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By the time I got to college, I had already been an atheist for about five years. I took great pride in being an independent thinker and therefore superior to everyone else. Then I met a girl who turned out to also be an atheist. Finally, I thought, here's a girl who's my intellectual equal, adept at critical thinking. So I asked her why she's an atheist. She replied, "I don't know, my parents are both atheists, and I never really thought about it." Lesson learned.
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Old 08-25-2019, 08:51 PM
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I'm an atheist because science and knowledge has advanced considerably in the last 4000 years or so, and we no longer need to call upon a supernatural fantasy to explain ordinary events.

Or in the voice of Pierre LaPlace, when asked why God wasn't part of his equation, "I have no need of that hypothesis."
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Old 08-25-2019, 09:04 PM
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To elaborate on my post #19, Neil DeGrasse Tyson points out that gods were the default explanation long, long ago, when very little was known about the world. As knowledge increased, the need to use gods to fill in the gaps became less, until now there is very little need to invoke the supernatural, if at all.

Speculative gods were replaced by demonstrable knowledge.
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Old 08-25-2019, 09:17 PM
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Thanks both to those who answered the question as asked and those who told me some long stuff.
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Old 08-25-2019, 09:24 PM
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I'm smart enough not to drink from this poisoned well, at least.

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Old 08-25-2019, 09:31 PM
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Tell me.
It certainly helps.

I was raised by an "education mama" who was also very religious. She was not educated herself.

The church I went to, while it operates some private schools, does not believe in education (and also believes in boredom and control; fortunately they only did this at the church itself). I read the whole Bible, went "this makes no sense" and so became an atheist.
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Old 08-25-2019, 10:17 PM
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I don't consider myself smart. I know, and know of, too many people who are smarter than I am. If I'm smart then there are tons of geniuses.
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Old 08-25-2019, 10:38 PM
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No. Religion is obvious nonsense, it doesn't take much intelligence to see through it. It only takes the willingness to do so.
This. Being an atheist takes almost no brainpower at all. The arguments are so incredibly simple you could get a six year old to understand them. Whatís hard, is making the conscious decision to accept everything that goes along with being an atheist; when youíre dead, youíre dead. Your loved ones arenít waiting for you in paradise. Theyíre rotting in a hole in the ground. It doesnít really matter what you do with your life because when you die all the memories which make up who you are get wiped. And it doesnít really matter what impact you have on the people around you because the same thing will happen to them. One day, the last human will die and itíll be like our entire species never existed. There really isnít an objective basis for morality. The nihilists actually have a pretty good point etc...

All this is really hard to take. I suspect itís the main reason people tend to drift back to religion as they get older. Atheists arenít smarter than anybody else. Theyíre just not very good at ignoring horrible truths.
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Old 08-25-2019, 10:42 PM
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Less "tribal" I'd say. Don't think that makes me more smart.
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Old 08-25-2019, 10:53 PM
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Intelligence and rejection of religion are correlated.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23921675

But I don't know if that is the case of my rejection of religion.
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Old 08-25-2019, 11:46 PM
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I'm not all that smart, but I do my research. Usually a minimal amount, but it's something.

It's so clear to me how all religion was just made up to control people, or that the myths surrounding it were to provide answers before science could find them, or just to give comfort during dark times. It's all so obvious and clear to me that I can comfortably be an atheist without doubt ever creeping in.
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Old 08-26-2019, 12:25 AM
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No, I don't think I'm an atheist because I'm smart. I am fairly smart compared to lots of people I have met, but of course I've also met lots of people smarter (for certain values of smart; when it comes to human relations I am not smart at all).

There seems to be a subtext to the OP's question, something like: do you feel superior because you're an atheist? My answer to that would also be no. My sister, whom I love very much, had a born-again conversion as an adult, and her relationship with her deity seems to give her much support and comfort in the trying times of her life, as well as joy in the better times. The fact that I don't share her faith nor believe it to be "true" does not mean that I think I'm in any way better (or worse) than she is. She has agreed not to try to convert me and I have agreed not to try to poke holes in her faith. It seems to work most of the time. As for people who are not my sister, I have not lived their lives nor have I walked in their shoes, and if they have lives that work and that include faith then I'm ok with that.

Also note that there is a lot of magical thinking out there that is not specifically religious, and that is just as misguided vis-a-vis reality as religious faith.
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Old 08-26-2019, 12:57 AM
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I've been an atheist as long as I can remember because, to date, no one has presented me with any evidence as to existence of any god.
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Old 08-26-2019, 03:55 AM
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I consider atheism to be the default. We are born pretty much a "blank slate," and spend a lifetime filling in the blank. At not time should the supernatural enter into this. Anyone with at least average intelligence should understand this.
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Old 08-26-2019, 05:41 AM
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No, I was just brought up without any religion. Neither of my parents were religious (one made it to Catholic confirmation before giving it all up, the other wasn't allowed to go to Hebrew School because my grandfather didn't believe in that for girls). So, it just wasn't part of the household. I had friends who were nominally Catholic or Jewish (not too many Protestants where I grew up), but it wasn't a big part of their lives either. So, I just never had the indoctrination at home or any peer pressure. If you're not brought up with religion, it seems unlikely you'll become religious (exceptions exist, no doubt). I'm also not much of a joiner.

I had no belief in God or gods ever because it just never came up at home or with friends. So, while I'm fairly well educated (does that mean I'm smart?), it's not like I reasoned my way to atheism -- it was always just the default.
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Old 08-26-2019, 05:45 AM
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Not because I'm smart, because I'm cheap.

Any god that can create the universe wouldn't be panhandling me to keep the lights on in his church.
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Old 08-26-2019, 06:26 AM
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I think it's worth mentioning that my parents never made any conscious decision about it either. It was their parents who broke with tradition (mostly). My maternal grandfather lost his religion when the Nazis killed his family while he was on the run. My paternal grandfather was forced to go to Bible-thumper bible school, and got pretty cynical about religion after that. Paternal grandmother was treated really poorly by nuns in her Catholic school (had to pray while kneeling on raw rice as punishment for some behavior or other). It's only my maternal grandmother that never had any real religion, having grown up in Soviet Ukraine.

So, by the time my parents came along, any religious observance was just for tradition - Christmas, Easter, and Seder, I think, and just the fun parts. And, that's all it ever was for me, too.

Intelligence never entered into it.
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Old 08-26-2019, 06:47 AM
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No, I think I'm an atheist because I was brought up to be skeptical and to think critically, with no particular religious instruction.
Pretty much this. I was born atheist. My P(rotestant or resbyterian, I can never remember which) father and Jewish mother didn't push religion. I grew up in a Jewish neighborhood. When I attended church or synagogue with my friends, it all seemed obviously pretend, and I just sort of kept my mouth shut.

It's worked for me.
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Old 08-26-2019, 07:13 AM
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I'm an atheist because I tried reading religious texts.
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Old 08-26-2019, 07:36 AM
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I am an atheist because that was the path in life chosen for me by God.
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Old 08-26-2019, 08:04 AM
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I consider myself an agnostic a-religionist (that is, there may be some 'first cause' out there, but we don't know anything about it (if it exists at all) and all religions past, present and future are human constructs and no/teach nothing useful about any "God")

I also consider myself reasonably smart (Cum Laude in College, upper middle class, worked in a fairly important job). Not overly smart; my brother and SIL both have PhD's and both are strongly Christian.

Had my doubts long ago (never really bought into the Trinity), but went to church until my 30's, when I actually read most of the Bible and figured out that it really doesn't teach much at all.
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Old 08-26-2019, 08:53 AM
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Dang, I was going to say yes, but after reading this thread I guess I won't.


Still, I was raised in a very religious environment, got the full treatment right from the get-go, and I still wound up an atheist...can I get half a point at least?
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Old 08-26-2019, 08:59 AM
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No, but I still find myself surprised when I encounter obviously smart people who are not.
Pretty much this. Even moreso, when they accept a religion with a very specific story and rules, instead of just a "god of the gaps."

My 3 sisters and I were raised catholic. The 4 of us have 14 kids - ZERO of whom practice any religion. My eldest sister just recently converted to full-fledged disbelief. Just a pleasant tiny datapoint that makes me think there may be hope for our species yet!
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Old 08-26-2019, 09:12 AM
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My atheism was the easiest kind because I was raised in a Young Earth Creationist sect (Southern Baptists) which takes a special kind of stupid to believe. I was already disbeliving the claims of my religious leaders in the first grade.
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Old 08-26-2019, 09:16 AM
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I don't think I had to be smart to understand most of the atheistic arguments. I did have to set my emotions aside, along with not using wishful thinking; not being persuaded with the power of suggestion, or relying heavily on anecdotes, peer pressure, and not letting others pull your strings and having them get away with using the same fallacious argument over and over.

Doubt and questioning is a good thing, it's at the heart of scientific inquiry along with falsifiability built into it. Religion in a nutshell is just giving reverence to nonsense.
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Old 08-26-2019, 12:23 PM
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Moderating: this could be made into a debate but as is it is just asking for personal opinions. Moved to IMHO.
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Old 08-26-2019, 12:27 PM
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I don't think I'm all that smart, just skeptical. I need proof rather than blind faith.
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Old 08-26-2019, 01:08 PM
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No. I'm sure my path to atheism was made easier by my grandfather being an atheist (though not loud about it,) my parents not being religious at all, and me not having a spiritual bone in my body.

I went to Hebrew School for five years, believed in God by default, but became an atheist when I read the introduction to the Bible that gave the information on when it was actually written - and not by Moses. That's more exposure to information than brains.
Atheism just means lack of god belief, and that can be for smart reasons or for dumb ones.
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Old 08-26-2019, 01:32 PM
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No. Religion is obvious nonsense, it doesn't take much intelligence to see through it. It only takes the willingness to do so.
Yeah this.

I've seen far too much evidence that organized religion is a social engineering tool as opposed to a commonly shared experience. I've seen zero evidence of a megaconsciousness that is both aware of and responsible for our existence.

Looks pretty simply like a massive and ancient lie to me. Alternatively, if there IS a megaconsciousness that is both aware of and responsible for our existence, there is zero evidence it gives a flying screw whether or not we are aware of, and worship, it.

So no, I'm not an atheist because I'm smart. I'm an atheist because I'm not gullible.
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Old 08-26-2019, 01:34 PM
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I did a presentation a while back of coming to a personal relationship with God, and for many it starts from questioning, then challenging and then casting off of the gods of one's parents, elders and religion and then standing in faith. It is not intelligence*, but the ability to stand up against authority, even the authority of a god, that allows one free choice which could include atheism, or seeking their own god.

* While intelligence may be helpful, it is not needed for this, a simple question of 'What does god need with a starship?' does not require much intelligence but could be enough to cast off a god. However religious pressure can be very high, and many have failed at this point (questioning) by accepting what should have been a unacceptable answer.
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Old 08-26-2019, 02:11 PM
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Whatever it is that religion's doing in humans, I very much doubt that it's got to do directly with intelligence.

Plus which, there are certainly intelligent religious people, and stupid atheists. So I think it would not be intelligent of me to believe that atheism, mine or anybody else's, is caused by intelligence.
  #49  
Old 08-26-2019, 02:15 PM
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Yes. But only enough to realize how much I don't know. I'm smart enough to know it'll rain today, but not wise enough to carry an umbrella.
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  #50  
Old 08-26-2019, 02:44 PM
Nawth Chucka is offline
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I'm an atheist b/c of critical thinking; does that fit the idea of 'smart', OP?
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