A Question for Atheists concerning ignorance

I notice that many atheists on this board and elsewhere are fond of declaring that some or all religious people are ignorant. What, in your opinion, must a person do in order to avoid being ignorant? Must they have a certain type of education? Read certain books? Something else?

Please be as specific as possible.

I wasn’t aware that atheists called theists “ignorant”. I certainly don’t.

“Deluded”, while a negatively-charged word, is a more accurate description.

He’s probably thinking of Der Trihs, who DOES call theists ignorant constantly, and worse. :slight_smile:

Now, whether he represents all atheists/materialists, on any level, is another question entirely.

I’ve heard it a few times here, sometimes by people I think should know better and sometimes by people (one person in particular) who are quite obviously damaged.

For the record, I’m an atheist and have been for over ten years, and I don’t think theists are ignorant or deluded, no more so than atheists, anyway. In fact, I tend to get along with born agains and other church-going types a lot more easily than I do my atheist brethren, most of whom–let’s face it–are as dogmatic, weird, and irritating as any fire and brimstone preacher behind the pulpit.

Make no mistake, I will fight tooth and nail in any political battle to uphold the separation between church and state or a woman’s right to choose, but when the smoke clears, I’m still going to get along with my born again friends. I certainly wouldn’t want to be the reason you lost your faith. As long as your faith keeps you going, and you respect others’ rights to believe or disbelieve as they choose, I’ll be happy for you.

As far as what you should do, hell, do what you’re doing now. Ask questions, read books, and keep up to date on current events. If you do that I’d say that’s all anyone could ask. Other than the aforementioned respect of boundaries of course.

I don’t believe i’m one of the many. In fact, i’m pretty certain i’m not. Unless i’m ignorant of my own behaviour, I suppose. :slight_smile: Deluded, though, certainly. Of course I think that, and I would say that everyone considers anyone who disagrees with them on a matter, all other things being equal, to be deluded; after all, if they have the same information as you do, yet come to a different conclusion, either you or they are deluded. But religious people are no more deluded than everyone else who disagrees with me - or alternatively than I am.

Anyway, to answer your question; I would say that ignorance is simply an absence of knowledge. I wouldn’t wager that religious people were on average less knowledgable than atheists. I guess in order to avoid being ignorant people should endeavour to learn things. I suppose the most important point would be to not ignore information that’s presented, even if you later decide it’s incorrect.

The only type of religious person I’d call ignorant is one who blindly follows religious or church dogma and uses their religion as a tool to judge and oppress others. I have respect for religious people who weigh their beliefs carefully, question their teachings, constantly evaluate whether their actions and thoughts are in accordance with their beliefs, and are educated and sane when it comes to the secular world and other religions. I may not agree with their beliefs, but I can at least respect the path they took to their beliefs.

I don’t recall that being a common term either. And I’ve never seen it used as a general descriptor - we certainly have enough counter-examples right at hand.

Now back at you - do you agree that some theists are ignorant of some parts of their religion and facts surrounding it? For instance, I am sure that many creationists are ignorant of what evolution actually says, and disbelieve in it based on strawman arguments from their leaders. I’m sure some theists think that there is evidence of the Exodus, for example, and I’m sure that many are ignorant of the latest in Biblical scholarship. I certainly wouldn’t put your run of the mill Jesuit in this class, though.

And yes, atheists are ignorant about many things also.

That is not my experience at all. I’m going to have to ask for some kind evidence in support of the bolded part of that statement.

The biggest thing would be the position of many hard line fundies who fall into the short earther category. Thos who believe that the eath was created 5000-5000 years ago by divine power when we have civilizations that predated that by up to 2000 years before that.

Refusing to believe peer reviewed materials backed by evidence from dozens of researchers because it conflicts with a religious belief.

Logically many of the prinicples used to defend such beliefs can be logically used to defend the POV of dozens of things they would vehemently deny. A classic example being The Dragon In My Garage

Well, until they figure out a way to upload twelve years of wasted hours in atheist clubs, personal experience on various chatrooms, messageboards, face-to-face interactions, and general literature from one individual to another, I’m afraid you’re just going to have to wait a little bit on that evidence.

Actually, though, upon reflection you’re right. I’ll partially retract my statement by changing “most” to “many”, but that’s as far as I’ll go. I’ve run into far too many atheists like that and far too many intelligent, open-minded theists for me to think that we are any smarter than theists in general.

I’ll jump on board with you on that one. True-believers of any stripe are frustrating.

I don’t think “ignorant” is really a correct apellation because it refers to lack of knowledge of certain things. I am ignorant of the finer points of rocket science and nuclear physics, but I don’t think that should dismiss me from making general observations about those topics or the world at large. However, if I were to hold forth with strong, contrarian opinions on such subjects that I know nothing about, it would then be legitimate to dismiss me as ignorant and spend your time on more worthy opponents.

It just so happens that this is often the case with religious folk. In general terms, they are no more ignorant than anyone else. But specifically when they go putting forth strong opinions and contrarian claims about science when all they have is their dusty Jesus book and a dim understanding of obsolete biology concepts, within that context they can be dismissed as ignorant. You simply cannot have a conversation on biology with someone who not merely ignorant of the facts of biology but hostile to learning any knowledge that might undermine their dusty book. In that context ‘ignorant’ refers not so much to the person as to a justification of why it’s hopeless to converse with that person.

I’m pretty sure I’ve never called a religious person “ignorant”, on this board or elsewhere. I personally find no compelling evidence for a deity or deities of any kind, but there is so much history to religious beliefs, and so many people are so steeped in them from an early age, that I can see how difficult it may be to see beyond them. Even if I consider one who believes such stuff to be ignorant, it’s at least an understandable ignorance.

OTOH, for those who insist that specific religious beliefs describe more accurately the history of the universe or how things work than the vast body of empirical evidence surrounding us, well, ignorance is the term that fits best.

Not the same thing at all, now is it? What does “smart” have to do with “dogmatic, weird, and irritating?”

What does “not ignorant” have to do with “smart”? Are you saying that people can’t be both smart and ignorant, in terms of shooting their mouths off about stuff they know nothing about?

It may be worth pointing out that, in the context of a debate or a discussion between two people with incompatible views, if one if them is called ‘ignorant’ the meaning may be, not that they have no grasp of relevant facts, but that they have no idea how to conduct themselves in a discussion of this kind.

In that sense there’s a good deal of ignorance displayed in debates between theists and atheists, but I wouldn’t say that either group stands out.

Based on my experience at universities and companies filled with smart people, “smart” is almost equivalent to “dogmatic, weird, and irritating.” :smiley:

Religious fundamentalists, such as creationists and IDers, are, literally, ignorant - willfully so.

If the ratios were reversed and 90% of the world were atheist, they’d still be amazingly ignorant of a great many subjects. That’s just the way the world works. The fact that the world is actually 90% religious instead leads to situations where people with no idea what they’re talking about are making positive statements about a great many fields, and hence the frustration and the gnashing of teeth.

It should be pointed out, however, that the theists are this board are generally of a much higher pedigree of thinking, and would probably be viewed as dirty liberal heretics by most religious people I’ve met in meat space. Most discussions here seem to revolve around esoteric philosophical points which are impossible to even broach otherwise, especially when the other person is asking why monkeys are still around if we evolved from them or talking about God sending down natural disasters and AIDs to punish the gays. YMMV.

One could have a lot of fun going down the street and asking people to describe or talk about extremely basic things like:

  1. the process of evolution.

  2. the history of the Bible and how it was written and put together.

  3. the scientific method.

  4. comparing and contrasting Jesus with other popular myths and legends and the common threads.

  5. how old they believe the earth to be, and why.

Considering ~40% of the U.S. population continues to believes Saddam Hussein was somehow responsible for the 9/11 attacks, we may be stuck.

It is hardly true of any large number of atheists, but there is a small, strident group of atheists posting to the SDMB who get a kick out of qattacking believers, here, with a cry that “We’re supposed toi be ‘fighting ignorance’ and believers are displaying ignorance in their beliefs.”

I would readily agree to all of this, and without a doubt there are many Christians who ought to be better informed about their church, the Bible, history, and other related topics. Ideally, every Christian would study these things, just as ideally every voter would be well-informed about political issues, every investor would research their stocks extensively, and so forth.

Reality, of course, imposes limits that curtail such ideals. I’ve don’t pretend to know exactly how each person should allocate their time and energy, or to give a list of subjects that everyone needs to cover. I do feel that their are aspects of life which are commonly useful to everybody, whether they be a truck driver, a priest, or a rocket scientist. Everyone needs to know how to analyze and understand their own feelings, control their own behavior, understand other people and communicate effectively.

Now I would say that we ought to define ignorance in terms of the absence of these skills. I hypothesize that atheists define it differently. So supposing I retract the opening sentence of my original post, would you folks be willing to take a stab at answering the question: what is ignorance?