Atheists: Do you believe you are an atheist because you are smart?

Tell me.

It tends to be correlated.

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).

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.

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.


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.

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”.

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.

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.

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.

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.

No. Religion is obvious nonsense, it doesn’t take much intelligence to see through it. It only takes the willingness to do so.

I’m an agnostic, because being an atheist is too much work and I’m probably not smart enough. :confused::frowning:

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.

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.

  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.

  1. 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?

  1. 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?

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

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.

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.”

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.