Are Religious People Intellectually Inferior to Atheists?

The video below, part of The Atheist Voice series, answers the question: Are religious people intellectually inferior to atheists?

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the project — more videos will be posted soon — and we’d also appreciate your suggestions as to which questions we ought to tackle next!

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Mike Hitchcock

    I don’t think atheists are inherently smarter – but for some reason smart people tend to be atheists…

    • C Peterson

      The better your brain operates, the more effective it will be at reprogramming itself out of irrational beliefs, or avoid falling into them in the first place. In addition, the better your brain operates, the more likely that it will be subjected to a high quality education, making evidence-based thinking more accurate.

      It’s not magic that a high native intelligence kills religion and theism.

      • Michael W Busch

        You have the causality backwards. People who get better educations are far better at making use of the brains that they have, and so can make use of the innate intelligence that you have.

        Education negates religion/theism, not high innate intelligence.

        • C Peterson

          No, I don’t think my causality is backwards at all. You’ve identified a separate factor that also is responsible for making people into atheists or nones.

          More intelligent people tend to get better educations. People who get better educations tend to improve their intellectual abilities, regardless of their intelligence.

          • Michael W Busch

            More intelligent people tend to get better educations.

            That is not really true, as important as things like merit-based scholarships are.

            People who come from wealthier backgrounds, whose families make greater efforts to get them better education, who happen to have better teachers, who come from communities with better-funded and better-designed school systems are the ones who tend to get better educations.

            The ideal would be that every student would have the opportunity to learn everything they wanted to and could learn, but most communities are very far from that ideal.

            Edit: Here I refer specifically to primary, secondary, and undergraduate education. Grad schools are a bit of a different thing, especially since much of the population doesn’t attend one. But it does not take a graduate degree to understand that there is no evidence of any god’s existence.

            • C Peterson

              Even allowing for other factors, I think it’s the case that more intelligent people generally end up getting better educations.

              • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                The data disagrees, C Peterson. The biggest factor in your educational level is your parents’ educational level. It’s not native intelligence (whatever that means!), race, gender, or any of the factors you might expect. More intelligent people tend to do better at whatever they wind up doing (intelligent drug dealers are still better at it than stupid ones), but the chances of any person graduating high school or going to college are highly determinate on whether their parents did, not their own abilities.

                I’ve met insanely smart people who never went to college. I met a lot of really stupid people in college. The plural of anecdote is not data, but what separated these people was money, not ability.

                • C Peterson

                  Nothing you’ve said contradicts my view. There are many factors involved, and I’m only discussing one of them.

                • Michael W Busch

                  But it is a factor that is a far smaller factor than the systematic inequalities of opportunity, and little to nothing to do with if people become atheists or not.

                • C Peterson

                  The fact is, if you go to a good school, noted for providing a top notch education, you’re going to find more natively intelligent people than if you go to your average community college. That there are many factors responsible for this isn’t in dispute. One of those is that intelligent people are attracted to higher quality schools. Another is that higher quality schools have filters that select for more intelligent people.

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  You forget that education doesn’t begin in college. There are many high schools that simply fail their smartest students- they don’t provide the intellectual stimulation the students need and they don’t prepare them for higher education.

                  Highly intelligent people are still stuck in the circumstances of their birth.

                • C Peterson

                  Again, no disagreement.

    • Dan Ortiz

      You mean like Einstein

      • C Peterson

        Yes, like Einstein. An extremely large percentage of scientists are atheists, and the higher a scientist rises in career and respect (a rational measure of skill and intelligence), the greater the likelihood of his being an atheist.

        Of course, scientists are not just smarter than average, but they are also trained in critical thinking, and dependent upon it. A double-whammy against their ability to maintain theism or religiosity.

        • Pseudonym

          the higher a scientist rises in career and respect (a rational measure of skill and intelligence)

          No, respect is not a rational measure of skill and intelligence. Just ask the late Richard Feynman, who famously resigned membership of the National Academy of Sciences when he found out that it was basically a high school clique.

          Of course, scientists are not just smarter than average, but they are also trained in critical thinking, and dependent upon it.

          I wish that were true! Academic peer review depends on a certain restricted kind of critical thinking, which works within the academy (the person making an argument is part of the community), but is not applicable outside.

          Most scientists that I know have never even heard of the principle of charity, the first thing you learn in any formal course on critical thinking.

          • C Peterson

            Yes, respect by other scientists is one rational measure of skill and intelligence.

            You clearly have little experience with the scientific community.

            • Pseudonym

              You have no idea how much experience I have with the scientific community. I could give you my qualifications, CV and h-index, but it’s completely irrelevant. Besides, the Feynman anecdote speaks for itself.

              The scientific community is a human creation. Spend any time in it, and you learn it the hard way.

        • Dan Ortiz

          Einstein was not an atheist…he was a deist
          Besides almost half of scientists in the US alone believe in some sort of a deity. Check out Euckland’s book Science vs Faith..

  • Bamidele Adeneye

    A question bugging me is this: why do people believe extraordinarily bogus things and even swear by them without trying to question them? As an atheist, I’ve always wondered why I’m different because I know extremely smart people who disappoint me with the things the believe, like juju, disappearances, reincarnation and other bogus concepts.

    • Slow2bite

      Bamidele Adeneye: “why do people believe extraordinarily bogus things and even swear by them without trying to question them?”

      In my experience it usually comes down to the comfort of conformity and/or intellectual laziness. They have been brought up in a faith. Their friends and family follow the same faith. It is easier to toe the line than to go to the trouble of thinking about the issue. It takes more effort to look at the subject objectively and apply reason than it does to just accept what your social group already say.

      Another way to answer your question is to ask yourself “Why didn’t you identify yourself as atheist a year or two earlier than you actually did?” The reason you were still not atheist then is possibly the answer to your question.

      • C.L. Honeycutt

        “Why didn’t you identify yourself as atheist a year or two earlier than you actually did?”

        The answer to that for me would be “lack of information combined with wishful thinking. Correcting the former allowed me to compensate for the latter.”

    • Dan Ortiz

      You are not different…. just self-involved… if they are extremely smart, why do you think they haven’t used their brains to decide for themselves and came up with a belief contrary to yours? Just because you don’t agree it doesn’t mean they are wrong, it is the fallacy of generalization from experience.

  • Jasper

    On the other hand, the heavily religious tend to be wrong about a lot… from basic science topics, to political ramifications, to other things.

    If one’s epistemological process is defunct, it’s bound to lead one to both being wrong about religion, as well as a lot of other things.

    • Dan Ortiz

      I assume you mean american religious ?

      • Michael W Busch

        I believe Jasper meant all religious people. It is inevitable for an atheist to say that all religious people are wrong about many things.

        But, again, being wrong does not mean being “intellectually inferior”.

    • Guest

      You could say the same about people that watch cable news.

  • Chris Moran

    I think it might be like the Christians/theists claiming they are more moral than non-believers. A perceived expectation of it being so because it’s so obvious.
    Atheist: “How cold an intelligent person see all the scientific advances, space exploration discoveries, et al and still come out a believer?”
    Christian: “How could one be moral without the guidance of the bible”

    Oh wait, not a good comparison at all.
    I do agree though, I’ve met some people who claim to be atheists that make me embarrassed because I expect atheists to be higher order thinkers. Oh so wrong sometimes. I don’t expect believers to not be smart, but I know other people – even other very intelligent math teachers – who I feel should just know better somehow.

    • ctcss

      “How cold an intelligent person see all the scientific advances, space exploration discoveries, et al and still come out a believer?”

      Please remember that not everyone believes in God for the same reasons. Your hypothetically stated question above makes the assumption that matter and materialism under-gird/underlie the believing stance of a religious person. And for many people, that may very well be the case. But what if matter and materialism have nothing whatsoever to do with their faith in God? If matter does not under-gird their faith, then they will be looking at things in a far different way than you seem to think that they must. Therefore, that question might strike them as not being germane to the question of God or of God’s kingdom any more than whether wearing brown or black socks would affect one’s ability to successfully answer questions on a math or history exam in school.

      Materialism, at least as I view such things, has nothing whatsoever to do with God, nor to one’s relationship with God. So if you asked me about the results from the Hubble program, or the Mars rover explorations, or the Voyager probes, or plate tectonics, or the genome sequencing of a 700,000 year old horse, I might very well say “Cool!”

      But I still wouldn’t understand what such questions would have to do with God or with my relationship to God. Matter simply doesn’t enter into it.

      • Pattrsn

        I like this argument , that its somehow crass to expect to find evidence for the existence of god in the “material” universe.

        • Ewan

          It’s a very silly argument. You can certainly postulate the existence of some sort of god that has no impact on the observable universe at all, and there’d be neither evidence for it, nor against it. But then we’re in Russel’s teapot/invisible pink unicorn territory and you would not believe in such a thing because there’d be absolutely no reason to.

          • Pattrsn

            I know it’s essentially saying because there is no existence for the existence of god then obviously no evidence is required. Because god exists the fault lies with the concept of evidence.

            • Ewan

              And I say again, it’s a very silly argument. Just because there’s no evidence of something does not mean that no evidence is required, it means it’s probably not true.

      • Chris Moran

        When you define “god” in floaty fuzzy terms, well, then sure, science is a hard issue to compare with. So what? In fact (opinion?) if your relationship with some vapor-God doesn’t require any proof what-so-ever and you’re ok with it being ok to define in some other “unprovable” way, then don’t expect non-believers to respect that any more than the biblical version where things fall all apart materially.

        • ctcss

          I think you misunderstand my purpose in posting. You weren’t asking for something that would convince you (or any other non-believer) that God exists. You simply wondered why (in part of your post), given the neat things discovered by science, anyone would still believe in God. I simply pointed out that belief in God is not necessarily dependent on, or conformed to, matter or materialism. I also pointed out that, given the un-needed tie-in to matter, that references to science, although quite wonderful and fascinating, don’t have to have any more impact on belief in God than what color one’s socks were when taking a school exam.

          The point being, one is free to choose to wear socks of whatever color without there being any intersection with one’s ability to successfully take a school exam. In like manner, one’s decision and efforts made towards taking a school exam do not preclude one from choosing what color socks to wear.

          Why do you think that unrelated things must be related, or are required to exclude one another? If you like and appreciate and enjoy studying poetry, does that prevent you from also liking and appreciating and studying butterflies? Why should liking and appreciating and studying that which relates to God preclude one from liking and appreciating and studying that which to relates to science? I am not likely to confuse that which is material with that which is spiritual. Jesus even pointed out “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s.”

          Why insist on making what strikes me as being a false choice?

          • Chris Moran

            I understand what you’re saying, but that doesn’t make it any more sensible, to me. Your view on spirituality is far too convenient for sustaining itself. There is never likely to be proof for any part of it nor is it likely possible to disprove it, therefore you’ve defined it in such a way that you can believe what you want and expect others to respect or honor that belief.
            Observability is big and not the kids that convinces kids they must believe: “see that tree; that rock; the clouds over there, how do you think it could have gotten here without God” (an actual argument made at me by a boy scout troop leader when I was 11). If that’s the level of evidence needed, then nothing is impossible and nothing is questionable, including the likeliness that your god and spirituality are completely false.

            • ctcss

              But what you don’t seem to understand is that what one person believes does not obligate anyone else to believe in like manner. A die-hard Red Sox fan is going to root for their team and a die-hard Yankees fan is going to root for their team. No one needs to agree or to prove anything about such things to anyone else. Nor do people need to come to blows (figuratively speaking) about such things. You asked how someone could still believe in God despite scientific advances and I answered how it was that I could and do.

              Basically, I think you were positing a God-of-the-gaps kind of believer, and I am not that kind of believer. I have no gaps to fill with God since my understanding of God requires no gaps in matter in which to hide Him. God is not in matter and matter is not in God.Thus your reference to scientific advances (which I totally admire and am a fan of) doesn’t change my view as to God.

              Matter (awe inspiring or mundane or horrific) is not a substitute for God in my view, thus it holds no appeal for me in that regard. Likewise, a God based on matter or under-girded by matter would therefore be hobbled by the limitations of matter and would thus be inadequate in that regard. (A god perhaps, rather than God.) So although you might favor things that are material because they readily lend themselves to being detected and tested using material test procedures, I personally have no use for them as substitutes for God because they fail in that role IMO.

              This leaves you, as a non-believer, with the view that whatever I believe about God is not useful because it is not testable in a material way. But to me, God is useful for the very reason that He is not bound to matter. If God were bound to matter, then God would limited by matter, thus I would need to worship matter (rather than God) since matter would obviously be the primary power, not God. I would find such a practice to be ludicrous. Why should I worship something that is mindless and indifferent, or pray to it? What would be the point?

              God, to me, is something more along the lines of (although not identical to) what Thomas Jefferson wrote of when he penned the Declaration of Independence. If Jefferson simply were to rely on testing what exists in a material way, he could not have written that document in the way that he did. God, not being detectable or testable, could not be seen as endowing man with any rights whatsoever. And men are certainly not created equal when matter alone is used as a reference point. And God, not being detectable, could certainly not be appealed to as the supreme judge of the world, nor relied on as a protector of the people.

              Jefferson wrote something inspired by high ideals, not by material evidence. And he was willing to place everything on the line for these high concepts and ideals which were something rather insubstantial, if matter was simply the sole determiner of such things. It should be quite obvious that the king and his parliament and armies held the upper hand as well as the power and could do whatever it was that he and they pleased. Jefferson, in ignoring this material reality and adhering to his insubstantial ideals, could be viewed by others as signing his own death warrant by opposing the king, and he knew it. But he did it nonetheless. He wasn’t being an extremist, or being irrational. He was simply trying to live according to a higher set of principles than the world was offering to him. In his own deistic manner, he seemed to be echoing that famous statement in Hebrews “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” And whatever it was that he was trusting in, he pushed forward, not because of the material evidence he could detect, but in spite of it.

              I rely on God and trust God along similar (but certainly not identical) lines. Faith (which, as I understand it, is reasoned trust rather than blind faith) is very much part of what I use when I pursue this path. And so far, I have not found any good reason to abandon my current pathway. (If I truly found irrefutable evidence that God did not exist, I would certainly reconsider my path.) I am attempting to “prove” my faith in God as I go along. (God being non-material, I am obviously not using material methodologies to “prove” that faith.) You might not find such a path to be to your liking, depending, as it does, on something non-material, and not subject to the material methods which you consider to be trustworthy. To me, however, God is something I have found I can consider as trustworthy when I find myself up against it. Matter simply does not fulfill that same role for me.

              So we find ourselves on opposite sides of this conceptual fence, both content with the reasonableness of our current positions. But that does not mean we need be in opposition to one another, nor to regard each other’s positions with disrespect. I did not arrive at my position without deep thought, practice, and experience any more than you did yours. So we can agree to disagree at this point, tip our hats in greeting as we pass, and go on our separate ways.

              • Chris Moran

                Sounds like a relatively well reasoned response. We shall continue to *respectfully* disagree.

                If all (or even most) “god” believers weren’t materialistic-God believers, or so materialistic in general about their faith, perhaps there wouldn’t be such a widening chasm between believers and non-believers, socially at least.

  • Geoff Boulton

    It really depends on what is meant by ‘intellectual’ and does this equate to ‘intelligence’. The abilities of savants, like Kim Peek or Daniel Tammet, are absolutely amazing, but are these abilities ‘intelligent’ or just a process similar to an unthinking pocket calculator? Then there are ideas like ‘Multiple Intelligences’. It really is a minefield. Is logical thinking ‘better’ than creative thinking?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theory_of_multiple_intelligences

  • JanNH

    It’s not about Intelligence; it’s about Critical (or Logical) Thinking.

    Religion is about Faith. Faith is the complete opposite of Logic. (Think Jerry Farwell and Doctor Spock.) Ethics is the place where they both have a chance of meeting.

    However, in my observations, religion goes bad when it clings to doctrine instead of ethics (and it most often does).

    • Geoff Boulton

      I would say faith is the opposite of the scientific method rather than logic. A theist can use logic to ‘prove’ that his god exists the problem is that an atheist is unlikely to accept the axioms used in that proof on the basis that they don’t meet the requirements of the scientific method.

      • Dan Ortiz

        see response above

    • KeithCollyer

      Doctor Spock or Mister Spock?

    • Dan Ortiz

      It really does depend on the definition of faith used. Faith does not mean anti-logic or opposite the scientific method.

      • Geoff Boulton

        Whichever way it’s defined, faith is basically belief without evidence. Of course, there are arguments about what constitutes evidence so, yes it does depend on the definition of faith. The problem is that somewhere along the line you’ve got to stop ‘defining’ things and come back to the real world, especially since anyone can define anything anyway they want, it just isn’t accepted by the majority.

      • Ewan

        The scientific method involves not just accepting something, and testing it instead. Faith involves accepting a hypothesis without testing it.

        We can tell this in part empirically by the behaviour of people who say they have faith in a god – they do not generally spend their time running experiments in an attempt to falsify that hypothesis.

        • Dan Ortiz

          Can there be any other definitions of faith? or is it just “belief without evidence”? that is rather simplistic don’t you think?
          For example, do you have faith in your wife? (trust) are you faithful to your wife (commitment)

          • icecreamassassin

            Yes, the word ‘faith’ can mean all of those things. But when having discussions such as what’s going on here, it helps to *increase* specificity of terminology rather than to use as many broad terms as possible.

            Is ‘faith’ anti-logic? Well, you’re correct that the answer is dependent on the definition of ‘faith’. Defining ‘faith’ in terms that are as simple as possible is important in answering that question. Otherwise everyone will just be having a debate over semantics and no one will really learn anything.

          • Tobias2772

            Dan,
            If I have evidence for my beliefs then they do not require faith. I am basing my belief on actual, previous experiences or evidence. I trust my wife because she has never betrayed me before (as far as I know) and i have made a commitment to her based on the evidence that I am better with her than without.
            What need have you for faith if there is evidence or experience upon which to base your decisions ??

          • Geoff Boulton

            Not a good example. Trust in a partner is gained from experiences of time spent with a tangible being whose behaviour you can see and can be demonstrated. Commitment is merely the reciprocation of the trust in your partner. This is completely different to belief in a invisible deity whose supposed characteristics have to be described to you in an ancient text interpreted by any number of translators and so called prophets and holy men.

      • C Peterson

        “Faith” in its religious context is not about trust or any of the numerous other uses of the word. “Faith” in the religious sense is precisely about belief without evidence, and belief in the face of contrary evidence. It is the very definition of anti-logic, and it is completely opposed to the scientific method.

        • Ewan

          Indeed. I suppose arguably it’s both though – someone might say that they ‘have faith in god’ meaning that they trust god (and assuming implicitly that there is such a thing). If someone says that they ‘have faith that god exists’, then we’re definitely using the word in its belief without (looking for) evidence sense.

          • C.L. Honeycutt

            The people who make such statements don’t use such nuances, though.

    • C Peterson

      It’s not about Intelligence; it’s about Critical (or Logical) Thinking.

      That is certainly true. But intelligence and intellect aren’t the same. A highly intelligent person can be intellectually inferior to a less intelligent person. It isn’t just your native ability that matters, but how you use it, how willing you are to use it, and what your knowledge base is.

      Who is faster, the tortoise or the hare?

  • Richard Tingley

    This is a question I have pondered quite a bit. Most people are smart in a few areas, yet very dumb in others. My father in law can program computers with Rainman like powers, but he can quite literally not use a screw driver. In the end I think the majority of the fault simply lies in what a person will accept as evidence. We are never really taught what good evidence is in school leaving us to fall back on our incredibly faulty instincts.That fact leaves us wide open for believing the nonsense pedaled by religion. Religion must teach us us to reject critical thinking to survive. I heard “You will never be able to understand God’s will and you need to accept it on faith” more times than I can count. If we fall into that trap, it is very hard to get out.

    In conclusion, I don’t think we are necessary smarter. I simply think that we have learned to demand evidence before putting our faith in something.

    • Jasper

      My analogy is:

      Intelligence is a shovel.

      Just because you have the shovel, doesn’t mean you’re using it. It could just be sitting in the shed.

      Just because you’re using the shovel, doesn’t mean you’re using it right (trying to use it as a screwdriver).

      Epistemology, Skepticism and Critical Thinking is when you’re doing it all right.

  • Yee-haw

    Word choice is interesting. Hemant says he’s right about God. Yet in a previous video he says that the burden of proof is not on him.

    If you are claiming that something is true, then you’d better be able to back it up. Now if you said, ” I believe that the atheist’s worldview is the correct one” I would cut you a lot more slack. Especially since the previous video that I’m referencing was all about belief and how difficult it is to prove a belief. He words it this way a few times as well in this video.

    So are atheists correct about God? If so, then the burden of proof shifts back to you. If you believe that your VIEW of God (or a lack of) is correct I would say, “okay, let’s have some civil conversations on why you think that is”

    Ironic that Hemant talks about not wanting to be arrogant, but follows that up with an arrogant statement.

    I believe that he does get it right though, that SO MANY religious people feel that they are so much more moral than everyone else just because they follow a religion. For someone to claim to be a Christ follower and to pretend that they are more moral because of it, misses the point of Jesus’ teachings entirely and they need to dig deeper in their studies.

    The more one studies Christ’s teachings, the more revealed my ugly heart becomes. THAT’S the point of Christianity along with the story of redemption.

    Thoughts?

    • Travis Myers

      Are people who think that Santa Claus doesn’t exist right about Santa Claus? If so, then atheists are right about god in exactly the same way.

      • Yee-haw

        Except the character of Santa Clause is based on a real person, SaintNicholas. Society just took him and made up their own stories about him, but there are still elements of truth there.

        Could the same be said about who/what you think of when the word “God” is talked about? That there are elements of truth of what you think of, but the true idea has been distorted in some way?

        • C.L. Honeycutt

          Actually, he’s based on Odin. Nicolaus was tacked on later.

          That there are elements of truth of what you think of, but the true idea has been distorted in some way?

          Myths are always distorted versions of earlier myths, so in that sense, sure.

          For instance, there’s very good evidence in the Bible that Yahweh was originally a child-god from a proto-Judaistic pantheon, and that said pantheon interacted in stories with the gods of other tribes.

          • Michael W Busch

            Did you mean “Yahweh was originally a father-god”?

            The early Israeli Yahweh was pulled from El, the father god of the old Caananite pantheon (preserved within the name “Israel”), with compositing with a warrior-god from a bit further south. They retained El’s consort Asherah for a while, and it wasn’t until well after the Babylonian exile that monotheism was universal in the Jewish population.

            • C.L. Honeycutt

              http://www.georgeleonard.com/articles/is-yahweh-a-boy.htm

              Here’s what I was thinking of. Amazing how many inconsistencies it clears up. It takes the Yahweh-specific parts of the OT from being near-gibberish to actually reading like a decently-written mythology.

              • Michael W Busch

                From what little I know of the history, that piece is overreaching the data in its conclusions. For example, there is not enough evidence to say that there was ever one single person who codified the Torah – far more likely, it was codified slowly in the century or two after the Babylonian Exile. But that the Biblical Yahweh is a composite character based on characters from several pre-existing polytheist pantheons is certainly true.

    • Richard Tingley

      In the argument whether something does or does not exist, the burden of proof always lies on those claiming that it does exist. This is due to the fact that you can not prove something does not exist. It does not matter if it is God or bigfoot.

      • Dan Ortiz

        It is possible to prove that something doesn’t exist, you will have to create a falsifiable statement and use it.

        • Richard Tingley

          Prove unicorns do not exist.

          • Dan Ortiz

            OK… I assume you mean the horse like creature with one horn on it’s head… We could ask the question “can any members of the equidae group develop the necessary bone structure necessary for a horn on their heads?” The answer will be that no equidae member has developed the necessary bone structure on their heads to support one horn on the front of their face. Rhinos being part of the group do have one horn, but it is not bone. Rummidants like cattle and deer are not equidaes. From this information we can safely say that a horse with a horn on his head does not exist.

            • Slow2bite

              Yes they do. You just can’t see them. They are invisible and unmeasurable but they definitely exist. Prove me wrong.

              • Dan Ortiz

                I did above… Slow2read would be a better name :)

                • Slow2bite

                  Your statement above only showed that unicorns have not been observed, not that they don’t exist. I said they are invisible unmeasurable unicorns. Can you prove they don’t exist? Do you always resort to personal insult when you don’t have an argument to make?

                • C.L. Honeycutt

                  Do you need some giant novelty tweezers to help with extracting that beam?

            • Richard Tingley

              What you are doing is providing evidence that makes the probability of their existence less likely, not unlike showing that there is not enough food in Loch Ness to support a large animal, but it does not prove that they do not exist. As @slow2bite:disqus pointed out, “There is an invisible one next to me.”

              • Dan Ortiz

                No, I used science to prove that unicorns are not horned horses which is the popular definition of unicorns. Now, if you don’t want to accept science or think there is some sort of conspiracy with all scientists in the world… then by all means.

                • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

                  The fact that we have never recorded any examples of single horned equines doesn’t mean they don’t exist. You have proved nothing.

                  The fact that we have never recorded any examples of invisible equines doesn’t mean they don’t exist either.

                • Richard Tingley

                  Who said unicorns were horned horses? Unicorns are unicorns and are not related to the horse.

                • C.L. Honeycutt

                  “Science”, I do not think that word means what you think it means.

                  The popular definition* of God is wrong and easily disproved also, which is why you lot keep shifting the goalposts. Funny that.

                  *Y’know, the one out of the Bible.

                • Dan Ortiz

                  hahaha… for the uneducated not having a fundamentalist mentallity seems like shifting the goalpost.

            • Pattrsn

              Since unicorns can only be seen by young virgin maids obviously, like god, they have the power of invisibility therefore lack of physical evidence is in no way relevant. Also as magical creatures they exist outside of the normal rules of taxonomy.

              • Dan Ortiz

                hahahahha you just called SLow2bite a virgin maid…:)

                • Pattrsn

                  Are you sure Dan? Does S2B claim to have actually seen a unicorn or simply claim to “know” they exist in the same way that theists claim that they know that goD exists?

              • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                <– total fantasy and fairy tales nerd

                So, actually, by legend unicorns are visible to everyone, as the the existence of unicorn hunters in the stories shows. Unicorns can only be caught by virgin maids, who are irresistible to them, but everyone can see them. In fact, usually a sighting would be reported, a hunter would come with his trusty virgin maid sidekick, the unicorn would go lay its head on her lap, and the hunter would go kill it for the horn, mane, and tail which had lots of magical properties.

                Lack of physical evidence is in every way relevant to showing that large, horse-like ruminants with magical horns do not, in fact, exist and never have.

                • C.L. Honeycutt

                  Not REAL unicorns, Feminerd. You just lack knowledge of sophisticated Unicornology.

            • Tobias2772

              Can you not apply this same methodology to disprove the existance of gods ??

            • Geoff Boulton

              No ‘known’ equidae member has developed the necessary bone structure. You can claim that the possibility is vanishingly small but you haven’t ‘proved’ anything. In terms of everyday language you can claim unicorns don’t exist but it is not an absolute claim..

              • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

                And of course we DO have eye witness testimony to a winged equine carrying a man to heaven. So it’s reasonable to assume that if they can have wings, surely they can have horns?

                • Geoff Boulton

                  If we’re going to accept eye witness testimony as ‘solid evidence’ then I’m sure we can find someone who’s seen a unicorn. As I said, vanishingly improbable and for all practical uses don’t exist.

    • Hat Stealer

      I cannot know for certain if there is a god or not. However, I’m reasonably certain that there isn’t based on the evidence, and therefore I’m comfortable to make the emotional leap and say outright there is no god, just as I would say there are no unicorns, or no dragons. If people give me grief for my stance then I will clarify it, just as I have done now.

    • pRinzler

      You’re taking a casual phrase and interpreting it so that the burden of proof shifts improperly, whereas the phrase is easily interpretable so that the burden of proof doesn’t shift improperly.

      Doesn’t Hement really mean, “No one has met their burden of proof to show that God exists, so we provisionally conclude that he doesn’t, and that’s being ‘right’ about God.”

      • blah

        I don’t know what he means. I can only go on what he says in the video. I’m not going to put words in his mouth. I’m not in a position to say what he means.

        Hemant is the one that claims authority on the subject of God, saying that he is “right.” Quite a statement indeed to know something yet to have no proof that his statement is absolutely true.

        He might have mis-spoken, but I found it a bit odd since he just got done saying he didn’t want to be arrogant about it, but follows it up with quite an arrogant statement.

        • pRinzler

          “I don’t know what he means.”

          I just gave you another way to understand his words that makes sense.

          To say that one is “right” doesn’t mean that you need proof or that one is absolutely correct. In conversation, saying one is right often means that you think you’re right, provisionally, with epistemic humility. We all think we’re right about many things, and understand we might still be wrong. What’s the problem?

          You’re reading *way* too much into Hement’s words, quite uncharitably, and incorrectly.

          • blah

            Don’t you really mean that his words are open to subjective interpretation, but only when they contradict themselves? THIS is when I should give someone a break. But if a Christian would be to caught in such a trap it’s okay to hold him to every detail that he/she might have given that is useful for your agenda?

            Interesting…..

            I expect more from a group of logical and scientific thinkers. Or wait, does this mean that interpretation of results via completion of the scientific method are also open to subjective thought? Oh no?!?!?!

            • pRinzler

              I would have no problem allowing anyone, Christian or not, the leeway of interpretation in conversation. The Bible, or *any* book, however, is a different matter.

              Everyone’s conversation (and I include online conversations, as well as Hemant’s remarks) is open to interpretation. Is this really controversial? I’m saying that my interpretation is a reasonable one. Just because something is open to interpretation doesn’t mean that all interpretations are equally reasonable.

            • C.L. Honeycutt

              “Someone somewhere is dishonest, therefore it’s okay for me to be dishonest towards you.”

              That’s the argument you just made. Congratulations.

        • C.L. Honeycutt

          You admitted to having read/seen his previous work, which means you know EXACTLY what he means. You’re just pretending otherwise in order to play gotcha games. It’s childish.

    • Dan Ortiz

      Unfortunately this point is missed by atheists a lot. If you say Theism is somewhat a positive statement in the existence of God, than A-Theism is also a positive statement in the (non) existence of God. The only position to have if we wish not to have the burden of proof is agnosticism.

      • http://manojpontificates.blogspot.com/ Manoj

        This is a point that is misunderstood by many believers and some non-believers. Atheism is a lack of belief in God(s). Period.

        The lack of belief comes from lack of credible evidence.

        http://atheism.about.com/od/aboutatheism/p/atheism101.htm

        • Dan Ortiz

          That is a nice meme but unfortunately it is also wrong. Atheism is more than simple non-belief. Unless you concede that religion is only the belief in God and that all other aspects (like holy books, miracles, etc) are not religious.

          • http://manojpontificates.blogspot.com/ Manoj

            I’ll conceed the *theism* is a belief in God(s). :)

            • Dan Ortiz

              so you accept the claims of non-theistic religions like buddhism or shintoism?

              • Michael W Busch

                No, because they still make unfounded claims of the existence of supernatural entities.

                And you need to brush up on your comparative religious studies.

                Shinto is very much theistic – that’s what many of the different kami are supposed to be. The word Shintō can be translated as “Way of the Gods” – it’s the Japanese version of old Chinese shén dào, meaning “Way of the Spirits”. In most forms of Shinto, the sun goddess Amaterasu is claimed to be the direct ancestor of the Japanese Imperial Family, which is why the Emperors are styled “heavenly sovereign” or “son of heaven”. e.g. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amaterasu

                And while secular Buddhism does exist, Buddhism far more commonly involves many unfounded claims of supernatural entities – many of which are powerful intelligent beings supposedly existing both in reality and in various parallel universes that can be influenced to do things by appropriate rites. e.g. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhist_cosmology

              • http://manojpontificates.blogspot.com/ Manoj

                No. Why would you think I do? :)

          • TCC

            This is false no matter how many times you repeat it. I don’t believe that there is no god; I simply don’t believe in any. Nothing more about my beliefs other than that can be characterized as “atheism,” any more than a theist’s position on the diversity of life can be necessarily construed as “theism.” These two labels cover one issue: Do you believe in any gods? If yes, theism; if no, atheism. This is not difficult.

            • Dan Ortiz

              Although I respect your admission that your atheism is a subjective belief (“I simply don’t believe in any”) but the very nature of un-belief is not simple at all. For example, why are we discussing (hopefully friendly :) ) in a blog called Friendly Atheist? Is it because it is morethan just unbelief and it is also a social phenomenon? How did the term atheism come to be? Do you accept then that the claims of non-theistic religions (like buddhism and shintoism) can be accurate (like re-incarnation)?
              Because ‘atheism’ will forever be linked to ‘theism’ the drawback of the difficulty in defining theism or in deed religion transfers to a-theism. Thus it is not only lack-of-belief.

              • TCC

                I hate that you have filled this response so full of errors that I feel I need to itemize them. Still…

                1. Atheism is not a “subjective belief.”
                2. Atheism itself is unbelief, but there are social movements associated with it that do not define it.
                3. The term atheism comes from the Greek atheos, “godless.”
                4. Since atheism is concerned only with one thing – the lack of belief in gods – no atheist is committed to the beliefs of any non-theistic philosophy. Religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, and Shintoism can be atheistic, but not all atheists are required to accept the beliefs of those religions.
                5. Your final sentence is nonsense. The difficulty in defining theism is the problem of the theist, not the atheist, since theists have the burden of proof for any given conception of a deity.

      • Geoff Boulton

        If a defendant in a court trial is found ‘not guilty’ are you making the statement that he is also innocent? Of course not, it is still possible that he’s not innocent. But for everyday purposes it is acceptable to use not guilty interchangeably with innocent.

        If a defendant in a court trial is found ‘guilty’ are you making the statement that he is also not innocent? Absolutely. And there is the difference between stating ‘I believe in a god, he exists’ and ‘I don’t believe in a god’.

        • Dan Ortiz

          But those are not claims, but are bestowed upon. I don’t go around telling people “you are an atheist” they call themselves that. It does not apply. See my response below

    • Art_Vandelay

      Here’s the thing. We can’t know that there isn’t some higher intelligence that created the universe but we don’t call ourselves adeists. It’s the God that you think cares about you and what you eat and who you sleep with and roots for your country in wars, etc, that I can say with certainty that you’re wrong about. You have a holy book that has proven to be so miserably wrong by cosmology, biology, chemistry, archaeology, and geology that there’s no reason whatsoever for a thinking person to believe a word of it.

      • Guest

        Fact, no one alive has ever seen, touched, smelled, video recorded, sketched, cooked a meal for or had sex with any god. Hearing voices and calling them god does not count if nobody else can hear those voices. Same lack of evidence that there is for unicorns and leprechauns. I’m 100% sure there are no unicorns or leprechauns. Believers need to prove otherwise or STFU. Until such a time, I will consider them intellectually inferior by their own choice.

    • C Peterson

      Hemant didn’t say he was right about god. He said he believes he is right about god. That is what all atheists say.

      Do you not recognize the huge difference between those two statements?

      • Yee-haw

        Peterson, THIS IS MY POINT. That there is a HUGE difference between the two mindsets.

        Maybe you should watch the video again at the 1:12 mark where Hemant says “…we’re right about God”, not that we believe we are right about God.

        What scares me is that you have mignon here that also gave you the “up votes” without listening to what is being said. Is that a normal practice of yours?

        • C Peterson

          No, he said he believes he is right. You are taking a comment out of context. Listen to the entire discussion and it is clear what is really being said.

          I don’t know any atheist, including Hemant, who makes the outright assertion that there are no gods, or that atheists are right. Sometimes those words may be used, particularly when we’re not engaged in some sort of formal debate. But they’re just a shorthand. Listen to the meaning.

        • C.L. Honeycutt

          Your assumption that he has “mignons” (I assume Spellcheck went humorously batshit there for a second) really only shows that you’re unfamiliar with how comment threads go here and are just blindly slapping your prejudices on and calling them arguments. If you were confident in your claims, you wouldn’t be fretting about up-votes.

          Maybe you should understand that the video, and for that matter all general and informal statements, do not exist in a vacuum. Trying to apply rules of formal argumentation selectively is disingenuous.

      • Blacksheep

        All atheists? many, many atheists here on FA regularly say that “There is no God” and that “You are wrong” in response to someone who believes in God… and other versions of the same absolute conviction of thought. This includes Hemant.

        • Michael W Busch

          “You are wrong” is usually directed against claims about a particular god existing (e.g. “God created the universe 6000 years ago”) which are provably false.

          And, as others have said, saying “there is no god” is the equivalent of saying “there is not a teapot 100 million kilometers away in orbit around the Sun”. Both are statements that could potentially be true, but are so vanishingly unlikely in the absence of any evidence for them that we can treat them as being false.

        • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

          I’m close enough to certain to get lazy with my language. But if the issue is raised, no, I don’t categorically believe I can disprove any gods.

          I’m a lot more certain of the non-existence of the various gods that have supposedly written and/or inspired books than I am of Spinoza’s ‘god’.

        • C Peterson

          All atheists? many, many atheists here on FA regularly say that “There
          is no God” and that “You are wrong” in response to someone who believes
          in God…

          No, they don’t. In any situation where careful choice of words is important, I’ve never heard an atheist claim there are no gods. Not once. Sometimes, when atheists are talking among themselves, or maybe in the heat of an argument, those words might be said. But if you listen to the entire argument, or look at the words of a person over many discussions, it is clear that atheists make that claim extremely rarely.

          As far as “you are wrong”, that is often in the context of specific beliefs. A person is factually wrong if they believe in Adam and Eve, if they believe in Noah’s flood, and many other such things. They may also be challenged as “wrong” because of the logic they used to come to their beliefs. And of course, in many cases, we use “you are wrong” as a way of saying “I disagree with you”. That’s not the best usage, but it’s common. If you focus too closely on the exact words you may fail to notice what is actually being said.

        • C.L. Honeycutt

          To repeat a response to “Yee Haw”:

          Hemant and others here aren’t required to qualify every informal statement they make, especially
          given the larger context of their statements that you can’t possibly not be familiar with.

    • Anna

      The more one studies Christ’s teachings, the more revealed my ugly heart becomes. THAT’S the point of Christianity along with the story of redemption. Thoughts?

      Well, other people have already taken up the “burden of proof” issue, but I just want to say that the part quoted above is exactly the reason I find Christianity to be fundamentally twisted and immoral.

    • C.L. Honeycutt

      He isn’t required to qualify every informal statement he makes in order to head off your desire to catch him out by parsing his every word, especially given the larger context of his statements that you’ve already said you are familiar with.

  • Ed Janison

    I think they are. When an intelligent person (doctor, lawyer, scientist, businessman, etc) willing “ties half their brain behind their back” by believing in something that would crumble to bits if subjected to rationality and the scientific method, that tells me about the intelligence and common sense levels of that person.

    For the record: I am an atheist/humanist, bi, semi-liberal Democrat in a family (bio and future inlaws) full of believers.

    • Dan Ortiz

      Why is believing tying your hands behind your back?

      • Ewan

        Taking any belief as a given prevents you from following any line of thought that may risk contradicting it. This is why many (particularly US based) christians have trouble accepting evolution – because they cannot allow themselves to follow the reasoning because they think it conflicts with their unquestionable belief.

        • Dan Ortiz

          That would be a definition of belief as blind faith. Tell me, can there be any other usages of the word that are not about blind-faith? like “I believe that science will be able to answer how life began”

          • Michael W Busch

            That is not faith. That is “belief supported by overwhelming credible evidence”.

      • Ed Janison

        Just my personal opinion. I am not able to reconcile the two: being highly educated and being religious (Judeo-Christian or other tradition).

  • closetatheist

    I dunno. The way this question in phrased makes me very uncomfortable…I wouldn’t claim that an entire group of people are unequivocally superior to another group, especially in a vague and hard to measure area like “intelligence.” How do we expect religious people to not view us as smug pricks when we think its ok to throw stuff like this out there? Plus, there’s far more to the story that just intelligence – there’s critical thinking skills, access to quality information, personal life experiences, the bravery to possibly accept an eternity in hell, to defy one’s entire family and community, to defy a wrathful god.

    • Dan Ortiz

      Exactly!!!!… and neo-atheism does come out looking like pricks to alot of people, even atheists.

      • C.L. Honeycutt

        That opinion was formed long before the New Atheists came around. It’s based not in the actual general attitudes of atheists, but in the prejudices of those spouting the opinion. It’s even described in the Bible, though not with the word “pricks” in any translation I know of.

        The recent application of said prejudice to New Atheists is nothing more than an attempt to divide, conquer, and silence. It’s just the religious not being able to handle philosophical questions and so working to stack the deck instead.

    • Todd Eddington

      Why should it bother me that someone who thinks that they have a magic ghost friend/protector who is going to rightfully torture me for eternity, for the “crime” of not believing in that magic ghost friend, thinks that I’m a smug prick?

    • Cylon

      Um, did you even watch the video? The very first thing Hemant says is that atheists are not intellectually superior.

      The reason that the question is phrased that way is that it is a common accusation that theists throw at atheists to say that we think we’re so much smarter than everyone else. This video refutes that.

    • Slow2bite

      closetatheist said: “How do we expect religious people to not view us as smug pricks when we think its ok to throw stuff like this out there?”

      Did you watch the video?

      Hemant Mehta said “Are religious people intellectually inferior? ..No, they’re not”

      How does “throwing stuff like that” make him a “smug prick”?

      • closetatheist

        I’m sorry, I realized that I wasn’t very clear and rambled a bit: I was not attacking the content of the video or anything that Hemant said – I’m just saying that I’m uncomfortable with the way the question is phrased because it automatically sets people up to be offended. There was a post awhile back about a Christian blogger who wrote a blog entitled “How to get rid of atheists” or something very similar, I couldn’t find it. The actual content of the post was about being nicer to atheists so that they turn into Christians, however, people were equally offended by the title as they were by the insensitive article. The idea that atheists were something to rid the world of infuriated people; they were offended even before they heard this guy’s point out (though his point was still horrible). So, I’m saying that the title of the video is akin to a Christian posting a video entitled “Are atheists more likely to be serial killers?” Though the poster may say “no, of course not” some atheists will still be offended that Christians assumed there was a reason that this was a matter needed to be cleared up.

        Plus, I did not call anyone a smug prick. I’m sure you’re aware that there is a difference between reality and perception so you should be equally aware that it is possible for someone to have a misconception about a person or group of people based on one minor fact they’ve heard about them. That’s what I’m worried about: religious people having the misconception that atheists are smug pricks who have to remind themselves that they’re not smarter than “inferior” religious folk. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with the video or Hemant’s point. I’m just saying that we need to tread lightly, especially since there is far more to the story than one’s measurable intelligence.

  • Dave

    Well, one thing is for sure, you rarely find a “special” atheist. And almost all mentally delayed individuals have been indoctrinated, if they are even able to fully comprehend it in the first place. The average IQ would most certainly be higher for atheists, as they wouldnt have near as many on the low end.

  • C Peterson

    I can’t agree… at least, not with the highly simplified (even simplistic) argument given by Hemant.

    The problem is, “smart”, “intellectually inferior”, and similar ideas are left undefined.

    Are religious people intellectually inferior in terms of their “hardware”? In most cases, probably not. Their brains are the same as those of theists, and by any mechanism we could devise to test this, I think we’d find they operate over the same range of abilities. That’s why you can have “smart” religionists and “dumb” atheists.

    Are religious people intellectually inferior in terms of their “software”? In many, if not most cases, yes. If you believe in anything without any evidence at all, your intellect is malfunctioning, and this is even more true when that belief stands in direct contradiction to observation. I’d say the same thing about atheists who entertain similar, but non-theistic dogmatic beliefs. They are certainly out there. But while all theists do that, a much smaller percentage of atheists do.

    So in a real, practical, functional sense, I do consider theists- as a class- intellectually inferior to theists.

    I think it is a mistake to equate believing you are smarter with arrogance. I believe it is a mistake to suggest that people who are smarter are “better”, or that a smarter person is “superior”. That sort of conflation of unrelated things really muddies the water. And being smarter doesn’t make somebody morally better, either. While a good argument can be made that religions can effectively drive poor moral decisions, I can’t think of a reason why theism alone would do so. In some discussions, it is important to distinguish between theism/atheism and religious/secular. Religious is not the opposite of atheist.

    • Anna

      I mostly agree, except for this:

      I’d say the same thing about atheists who entertain similar, but non-theistic dogmatic beliefs. They are certainly out there. But while all theists do that, a much smaller percentage of atheists do.

      Do we really know that for sure? In countries where atheism is the default, I don’t think the population is more likely to consist of critical thinkers. Most of the atheists in the world are probably Chinese. Are the majority of Chinese atheists skeptics and materialists? Or do most of them have superstitious, even supernatural beliefs?

      In Western culture, especially in the United States, most people come come to atheism after deconverting from a childhood religion. But for atheists in Scandinavia, or the UK, or other more secular regions, that may not be the case. I’d bet a lot of those atheists believe in karma or psychics or astrology, or any number of other woo-ish things.

      • C Peterson

        Hard to say how many irrational atheists there are. But I’d be surprised if, percentage wise, it was ever greater than or equal to the number of irrational theists. I say that simply because, pretty much by definition, all theists are irrational- either in a major way, or more likely, within a giant hole they dug out of the rest of their intellect and managed to wall off.

        • Anna

          It certainly can’t be greater, but your original comment claimed a “much smaller percentage.” I agree it’s got to be smaller, but I don’t know by how much. Do we have any idea if skeptics make up the majority of atheists worldwide? Just taking China into account, I’m doubtful.

    • Ray Phillips

      “If you believe in anything without any evidence at all, your intellect is malfunctioning, and this is even more true when that belief stands in direct contradiction to observation.”

      If all of you believe is based on evidence then you are an illogical, unintelligent person with absolutely no understanding of epistemology.

      It is a fact that people that believe in evidentialism, are not very intelligent.

      Oh, the irony.

      • pRinzler

        What besides evidence (and logic, admittedly) are you using to confirm your conclusions?

        • Ray Phillips

          This question completely misses the point. There are certain beliefs that cannot be confirmed. For example, many metaphysical beliefs cannot be confirmed. Logic is foundational and it cannot be confirmed. It is impossible to confirm the law of excluded middle without begging the question.

          To say that we should only believe in things that can be proven with evidence and logic is equivalent to saying that 2+2=5 or that creationism is science.

          C Peterson comments are as unintelligent and unsofisticated as they come. And just in case he was wondering, I am an atheist.

          Hermant is write and C Peterson proved himself wrong by simply writing a response.

          • pRinzler

            “For example, many metaphysical beliefs cannot be confirmed.”

            Can you give an example?

            “Logic is foundational and it cannot be confirmed.”

            Agreed, logic must be accepted as an axiom.

            “To say that we should only believe in things that can be proven with evidence and logic is equivalent to saying that 2+2=5 or that creationism is science.”

            Can you explain this? It’s not obvious to me.

          • C.L. Honeycutt

            “Unsofisticated”? “Write”?

            To say that we should only believe in things that can be proven with
            evidence and logic is equivalent to saying that 2+2=5 or that
            creationism is science.

            The first example CAN be proven logically. The second makes no sense. Your pseudointellectual gotcha games based on strawmen and willful misunderstanding of comments that are clearly about application are backfiring, badly.

            • Ray Phillips

              Those were analogies, not examples. C Peterson’s comment is to philisophy, what 2+2=5 is to math, what creationism is to science.

              In other words, these statements are so moronic, that even nonintelligent don’t say them.

              • C.L. Honeycutt

                Moronic statements… like pretending that someone is talking about epistemology when they’re obviously referring to application of method, and then insulting them based on one’s strawman?

              • C Peterson

                Philosophy, like math, has no basis in reality. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with 2+2=5, the validity of which depends only on the arbitrary choice of axioms and symbols. Science, on the other hand (helped by carefully chosen mathematical systems) actually allows us to understand nature. That is, of course, beyond philosophy.

                • Ray Phillips

                  If math and logic have no basis in reality, then neither does science, since it presupposes the validity of math and logic for its aplication.

                  It is evident that not only do you not understand what these terms actually mean but that your arguments just keep making this worse. You are not nearly as smart as you think.

                • Ray Phillips

                  This is self refuting garbage.

                  Science presuposses the validity of philosophy and math for its application.

                  How can you apply science without math?

          • Rain

            To say that we should only believe in things that can be proven with evidence and logic

            I think “without any evidence at all” is what C Peterson said. So have fun with the straw man. Although most religious people do have evidence–just second-hand or delusional or even hallucinatory evidence. (Maybe, since I can’t prove any of that, lol.)

            • Ray Phillips

              There is no evidence at all for an axiom, or else its not an axiom.

              • Rain

                Well then tell us what we’re supposed to do, instead of just C Peterson is doin it wrong. :D

                • Ray Phillips

                  Accept that the claim “you should only believe in claims backed by evidence” is stupid. Ad it is even more stupid to use this to prove the intellectual superiority of one group over another.

                • Rain

                  I’m afraid you’ll have to quote something in words that someone actually said first before I can consider that!

      • C Peterson

        You can play whatever little games of mental masturbation you want, construct whatever extreme scenarios you like, but in fact, in any practical sense, I don’t need to believe anything at all without evidence.

        • Ray Phillips

          Logic presuposes evidence and therefore cannot be proven by evidence, it is an axiom.

          If you dont believe in anything without evidence, you dont believe in logic.

          I have had first year undergrad students that are able to grasp this simple concept that is clearly over your head, and many of them, were theists.

          I personally take offense when idiots claim to be intelligent simply because they are atheists. As you have proven, this is clearly not the case.

          • C Peterson

            Logic presuposes evidence and therefore cannot be proven by evidence, it is an axiom.

            And in the real world, it doesn’t matter in the least. These are amusing concepts for people to play around with in philosophy classes, but you are clearly taking these things way to seriously. They are mind games. They don’t matter. In the real world, we look at what works, and what works is always evidence based.

            Assume we live in some sort of Matrix, or some other strange universe where the underlying rules are bizarre. I don’t care. What I know is that everyone has to assume the Universe has some rational mode of operation. I don’t consider that axiom something accepted without evidence. Quite the opposite, the fact that logic and reason work so well tells me that the axiom is likely to be correct.

            (I haven’t seen a claim by anyone that being an atheist makes one intelligent. Perhaps you could point one out.)

            • Ray Phillips

              “Quite the opposite, the fact that logic and reason work so well tells me that the axiom is likely to be correct.”

              This is a nonsensical statement, how can you conclude that logic and reason work so well without presuposing logic and reason? It is impossible.

              Also, an axiom, by defenition is something accepted without evidence. Look it up, a simple dictionary wil suffice.

              This is clearly over your head and you dont even know the basic terminology to comprehend the matter at hand.

              And these are not mind games, as they presuppose all scientific thought, but I can see how your limited cognitive abilities can deem them so.

              • C Peterson

                Not much is sillier than a philosopher who believes philosophy has any value in understanding the Universe. You can go on counting angels on pinheads; the rest of us can actually increase knowledge using rational, evidence-based methods that we know, empirically, to work.

                • Ray Phillips

                  So you are very smart when it comes to science but an absolute moron when it comes to anything else. What do you think intelligence is? Maybe you just didn´t get the ¨software¨ but every non scientific comment that comes out of your mouth is idiotic.

                  You, in your intellectual superiority, made the following statement:

                  ¨I don’t consider that axiom something accepted without evidence.¨

                  Once again, this is an idiotic statement from someone that either 1) cannot think critically or 2) cannot look a word up in a dictionary.

                • C Peterson

                  All I hear is a frustrated philosopher… presumably because you know that philosophy is 99% bullshit, and you have little to actually contribute to human knowledge.

                  Like I said, go count your angels and leave working out solutions to the real questions of nature to science.

                • Ray Phillips

                  ¨presumably because you know that philosophy is 99% bullshit¨

                  Great philosphical statement by the way.

                  You are a deluded idiot who praises his intellectual superiority. This is actually very common.

                • 3lemenope

                  All I hear is a frustrated philosopher… presumably because you know that philosophy is 99% bullshit, and you have little to actually contribute to human knowledge.

                  Arrogance that takes the breath away. You haz it.

          • obama

            lol you are so stupid thanks for the laugh!

      • WoodyTanaka

        Get in the sack.

  • Tainda

    On a whole, I would say no.

    Intelligence is far different than common sense or logical thinking.

    • Michael W Busch

      I think you meant “uncommon sense”.

      • C.L. Honeycutt

        Heh, yes. Common sense has somehow become more a phrase meaning “something asserted without evidence” thanks to people using it when begging questions.

  • Jeff See

    I will come right out and say that I do NOT think atheists are smarter, by default. I think religion does find a home in the less intelligent more frequently, because the less you know, the more effective fear becomes, and the same with guilt. I also think that a religious person’s obligation to their beliefs actually hobble them, intellectually. If you have a decent enough mental facility, but then you have to believe things that are against the common held truth, when you speak you’re going to sound stupid (creationism, for example).

    • C.L. Honeycutt

      Heehee, dat bird from WEIT.

      Sorry. It’s just an awesome bird.

      • Jeff See

        Got the tip to google potoo. You should. Good stuff.

  • Michael W Busch

    Well said!

  • Luke

    Not sure why we are speculating on this issue when data exist. Look up the sudies:
    Lower levels of religiousness are associated with higher performance on
    elementary cognitive tasks and overall intelligence (Bertsch & Pesta, 2009;
    Kanazawa, 2010; Lewis, Ritchie, & Bates, 2011; Nyborg, 2009).

    • BrandonUB

      We’re coming up with various excuses for that data because it feels weird to say, “my group is better!”. Well, if you’re someone that’s averse to tribalism, it does anyway.

      • Luke

        ok but how i feel about a result is irrelevant. if, on average, atheists score higher on IQ tests than christians, what is there left to talk about except explain why? a result doesn’t care if one likes it or not. Frankly, for a site crawling with atheists, to hear “i know someone and she seems smart” is a bit shocking. Thats an anecdote. It is irrelevant. Again i say, look up the studies and read the abstracts.

        • John Barleycorn

          Luke, it’s a little like your girlfriend going, “Does this dress make my ass look fat?” and you going, “Ah HELL no, baby. Your ass looks downright delicious.” You didn’t say, “Yeah, a little bit, I guess, but I love you anyway,” because you didn’t want to get in an argument or hurt her feelings. All you wanted to do was go out, get some fuckin’ ribs, then come home and have some hot, nasty-ass sex.

          Frankly, I’d warn against getting out the tape measure and going, “Does your ass look fat? Well, let’s see, let me wrap this thing around your waist…annnndddd….uh huh, yep, your ass does indeed look fat, because it fucking is. Maybe when we go out, I’ll order the ribs, and you can order a salad, and no, we won’t be ordering the Tiramasu to ‘share’.”

          Those studies are fine as far as they go, but much too generalized for my taste. Perhaps on the whole (and I have not read the studies, nor do I have any inclination to, because I don’t really care about groups as a whole, I care about individuals) atheists are smarter than religious people. That does NOT, however, mean that YOU are necessarily smarter than any random christian, just because you don’t believe in his bullshit.

          All I have is anecdotal evidence. I’ve met some smart religious people. And I’ve met some downright retarded ones. I’ve also met some retarded atheists, and every time I do, and they open their mouths and regurgitate some half-remembered atheist argument, getting most of the points wrong, I cringe, and I think, “Jesus, man, just shut the fuck UP, already.” It embarrasses the shit out of me, because anytime you open your mouth to defend atheism, you are REPRESENTING all atheists in a country that does not look kindly upon them.

          • Luke

            No see i would say “honey it depends on what your operational definition of “fat” is, lets get the tape measure”. but thats probably why i’m single.
            Obviously group differences don’t say anything about every individual. I’m shorter than Serena Williams but on average men are taller than women. it is not useful to know this group difference if i am facing serena on the court. But it is useful to know group differences if i am trying to determine the “why” and “how” type questions. Hence, now the issue should be “why do atheists score more highly on measures of cognitive ability”. That is an interesting question. The fact that one can find exceptions is not really relevant to that question.

    • Michael W Busch

      You are confusing education and innate intelligence. People learn how to do well on the particular cognitive skills measured by the tests in those works.

      For example: IQ is in large part a learned skill – learned in early childhood, but learned nonetheless. The recent population-wide increases in IQ are educational and environmental, not innate. So are the variations from cohort to cohort.

      The causality goes: Better education -> higher performance on certain cognitive metrics; better education -> lower levels of religious belief. The latter is complicated by some religions actively discouraging either particular educational topics or education in general.

  • Tobias2772

    I have plenty of xtian friends. Here in South Carolina, that is hard to avoid. Here’s the thing that I find so hard to understand. Many of them are capable of thinking at the highests levels. They can critically analyze existing ideas and synthesize interesting new concepts in every field of thought – - except their own mythology. There the process breaks down and they can say silly things that they would call out in any other area of thought. The power of chioldhood indoctrination is amazing in this regard. And I think this is one of the most damaging aspects of continuing mythology. Is this a southern thing or is this a mythologists thing ? Do you guys see this elsewhere on the planet ??

    • John Barleycorn

      I have the same reaction, and always chalk it up to my own arrogance…or something. My girlfriend’s father for instance. He’s a very intelligent guy, very structured and ordered, one of those guys who has his tools outlined under the hooks on which they hang, who’s got his financial portfolio in order and house paid off, who takes his car to the dealership every 9 thousand miles for an oil change. Very dependent on rituals, obviously, but in most cases very even-keeled and even RATIONAL. But he’s also a Catholic. So much so, that when he travels, he looks for a church to pop into on Wednesdays and Sundays, or whenever Catholics go to church. It always seems to strike me as slightly contradictory.

      But would I say he was less intelligent than I am, simply because he believes that imaginary men (or at least three different incarnations of the same man) and I do not? Of course not. He’s obviously got his shit in order, and I’m a feast-or-famine freelance writer with no health insurance.

      • Tobias2772

        I don’t think that it’s arrogance. I have friends that I truly admire, except for this one blind spot. I do not think that i am better than them, but they can’t seem to shine their intellectual light on their spiritual mythology. A couple of them are so hung up on thou shalt not kill that they would hypothetically allow ten people to die through their inaction rather than kill one to save nine. I cannot get my head wrapped around that. We all still love to have the argument – god bless their souls.

  • Jesse Cooper

    I’ve known very intelligent people who were also very religious. On the whole, though, they were few and far between and I’ve met far more agnostics and atheists that exhibit intelligence than religious. Not all atheists are smarter than all religious people, but as a group, I think atheism lends itself to higher intelligence more readily than religion.

  • BrandonUB

    I think it requires a bit of a weird tapdance to declare that there’s no objective difference in intellect between religious and non-religious people, on average. The data with regard to educational attainment (which I think is a decent proxy for intellect) is pretty clear. This is, of course, swamped by individual variation, but most things are.

    If you think of high intellect as a risk factor for atheism, I think you’ll be somewhere close to correct.

  • Monika Jankun-Kelly

    I’m uncomfortable with this title. It presupposes that choosing to be secular or religious is a purely intellectual exercise. There are so many social and emotional factors that go into being religious. Very intelligent people can be mistaken, can compartmentalize, can simultaneously believe conflicting things, can be swayed by fear, comfort, authority, love of community. We’re already perceived as arrogant and cold. Why play into that stereotype with inflammatory post titles? Even if the video is great, some people will be so turned off by the title they won’t bother to look.

    • Slow2bite

      The title isn’t a statement, it’s a question. Why would someone be turned off by a question unless they are assuming the answer? If they are assuming the answer then they are prejudging the questioner…. prejudice.

      It is not Hemant being “arrogant or cold”. If they even only listen to the first line of the video they will see that he is answering “No” to the question.

      If they are so prejudiced that they don’t care to listen to the answer then it is not the atheists who are the arrogant ones.

    • C.L. Honeycutt

      I get what you’re saying, but those people are already so determined to misunderstand, which they’d have to do in order to be turned off by this title, that no title would make them happy.

    • Drakk

      I’d argue that applying emotional reasoning to evaluating truth claims is a prime example of intellectual weakness.

      • Monika Jankun-Kelly

        Of course using emotion to evaluate a truth claim is faulty reasoning. Not the point. Intelligent people can succumb to emotional pressure, to family and community pressure. Doesn’t mean they’re not intelligent, just under lots of pressure. Ask some people who deconverted from fundamentalism why they stayed in as long as they did.

        • pRinzler

          I think a lot of this discussion about intelligence could be cleared up if people specified whether, by intelligence, they mean a capacity or the realization or manifestation of that capacity.

        • Drakk

          It presupposes that choosing to be secular or religious is a purely intellectual exercise.

          It is (or ought to be). It’s a case of considering all the available evidence and then forming a conclusion.

          The manner in which you then choose to act is another matter. It still ought to be an intellectual exercise, but with consideration for things like “potential emotional harm from community due to difference in belief”. It’s possible to go to church every sunday while simultaneously thinking everyone around you is a deluded idiot and that the god they believe in is a tremendous shit.

          Intelligent people can succumb to emotional pressure, to family and community pressure.

          Which, while not an indictment on their intelligence (the ability to reason and formulate new insights given some starting point), does mark them as intellectually weak – or whatever term you’d care to use for the condition of being unwilling to carry their reasoning through to its conclusion and adjust their beliefs accordingly.

  • http://bit.ly/glUAR7 Calladus

    No. Just… no.

    Look at cults. Many cult members are actually very smart. Look at some of the weirder Christian sects, for example: Dr. Laurance Doyle, a researcher at the SETI project and a member of the Church of Christ, Scientist.

    Cult experts Steven Hassan and Rick Ross have both pointed out that cults actively recruit smart people. Why? Because smart people are really really good at getting other smart people to join their cults!

    No, I don’t believe that religious people are dumber, or less capable than atheists. I believe that they are wrong, I believe they are able to live with mental dichotomy.

    I also believe there are exceptions to this rule, people who were raised in religion have a struggle in order to leave. And of course there is always the entertaining, photogenic religious protester who uses an “A” to spell the word “moron”.

    But I think it is incorrect to generalize the intelligence of religious people, and I think it actually may be dangerous, because it leads non-religious people to underestimate them.

    • C.L. Honeycutt

      It’s worth noting that Al-Qaeda makes a point of recruiting engineers. Intelligent people are actually more susceptible to conditioning because they pick up on ideas faster (there have been studies about the effects of commercials on people related to intelligence). They’re just better at learning the tools to combat that conditioning… assuming they get access to them.

    • ctcss

      “Look at cults. Many cult members are actually very smart. Look at some of the weirder Christian sects, for example: Dr. Laurance Doyle, a researcher at the SETI project and a member of the Church of Christ, Scientist.
      Cult experts Steven Hassan and Rick Ross have both pointed out that cults actively recruit smart people.”
      1. Christian Science is not considered to be a cult. (See religioustolerance.org.)
      2. Before you start implying that Laurance Doyle was recruited by the CS church in order to boost their credibility, perhaps you should actually talk to him about why he joined (or stayed) a member of that particular religion. Without making that simple effort, all you’re doing is spreading gossip and innuendo about both him and his chosen religion.

  • Sven2547

    Some are, some aren’t. Foolish is the person who tries to issue such a broad proclamation.

  • Acleron

    Of course they aren’t less intelligent. They are very good at rationalising their belief but not very good at being rational. Platinga and the other sophisticated theologians appear stupid to atheists because they use arguments that have been refuted many times by rationalists. But you have to remember, they are preaching to the choir, not trying to convert atheists

  • unsavage

    Most of the Christian believers (I call them hopers) rather then true believers that I know, seem to know little and care even less about science. This dosn’t mean they are less intelligent but it doesn’t say much for any kind of a search for knowledge. Some would call them “fat, dumb and happy”. Take the age of the earth for instance where most of them believe it is only as old as the bible tells them.
    To understand that you can’t get something from nothing….and that any kind of creator would have had to be in turn created is a simple and understandable concept to most atheists. It is the “vanishing mirrors” concept, and seeing how you can’t get anything mathematically out of a zero makes it even more clear.
    The size of the known universe is mind boggling but most of these people are poor at higher math….not knowing such simple things as how to figure the percentages or knowing that a million is made up of a thousand thousand. They just don’t care and would rather tell themselves that it is better to believe and be wrong then to not believe and be right. I see it as ignorance but ignorance can be related to intelligence…yes, there is a correlation.
    It is just extremely frustrating to argue/discuss the many reasons why God is imaginary with people who seem to be brainwashed. It is probably better to keep your mouth shut and not lose them as friends.

  • Amit Jain

    Atheists may not be intellectually better than religious people, but only an atheist has the potential of becoming truly religious, as only an atheist can dare to question credentials of a religion and thus rise above lip-service and establish in true Dhamma

  • guest

    I believe in God and have made His Son, Jesus, my Lord. I have an exceptionally high IQ. To be an atheist, you are saying there is no God, yet can you answer the question of where life comes from? Dawkins claims it is possible an “alien race” planted our society here on earth. Is that critical thinking!? How is that more feasible than a Creator in God? There are questions and problems that exist with darwinism that just cannot be reconciled! If you are a true intelligent critical thinker, you should be open to all possibilities. That means you must give God a real chance. Open your mind and find out exactly what a true intelligent Christian has to say and what the Word of God says. If you go into with a true open mind, looking for the truth, you are certain to find it.

    • pRinzler

      Just because we can’t explain something doesn’t, in itself, mean that God did it. Why should it?

    • RobMcCune

      Dawkins believes life arose through abiogenesis, not aliens. Perhaps you should apply those critical thinking skills to a certain Ben Stein propaganda film.

      There are questions and problems that exist with darwinism that just cannot be reconciled!

      Such as? Even if the origin of life were inexplicable, there’s more than enough evidence that life has been evolving for 3.5 billion years.

    • C.L. Honeycutt

      It’s a pity that IQ alone can’t lead a person to understand what a quote mine is or that Expelled is full of them, among other lies found in the movie.

      There aren’t any unreconciled problems with Evolutionary Theory. You can’t produce any. You’re also just displayed monumental ignorance of the theory by calling it “Darwinism”, so much ignorance that it might not even be possible to explain to you why the term is nonsensical.

      Declaring that magic evidence for a god exists that you nor any other theists can actually lay out doesn’t fool us. Your side is the one not using those critical thinking skills.


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