Got a Winner Here…

I’m busy playing Left 4 Dead 2 with the people hosting me here in Pennsylvania.  But I saw this anonymous comment and can’t help sharing the lulz.

You’re an idiot. Seriously. You presume “being rational” is both morally and evolutionarily superior. Yet, higher cognitive functioning is a relatively new biological adaptation. Therefore, on a geological and universal timescale, it cannot be fully determined to enhance survivability. For example, our species could be completely eliminated within a single day due to our “rationality and intelligence” ala nuclear holocaust.

Let people find their purpose in God if they want. It probably makes them better people. Psychological research shows people who are religious tend to have fewer symptoms and cases of mental illness…interesting huh?

Wow…this guy’s a winner.

Guy begins by degrading rationality and intelligence.  Not a good way to start out if you want somebody to take you seriously.  If, in the defense of your position, you have to demand others to give less primacy to intelligence, it may be time to re-think some things.  This genius then proceeds to give reasons for why I should agree with him, so even if he thinks rationality is overrated, he sure jumps to trying to use it as a first option.  Emphasis on “trying”.

Also, since when is evolution the arbiter of what’s best?  Ever heard of wisdom teeth?  Blind spot in the eye?  Yeah, we evolved that shit and we use our brains to do better and to improve upon them.  Evolution improves order and survivability over time, that’s it.  We should use our brains, since understanding stuff is a great way to not win the Darwin award.  Even if we haven’t evolved gills, we should still make the intelligent decision to climb out of the water.  If not for scrapping lousy ideas and keeping the good ones, you’d still have to worry every day about where you’d find your next meal, whether or not the disease you have is going to kill you, and you’d still be walking to work.  By insisting that intelligence isn’t something we should value you’re saying it’s ok to be an idiot.  This says a lot about you, and makes me think you meant it as a compliment when you called me one.

So as long as “finding their purpose in god” is indistinguishable from “living life as if being reasonable is a luxury instead of an obligation” I’ll continue doing what I do, since irrationality does a lot of harm to the world I care about.

And seriously, “religion makes people happy!”  Can that argument just curl up and die?  What makes you happy to think about has zip to do with what’s true and it hamstrings our ability to create a better world.  Believing in Santa would probably make you super happy…but adults don’t wish to believe in silly things until you call them god.

Seriously, if the only way to defend religion is to insist it’s ok to be irrational, do you really have to ask why I take issue with religion?  Jesus Christ.  You’re arguing for your right to be as stupid as you wish.  Congratulations!  You’ve won it.

I’m going back to killing zombies.  You guys annihilate this jackass.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • sqlrob

    I was honestly surprised by that comment.

    He somehow managed to use the correct “you’re”.

  • Alix

    This guy makes so little sense. “I hate rationality, therefore I’m going to try to use (shitty) rational arguments to attempt to prove that it’s better when people are stupid!” On his behalf, at least he’s getting to that level of stupidity he wants everyone to be at. ALSO…

    … Wait, you’re playing L4D2?
    When is the next flight to Ohio?

    • JT Eberhard

      Tomorrow after the talk. Just kind of hanging today with some other atheist leaders in the area.

      • Alix

        Haha, I was actually insinuating that I should fly up for the purpose of zombie hunting. <3 My favorite game, besides Skyrim and Minecraft.

  • Johnnykaje

    If dumb people are better, and s/he calls you an idiot in the first sentence, is s/he actually paying you a compliment?

    Because if not, s/he should’ve started with “You’re a genius.”

    It’s similar to how creationists betray their position by saying science is “just another faith”. Because you and I and they both know the truth, that science is better than faith.

  • Jeff Van Booven

    Research also shows people who drink a cup of coffee a day have lower incidence of depression, should we worship at the Church of Caffeination?

    What’s also interesting is when you can’t read scientific literature properly and make bold assertions like it being religious belief that makes people less depressed instead of other things tangentially related to that belief like a sense of unshakable identity, group acceptance, a large social group, etc…

    In closing, I suggest a thorough going over of what evolution actually says. While you’re at it, do the same for socialism and Marxism. You probably need that too.

    Also, get me a puppy. A dachshund. I wish to be prepared for badgers.

    • Richard

      Badger badger badger badger badger
      Snaaaaaaaaaake Snaaaaaaaaaaaaake
      Badger badger badger badger badger
      MushROOM MushROOOM

      ……and I just head-desked myself.

  • Liber Novus

    In the Navy our company commander would diagnose someone like him with an extreme case of the dumbass.

  • guest

    “Psychological research shows people who are religious tend to have fewer symptoms and cases of mental illness…interesting huh?”
    yes but entirely explainable: If mental illness is a stigma, people will do anything to hide it or play it down. Research also shows that Asian college kids report fewer symptoms, for exactly that reason. because it’s not ok to be mentally ill (or in some cultures that “illness” doesn’t even exist.)
    I could make the argument that your argument supports atheism: If people report symptoms, it’s easier to help them. without exorcism that is.

  • Elizabeth B.

    Well anonymous, while I’m not well read enough to respond to all of your claims, I do work in the mental health field, same as you claim to in one of your subsequent comments, and am well read enough to know that this:

    Psychological research shows people who are religious tend to have fewer symptoms and cases of mental illness…interesting huh?

    is a gross misrepresentation of the available research. You’re doing yourself, and everyone else, a complete disservice by only reporting one portion of the literature. You know what else psychological research says? If you were to create a graph that had people with no religiosity on one end (atheists, if you want to put a label on it) and people with high religiosity on the other and graph the instances and symptoms of mental illness, you would get an inverse ‘U’ shaped graph. Yes, a correlation exists between high religiosity and low instances of mental illness, but the same correlation exists between low to non-existent religiosity and mental illness. Don’t cherry pick your evidence.

    PS: If you want citations, I can give you those too. I only spent 546845646 hours writing a paper on the subject.

    • Johnnykaje

      Pfff! You and your knowledge and facts and citations and stuff. You’re just a nuclear holocaust waiting to happen!!!11!

    • ahs ॐ

      I would like citations! For the U-shape in particular. And I guess whatever else you think is important. Thanks!

      • Elizabeth B.

        Sure thing!

        This article by Catherine Ross was one I found to be incredibly helpful when doing my research:

        Ross, C. (1990). Religion and psychological distress. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 29(2), 236-245.

        There have been other studies that found the same inverse U shape:

        Eliassen, A., Taylor, J., Lloyd, D. (2005). Subjective religiosity and depression in the transition to adulthood. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 44(2), 187-199.

        Shaver, P., M. Lenauer, and S. Sadd. 1980. Religiousness, conversion, and subjective well-being: The “healthy-minded”
        religion of modem American women. American Journal of Psychiatry 137(12): 1563-68.

        The point is, it’s not so much religion itself that reduces psychological distress but rather that people are confident and comfortable with what they believe. Atheists have the same thing highly religious people do. We are confident in our own beliefs and we have communities of people who feel the same way we do. As others have said, these additional supports have more to do with the mentally healthier outlook than the beliefs themselves.

        A big problem is that a lot of researchers do not examine the whole continuum of belief. They look at the not very religious to the highly religious and get a line with a positive slope and attribute it to religion. If they were to extend that continuum out to non-believers, they would find that they experience the same low levels of distress as the highly religious.

        • ahs ॐ

          Thank you, Elizabeth!

  • Jeremiah Beene

    Whoa, whoa, whoa…the psychological body of literature in no way shows lower levels of dysfunction or disorder in religious populations. That’s exactly opposite of the truth. It’s implicated heavily in higher rates of nearly every disorder, so this anonymous author is absolutely wrong. If anyone needs citations, I can quickly whip you up some. This fact is axiomatic in psychology. Don’t lie about a field of knowledge you’re ignorant about, anonymous author. /rant

  • dcortesi

    higher cognitive functioning is a relatively new biological adaptation. Therefore, on a geological and universal timescale, it cannot be fully determined to enhance survivability.

    True, if you only consider the future long run.

    But look where it’s got us. What separates us from our primate cousins? Higher cognitive function, language, ability to create and pass on a complex culture. Well, and an opposable thumb.

    Who’s established breeding populations on every continent and every environmental niche? Who’s the top predator, who kills and eats any other species they please, whenever they please? Who’s made the greatest alteration in the biosphere since bacteria discovered oxygen? Not bonobos or gorillas or lemurs, nunh-unh. Us. By virtue of those cognitive functions (and the thumb, of course).

    So quit dissing it; it is a fabulously successful reproductive strategy, more successful than any other so far discovered. And probably the last one that gets to be tried, either, because if any other species tries something, we’ll kill ‘em quick.

  • Michaelyn

    Rationality. You (dear anonymous commenter) keep using that word. I do not think that word means what you think it means.

    “For example, our species could be completely eliminated within a single day due to our “rationality and intelligence” ala nuclear holocaust.”

    Intelligence, maybe, but due to our rationality? No. Rationality allows us to think things through and come to a conclusion using evidence and facts that we already know. I think just about everyone can agree that a nuclear holocaust would not be a rational solution except in very, very specific instances. And at that, seeing as how we like surviving – it really wouldn’t be an intelligent solution either.

    I was also going to comment on the statement about mental illness, but it seems that much more qualified people have beat me to it. :]

  • Sastra

    Anonymous is addressing the whole “Does God exist?” issue by going into ‘Therapist Mode’ — sometimes known as ‘Anthropologist Mode.’ Let’s not consider that question: instead, let us consider this other question: how does believing in God benefit this particular person’s life? Or, perhaps, how does believing in God work in this culture or that community? How and why did it evolve?

    For those other questions — which are broader and thus more significant –we must be objective. We must be respectful. We must not be driven by our own egos to force our own views on those who are different. We must be academics and scholars, psychologists and counselors.

    You see, focusing on whether God really exists or not is just so crude and narrow. Look at the bigger picture. Don’t you care about people? Don’t you want to understand them and accept them and help them be the best they can be?

    Therapist/ Anthropologist Mode is a very popular accomodationist approach. I find it tiresome, myself.

  • Brandon

    I think it effective to just list off this guy’s mistakes:

    Mistake 1.) Starting with a direct ad hominim.

    Mistake 2.) Attempting to argue while eschewing logic and rationality; the two things upon which arguing and proving-one’s-point are built. Making an argument while abandoning logic and rationality is like trying to have a conversation while abandoning the usage of words.

    Mistake 3.) Being a hypocrite by making an argument based on logic (though horrible logic) against the usage of logic.

    Mistake 4.) The unwarranted supposition that logic and reason can lead to a nuclear war. In fact, any decent thinker will, without even having to chew on it, realize that logic and reason are our species two greatest tools to *prevent* destructive wars.

    Mistake 5.) The unwarranted assumption that believing in God will make someone better. His statement overlooks honor killings, genital mutilations, oppression of homosexuals, oppression of women, neglect of children (a la faith healing), neglect of one’s own self via diversion of credit/merit/etc to a suppositional higher being, divisiveness, anti-intellectualism, death cults, leader cults, charlatan faith healers who bilk millions out of desperate fools, etc.
    Basically, he lumped the very beliefs that permit those behaviors mentioned above with the set of beliefs that engenender “being good.” If that’s the case, then no thank you, I’ll be content to remain quite wicked. (Not that that’s actually the case, mind you)

    Mistake 6.) Conflating church attendance with the actual observable reasons for psychological well beings. As one commentor said above, things like a stable social group, a sense of belonging, etc all play in to that “psychological health” claim. The answer isn’t to shrug one’s shoulders and keep propping up the moldering house of cards that is religion, it’s to start working towards stronger secular communities (which, thankfully, the Secular Movement is already doing).

    Mistake 7.) Just being a dumbass in general.

  • Mikel

    What I really don’t get is why this guy seems to think that you are not letting people “find their purpose in God.” I mean, people are going to believe and do what they want anyway. Us outspoken atheists are not taking anyone’s choice away.

    • Sastra

      I know. I hate this way of equating changing someone’s mind with stripping them of their very identity.

      I mean really. Every time I consider times when I changed my mind on an issue I think back on it as an improvement — even when I have accepted something I didn’t want to be true. I once didn’t know something, and now I do. I don’t think of myself as being thereby diminished. I don’t damn the Encyclopedia as an instrument of tyranny for FORCING me to become less than I was by correcting what I now perceive to be an error.

      The assumption seems to be that people just can’t cope with being wrong because their egos are too big. Or too little. Or too involved. Or too something.

  • Marty

    Might not be your cup of tea JT, but have you been watching any of the stuff for SWTOR? Just comes into my mind whenever talking to other gamers now, played the weekend beta and loved it.

    As to the comment you were replying to, I’m amazed and happy that someone still has the energy and will to respond to comments like that from strangers. I’d write him off as a loon and walk away. Keep doing what you do, someone has to beat the rationality into these people, or at least try.

  • Aquaria

    Let people find their purpose in God if they want. It probably makes them better people.

    O RLY? –Scroll down and click on any month of the archives.

    My favorite archive they have is this one:

  • h. hanson

    My little jack ass in the barn is insulted by the comparisons to assholes like this. He is a well behaved and sensible jack for the most part.

  • jamessweet

    Many people have pointed out problems with the “Psychological research shows” comment, but let me just highlight another one: Very nearly 100% of the research showing that people who attend church are more well-adjusted, etc., was conducted in the United States, which is anomalously religious for a first-world nation, and in which we already know non-believers are viewed with distrust and contempt. One perfectly reasonable interpretation is that it is not religious attendance per se which makes American believers happier, but rather something related to conforming to the norm. There are all sorts of ways the causality could swing here too: Maybe miserable iconoclasts are more likely to be willing to make the jump to non-belief even in a place like America where that will be met with disapproval, and that by contrast happy well-adjusted people tend to be more likely to go with the flow and not think too hard about the question. Or it could simply be that those people in the US who reject belief would have been just as happy were it not for the fact that they get shit from everybody for it.

    In short, even those studies which show a benefit to religious attendance are problematic if they are confined to the United States, which is an outlier in so many ways related to the sociology of religion.

  •!/indubitableone Scooter

    Who needs higher cognitive functioning when you have opposable thumbs?

    Also, being rational is clearly morally and

    •!/indubitableone Scooter

      Well, that wasn’t supposed to happen. Damn my thumbs!

      As I was. ‘Being rational’ is at least a little bit morally and evolutionarily superior than being irrational (unless you’re a number, I guess). Otherwise, people who aren’t totally rational all the time wouldn’t get degraded for it (particularly in some work settings), and we wouldn’t feel the urge to make excuses for ourselves when we are being irrational.

      (On the other hand, I did start off reading the comment in my inner sarcastic voice, and it made for some hilarity.)

      Citing religious people as having fewer symptoms and cases of mental illness? Well. Possibly arguable, if he’d said “signs” instead of “symptoms”, but ultimately not. It’s also possible that people in secular settings downplay their religious affiliation more than they do when they’re in religious settings.

  • Ashton

    I fully accept that it could be different for others, but religion sure made me miserable. As I grew up in a very religious conservative family that sent me to schools that also fit that description, I emerged from college (yes, college, I went to a unversity more conservative than Baylor) feeling rather emotionally unhinged. I’m starting to piece myself together, but it’s a slow process.

  • Chiral

    I know this is anecdotal and all, but I’ve had to stop going to a total of 3 therapists after they latched onto the fact that I was an atheist. They would not let go of it and kept on insisting that I’d be better off if I could just make myself believe. I’ve been trying to work up to scheduling with another one recently. All the talk on the atheist and skeptic blogs has helped push me that way, but I don’t know how I’d react if I ended up with another religion-pusher again. It’s hard enough just living with my messed up brain without someone trying to take advantage of it.

    I haven’t been able to muster the emotional strength to watch your talk, JT, but it’s on my list for when I’m feeling better. Thanks for starting a conversation on the topic.