A Reflective Christian

All for God’s Kingdom

Atheism is anti-intellectualism

If one thinks about it, there are two likely ways for the notion of atheism to develop in a logically “justifiable” way (it is important to understand that I am not referring conscious atheism, but simply a lack of belief, whether it is a conscious rejection or not):

1) That with a total lack of abstraction and with no outside influence, a person would never entertain the idea of god or gods

2) As one becomes increasingly abstract, one would move towards the idea of a singular ‘god’, but it is perhaps better defined a singular unifying force. In our culture and our understanding of the universe, it becomes natural to unite this singular impersonal unifying force with the universe itself (almost an “atheistic pantheism”).

So imagine an infinitely dumb person in this world who is not taught anything by anyone. They would never come to believe in a god or gods. The alternate route of supposed intellectualism, the one that unites the unifying force with the impersonal universe, leads to the same lack of belief. The infinitely dumb person is justified because they can not possibly see the idea of the existance of a god, so it is “justified” not to believe. On the other hand, one can justifiy the atheism of the latter person.

But in the end, “intellectual atheism” comes full circle to what the infinitely dumb person believes. Isn’t all “intellectual atheism” saying then is that the infinitely dumb person is in fact smart enough to never accept the notion of God? But for the smarter person who develops the idea of a personal God or gods (doesn’t take it all the way abstraction wise), isn’t he dumber than the infinitely dumb person?

While one might distinguish the first person as an unconscious atheist and the second person as potentially as a conscious atheist, the second person must rely upon the abstraction of the concept of god to even develop to even begin to develop conscious atheism. In the end, all “intellectual atheism” is doing is in fact arguing that the usage of the intellect to develop the idea of god (since, for the atheist, it could not have occured by revelation or otherwise their atheism is in error) is wrong. While atheists chide people for believing in God for being superstitious and ignorant, atheists in fact are the most anti-intellectual of them all. This does not make them wrong in their atheism, but “intellectual atheism” is simply a critique of a particular usage of the intellect. Many uses of the intellect are in error in fact.

All this is to say that theists (and their variants of deists, pantheists, and panentheists) are in fact the more intellectual in their beliefs. It could be wrong, but their belief requires more actual usage of the intellect than atheism does. “Intellectual atheism” for all is usage of the intellect, is basically saying to use the intellect in regards to belief about God is wrong (or at best, unjustified).

To add, one might argue that atheism could develop from a person who rejects a currently held belief on the lack of evidential grounds. But this is a round about way of doing the same thing as the infinitely dumb person. This person simply rejects any evidential grounds, and so effectively renders themselves like the infinitely dumb person when it comes to the discussion of the concept of god.

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February 16, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized |

15 Comments »

  1. Correct- it requires more intelligence to wrap your mind around libertarianism or communism than to unquestioningly accept free market capitalism. It has little to do with the truth value of such beliefs however.

    Comment by Samuel Skinner | February 16, 2009

  2. I wouldn’t say “little to do with the truth value.” Atheism comes from an extreme in intellectual usage, either no abstraction from reality or a complete abstraction from reality. It suffers from the extremes, whereas theistic belief would form out of a more moderate usage of the intellect. And while the middle ground is not always correct, the middle of extremes tends to correspond with truth. The total lack of abstraction will not consciously recognize any truth. “Complete abstraction” forms a concept that is not based upon reality, because abstractions themselves do not exist.

    While I am not advocating that the concept of God is purely due to rational development, lets assume it is and it is not due to any revelation. If there is a God and that he works in such a way that the functioning of the world points towards his existence, then one would expect a moderate amount of abstraction to be able to lead to that belief. On the flip side, if the universe is only a function of itself and nothing else, then would it display characteristics that would support the development of the concept of God?

    Comment by Owen | February 16, 2009

  3. Not believing in your Magic Space Man is anti-intellectualism?

    I would say believing in your invisible man is as childish as believing in the Easter Bunny. Both ideas, the magic fairy (god) and the magic rabbit (easter bunny) have an equal amount of evidence (none).

    God is just another word for magic and there’s no magic in the universe.

    People invoke god fairies to explain things they don’t understand.

    They say “Here’s a gap in human understanding, therefore it was magic.” That’s a bloody lazy attitude.

    A scientist would say “Here’s a gap in human understanding, therefore we have a research opportunity.”

    God is an insane idea for gullible scientifically illiterate people. 93% of the top scientists in the world who belong to the National Academy of Science are atheists. So it’s obvious the more a person understands science, the less likely he or she will have a childish belief in magic (god).

    Science hard. Brain hurt.
    God easy. No think.

    You know what’s really disgusting and pathetic? People who pretend there’s a magic space man (that’s bad enough) and then they think they know all about their magic man. They invent entire religions to worship this man-made god fairy. They invent a Jeebus who gets executed, decomposes, and becomes a zombie who flies up into the clouds. They invent a large collection of miracles. Anything becomes possible and reality becomes meaningless. It’s pure insanity.

    Even worse is when they call anyone who laughs at their religious bull**** “anti-intellectual”.

    Comment by bobxxxx | February 17, 2009

  4. “But in the end, “intellectual atheism” comes full circle to what the infinitely dumb person believes. Isn’t all “intellectual atheism” saying then is that the infinitely dumb person is in fact smart enough to never accept the notion of God? But for the smarter person who develops the idea of a personal God or gods (doesn’t take it all the way abstraction wise), isn’t he dumber than the infinitely dumb person?”

    This is just asinine. There is a difference between not arriving to the conclusion that gods don’t exist and rejecting the idea that gods exist based on the utter vacuity of the proposal.

    Comment by shamelesslyatheist | February 17, 2009

  5. That’s funny. I think your “atheist” is the straw man.

    Comment by steph | February 17, 2009

  6. shamlesslyatheist:

    “This is just asinine. There is a difference between not arriving to the conclusion that gods don’t exist and rejecting the idea that gods exist based on the utter vacuity of the proposal.”

    But the proposal that god does not exist can not consciously be accepted without the proposal to reject in the first place. Either that or one must abstract to that point, but one can not abstract nothing, so even then, conscious atheism relies upon the concept of God in the first place. In which case, atheism is “anti-intellectual” in the purest sense in that it in the end denies the use of the intellect to propose the idea of God. Just as the fundamentalist might reject the idea of using one’s mind to reject the abstraction that science gives about origins (and so is anti-intellectual), atheism too does it, just in a different area.

    Steph:
    “That’s funny. I think your “atheist” is the straw man.”

    Possibly fair criticism. How is it a straw man?

    Comment by Owen | February 17, 2009

  7. because your ‘intellectual atheist’ is constructed by you, assuming you know why atheists are atheistic, in order to be struck down. Personally (speaking as neither) I don’t think theists are necessarily either more or less intellectual than atheists. Same goes for agnostics.

    Comment by steph | February 18, 2009

  8. “because your ‘intellectual atheist’ is constructed by you, assuming you know why atheists are atheistic, in order to be struck down.”

    But I was never describing why any particular atheist is an atheist. My point was precisely the development of atheism as a “concept” (using the word loosely as it isn’t a developed concept to a person who has never heard of atheism or of a God or gods). It was never my intent to say why all atheists themselves are atheistic. For any individual, there could be a variety of reasons, some justifiable, some not so much.

    “Personally (speaking as neither) I don’t think theists are necessarily either more or less intellectual than atheists. Same goes for agnostics.”

    To describe their whole usage of intellect, I would certainly agree with you. However, in the realm of theism, atheism is precisely anti-intellectual, as it can not prove itself (by its very nature of be a negative) and it denies the usage of the intellect to accept the idea of a deity. As for agnosticism it is the suspension of that judgment and not a denial of that judgment.

    Part of my point in the end was to show that atheism is not the intellectual idea that people make it out to be. People who are prone to intellectual endeavors may be more likely to become atheist, but not because atheism is at its most base form an intellectual thing. How a person is in one field (like Richard Dawkins and biology) does not describe how they are in another field (like Dawkins and theism).

    Comment by Owen | February 18, 2009

  9. The atheists I know do not align themselves with the likes of Dawkins. Dawkins knows tiddly sqot about theism. His understanding is very limited to say the least. 🙂

    Comment by steph | February 18, 2009

  10. Of course. I just used Dawkins as a prominent example of an atheist who is in an intellectual field. The guy knows about as much about the idea of God as I do about the politics of Namibia. And once I take a look at a wikipedia article, I will exceed Dawkins.

    Comment by Owen | February 18, 2009

  11. Dawkins knows as much about theism as Witherington and Wallace know about secular scholarship.

    Comment by steph | February 18, 2009

  12. “…atheism is “anti-intellectual” in the purest sense in that it in the end denies the use of the intellect to propose the idea of God.” Again, asinine. There is nothing about atheism which prohibits the positing of a deity. It was a natural response to our species desire and inability to explain natural phenomena. The hypothesis that gods exist and interact with the observable universe has long since failed. It is thus anti-intellectual to maintain the hypothesis in the face of its utter failure. Atheism is thus a provisional rejection of the hypothesis. That’s as intellectual as it gets. Theists, on the other hand, will tend to cling to long-since discredited dogmatic explanations for natural phenomena. Where’s the intellectualism in that?

    To the anti-Dawkins crowd – maybe Dawkins’ understanding of theism is limited, maybe not. One thing is for sure, though. Because theology itself seeks to extinguish reason, few theists themselves understand theism.

    Comment by shamelesslyatheist | February 18, 2009

  13. “Again, asinine. There is nothing about atheism which prohibits the positing of a deity.”

    That is like saying anti-evolutionary beliefs does not prohibit the positing of evolution.

    “The hypothesis that gods exist and interact with the observable universe has long since failed. It is thus anti-intellectual to maintain the hypothesis in the face of its utter failure. Atheism is thus a provisional rejection of the hypothesis. That’s as intellectual as it gets. Theists, on the other hand, will tend to cling to long-since discredited dogmatic explanations for natural phenomena. Where’s the intellectualism in that?”

    You fail to understand my point, as intellectual is in what I wrote isn’t about so called empirical proofs. It is about the intellect in its pure form, that of abstraction.

    But to respond to what you wrote, that has an arrogant epistemic view of human knowledge, presume the faculties for denying a hypothesis of such a grand scale is even possible. Secondly, is takes a “god of the gaps” thinking, which isn’t logically necessary for God to exist. Without it, one could not experientially verify the existence of God without something that doesn’t operate according to the rules of the universe, in other words, a miracle.

    And miracles, because by definition they are not repeated, can not be empirically verified. Furthermore, since reported miracles are in the past, one can not actually observe them to be able to determine the cause of the report, only offer up hypothesis based upon testimony. So at that point right there, atheism can not say that theism has not been disproved. Atheism simply would say that they can all be explained by natural phenomena. But it can verify that they are, just assume it due to a materialist view. But at that point, atheism is being circular in its argumentation. And to claim a countering position has failed based upon a circular argument is itself the lack of reason.

    In other words, lets say a person has an experience in which he hears a distinct voice that he believes to be the voice of God, and there is no one else around. The atheist might say that it is the result of auditory hallucinations, but say the person has never shown the signs of being hallucinatory before the event or after it. How can materialism give an hypothesis for this event and verify it? If you say that it is not a “miracle” because there has never been a verified miracle before, then you are using a materialistic view to reject something that might be evidence against materialism, and by implication, atheism. Now if there is something that could still verify the existence of God, then theism has not failed.

    Furthermore, I would argue that there are a lot of positive inductive arguments for the existence of God. As this comment is already long and it is beyond the scope of this discussion, I will refrain from those here.

    Also your statement that “because theology itself seeks to extinguish reason” is a straw man, unless one defines reason as requiring the atheistic idea. But in the context of this discussion, that is circular, nor is that a useful definition of reason then. But in fact theology does use reason, it just rejects the atheistic hypothesis.

    Comment by Owen | February 18, 2009

  14. And yet religion is more often than not a culture of anti-intellectualism. I tune into the Atheist Experience and I hear the hosts actually recommend to people that they read the bible. I tune into religious shows and I hear only religious propaganda recommended.

    Comment by thedarwinreport | April 5, 2010


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