Are Atheists Smarter than Christians?
by Robin Schumacher
A few years ago at the Crystal Clear Atheism convention, which was held in Northern Virginia, atheist Richard Dawkins was asked what the difference was between Christians and atheists. “Well, we’re bright,” said Dawkins. The website and organization The Brights personify this thought.
Agreeing with Dawkins is comedian Bill Maher who said: "We are a nation that is unenlightened because of religion. I do believe that. I think that religion stops people from thinking . . . . I think religion is a neurological disorder . . . . I am just embarrassed that it has been taken over by people like evangelicals, by people who do not believe in science and rationality.”
Maher’s last point seemed to be somewhat echoed in a study published in the April 2012 edition of Science. According to the article “Analytic Thinking Promotes Religious Disbelief”, exercising analytic thought supposedly erodes belief in God.
In a Huffington Post article that cites the study, writer Rob Brooks spells out the cultural ramifications of what this means (at least, to him): “As it becomes clearer that religion is, in some senses, the opposite of rational thinking, we may have to shed the comfort of ‘I'm OK, you're OK’ ideas”.
In other words, if you believe in God, you’re really not OK; at least, not where your brainpower is concerned. That, says Brooks, may mean believers are on a collision course with the more enlightened unbelievers in society where there will be cultural winners and losers because “we probably can't keep pottering away in our different sheds forever.”
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Are unbelievers really smarter than Christians or other people of faith? Or is there something else at work? No one denies that throughout all of history there have been brilliant men and women who have believed in God and there have also been equally intellectually equipped individuals who have denied the existence of any gods. Why is that?
The Atheist Position
In general, the atheist positions on the matter have traditionally been articulated best by Freud and Marx and have filtered up into today's thinking.
Sigmund Freud sums up his thoughts on religious beliefs when he says, “They are illusions, fulfillments of the oldest, strongest, and most urgent wishes of mankind. . . .We call belief an illusion when a wish-fulfillment is a prominent factor in its motivation, and in doing so we disregard its relation to reality, just as the illusion itself sets no store by verification.”
Freud saw religious belief as a coping mechanism that assisted people in dealing with the harsh realities of life. The desires of the individual, says Freud, cause them to look past their intellect to something that isn’t real and can’t be verified. However, the belief satisfies a strong desire that the person has for some emotional need to be met and so they yield to it.
For example, a person I know lost a loved one some time back and commented to me that she was only a Christian for the end game; that she just couldn’t go on living and thinking that she wouldn’t see her relative again. Such an attitude fits perfectly into Freud’s theory…
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