Theistic Stupidity

Generally speaking, I’d say I’m less critical of religion than a lot of atheists. I’ve written here about some of the philosophical arguments for God that I find at least partially compelling, and I’m generally of the opinion that well-known atheiats like Richard Dawkins go too far in attempting to create a culture which conemns anything even remotely connected to theism. There is, however, one particular theistic argument that I have absolutely no respect for, nor do I respect those who use it. If you’re an atheist, you probably know exactly which one I’m talking about:

“You actually do believe in God, you’re just denying it because you don’t want to answer to Him.”

If you’re not cringing right now, you’ve either never come across some variation of the above sentence (lucky you) or else you’re a very stupid theist. Yes, stupid; I’m not going to make any excuses for this kind of reasoning. If you buy into it, you are an idiot.

Like this guy:

So I’ll ask again: do honest atheists exist? You may think that to be a silly question given the notoriety of late among such prominent professing atheists as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens, just to name a few. But the operative word here is professing. Yes, many profess to be atheists and make a pretty good living writing books about it or appearing on talk shows or teaching in our universities and colleges. But my question is again whether or not these people, in the depth and quiet of their own hearts, honestly believe there is no God.

I contend they do not. I contend that they are living and speaking in denial of what they know to be true. I contend that they are laboring to persuade themselves of what is indelibly and inescapably inscribed on their hearts: that there is a God and that they are morally accountable to him. (Source)

Does this kind of argument deserve any sort of attention beyond ridicule? I ‘contend’ that it does not, although I’m actually going to give some decent reasons for why I think that way. There are certain ways a person can ‘cheat’ in any debate or disagreement, and all of them are intellectually dishonest. Possibly the worst of these is to assert that the person you disagree with doesn’t really believe or think what they claim to believe – in other words, you know their mind better than they do.

This kind of bullshit really needs no refutation. It’s backed up solely by the Bible (and in the above case, by John Calvin) and represents the kind of underhanded, loathsomely dishonest tactic that intelligent theists shouldn’t associate themselves with.

And, just in case you’re wondering whether the fact that we atheists ‘really’ believe in God will get us a free ticket into heaven:

I can’t emphasize strongly enough that although such knowledge is inescapable, it is inadequate to impart eternal life or the forgiveness of sins. Although countless burning lamps shine for us in the workmanship of the universe, “although they bathe us wholly in their radiance, yet they can of themselves in no way lead us into the right path.” God’s existence and eternal power and divine nature are made “plain” to all men, rendering them “without excuse” (Romans 1:20). But we do not have “eyes” to behold his saving splendor “unless they be illumined by the inner revelation of God through faith.”

The fault is not with what God has revealed. There is no shortcoming or defect in his handiwork. The failure is in us. The dullness and stupidity and delusion are wholly ours. The problem isn’t that mankind lacks sufficient evidence for the existence of God. The problem isn’t that the evidence suffers from lack of clarity or beauty or falls short in its persuasive power.

Of course.

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13 Responses to “Theistic Stupidity”


  1. 1 shamelesslyatheist January 29, 2009 at 3:48 pm

    What believers will do to prop up their belief in god. Now they’re telling me what I believe. It’s pretty insulting and disrespectful.

  2. 2 Doulos January 29, 2009 at 6:11 pm

    Agreed. This is a logical fallacy not just in theistic arguments, but ANY argument, and it is a very blatent one, one of wishful thinking.

    I don’t believe that most athiests really believe in God, though I do think that some do (just like some ‘professing Christians’ don’t really believe but might be too frightened to let go).

    That being said though, as a Christian, I do agree with the second part of his post that you quoted, that it is because of our passions and egos that we cloud our sight from God.

    Anyways, that’s my two cents. I like to drop by your blog because one of the few atheists out there who instead of just ranting and raving will usually try provide philosophical and (philosophcally) logical reasons for your views.

    (plus your blog is titled Nous, a word in very common usage in the Greek Orthodox Chruch ;) )

  3. 3 augustine January 29, 2009 at 9:25 pm

    (plus your blog is titled Nous, a word in very common usage in the Greek Orthodox Chruch ;) )

    Really! In what context? I called the blog that because I was reading a journal called ‘Nous’ (with lots of squiggly things over the vowels that I don’t know how to type), but apart from that I was only aware that it’s a French word.

    shamelesslyatheist,

    It’s insulting all right! Very infrequently do I claim to actually be offended by something I read online, but I’m definitely offended when people use this one.

  4. 4 cubiksrube January 29, 2009 at 10:48 pm

    Heh, I saw that post earlier today too. I’m yet to see this argument taken any further than “It says in the Bible that everyone knows God exists, so even atheists believe really” – though I suppose this is pretty much identical to the thinking behind a lot of Biblical literalism.

    Eesh, I’ve just seen his response to the repeated bitchslapping he got in the comments thread, too. It hurts.

  5. 5 augustine January 29, 2009 at 11:57 pm

    I’m kind of afraid to look.

    Oh, who am I kidding? Bitchslapping? I’m all over that…

  6. 6 scaryreasoner January 30, 2009 at 4:04 am

    “but apart from that I was only aware that it’s a French word.” Wow… you named your blog a French word that you don’t even know the meaning of? Well, I really hate to be the one to have to inform you, but somebody’s got to do it. It so happens that “nous” in French means, um, “masturbator.”

    How tragic.

    No no no… that’s not quite right. That’s too crude, it lacks the refinement of the French “nous.” Hmm. So maybe “Elegant masturbator” is closer? Doesn’t really work in English. I think it’s untranslatable.

    :)

    Ok, leveling with you, it actually means “us,” or “we,” of course. Which is actually not too bad a name for a blog. The internet though is global, and so taking on a French word as a name for an English blog — well it’s naybe a bit of an affectation, but not any worse than just that, which is not so bad.

    As for the whole “atheists really do believe in god, but are just in denial” bit, well, isn’t this just a choice piece of arrogance!?!?

    It is interesting that atheists are often accused of being arrogant by such people who are so intensely humble as to claim to be mind readers in this way, and not only that — it is often true that these same people are so incredibly humble as to claim to have a “relationship” with, and be on a first name basis with the supreme creator of the universe!

  7. 7 scaryreasoner January 30, 2009 at 4:09 am

    The above post seemed hilarious when I wrote it, but I’m a “nous”bie at this whole “humor” thing, so I could be way way off.

  8. 8 Matt January 30, 2009 at 4:46 am

    “You’re denying that you’re an Atheist but in your heart you know you are.”

  9. 9 starrsgowaltzing January 30, 2009 at 8:24 am

    after some self-examination, i recently realized that i’m a flaming atheist. and it feels GREAT to come out of the closet! i imagine it feels a lot like what christians feel when they are “born again” (except, you know…real). i feel light and happy, guilt-free and excited about sharing the “good news.” i grew up in a religious household and i was the complete opposite of the subject of the article in this post: a christian who was lying to herself about being an atheist.

    i’m also really excited to see such a thriving community of like-minded free-thinkers on the web. “Nous sommes le monde!”

    okay, back to lurking…

  10. 10 augustine January 30, 2009 at 11:30 am

    scaryreasoners,

    Now I’m kind of disappointed that I didn’t accidentally call my blog ‘The Elegant Masturbator’! I knew what ‘Nous’ meant, but it wasn’t intended as any sort of ‘meaningful’ name – I just really suck at naming things.

    starrsgowaltzing,

    Welcome to the atheist blogosphere! You’ll find that being a ‘flaming atheist’ can be something of a hoot, as long as there are others around to enjoy it with.

  11. 11 Doulos January 30, 2009 at 7:44 pm

    Ah, it’s also a Greek word which means roughly “the eye of the soul or heart” and has been used in philosophy for to stand for many different things including the intellect. In Eastern Orthodoxy it refers to another (6th if you will) sense-percepting ‘thing’ which(hard to describe what it might be, because it’s not actually some physical organ) which works within the soul and is the part of us that interacts with the divine. It’s what perceives God and senses the underlying spiritual principles of creation.

  12. 12 shamelesslyatheist January 30, 2009 at 9:10 pm

    You know, this is a testable hypothesis. A while back there was a lot of hoopla about proving god through the use of functional MRI (fMRI). It’s a bunch of hooey, of course. The most that can be said of the results is that certain regions of the brain’s become active when thinking about their concept of god. The experiment showed nothing external to the physical brain whatsoever.

    What would be very interesting is to repeat this experiment comparing fervent believers and atheists. I have no doubt that the patterns of activity displayed by members of each group would be completely different, putting this wounded animal of an argument out of its (or is it our?) misery.

  13. 13 Doulos January 31, 2009 at 1:00 am

    Opinions, opinions. ;)


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