Buddy, you ain’t so smart!

I’ve got something to tell you. It might not be something you like to hear. You ready?

You’re probably not that smart.

Now, let me backtrack a little and set up some context for this in your face assertion.

I do not believe in the claims that a god exists. I do not believe in any claims of any god(s) with which I have been presented, and I don’t really see any good reason to expect that any credible evidence of such will ever manifest itself. This lack of belief isn’t really something that dominates much of my daily life or drives me to any extent. How could it, after all – it is a lack of belief in something, and thus as motivations for actions go completely inert. I never really have believed in a god at any point in my life. I found church services boring when I was made to attend them through school as a young boy, and when several of my friends went through a brief phase of religious awakening in their mid-teens, I could do nothing but to look on in bafflement over what I perceived to be their stupidity.

Was I terribly clever for not buying into this whole god thing? Was I that much smarter than my friends (who, I might add, have since gone back to the sort of apathetic atheism that is the default in my neck of the woods)? I might have thought so, when I was 15 and believed the world revolved around me (or at least that it should). It’s an awesome thing to believe that you’re smarter than the people around you – it makes you feel good, but is also kinda turns you into a bit of a douchebag.

billmaher

Bill Maher (15)

Unfortunately, a lot of people who at least here on the internet label themselves as rational skeptics don’t seem to have outgrown 15-year-old me. They still adhere to this idea that atheism is this radical new hot take and that they’re deep thinkers for figuring it out, and that they are in fact smarter than people around them. Especially those who don’t have the same opinion as they do. Particularly those who still retain a belief in a god.

Atheism has been with us through the entirety of human history. Ancient Greece had proto-atheists like Democritus, Epicurus and Euhemerus, and the medieval Islamic world had people like the poet Abul ʿAla Al-Maʿarri, who wrote that there were two kinds of people; those with brains and without god, and those without brains and with god. See? Douchebag! Coming to the atheist conclusion about god claims might be a momentous happening, particularly if you live in a place where religiosity is prevalent, but it does not make you any smarter!

epicurus-3

Epicurus, here doing Blue Steel

This should be emphasized again and again to the recent generation of strident, self-righteous and arrogant ‘hard’ atheists (among whose numbers I was once counted); you didn’t invent atheism. It was not you who through deep thought and critical, analytical processing of available evidence concluded that god claims are unverified (and unverifiable). All the irreligious arguments and counter-arguments you have at your disposal are not of your making,  repeating them by rote without a clear understanding of their meaning does not make you seem clever, and whatever observations you make on atheism today is sure to be built squarely upon the by now rather impressive foundation of thoughts and ideas put in place over centuries. This doesn’t mean you can’t add to that edifice, merely that whatever you do now is almost invariably influenced by the activities of generations of thinkers before you.

You’re probably not that smart. Becoming an atheist doesn’t make you smart, nor does it make you into a deep skeptical thinker, or even into a skeptic at all. Not necessarily, at least. Atheism is one position on one particular subject, and as I’ve pointed out, not an especially novel one either. Thinking that atheism alone makes you eligible to opine on other topics, under the assumption that you’re just so rational is lazily self-congratulatiatory at best and dangerously delusional at worst.

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Not rational

Now, if skepticism and rationality are things that matter to you, that’s fine. Hell, it’s more than fine, it’s awesome! The world could need more skeptical and rational people right now. Or at any time, really. Go forth and be skeptical! Be the most skeptical skeptic that ever skepticed! Just realize that skepticism isn’t an end state you achieve by uttering the magic formula ‘There is no god’, but a process, a daily effort that can at times be tedious, stressful and even disheartening.

04

Disheartening. Literally.

Not that this should stop you, if you’re dedicated. If you really have the chops to be a great thinker.

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