June 1, 2007

Christians Are Not Stupid, But They Are Irrational

I bookmarked a post at Debunking Christianity awhile back so that I would remember to comment on it. Amazing how time flies and I am only just now getting around to it. The post in question grabbed my attention from the title, "Christians Are Not Stupid or Irrational." Blogger Lee Randolph indicated that he wrote the post to show that the common claim that atheists view Christians as stupid and/or irrational is false.

In fairness to Mr. Randolph, his initial statement contains something of a disclaimer: "This is easily shown to be false, at least for the members of DC." What I mean by containing a disclaimer is that Randolph implicitly acknowledges that some atheists may view Christians as stupid and/or irrational but that members of his blog team do not. Fair enough.

Intelligence

Are there intelligent Christians out there? Absolutely. Setting aside the reality that there is no consensus on what intelligence means and how (or if) it can be measured, any reasonably accepted way of assessing intelligence will produce many intelligent Christians.

Is the belief that most Christians are stupid commonly held by atheists? I am not sure. I have not seen any data on this question. If we equate "stupid" with "less intelligent," then I would be surprised to find many atheists who would make such a claim. The relationship between education and theistic belief applies to group averages and not to individuals. I think most atheists understand this. That is, a correlation between level of education and theistic belief tells us nothing about the cognitive abilities of any particular theist.

Rationality

Where I depart in my thinking from Randolph is on the claim of irrationality. Christians are, by definition, irrational with regard to their religious beliefs. If faith is the basis for holding religious beliefs (and it almost certainly is), then the inherently irrational nature of faith applies to such beliefs. Randolph may be correct that atheists and theists accept different standards of evidence, but this does not mean that faith is in any way equal to reason as a method for assessing the veracity of knowledge claims.

Of course, it must be acknowledged that just because Christians are irrational with regard to their religious beliefs does not in any way imply that they are necessarily less rational than atheists in any other domain. This may seem like a minor point, but it is actually an important one. By dismissing Christians as completely irrational human beings, we are guilty of the same intolerance with which we accuse them. Their religious beliefs are irrational; nothing else about them need be.

What I am saying here is that the statement that Christians are irrational is accurate and that many atheists do in fact believe this. I do not agree that this is a myth. Note that many Christians also recognize that the basis of their religious beliefs (i.e., faith) is irrational. The difference is that they may see no problem with this irrationality.

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