Monday, July 17, 2017

Are Atheists celebrating Intellectual Regression?

I had shared the following atheist meme on Twitter, which prompted some reaction from some theologians/apologists I follow.

The strongest reaction coming from Randal Rauser who penned a post about the topic which reveals more context to the quote which I wouldn't endorse.  I'd recommend reading his article.

I posted the following as a comment on his blog, but I liked the themes here so much I decided to include it as a post of my own so as to not lose it. Hopefully it's helpful to others who can strongly relate to the meme, as I do. 

As someone who shared the original meme on Twitter, and as someone who can personally relate very strongly to the meme - I'd really like to offer some comments.

First off is the acknowledgement that when you've revealed the rest of the context that the quote comes from you're spot on in criticism of that part IMO. Barker (as he's wont to do) goes way too far and the "the other side knows deep down that what they're espousing is false!" is bullshit of the highest order.

Second - While Barker is way off on what we can reasonably assess as his meaning/intent, the quote can certainly resonate with deconverts and apostates in a way that doesn't de facto celebrate intellectual regression.

Consider - I used to be a Young Earth Creationist. I was raised in schools that taught the canopy theory for the flood, literal Adam and Eve, the lot.

I am amazed that I believed that, and then that I defended those views until college rid me of them through a combination of knowledge-bombs and ridicule. I can understand why I thought that way, but it is still amazing that I persisted in belief as long as I did once I was shown the evidence I was.

This works just as well for a variety of issues, not just related to theism. Being anti-gay to the point of bigotry is another good example of beliefs I'm amazed I held for as long as I did.

I'd also argue that belief in many Christian doctrines that you'd defend (ie. core doctrines) aren't a matter of intellectual sophistication or intelligence, it's a matter of whether or not one trusts their own moral intuitions enough to question their beliefs or to use evangelical parlance "to judge god". This is how the problem of evil and it's related cousins moves from "theological issue to wrestle with" to "defeater for theism".

You could be the smartest person on the planet or the dumber than a box of rocks and it doesn't really matter much when it comes to how you're going to answer that question. At least that's how it feels to me, when I look back it doesn't feel like I got smarter when I became an atheist. I simply stopped being wrong about something.

Conversely, I can still be amazed that I believed at all - but still understand why I did. I was taught that stuff, from a young age. Kept sheltered in a little bubble. Not really permitted to question these matters or to evaluate them based on evidence for some time, and when a evidential basis was brought up, the facts were presented in incorrect or very misleading ways.

1 comment:

  1. "it doesn't feel like I got smarter when I became an atheist. I simply stopped being wrong about something."

    Spot on. Going from Christian to atheist feels a little bit like realizing that there is nobody else at the office because it is Saturday. All that wondering around earlier, trying to figure out why nobody was there -- Is it a holiday? Did the company go out of business? Is there an office meeting somewhere else? Is everybody playing a joke on me? Is my clock set wrong and I came in way too early? -- all suddenly makes sense. The pieces fit without requiring elaborate mental gymnastics or ad hoc explanations.

    In a circumstance like that, the "what was I thinking?" feeling is natural, I think. This is not about religion, per se, but about how a little more knowledge or a different point of view can make previous beliefs look or feel foolish.