On the Problem of Stupidity

Why be an atheist?

That’s a good question, and philosophers have spent a great deal of time making their arguments for a non-theistic outlook on life. There’s Dawkins’ The God Delusion, Hitchens’ God Is Not Great, a whole host of arguments.

Can we add another?

British science fiction author Lawrence Miles suggested on his blog recently something I’ve taken to calling “The Problem of Laziness”:

Generations of atheists have tried to argue that if there’s a God, then the sheer amount of horror and suffering in the world prove him to be a bad God, but surely this isn’t the real issue? The problem isn’t that he’s bad, it’s that he must be incredibly lazy, to the point of being redundant.

I have my own reasons for disliking the idea of God. When I was a teenager, these were as pompous as any other teenager’s reasons, even if they weren’t precisely wrong: I refused to acknowledge any God who was prepared to deliver people to Hell, and believed that even if there were such a being, then I’d rather be condemned by Him than agree to go along with anything so repugnant. I’m less theoretical these days. You may be aware that it was God, or at least the shadow of Christianity, which allowed Republican America to mobilise its forces in 2004 and re-elect its war-criminal presidency. You may also have heard that if you rank all the states of America according to the average IQ of its citizens, then there’s a solid, definite line halfway down the list, with all the Republican states below it and all the non-Republican states above it. You see the problem here. It’s not that I can’t accept a God who damns his children to infinite suffering, it’s that I can’t accept a God who must logically want his children to be stupid.

Miles hits two problems with god here. The first paragraph is basically the Deist position–god made the clock and wound it up, but that’s all he’s good for. Of course, you have to wonder why such a god is worthy of reverence. Sure, he brought you into the world, but it’s not like he’s done anything for you lately.

The other problem, the Problem of Stupidity. Is it really a problem? I’m not sure, but I wonder if Miles has bought into the rhetorically tone-deaf terminology for non-theists as “Brights.” If something’s Bright–in this case, a non-theist–then by obvious comparison the opposite–a theist–must be Dim in a lighting sense or not-quite-swift in a cognitive sense. And Miles doesn’t really explain the Problem of Stupidity; rather, he points out a demographic problem in the United States these days–the places where the Bible-thumping believers are voted in a really stupid way in 2004 and 2000, while the urbanized coasts which aren’t Bible-thumping hotbeds voted in the opposite fashion. So, it’s not a theological argument, but a demographic argument, and I’m not sure I’d use it as a reason for non-belief.

Still, some atheistic philosophy should craft a philosophical justification for atheism–“The Argument from Stupidity.” Why? Just because I like the sound of that. 😉

One thought on “On the Problem of Stupidity

  1. Allyn,
    I would have to agree that American fundegelical (fundamentalist/ evangelical) is easy pickings for arguing the believing in God is pure stupidity; the stupidity is magnified when we see how this same group also aligned itself with the Republican Party.

    I recently listened to Hitchens on NPR, and it seems that he narrowly defines Christians as fundamentalist (at least he did on this program); which coincidently fundamentalist use the same narrow definition. But there are a whole slew of people who consider them selves followers of Jesus and Christians who absolutely are not fundamentalist. If you ask me fundamentalism should be considered a mental disorder.

    It makes sense to me that demographically speaking that the IQ level of most fundamentalist is lower- if not an actual IQ at least a practicing one. The nature of fundamentalism is formed out of modern/western mindset that makes Christianity about believing the “right” proposition. You believe it- your in, if you don’t- your out. Don’t think about it, test it, doubt it- unquestionably accept it and fight every fact that contradicts it because even if all facts and logic says what you believe isn’t true your fundamentalist worldview tells you that your very soul depends on you believing the opposite.

    A good friend of mine recently said to me that he found it interesting that fundamentalist whose war cry is “truth” often care less about truth then anyone else.

    Frankly, I resonate very much with the questions and thoughts of atheists, particularly if they are humanist. But I do have trouble when every argument against God is based on countering Christian Fundamentalism. An atheist doesn’t even need to create a “straw man” to argue against the fundamentalist’s God because their own actual paradigm is easily toppled. It is just too easy.


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