In a debate by Intelligence Squared U.S., the motion of which is “Science Refutes God,” the always eloquent and extremely impressive speaker Dinesh D’Souza said the following as a response to a question concerning religious experiences: “We’re talkin’ here about an experience [of having the sense of some experience of God] that’s been had by perhaps ninety percent of people in the world, from the beginning of time….” This figure came up again in a conversation about atheism between Dave Rubin and Adam Carolla on The Rubin Report – a show I highly recommend. In a segment of the hour-long interview with the word “Atheism” displayed next to Adam’s face in the video’s thumbnail, Dave (a self-described atheist) says “People are idiots…ninety percent of people are just morons. Is that fair to say?” Adam (also a self-described atheist) answers “Well, ninety percent of people don’t have clearly-thought-out positions.”
I do not here wish to make any argument against or in favor of atheism or religion, but only to point out a common thread in atheism: that people (“people” never includes the atheist himself) are stupid. I would argue that it is this idea that attracts many people to atheism – a sort of snobbery that allows one to feel that he is of a higher intelligence than ninety percent of people alive today (per Dave Rubin’s ninety percent) or than ninety percent of people in the world, from the beginning of time (per Dinesh D’Souza’s ninety percent).
First of all, I don’t know how we would determine who is smarter than who when it comes to atheists and the religious. Perhaps we would compare IQ scores? Perhaps, but I’d be willing to wage that there would be a good number of people educated in religious schools – and likely religious themselves – who would score much higher than a public-school-educated atheist. (I’m talking here of comparing American atheists to the American religious, not an American Harvard graduate to a Ma`dan tibesman in the marshes of southern Iraq.) Most atheists claim – or believe – that they are smarter than the religious because they don’t hold beliefs without evidence. The thing is, though, that atheists do in fact hold beliefs without evidence. This can be shown in an exchange that occurred in another episode of The Rubin Report featuring Ben Shapiro, a practicing Jew:
Dave: Anyone that’s basing anything on religion is just basing something on some unproven thing.
Ben: …Every belief system is based on something unproven. All of them. Human Rights means nothing. Where do you get your basis of human rights?
Dave: From a feeling…
Of course, there are individual cases of idiots on both sides. There are religious people who, even in the eyes of other religious people, are idiots. For example, there are many Christians who would likely agree with atheists in thinking that those who take the Bible literally are not very bright. This is demonstrated to some extent in the Intelligence Squared U.S. debate mentioned above when Dinesh D’Souza responds to Lawrence Krauss, who was telling Mr. D’Souza “You don’t really wanna go there” when talking about scientifically-refutable claims in the Bible. “Creating day and night before you create the sun is pretty silly,” says Mr. Krauss. To which Mr. D’Souza replies “You have a fundamentalist reading of the Bible…that may be subscribed to by three percent of Christians and 100% of atheists.” Dinesh D’Souza does not read the Bible literally and basically concedes that it is silly to do so. In general, the atheist takes a fundamentalist approach to a religion and then attacks the absurdity of it. This may explain why religion is a common subject for comedy, for we often see in comedy someone taking something literally and running with it or exploiting a misinterpretation. A classic example is the old butler who says “Walk this way,” to the guest and begins to hobble off. The guest then follows the butler but walks behind him in the same hobbling manner: walking that way. We see this when Ricky Gervais goes through the story of Noah’s Ark for his stand-up routine (admittedly funny) and when Christopher Hitchens mocks the Ten Commandments by saying that they are the work of a jealous God – if any God at all – since the first commandment is that one shall have no other god before Him. Dennis Prager has put together some great videos explaining the Ten Commandments and explains the necessity of this being the first commandment: “This statement is so important that none of the other commandments make sense without it…it asserts that God is giving these commandments [no one but God, not any other god, and not any person or prophet – they come straight from the source].” This tendency to take literally what isn’t meant to be or exploiting a particular interpretation, I think, displays the idiocy of many atheists.
Most people would probably agree with me if I were to point out that generally atheists lean left when it comes to politics. Mix up this atheistic brand of snobbery I have been describing with liberal, progressive snobbery and you end up with Bill Maher, who could easily be described as the head of the left – one of the heads at least. Bill Maher sees himself as an enlightened genius only driven by the facts and “what works,” easily smarter than ninety percent of the people in the world, from the beginning of time. Go to YouTube and search “Bill Maher stupid.” I recently did this to try to find videos rebutting statements he makes (these are hard to find but I recommend the two that I am aware of by Gavin McInnes). Here are the titles of the first six videos that came up for me:
- “Real Time with Bill Maher: Americans are Stupid (HBO)”
- “Bill Maher: most Americans are Dumb & Undeducated”
- “Bill Maher: Proof of Heaven and Stupid Smart People”
- “Bill Maher Crazy Stupid Politics 2012”
- “Bill Maher: The American People are Stupid”
- “Bill Maher and Richard Dawkins team up to demolish stupid religious scum”
Now, my search strategy and choice of words definitely culled these videos (I only did it because when I searched “Neil DeGrasse Tyson stupid,” I found a nice rebuttal video made by an atheist), but any regular viewer of Real Time – which I have been – knows that this is the usual flavor of its content: republicans are stupid, religious people are stupid, “tea-baggers” and conservatives are stupid, anyone who disagrees with me is stupid, Americans are stupid, ninety percent of people since the beginning of time are stupid.
I am writing this as a self-described atheist, but lately I could probably be considered an agnostic. An agnostic who has spent many years as an ardent atheist railing against all religion, but, who has recently become so terribly tired of the smugness, snobbery, and laziness of thought displayed by myself and many other atheists, as well as our thoughtless parroting of quips made by more prominent atheists like Bill Maher, Christopher Hitchens, and their ilk. To be sure, I love Christopher Hitchens and he is a joy to watch and listen to, but I don’t think he gave his arguments against religion the thought he should have, nor do I believe he was willing enough to listen to his “opponents.” This is how most atheists behave – and religious people, for that matter. But after hearing these two citations of “ninety percent,” it struck me that the thought of being able to identify with the elite ten percent of humanity is definitely an enticement to atheism and – as detailed above – is the common outlook of prominent atheists. Why should this intellectual masturbation not trickle down to their followers? In the same way we masturbate to a porn star we wish we could enjoy, we – as atheists – stroke our ego to an intelligence level we wish we could enjoy.