Why do intelligent people believe in crap?

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Tarser's picture
Why do intelligent people believe in crap?

I subscribe to 'Philosophy Now' magazine. In issue 109 Dr Stephen Anderson from Ontario wrote an article entitled 'Atheism on Trial'. This was followed by some excellent letters in the next edition that, to me, showed that the good doctor was talking bullshit. He came back in the November edition, again telling us that 'Atheism is irrational'...

The fact that Dr Stephen Anderson has the title 'Doctor' must mean that he is quite a brainy man. What fascinates me is how brainy people can talk crap. I have concluded that REASONING is a distinct form of intelligence that some people find quite easy and obvious and show a talent for. Others might have incredible conventional intelligence and yet lack a very basic ability to reason.

My brother and his wife, for example are scientists and mathematicians, and yet they believe that a virgin gave birth to a child and that that child grew up to perform a variety of impossible things. He turned water into wine, walked on water, raised a dead body to life again, cast out evil demons from people, provided food for thousands of people with just a few loaves and fishes, cured blindness in one man with a bit of spit (but decided not to cure blindness itself!) died on the cross and then came back to life again before ascending into heaven. They believe that raping children and enslaving people after you have massacred them demonstrates the goodness of God. We mustn't judge God's massacres with our own morality as God's ways are impossible to reconcile with our own - so a massacre is a fine with them....They believe in such immoral crap from the Old Testament because Jesus himself believed in it, so it follows that it cannot be wrong.

All of this I've put in my book 'It's All Crap' which Caspar Rigsby is in the process of publishing with Atheist Republic but the purpose of this post isn't to make a crude advert. It's to ask for theories people might have why obvious crap is accepted and believed by people who are obviously highly intelligent and who should be able to see their own bullshit ideas in the light of simple reasoning. It just makes me so angry!

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Nutmeg's picture
'Cos it's pumped into their

'Cos it's pumped into their heads when they're too young to think. Childhood conditioning is very strong and very difficult to throw off. Even if they want to, which they don't.

Nyarlathotep's picture
"People is dumb" - me

"People is dumb" - me

and yes I used "is" on purpose, to include myself

Vincent Paul Tran's picture
Can you focus on one thing

Can you focus on one thing and we can tackle it??

Kataclismic's picture
We humans are completely

We humans are completely unreliable. They say that hindsight is 20/20 but that's actually a fallacy, your memory can be influenced by the people around you as well as the interrogator trying to glean information from your memory. Memories are very strong influences in our lives and if you have a memory that you are convinced happened, no matter how ridiculous the claim, you will not see it any other way.

When I was ten years old my uncle took me to see John Carpenter's "The Thing" (1986) and I spent the better part of a week terrified of an alien presence I couldn't detect. Since then they have censorship laws that won't let a ten year old into a movie like that but I laugh at the visual effects now. I still know what it's like to be scared but my emotions are different because I am changed by the memory of that fear. Replace that with the fear of god everyday and my emotions would be different, even if it's no less irrational. If an event in your childhood seemed like a divine presence and your memory of it makes it mysterious or miraculous then no logical explanation will change that, and the only evidence to say otherwise is the fallacy itself.

Tarser's picture
My brother was an atheist

My brother was an atheist just like me. We were both brought up without religion. He married a woman who had no beliefs either. My brother found himself in conflict when his wife started to go to church and then became a Christian. He maintained his atheism for a while but was on friendly terms with the church members. Hardly surprising and boringly predictable, he gradually became a Christian himself.

I have spent my whole life listening to the arguments that Christians offer and I don't have the slightest doubt that it's all illogical, irrational, mythological nonsense. The Bible shows God to be a nasty, petty-minded monster that wants us to kill animals by cutting their throats, cut off the foreskins of little boys' dicks, to abstain from shaving, to put lambs blood on a post so that God won't kill you, to stone to death adulterers or people who dare pick up sticks on the Sabbath.....It goes on and on, nonsense mutiplying upon nonsense.

How can intelligent people get sucked into such nonsense and never question it? There isn't a shred of credibility in Christitanity and yet it's still believed by many. I'm genuinely bewildered because intelligent people as well as morons are often Christians.....My brother's daughter is at the best university in the UK studying for her doctorate in advanced chemistry. On Sundays she goes to worship the man in the sky....Utterly bewildering!

My parents were lovely, kind people and atheists. According to Christianity, they are now burning in hell. My brother continues to worship the god that tortures his harmless, kind-hearted parents that he loved. How can this make any sense?

Kataclismic's picture
Yeah, that's entirely

Yeah, that's entirely different, and I don't have an answer for that one. I have noticed though that all it takes is an emotional response for a person to completely change their beliefs:

My aunt (I have a lot of uncles and one aunt) grew up in a foster home with my youngest uncle from about four or younger. My youngest uncle committed suicide in the late nineties and my aunt claims that there is nothing in the bible saying anything about suicide being a sin.

This simple statement has me very perplexed. As a logical, reasonable person I see little purpose in a religion that wouldn't promote self-mutilation as something to be avoided, but I don't read the bible so I don't argue. I told her that self-murder isn't much different to murder though so the same penalties probably apply. My aunt doesn't talk to me anymore.

I cite my uncle's suicide as reason why I can't accept god. The idea of him suffering in the afterlife considering all the suffering he did here on Earth is just insult added to injury. My aunt, however, has gone the completely opposite direction in order to secure her little bubble and believes that suicide is fine with god.

Jeff Vella Leone's picture
OK here is my humble opinion

OK here is my humble opinion since you asked.

Sorry to say this but your brother is a hypocrite with himself.
He does not wish to even think about doubting anything because he likes feeling happy about what he believes.

It is like cigarettes, you know that they can kill you but you don't want to look or even think about that and enjoy them.

Basically your brother is an edict of wishful thinking and because he enjoys it, he prefers to be a hypocrite with himself rather then search for the truth.

"How can this make any sense?"
He is not even looking for it to make sens, he just wants it to be true to the point of ignoring anything which would hinder that.

Also you and your brother were born atheists like everybody else, but he was an atheist for the wrong reasons.

You seem to be an atheist because you understand your position, he might have been an atheist because he did not see a theistic brochure before.

Reason has little to do with it.

It has to do with pros and cons.

Unless you actually care for the truth and are not a hypocrite by nature, there is nothing holding you back to believe things that make you happy.

Tarser's picture
I've flirted with Buddhism in

I've flirted with Buddhism in the past. I'm still interested in Zen philosophy as a way of coping with stress and keeping everything in perspective but I could never feel comfortable in saying -'yes, I'm a Buddhist'. I always sensed the bullshit and the irrationality in much of Buddhism. No matter what I wanted to believe -( and I did WANT to believe in 'no-self' and Buddhist 'Enlightenment'), I always knew that Atheism is the rational position that is self-evidently true. No religions offer anything near a 'well, maybe that might be right' response in me. They ALL seem like crap - not even close to credible.

Dead right and no need to apologize for saying it, my brother is a hypocrite but why can't he see this? I can see when I'm being hypocritical and when I'm clutching at straws and not being authentic. I simply cannot believe in something for the purpose of making me happy and secure. The voice of reason screams in my ear - BULLSHIT! Why don't others hear this voice in their heads? When I've mentioned my atheism to him and other Christians, they say things like:

"How can you believe that life has no purpose? How can you live with that conclusion..."

Their logic is that if a fact causes them stress, simply don't believe it to be true. Yet these people, often scientists and mathematicians like my brother would acknowledge that such an attitude is completely unacceptable in science. You have to face the facts, no matter what they are....

I really think that the religious are quite simply INSANE since they have lost all sense of reason. Religion is socially acceptable and socially approved insanity.

Jeff Vella Leone's picture
"I really think that the

"I really think that the religious are quite simply INSANE since they have lost all sense of reason. Religion is socially acceptable and socially approved insanity."

yea it is.

We usually close people who talk to walls and claim that they can eat their imaginary friend at least once a week, but since religious people are so numerous, it be too expensive to close them up, so we have to try reason therapy instead.

Vincent Paul Tran's picture
Tanser, I think there is a

Tanser, I think there is a lapse of logic in your statements. You claim religious people have lost all sense of reason, while previously stating that many of these religious people are mathematicians and scientists.

Tarser's picture
I'm saying that they apply

I'm saying that they apply reason in the 'day job' but then abandon it completely when it comes to their religion. Applying reason in one situation (and accepting it as the only way to do maths and science) but then forgetting all about reason when they want to believe in bullshit is anti-reason.

I don't know why religious scientists even bother to use reason at all in the 'day job'. They don't actually need evidence to believe in the truth of things. They rely on 'faith' (belief without evidence), so why bother with science and mathematics at all?

Vincent Paul Tran's picture
Reason isn't the end all be

Reason isn't the end all be all the life. You don't need a reason to love your wife or your kids. Sure you could rationalize your love, but it's just love. Love supercedes reason

Nutmeg's picture
Love is an evolutionary

Love is an evolutionary response. If parents didn't love their children and look after them, and make sure they weren't eaten by predators, the species would die out.

Anser's picture
"Love is an evolutionary

"Love is an evolutionary response. If parents didn't love their children and look after them, and make sure they weren't eaten by predators, the species would die out."

If that's the case then why do parents continue to love their children and the children continue to love their parents after the children are grown and can protect themselves?

Nutmeg's picture
That's a pretty dim response;

That's a pretty dim response; once the system is in place it stays in place.

Anser's picture
Your original comment was

Your original comment was what you define as "dim" also. However I asked a reasonable question. If you have a reasonable answer I'd like to hear it. If you have proof that "once the system is in place it stays in place." please provide it.

Jeff Vella Leone's picture


"If you have proof that "once the system is in place it stays in place." please provide it."

It is quite a fact that it is unlikely that evolutionary traits change for no reason.

It is quite a fact the mother loves her children by instinct.

This does not mean that every single mother will love her children, but that is what will happen in most cases.

One could say that this is how nature works, all the species who did not focus on motherly love, most likely died out and only the ones who protect their children exist to this day.

"once the system is in place it stays in place."

i think he meant that once a system is in place there needs to be a reason to change it.

So if a mother loves her children by instinct as i already explained, there must be a very valid reason to make her stop loving her children.

This is like building a house, it stays there once it is built unless something happens to demolish it.

Kataclismic's picture
What Nutmeg was saying is

What Nutmeg was saying is that our caring for offspring is an evolutionary process, not to agree with him at all (I'm not sure I do), but saying that a person's love for their offspring after they have reached adulthood doesn't actually negate the original statement at all. That's what was "dim" about it.

Anser's picture
What nutmeg said was "Love is

What nutmeg said was "Love is an evolutionary response.If parents didn't love their children and look after them, and make sure they weren't eaten by predators, the species would die out. "
When something is stated as a fact that "fact" should be unassailable.
I disagree with his statement. I asked a question and I got a "dim" response in reply.
To parapharase, the answer was "because".
Do homosexuals actually "love" each other? If so, how does this contribute to the preservation of the species?
The biological imperative of caring for young in order to further the species is not "love". It doesn't necessarily exclude love but in and of itself it is not love.

Tarser's picture
Reason is the only way we can

Reason is the only way we can KNOW anything. When we have feelings of love, we don't 'know' anything - we just 'feel' that we know something. Feelings are never reliable. You might love your wife one day and then hate her the next (e.g. if you discover that she was having an affair for the last ten years and totally deceiving you).

Feelings don't relate to knowledge. I can FEEL that God exists but those feelings do not offer any evidence or proof for God's existence. I once 'felt' that a woman in the past liked me but I was mistaken - all the cues I thought I was receiving from her were all in my head and not in hers! You can't trust feelings....

Vincent Paul Tran's picture
so................ just

so................ just become emotionless robots? That is your solution to things?

Tarser's picture
I certainly don't think that

I certainly don't think that at all! I didn't say anything like that either - thus illustrating my point. You FELT that I said that we should all become emotionless robots but you were in error. Feelings can't be trusted to tell us 'truth' but neither should they be ignored.

We have science and reason to investigate facts, but humans have feelings too - which is a different area of human experience. Music, literature, art, poetry, love etc. are wonderful human outlets for feelings and they have their own validity but they don't say anything about truth or falsity.

Presumably humans have separated sciences and arts for a very good reason. Arts are about what's 'in' and person and science is about what's 'out there' in the world.

Anser's picture
"We have science and reason

"We have science and reason to investigate facts, but humans have feelings too -"

It's a fact that humans have feelings so science should be able to investigate that fact.

ThePragmatic's picture
This XKCD image illustrates

I agree. But this XKCD image illustrates part of the problem with that.

Psychology as a scientific field has the challenges that it is hard to measure, get repeated results and predict. So it's naturally a field that is slow to make advances in.

Vincent Paul Tran's picture
I think art can also lead to

I think art can also lead to interpersonal bonding

Anser's picture
"Why do intelligent people

"Why do intelligent people believe in crap?"

Because they choose to.

Nutmeg's picture
They don't choose to. They've

They don't choose to. They've been conditioned since childhood. That's not choosing, any more than Pavlov's dogs choose to salivate.

Anser's picture
So in your estimation mankind

So in your estimation mankind's intellect is no different than dogs.
All of mankind's actions can be attributed to conditioned responses.

Nutmeg's picture
Obviously not. If people are

Obviously not. If people are encouraged to think for themselves, to approach problems logically and with an open mind, then grreat thhings acn be achieved. If lies are slammed into their heads when they are too young to think properly then the reverse is true. Which is what I said but you're too dim to realise.

Anser's picture
And your ad hominem attack

And your ad hominem attack belies the idea that you use logic. Let's use logic instead.
There are people who have been inundated with religion from the time they were born. They were not taught to use logic. Some of them discard blind faith for logic and "lose" their religion. There are also people who have not been brought up in any faith and thought to think for themselves that eschew what you consider to be logic and become religious.


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