Home » Atheism, Uncommon Descent Contest » Uncommon Descent Contest Question 16: Are materialist atheists smarter than other types of believers?

Uncommon Descent Contest Question 16: Are materialist atheists smarter than other types of believers?

At any rate, so claimed a 1986 study about which Regis Nicoll writes here.

I say “smarter than other types of believers” because atheism is a form of belief like any other. Usually, in North America today, materialist atheism is meant. There are non-materialist varieties of atheism, but they are not usually strident, like the new (materialist) atheists.

Interestingly, materialist atheism tends to develop structures similar to other religious institutions (the latest is summer camps for kids). It all reminds me of Julian Huxley’s 1959 proposal for a religion of evolution – but that for another day.

So, for a free copy of The Spiritual Brain: A neuroscientist’s case for the existence of the soul (Mario Beauregard and Denyse O’Leary, Harper One 2007), which argues for non-materialist neuroscience, provide the best answer to this question: Are materialist atheists really smarter than other people? By what measure would we know? What difference does social privilege – such as tenure at a tax-funded institution and general acceptance in popular media make in determining who is smart?

Here are the contest rules. Four hundred words or less. Winners receive a certificate verifying their win as well as the prize. Winners must provide me with a valid postal address, though it need not be theirs. A winner’s name is never added to a mailing list. Have fun!

This contest has been judged. Go here for info.

Here’s a bit of background on the subject.

Atheism and popular culture: Religious commitment as mild dementia

Albert Einstein on the importance of faith in the reality of what we see

An event I did not happen to attend: British atheist graces Toronto

Spirituality and popular culture: Amazon’s #1 atheist book is Christian

Religion: There is atheism, and then there is materialist atheism

The new atheists: Santa’s sleigh came and went, and never gave them what they needed

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4 Responses to Uncommon Descent Contest Question 16: Are materialist atheists smarter than other types of believers?

  1. People who brag about being smart invariably end up losing the hand.

  2. “Are materialist atheists smarter than other people? How would we know?”
    The short answer is no, not really. Paul Johnson wrote a fascinating book entitled Intellectuals, in which essays describe the life courses and contributions of men and women who are considered by most to be of at least above average intelligence. Johnson noted that while these people often did their own thing (so to speak), there is a kind of ‘herd mentality’ amongst intellectuals. It’s as if collective peer pressure stops them from truly speaking their minds. The materialist ‘new’ atheism espoused today is nothing more than the ‘old’ atheism with extra doses of rage and hatred towards anything remotely godlike or religious in nature.

    Standardized IQ tests could be given, but this would not necessarily prove that materialist atheists are smarter than others, since Daniel Coleman asserts that there are other types of intelligence including emotional and social intelligence that could be used as measuring sticks.

    What about everyday life? Have the materialist atheists discovered true meaning in their lives? Viktor Frankl wrote that man’s search for meaning is the primary motivational force in one’s life. Or are they cogs in a machine, slaving away because their ARM adjusted again and now they’re underwater with respects to the mortgage on their house?

    If they truly are smarter than other people, then they’re not in credit card hell making minimum payments, they’re not victims of the financial collapse of Wall Street, and they’re not gorging on junk food, taking drugs, or engaging in any self-destructive behaviors.

  3. But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;——1 Corinthians 1:27

    I would say any time a person tries to put their reasoning above God’s word then they are no longer wise be they atheists or true followers of Christ.

  4. Ceteris paribus, I’d say yes… but maybe not. They’re cleverer. And not so lazy as ‘other types of believers’. They’ve complexified their game of “can God create a stone so heavy that He cannot lift it?” to the nth degree with some vigor.

    However, ‘other types of believers’ still have countless versions of the Liars Paradox; which, to paraphrase Billy Joel, it’s always been a matter of trust.

    So, who’s smarter? The dissembling philosopher, or the mildly demented believer? Does it matter?

    Which would you trust with an intimate confession?

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