Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Visceral Atheism

Atheists contend their position is so intellectually robust as to be unassailable.

In Psychology Today, Satoshi Kanazawa makes the argument that atheists are more intelligent than religious people because “humans are designed by evolution to believe in God”, meaning that those who have become aware of this are smarter than those who have not.

That view makes atheism the red pill and the rest of us benighted Matrix-dwellers, if you’ll excuse the metaphor.

The Debate Rages On

Then there is Matthew Mientka at Medical Daily, who claims science demonstrates atheists have higher IQs, citing an analysis of 63 studies conducted since 1928.

Mind you, even in the secular world there are people claiming this is untrue, and citing their own authorities to do so, and since I have no enthusiasm for mediating a “who’s smarter than whom?” contest, we’ll leave the question unaddressed.

What really interests me is whether it is actually this alleged intellectual superiority that drives people to reject the idea of God, or whether something else is involved. 

Atheist Anger

In point of fact, this study by Case Western Reserve University psychologist Julie Exline indicates atheists and agnostics report anger toward God at a higher rate that religious people:
“Exline notes that the findings raised questions of whether anger might actually affect belief in God’s existence, an idea consistent with social science’s previous clinical findings on ‘emotional atheism.’

The most striking finding was that when Exline looked only at subjects who reported a drop in religious belief, their faith was least likely to recover if anger toward God was the cause of their loss of belief. In other words, anger toward God may not only lead people to atheism but give them a reason to cling to their disbelief.”
Atheists may or may not be smarter, but it seems it is not the human intellect that is repelled by the idea of God. In many instances atheism is visceral.

My Bias Against Religion

In a video entitled “My Bias Against Religion”, one of my favorite intellectuals and atheists, Stefan Molyneux, is candid about his own reasons for rejecting God:
“I was thinking to myself ‘Why did I become an atheist?’ I mean, I could say — and part of me would believe it, and maybe other people would believe it — I could say, ‘Well, I became an atheist because of a dispassionate evaluation of the arguments, the reasons, the evidence.’ But that is not true. I gave up on God as a concept because I felt that God had given up on me.”
The frankness of Molyneux’s admission sticks with me.

“Emotionally Repulsive” to Believe

He describes his reaction to unreasoning and unreasonable authority by adults and bullying by older students while at boarding school:
“Being subjected to a lot of violence, it became emotionally repulsive for me to believe that the world I experienced was divinely organized by a just Creator. All the love that was commanded and demanded in the Bible seemed conspicuously absent from the world.”
For Stefan, the feeling of repulsion came first. The intellectual arguments were only a product of the feeling:
“I pursued arguments against the existence of a deity as part of a confirmation bias for the emotional nihilism I felt with regards to a deity. The arguments for a deity which I encountered as a student in college and in my graduate degree — ontological proofs and other Augustinian proofs and so on — they weren’t satisfying to me.

But I also will say that I didn’t really want to believe them. I didn’t pursue them to the nth degree. I found rebuttals and accepted them.”
It’s a remarkably moving and personal series of disclosures. I have to commend Stefan for his unflinching honesty about his own motives.

Claiming to Be Wise …

But Christians can hardly help noticing that the process Stefan describes echoes that laid out in the first chapter of Romans: 1) Man knows about God, 2) Man is ungrateful to God, 3) Man rejects God, and, as a consequence, 4) Man’s intellect is corrupted. “They became futile in their thinking,” and “Claiming to be wise, they became fools.”

And one problem with a corrupted intellect is that it may not recognize when it is operating defectively.

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