Critics of “Religion’s Smart-People Problem”

A few months ago I published a piece in the online journal Salon entitled “Religion’s Smart-People Problem.” It generated over 2,500 comments on the site and had over 66,000 facebook shares. I thought my readers might be interested in hearing from some of my most vociferous critics. And while I don’t have time to respond to them, let me say this.

First, critics often focus on what you don’t say as much as what you do say. So critics of the short piece in Salon criticize it for not responding to the theology of Tillich or Kierkegaard, or the latest ruminations from Mormon elders, Catholic bishops, or their other favorite gurus. Heck, it was a piece for a popular magazine, not a dissertation. I’m reminded of one of the readers of my master’s thesis which was about the moral philosophy of David Gauthier. (All three chapter were later published in peer-reviewed journals.)  The reader’s criticism—I should have talked more about Thomas Hobbes! Yes, really.

Second, I have lived too long to think you are going to change people’s minds. Even if your arguments are air-tight, those who have devoted their lives to some cause or whose lives are wrapped up in religion or some other ideology won’t change their minds.

But despite what all the critics say, religion does have a smart-people problem—the relationship between more education, particularly scientific education, and a decrease in religious belief is well established. Moreover, religion has a young people problem, a people-in- countries-with-strong-social-safety-nets problem, and it definitively has a future technology problem. When science and technology defeat death, and we have become posthuman, the old promises of immortality will have no influence. Posthumans won’t go to church; superintelligences won’t find their answers in Jesus or Mohammed.

All these believers are like Neanderthals sitting around the campfire fighting over which of their creation myths is best while not noticing that the invading Homo Sapiens will soon replace them. Science and technology will eventually put an end to religious superstition. I so wish that all the mental acumen of theologians was employed in advancing science and technology rather than in defending old myths or creating obscurantist metaphysics.

Still, I’m willing to let my critics have their say. Here then are some of the intellectual online critiques of my work from various Christian apologists.

The Skeptic’s Smart-Person Problem

Socrates Warned Against the Likes of John Messerly

Atheists Are Smarter Than Believers, Says An Atheist

When We Know Better Than You

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One thought on “Critics of “Religion’s Smart-People Problem”

  1. From David Marshall:

    “If theistic explanations are ruled out a priori, …”

    I continue to be surprised at such an irrational statement. But it is so common among believers.

    And then:

    “Messerly has not offered any evidence against God.”

    How should one offer “evidence” against that which apparently does not exist?

    “If God is real, it would not be surprising that people in many cultures seem to have heard from Him.”

    I think the “evidence” for UFOs is much stronger. But, of course, there is no scientific evidence. “God of the gaps” or “UFO of the gaps” is a fallacy of course.

    “There are, for instance, Near Death Experiences.”

    Yes, “god of the gaps” is a fallacy.

    “And how about miracles?”

    Wow. What a waste of electrons.

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