Religion is for the simple
There’s an article that appeared in the Guardian today entitled “Christianity: a faith for the simple“, and while I agree with the premise of the article, I feel as though the author got everything precisely wrong on the subject.
There was a recent study done in the US polling the religiosity of the country’s scientists, which I’m unhappy to report is higher than in most other countries. Of course, the relative numbers are still well below the religiosity of your average citizens, it hasn’t stopped some from claiming the argument our most brilliant minds are prone to non-belief is now dead in the water. Rather than recognize society plays a huge role in just how religious an individual is, there are those who want to believe there is no correlation between education and atheism, even when there clearly is.
My problem with the article is the author seems to think while scientists are unquestionably brilliant people, it means very little when it comes time to make some conclusions about the “God question”:
Our conviction that scientists, elite or otherwise, are somehow better qualified to discern the nature of reality is dubious. Elite scientists undoubtedly know vastly more about their subject than other people. But to imagine that makes them somehow better qualified to adjudicate on big-picture questions is like saying because I know my home town like the back of my hand, I am well-equipped to lecture on European geography
Yeah, kind of a failed analogy there. Scientists are experts in their fields, which just happen to tap into the very nature of our Universe. A biologist who understands evolution would definitely have a better idea than a layman as to the possibility of there being a God. Recall until we actually bothered to uncover the truth about the natural world, its wonders were often used as evidence for a supreme being. That’s still the case with people who aren’t “elite”.
It was thus a fundamental tenet of Christianity that not only was the gospel for all, no matter how they were disenfranchised, but that it had a particular simplicity to it.
I think the author of this article has forgotten that for the longest time, the Gospels were hidden from public view (many men had died trying to translate it into a language of “the people”), and only the educated elite (priest class) were considered intelligent enough to read it. It might be due to the fact the Gospels often contradict one another (like Jesus’ genealogy), offer different accounts of certain events (like when Jesus was born), and often omit parts altogether. So arguing dumb people get the Bible because it’s simple is both untrue and certainly not an explanation as to why Christians tend to be stupider on average.
Odd as it may be to admit, there is some reason within the Christian tradition to think that Christian believers should, on average, be less intelligent, or at least less well-educated, than their opponents. Before atheists get too exited by this, it isn’t an admission that Christians are naturally stupid, though no doubt some will choose to read it that way.
Rather it is the recognition that there is a long-standing theme within Christian thought that sees the Christian message as having a particular appeal to the underclass, not only those socially and politically alienated, but also those the intellectually and educationally excluded.
That’s a nice way of saying if you’re uneducated, poor and have few prospects for the future, you’re more likely to believe in fairy-tales. This point, I’ll concede. When life sucks, you are going to cling to religion. I think we can all agree on this point. But this is precisely WHY religious belief is so deceptive and wrong: it prays on the weak, feeding them lies and falsehoods. The fact you are more susceptible to religion when you lack education demonstrates just how gullible one needs to be to believe in nonsense.
Education is corrosive to religion for 2 main reasons: 1) as you study world history and other cultures, you realize your own very localized religion makes the exact same claim as all others with an equally pathetic grasp on reality, and 2) primitive myths about the origins of our Universe, world and species have little resemblance to the truth. Intellectual integrity is antithetical to religion, pure and simple. This is why ignorance is so vital to belief.