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I’ve been thinking a while about an accusation towards atheists that does have a ring of truth: are we smug? My first response is, are we really smugger than a theist who thinks she has friends in high places and will go to heaven when she dies because she’s one of the “good ones”?

Maybe that’s flip, but that is how I see it. Sure, I’m an atheist because my critical thinking leads me to the conclusion that there is no evidence for god(s). All right. So am I bragging because my critical thinking is better than a theist’s? Yes, because in this case, that happens to be true.

So is it a justified smugness?

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Tags: smugness

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Comment by Jo Jerome on December 4, 2009 at 10:16am
Something Seth Brown said further down here, that Atheists can sound like arrogant pricks...

Saying this sounds smug in and of itself but I really do think there's a correlation between intelligence and Atheism. So often in debates with Theists I get told to "stop being so intellectual."

I've even started a debate or three by saying, "Ok, we can discuss this, but so far every Christian debate I've had ends with me being told I have to dumb myself down, stop using the brain your god supposedly gave me, and accept on blind faith."

The person will scoff, "Nonsense!"

And within a few minutes, they're telling me to quit being so logical/rational/intelligent, dumb myself down, and just accept it on blind faith.
Comment by Sarah Trachtenberg on December 4, 2009 at 9:44am
At the risk of sounding like a theist, Amen! What you guys say is gospel. "There ain't no god up in them there clouds I reckon."
Yup.
Let me work on a Jewish counterpart to that... uh... "What's up there, Mr. Thinks-he-knows-so-much? Bubkis!"
Comment by Edward Teach on December 3, 2009 at 11:43pm
The "arrogance of youth" is born of a double negative: They don't know how much they don't know.

As critical thinkers, we should be painfully aware of how little we understand. What we do know tends to be pretty solid, but the vastness of what we don't know should keep us humble.

Adherence to religion is analagous to stunted emotional/cognitive growth. Christians live as eternal children to a magical parent with all of the answers.


Who has the greater potential for "smugness"?
Comment by Paul Lin on December 3, 2009 at 11:05pm
The confidence gained from critical thinking can be perceived as smugness by those who have low self-esteem and have no ability to think. I see name calling as an ego defense mechanism to protect themselves from being hurt and to disguise the anger caused by being proven wrong for a belief which they hold dearly.

Denial and repressed or redirected anger are common among theists. Honesty isn't a virtue to them, so instead of just accepting reality, they have to evade the truth. Accepting the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth is just too hard for them. The only way to get them to accept or tell the truth is to use the Bible to guilt them into swear to tell the truth while holding it. It is funny that guilt is often the emotion coming after anger and that the bible is a work of fiction and isn't neither the truth nor the whole truth.
Comment by Sentient Biped on December 3, 2009 at 9:08pm
We're not smug. We're just better than those clueless duped inferior religious people. :-)
Comment by Ian on December 3, 2009 at 7:10pm
I looked it up to be sure there wasn't some US-UK-Oz loss of meaning in the use of the word 'smug."

Smug - Exhibiting or feeling great or offensive satisfaction with oneself or with one's situation; self-righteously complacent: "the smug look of a toad breakfasting on fat marsh flies" (William Pearson).

Hmmm. I'm not at all complacent. I think the religious loonies will try to bring back burning at the stake for heretics, atheists, gays, and the lady who took their parking place just as they were about to pull into it last Thursday night. I also don't think I'm self -satisfied to excess simply because I used logic to conclude that old myths and legends are no way to run a country, nor to explain the majesty and mystery of the natural (God free) universe.
Comment by Jo Jerome on December 3, 2009 at 6:23pm
I think an Atheist is far more likely than a Theist to be careful only to speak when prepared to back it up. You're right Sarah. At the end of the day everyone believes their opinion is right, but Theists believe they're right just because they are; not because they've explored the evidence.

In a smug pissing contest, the Theists win.
Comment by Johnny on December 3, 2009 at 3:35pm
well... no... a theist in the true sense of the word is neccissarily smug just like a "hard" atheist is too.

Soft atheists and soft theists (called agnostic atheists/theists) can not really be called smug however. You just don't get an agnostic theist calling you smug so it doesn't really click.
Comment by Sarah Trachtenberg on December 3, 2009 at 1:35pm
Clearly these aren't the more vocal atheists, but some *aren't* proud... there are many who see atheism as negative. Just a thought. Likewise, many theists are prolly humble: they just aren't the ones that usually make noise.
Comment by OutlawGirl on December 3, 2009 at 12:47pm
I think that we're called smug because we don't believe in God, though there are atheists who are smug in the normal sense of the word.

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