Don’t pray in my school and I won’t think in your church
“Don’t pray in my school and I won’t think in your church.”
The misleading simplicity of this bumper-sticker size witticism aside, I think it contains a pretty accurate summation of my views on the intellectual laziness of the religious. Indeed it turns out that there is statistical evidence to flesh out the proposition that the more educated or intelligent one is, the less religious one is.
Apparently there is also evidence that shows as few as 1 in 12 children escape the religious views of their parents in the cases of children with a secure emotional attachment to their parents.
In this day and age there is no excuse for such laziness. For the greatest minds of the Christian age, Augustine, Aquinas, Erasmus and so on, there was an excuse; besides the danger of being denied access to learning or even being executed, the power of the Church permeated all aspects of life. Scientific methods of analysis didn’t exist. That is not the case today.
To believe in God is not an indefensible proposition; to believe in a specific religious doctrine is indefensible. Because Christianity is the most ubiquitous religion in Western Europe, it is the one I know most about but it is by no means the only religion open to serious charge of intellectual laziness. No less so the superstitions which currently pervade our society, despite arguments to the contrary.
The casual acceptance of this laziness, or the denial that laziness exists in the first place, irritates me, as it did in some of these comments on Fruits of Our Labour.
A burden of proof now lies on me to demonstrate that belief in Christianity is intellectual laziness, as that is the proposition which underlines this article. I do not view that as a difficult task. I need only mention a few things to begin with; the massive discrepancies between the Gospels, the patently made up facts surrounding Jesus’ genealogy and the strong current of censorship that accompanies all the writings of the Early Christian fathers.
Most Christians haven’t considered these things. Those that have do not have an answer, though if you wish to see truculence in the face of overwhelming evidence, I suggest looking up virtually any subject on the Catholic Encyclopaedia. These things certainly aren’t mentioned in religious class in school – even in non-faith schools. In faith schools can you imagine how much worse it is?
Even those schools which don’t directly indoctrinate children into a specific religion, the non-specific ethic that pervades things like morning Assembly is generally religious. In many schools it is an attempt to generalise so that all religions feel included – but it still harks back to religious, spiritual reasons for why certain things should be true.
In wider society we can see the effects this has. In the US, millions of Americans are hoodwinked by religious conmen who make hundreds of millions of dollars from people who don’t understand evolution and react against it out of some ‘common sense’ notions which could and should be challenged by the rest of us.
In Britain, we’re conned into respecting the fact that parents, some consciously, some out of the belief that faith schools get better results, seek to indoctrinate their children into their own way of life by ensuring that this is all the children are exposed to. In the US, this is a condition which the Supreme Court has upheld as justified under the Constitution (Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205, 1972).
The ultimate effect is to encourage, to propagate a matching intellectual laziness. Faith, as a rule, is one of those matters which goes largely unquestioned except by an extreme minority. Even the majority of atheists and agnostics who, according to studies on the decline of religion in the UK, make up a sizable chunk of society, let it pass unchallenged.
Faith is widely seen as something to be respected than something which should be ridiculed – as intellectual laziness and an obstinate unwillingness to scientifically engage with evidence. Plenty of ‘the faithful’ attempt to equate atheism with another religion at this point, and suggest that teaching secularism would in effect be no different to what we attack organised religion for.
I have answered this comprehensively elsewhere.
Ultimately what this line of reasoning fails to acknowledge is that most secularists don’t care what opinions people hold and don’t resent difference and discussion. What secularists do care about is denying an institutional stranglehold upon learning, and upon teaching the methods of critical and independent thought – each of which challenge faith.
In conclusion, though one person who jumped into this argument might casually attempt to put rational thought on a par with emotion, I disagree. Religion and emotional attachments to certain views are indefensible in the face of rational, scientific analysis. The two can be in accord, but where they are not, one must triumph.
If we choose religion and emotion, then we become the subjectivists and surrender ourselves to Nietzsche’s concept of the superman who can free himself from objective conditions. We become our darker selves.
 P. Bell, “Would you believe it?” Mensa Magazine, Feb 2002, p12ff. Of 43 studies since 1927 all but four have demonstrated clear correlation between level of education / IQ and negative belief in the almighty. Thank you Richard Dawkins for this.
 I have yet to find any scientific study disputing the correlation of parental religiosity and the religion of their offspring throughout their life. For those examining this, see Kirkpatrick and Shaver (1990) and Kirkpatrick (2005) among plenty of others.
 “And believe it or not, the brain controls both emotions and rational thought.”