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Can You Be Honest, Intelligent, and Religious?

May 5

Would the following statement make sense?

One can be honest, support religious dogma, or be intelligent. But at most, two of the three.

Obviously, there are intelligent people who are religious. They have doctorate degrees and work in tough jobs. But these people also believe things like the idea that Jesus Christ inhabits consecrated communion wafers and that we get reincarnated when we die. That’s not being honest with reality. (When I say they’re not “honest,” I’m not calling them liars. Just pointing out that their beliefs don’t jibe with the real world.)

There are religious people who are honest. Just think of the people who genuinely believe what their holy books tell them and live by those tenets as best they can. The fundamentalists in various faiths are good examples of this. But it’s not hard to question their intelligence and ability to think critically.

There are honest and intelligent people out there. Not a lot. And I’m not claiming all non-religious people qualify. Most of us don’t.

Hell, maybe we don’t even need all three items on that list.

I would think most atheists would agree that you can’t be both honest and religious. One or the other, yes, but not both.

What do you think?

via Friendly Atheist by @hemantsblog » Can You Be Honest, Intelligent, and Religious?.

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19 Comments leave one →
  1. June 8 4:42 pm

    Can an American be religious and honest in the Christ sense?
    No!
    Our economy is based on competition, underbidding, promoting products in a manner that sounds better than it is.
    If I were to sell cars as Jesus recommends I would sell them all at the lowest fair price possible. Actually, this same message has been repeated by many of ethics, but ethics have become a mix and match board game like most religions.

    • June 8 5:14 pm

      I was unaware Jesus had a procedure for selling cars, haha.

      Being honest, intelligent, and religious as the article suggests is impossible.

      If a person was intelligent and religious, they could not be honest. If a person was honest and religious they could not be intelligent.

      This article implies nothing about being Christ like in America, read the article please.

  2. June 9 11:02 am

    I guess you measure intelligence by rejection of superstition. I’ve known many intelligent people who are religious. So why don’t they critically examine their beliefs? Human nature dictates that we mesh with others around us–check out dateline nbc, they tested this theory. The other reason for denial is fear–a powerful motivator.

    I left organized religion after studying it. It was very difficult for me and I was sure what I was taught was wrong.

    Jesus-I was pointing out the idiocy of Christianity in America. The teachings attributed to Jesus point to a way of life one cannot live in the U.S.

    • June 9 11:27 am

      I actually do not measure intelligence by the rejection of superstition. What is implied by the article is that an intelligent person who is also honest can not be religious.

      Lets think about this, an intelligent person is someone who has the ability to acquire and apply knowledge, knowledge being facts, information, and skills acquired by a person through experience or education. An honest person is someone who is free of deceit and untruthfulness. For a person to take both of these characteristics, they can not at the same time be superstitious/religious. Take for example a person who is intelligent. If they were to claim to know about the existence of angels, a holy spirit, unicorns, an afterlife, fairies and so on, they could not be an honest person, since this person is intelligent they know that claiming to know things which are not known is untruthful and therefor dishonest.

      Definitions provided by the New Oxford American Dictionary, 2nd Edition

  3. June 9 12:02 pm

    What is to know?
    [If they were to claim to know about the existence of angles, a holy spirit, unicorns, an afterlife, fairies and so on, they could not be an honest person, since this person is intelligent they know that claiming to know things which are not known is untruthful and therefor dishonest.]. . . What if they say they choose to believe? Are they still unintelligent or dishonest?

    I understand the post and am not saying I completely disagree, however, everybody thinks relative to the framework of their education. We think their are 7 days in a week, yet this is a man made construct–so if someone says their are 6 days in a week—there are, to them. Semantics play a huge part in your claim and simplifying it based on your belief is no different than what the devout do.

    I do enjoy your thought provoking post, thanks Bdrex

    • June 9 2:41 pm

      I enjoy your thought provoking comments!

      “What is to know?” “Knowledge: what is known in a particular field or in total; facts and information” -New Oxford American Dictionary, 2nd Edition

      “What if they say they choose to believe? Are they still unintelligent or dishonest?”

      In that case they would be choosing to be dishonest, yes.

      Your semantics comment is an interesting one.

      “We think their are 7 days in a week, yet this is a man made construct–so if someone says their are 6 days in a week—there are, to them. ”

      I agree this is a relativistic area of knowledge, so I would simply reword the statement to be less relativistic, such as saying the widely held definition of the modern week is 7 days. We should then extend this wording to make sure other arguments are understood. The widely held definition of an after life, the widely head definition of a fairy and so on.

  4. June 9 4:01 pm

    ‘Know’ is from the Greek word Gnosis, which addresses beliefs as well as generally excepted facts.

    “What if they say they choose to believe? Are they still unintelligent or dishonest?”

    In that case they would be choosing to be dishonest, yes.

    Not necessarily. I think you are assuming every religious person believes all aspects of orthodoxy. As one who is agnostic I can choose to believe unseen aspects may exist and I consider myself religious, although in practice, I merely try to follow the Golden rule. I find this makes my life easier and more enjoyable.

    Again I understand what you are saying but determining honesty, intelligence, and religious positions is not so black and white.

    • June 9 4:22 pm

      “‘Know’ is from the Greek word Gnosis, which addresses beliefs as well as generally excepted facts.”

      I am sorry to refute this by calling you on a fallacy. “The genetic fallacy is a fallacy of irrelevance where a conclusion is suggested based solely on something or someone’s origin rather than its current meaning or context.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetic_fallacy

      That is to say, the word’s definition, in its current form, is the valid one. “know |nō|: To be aware of through observation, inquiry, or information” -New Oxford American Dictionary, 2nd Edition

      “I think you are assuming every religious person believes all aspects of orthodoxy.”

      I am not only making this statement on religious people, I am making it of people who believe any form of mysticism. Or in other words, anyone who believes in the make-believe. You do not have to adhere to a particular dogma to be dishonest, or unintelligent.

      “As one who is agnostic I can choose to believe unseen aspects may exist and I consider myself religious, although in practice, I merely try to follow the Golden rule. I find this makes my life easier and more enjoyable.”

      OK, a few things. Strictly speaking, I agree with you on the agnosticism, believing that there are things we currently do not know is very logical. However, this does not validate believing in make-believe. There is a big difference between the two.

      I am not sure how you can consider yourself religious if you consider yourself agnostic, but you elaborate in another post if you please.

      We humans are a socially dependent species, we need the network of our society to function. I agree that following the “golden rule” is a very good way to live your life for the sole reason of being a good member of your society. This however does not at all validate Christianity, other social animals have shown the tendency to act as they would like to be treated.

  5. June 10 6:48 am

    I’m not trying to validate Christianity! I’ll try to explain my being agnostic yet religious in a brief manner. Nature, evolution, cycles that repeat and the unknown combined with mankind’s penchant to find religion and commonalities all over the world, like the Golden rule, suggests mankind may have some unseen link. I don’t picture some Zeus like God—however, I do see the possibility that their is more to us—thus, I live as if the link exists. I do so because I see it as a good way to live even if my impression is wrong.

    To be aware of through observation, inquiry, or information” –
    Inquiry or information would certainly fit religious ‘knowing’.

    I have argued with Christians til I was blue in the face. I understand your post position.

    I am considered knowledgeable and intelligent by those who know me and yet I make bad decisions picking women. I am also socially dense at times. Einstein was said to be unaware of the feelings of those around him, saying insulting things and not realizing it. . . So what areas of the human experience must one excel at to be intelligent?

    • June 10 1:12 pm

      Two things popped up in my head as I read you explanation of being both agnostic and religious. First I think it is important to know the definition of agnosticism, sorry I know I am coming off like the definition police.

      “agnostic: a person who believes that nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God or of anything beyond material phenomena” New Oxford American Dictionary, 2nd Edition

      So my knee jerk argument here is that since you are asserting a connection between things, and believing that connection is related to a higher power, it seems you are not an agnostic, by definition.

      Secondly I feel the need to address this globally connected sense you are getting. “Nature, and evolution, cycles that repeat …” These are principles in science that are explained completely needing no super natural explanation. Which is the point here, there is no need for a supernatural connection to bridge any gaps.

      “…the unknown combined with mankind’s penchant to find religion…” The unknown is an area a lot of people have a hard time with, I have come to peace with it. It is easy if you simply just call it the unknown and move on. The unknown does not imply anything, it does not suggest all unknown parts of various subject matters are connected. The unknown is simply not currently known, period. To suggest the unknown is part of a connected web of things that prove something else is fallacious. Also, you combined this with the tendency for most humans to “find religion”, this is simply an argument from popularity, fallacy.

      “…commonalities all over the world, like the Golden rule, suggests mankind may have some unseen link” I feel like I already addressed this in the previous post. Humans evolved as social creatures, so it makes sense the Golden Rule pops up in almost every culture. As for this “unseen link”.

      “Apophenia is the experience of seeing patterns or connections in random or meaningless data… Apophenia is often used as an explanation of paranormal and religious claims, and can also explain a belief in pseudoscience.”

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apophenia

      “I do see the possibility that their is more to us—thus, I live as if the link exists. I do so because I see it as a good way to live even if my impression is wrong.” Appeal to consequence of belief, fallacy.

      “Inquiry or information would certainly fit religious ‘knowing’.” But it doesn’t, religious knowing is based on how an idea makes you feel. Actual knowledge is based on inquiry or information from reality.

      You went on talking about intelligence and knowledge as how socially smart you are, I do not see that as a useful definition. I prefer the definitions I put in the previous posts, as they are the commonly held definitions.

  6. June 10 2:51 pm

    I said nothing about this connection being associated with a higher power. It could be nothing more than a global energy yet undiscovered. I’ll go into language and semantics a little–Read how lexicons are developed. The authors examine how the words are used in writing and then apply definitions. Today’s lexicons are abridged and what you are quoting is a small sample. however—

    You are picking a narrow definition that you prefer and like a religious zealot refuse to investigate with an open mind. however–

    [“Inquiry or information would certainly fit religious ‘knowing’.” But it doesn’t, religious knowing is based on how an idea makes you feel. Actual knowledge is based on inquiry or information from reality.]

    You assume all religious people choose based on how it makes them feel? —- ridiculous.
    You are redefining your own quote and adding information from reality. The quote you gave said nothing like that. so if you want to use them stick to what they say.

    What would you say to a Christian arguing scripture who added his own amendment to the verse?

    • June 10 3:20 pm

      I only assumed when you wrote, “I do see the possibility that their is more to us”, that the “more”, in reference to religion would be a higher power. But you now use the term, global energy, which is fine, but my argument is still valid.

      The development of lexicons is an interesting subject. Personally I find etymology fascinating, but we need to keep in mind that pesky genetic fallacy, so we need to adhere to current definitions. If you have a different definition of agnosticism, please elaborate. I am not picking a narrow definition, that is THE definition, at least with respect to one of the most respected recorders of the english lexicon, the Oxford English Dictionary.

      “You assume all religious people choose based on how it makes them feel? —- ridiculous.”

      I did not quite say that. I was suggesting how religious people could possibly “know” any object of their belief. A religious person could obviously arrive at their particular flavor of faith for an infinite number of reasons, including but not limited to parental brainwashing, by threat of eternal torment in an afterlife, peer pressure, and so on. If you really try to count what a religious person “knows” about their faith, it comes down to a series of beliefs that make them feel good, or in your words, “I find this makes my life easier and more enjoyable.” which is an appeal to the consequences of belief, fallacy.

      “What would you say to a Christian arguing scripture who added his own amendment to the verse?”

      Again, this is not what I am doing. I was simply suggesting since there is nothing to “know” about the unknown, what people think of as such is merely a combination of wishful thinking, and enjoying the consequences of their belief.

  7. June 10 3:19 pm

    Joe, please reread my earlier post, I asserted their may be a link or connection. ‘May’ by definition means the assertion could or could not be true. An agnostic position, because I am saying I do not know. I could go on but choose not to.

    Sorry for being trite, I would usually ignore your mistake but you seem to be reading with colored eyes. [Colored eyes]Symbolic for hearing or reading what you choose rather than what is said.

    **Do you know how the sacraments came to be? One possibility is—In Syria the Pre-Christians had a grape celebration. In the fall when the vines appeared dead, after the harvest, a ritual dinner to honor the vine was done. Representing the vines was a demi-God named Bacchus. As part of the ritual a toast to the body of Bacchus–eating grapes—and— to the blood of Bacchus, they drank wine. This was also done in hopes of a spring resurrection (Easter) and the vines returning to life. A celebration of nature and its cycles and bounty. Borrowed by the church and corrupted.
    Bdrex

    • June 10 3:36 pm

      I read your post a few times in order to make my previous responses, and I stand by what I said. Technically your use of “may” is agnostic, but when used to suggest a particular belief, not so much. For there are infinitely many “mays” out there. I do not think it takes colored eyes to infer your particular belief is what a person suggests “may” exist, or am I wrong?

      Historically that sacrament origin story is interesting, but it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Ancient religions are still religions, just ones that has gone out of vogue.

  8. June 10 3:46 pm

    “Inquiry or information would certainly fit religious ‘knowing’.” But it doesn’t, religious knowing is based on how an idea makes you feel.

    Your quote– it names one possibility and says it is– is means, just kidding.

    Some sects don’t require absolute belief in orthodoxy ect. Members choose the religious practice for the human interaction. This may sound like living a lie, but, many religious myths really speak about human eternal truths. The same truths you listed about the social needs of humans.

    This is not a new take–just unfamiliar in U.S. bdrex

    • June 10 4:11 pm

      ““Inquiry or information would certainly fit religious ‘knowing’.” But it doesn’t, religious knowing is based on how an idea makes you feel.
      Your quote– it names one possibility and says it is– is means, just kidding.”

      Hopefully you are kidding because the selected quote is actually a combination of both of us speaking. The first part being yours, and the latter being mine.

      “Some sects don’t require absolute belief in orthodoxy ect. Members choose the religious practice for the human interaction…”

      This describes my point perfectly. These people choose to believe what they want to believe. And they choose to believe what they want to believe because … ? Because, most likely, they find that a particular doctrine does not make them feel good. For example there are a lot of Christians that are angry that the catholic church and many other christian churches do not support gay marriage. So they choose to believe gay marriage is part of their particular faith. And why did they place this new object into their faith? Because it made them feel good. Or again in your own words, “I find this makes my life easier and more enjoyable.”.

      “This may sound like living a lie, but, many religious myths really speak about human eternal truths. The same truths you listed about the social needs of humans.”

      It is very probable that beliefs that have to do with the needs of humans will make us feel good, to continue my point. And I would not say it is living a lie, but living deluded.

  9. June 10 3:49 pm

    The churches dishonesty left a terrible taste. Zealots of any religion seem to take it to unsavory places.

    • June 10 4:19 pm

      It doesn’t even take a zealot to take a religion to an unsavory place. I fear the quiet liberal religious person voting en masse, and changing the face of the western world.

      I see it as a sliding scale, the more religious you are the more dangerous you are because you are basing less of your decisions on reality. The problem is that everyone (besides the zealots) knows religious zealots are dangerous. But no one suspects the liberal religious to be dangerous. But it is because of the liberal religious we are 8 years behind on stem cell research, and we are pushing abstinence only education in Africa, and that is why they are dangerous.

  10. June 10 10:20 pm

    I love to argue but I can,t disagree with anything in your last reply. About living deluded—For some this works. Joe you and I must face everything head on and we are responsible for our own lives. We can’t say God must have wanted this or that. Some people don’t have the strength to forsake their religion.

    I hesitate to call it living a lie or being unintelligent. It is merely the human condition, an instinct that helped us deal with self awareness. I applaud your courage and strength to reject the norm and transcend our instincts. Just remember to be compassionate.

    Tonight I was offended by a friend who began making religious claims. She had no idea how ridiculous she sounded and I simply disagreed with her. She kept repeating her point hoping if she said it multiple times I would be convinced. Annoyed I gave her a few counterarguments. She was so fearful and threatened by this that our friendship may have ended–because I disagreed with her on religion.
    Bdrex

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