Logic’s Last Stand

August 3, 2008

Religion and the Superiority Complex

Filed under: Philosophy — Tags: , , , , , , — Zurahn @ 8:52 pm

As someone who has long been both contemplative on the concept of theism and religion and inquisitive as to the rationale others have for ascribing to them, I’ve naturally reached some conclusions over time.

The main conclusion to note is the ultimate reason for belief that you’ll get from the religious if you stick to a discussion with them long enough:
1. They insist on a logical fallacy or reject science outright
2. Personal experience
3. None whatsoever (just faith)

The first are the fundamentalists that even a large number of religious call crazy. So let’s discount the blatantly stupid and address the two main points, faith and personal experience.

Providing absolutely no reason for believing something means you will accept anything that feels good, really. Given faith is by definition unreasonable, I think you’ll forgive me for discounting this one as well, for lack of a better term, rationale as well. This is actually rarer than the last one, which is personal experience.

Finally to the point of this post, personal experience. Many will claim to have had a personal experience that affirms their relgious beliefs. Certainly noone can tell them they’re wrong just from that statement, because nobody else has had that personal experience. It’s completely unique to the person and they may in fact be completely justified.

However, even ignoring the possible interpretative complications of attributing the experience to a god and not something neurological, there’s one question unanswered that I think is a perfect example of the kind of thing that gets atheists annoyed at the beliefs and attitudes of the religious, even if it’s not at all meant to be negative or insulting. I am referring to a personal sense of superiority and entitlement.

When you tell an atheist that you believe because of a personal experience, you are directly stating to that person that you believe he is not good enough to have a personal experience with that god or too stupid to recognize one. If you’re a Christian saying this, you’re implying you’re more worthy than the Buddhists in East Asia, the Jewish who still do not accept Jesus as the savior, the tribes in remote regions who have no exposure to your religion. Worse yet it is if you believe in the concept of a hell or afterlife punishment such as reincarnation to a lesser being, that just because the billions others who never got this revelation should have to suffer for something they had no basis to believe.

Even just theism, a belief in a god, but not necessarily one of an existing religion, you’re still essentially annointing yourself, perhaps even moreso. That this revelation be so incredibly unique and special that so few have had the honour such that the religion dedicated to that god doesn’t even exist.

If personal experience if all you’ve got, then come right out and say it: You were chosen by God Himself. If you think that’s ridiculous or pompous, maybe you should think about that.



  1. I am not much of a theist—you might call me a former theist or a current agnostic. That being said, I think that an ounce of humility is required on both sides: for theists, atheists, and everything else in between. Some may rely on reason to get them through the day, but others find strength in providence, purpose. Both sides of the fence are occupied in a mud slinging contest that neither side can win.

    A person who finds strength in knowing that God exists just wants to share that strength. I do not think that a Christian thinks that I am stupid or unloved by God—I think they feel that it is unfortunate that I do not know that experience and they want me to know it. I’m not sure if it makes sense to be offended about a theist’s attempt to help, unless they’ve condemned you to hell. Now that’s just rude.

    Comment by key — August 3, 2008 @ 11:47 pm

  2. My point isn’t that I’m offended or that the religious sincerely believe that others are inherently stupid. Instead, when we examine what it is they are claiming which for the “moderates” is often a personal experience with a god, there’s ultimately no way around the implications of it — an unspoken sense of superiority. As you said, telling someone they’re going to hell is rude, but the vast majority of Christians believe it and by saying you’re Christian, it’s implied to a degree. Mainly I call in this instance as with all things, serious contemplation of the claim and belief.

    On the matter of humility, you walk a fine line here. Related to the point of implied superiority, it is impossible to criticise some people’s beliefs and have the person not be offended. What needs to happen is for people to recognise the separation between critical analysis of belief and beligerance toward the person. If I call Christianity an absurdity or even just that it’s wrong to assume Jesus even existed given the evidence (or lack thereof), it is implied whether I say it or not that the actual Christian person is stupid for believing it, but there’s no way around it. That, however, doesn’t mean the belief should not be criticised.

    Comment by zurahn — August 4, 2008 @ 1:09 am

  3. Yes… Christians not accepting that wearing clothing made from two separate materials or eating pork is inherantly sinful… I’ll let them pass on that one. But if they start arguing that they don’t believe atheists are going to hell (or don’t believe in hell altogether), then that is officially the biggest WTF ever. Has mainstream religion turned into some ridiculous Disneyland where they extract all the good/positive things (in the sense that it suits them, may not be positive for the rest of the world), and dismisses all the negative or condemning things the bible said?

    Good to see moderates, theists and deists are being brought into the debate, rather than just the complete fundamentalists… they are the ones that the message of logic may actually be able to reach and convert, after all, you are either retarded or you are not. “You’re pro or you’re noob, that’s life.”

    Comment by yarcofin — August 4, 2008 @ 9:54 am

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