Answering anti-religious "intellectualism/superiority"?

Well I didn’t know what to call it exactly but I’m guessing I’m not the only catholic to come across this?
I have certain “colleagues” that very subtly yet purposely bring up these disguised attacks in what I can only best describe as a false intellectual superiority image?

So let me paraphrase what I’ve heard (and what I’m guessing others have run across); The basic premise is that religion is for the “lower” thinking segment of the population. Somehow these intellectuals have reached a level of thinking that allows them to see things way above everyone else. Religion is ok but essentially all religions are the same more or less and all profess to be “the truth” but those that have reached this higher level of thinking can see this more clearly than others stuck in the primitive “zealot” way of thinking. A big part of what I hear is implied but it suggests that the unintelligent and uneducated are the ones “stuck” in religious beliefs. Similarly it is implied that many people (Christians…but whatever religion) grew up in a religious background and thus don’t know anything else? That such people never look beyond their upbringing or background and thus can only profess that which is what they know from their comfort zone of experience. Like their upbringing and the way they were raised has put shackles on really thinking freely? For example, being raised a Catholic (Christian…or again any religion) has been a limiting factor and prevented one from looking at the world and seeing things as they really are?

Sorry I struggle expressing things in words but I guess the basic premise of what these people believe (at least as best as I can express) is that they believe they have reached some kind of upper level of thinking above the “masses” where they see religions as all essentially the same and something left for the simple minded who haven’t reached their level of intellectualism?

Anyone run against this kind of criticism or talk?


If someone is just making gratuitous assertions about an entire category of people like “religious” people, they aren’t really making a structured argument. If you want to respond to such a person, you might want to insist on specific examples on what is true/false. Stuff like “upbringing” is irrelevant to whether any specific religion or teaching is true. If they can’t engage at that level, there is probably no discussion to be had with such a person.

It’s a culture. I have run across many individuals that think like this and this type of thinking has often made it into popular media. The intelligent one is the atheist. The false image that the intellectually privileged are all by definition Atheist, is a strong delusion that has been growing in power for a while now. Of course it doesn’t really help when you find that there is ignorance among some of the religious, and if they have the loudest voice in the room you might think that is religion. Whether the atheist is intellectually superior is up for debate; and all mortals are going to find out sooner or later anyway. One might argue that they don’t really have anything of value to add to the human condition other than their scepticism and the promise of autonomy. In other-words you might find that their atheism is often grounded in excuses, a reason to ignore something that is greater than themselves, and not some greater understanding about what reality ultimately is or what we are.


Let me ramble a bit.

There are many who gather information for deception (self as well as against others, = intellectuals), while others for understanding unknowns(= religious).

There are two intellectual abilities: vis differentiating (evilness) and integrating (goodness). The former appears to well read and always have related ( often irrelevant) information and believe that silencing others with arguments some how made them right. Their inability to integrate all these informations effectively made them believe God is non existent.

The former category mind cannot even understand the material world fully other than keep quoting others idea, while the latter mind go in-genuinely and originally often beyond the materialistic world.

These people are blinded by their own arrogance and pride. Maybe even insecurities.
What I find fascinating is how the “genius” atheists are so prone to things like taking Bible passages out of context or think all languages are all alike or ancient languages translate easily into English. The best part is when they tell us how we or anyone should interpret our/their religious scriptures because they think they’re magically better or we/they are doing it wrong. And some atheists get offended when some religious people (wrongly) claim they’re inherently better than atheists and then the same atheists go around doing the same thing. You even see that on CAF.

No one is raised with a blank slate. Even atheists. Being raised atheist just brings in a different set of biases and prejudices.
And from my experience, many atheists in the West know so little outside of the West. Many people from the Global South will tell you how atheists get their part of the world wrong, very wrong.

At the end of the day, you just ignore arrogant and boastful people, religious or non-religious. Arguing with them is a waste of time because they don’t care much for facts.


Whats the global south?

The sort of “ intellectual “ you’re describing, OP; are basically arrogant people who think they’re better than everybody else.

Their basic premise smacks of pride.

They’re not really intellectuals in the first place. An intellectual is a critically thinking person that meditates and reflects on a great deal of topics and is looking for the truth.

I’d avoid these pseudo intellectuals, OP and I agree with other posters here: These types aren’t interested in facts or truth. They just talk and prattle the same old ideas of “ progressive “ talking points and think themselves wise.

They’re a waste of time, IMHO.


It is arrogance and condescension. Both are fueled by ego. You can argue and debate with intellect, but not with ego. Tough battle, should you choose to continue, and it may lead to a form of spiritual martyrdom.

It will likely do little good, but you may counter them with Fr. Georges Lemaître, S.J. who fleshed out the nascent Big Bang Theory - and who convinced EINSTEIN that the universe was actually expanding.

A contemporary example might be Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J. PhD, who is not exactly a dullard. His site is quite intellectually stimulating and illuminating.

You might hint that they remain in ignorance (and intellectual dishonesty) until and unless they examine viewpoints which challenge their rather provincial opinions.


Yes. When ever i talk to people about politics or sport or books and lots of other stuff as well. Its not special when it happens in religion.

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People either believe they are right, or they don’t.

And then…people either let other people know they are right, or they don’t.

OP, the people you come across believe they are right, and let other people know they believe they are right.

This shouldn’t be upsetting or disturbing when you think about it. There are plenty of religious people who do the same thing. They believe they are right, and they are very comfortable in letting people know they believe they are right.

I would suggest trying not to let people get under your skin. Just because someone believes they are right and they are willing to let you know that, doesn’t mean they are right. Don’t you ever laugh when someone is so sure of themselves but you know they are wrong? It can be very entertaining. They dig themselves in deeper and deeper. They don’t want to hear differently from anyone else. The more they talk, the more foolish they sound.

I would go with that. Look at it as entertainment.


Sure, I used to have some of the same thoughts. It’s sort of cowardly though, based on pride which itself is connected to a fear of what others think rather than on truth. Very subtle, deceitful. They know nothing -
while calling others ignorant.


It’s all very subtle with their implications mostly and quite “tidy” in how they see things. Just to add to my op; so as a religious person we are categorized as being a “zealot”. If we attempt to argue the truth as we se it, it is simply proof to them of our zealotry and lower function thinking.

“You respond that way because you cannot help it based on your background which is biased” would be a typical response.

My question would be how do they explain someone not raised in a religious way at all who later converts to Christianity?

(I am sure this “intellectualism” as I call it is nothing new and probably an age old challenge but maybe someone can enlighten me on that point?)

That is a rather broad generalization and does not comport with my experience. In most debates between theists and atheists I find the atheists far better informed and knowledgeable.

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The same way you would explain someone raised a Christian and later becomes an atheist.

This wasn’t meant to be about atheism per se but since you stated this I have found exactly just the opposite. Most atheist I know actually know very little about Christianity for example.


Which exactly makes my point; that being that being raised one way is not limiting in seeking out other perspectives.

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Do you need to know much about Islam to be atheist in terms of it?

Informed and knowledgeable about what, exactly? They don’t know God. And have no proof that He doesn’t exist. They protest too much about something they simply don’t know anything about. And in my experience pride lies at the bottom of it all. We can prefer not to believe.


And that is sheer presumption. People can be “cultural Christians”, yes, but we’re obligated to go beyond that and it’s self-serving naivete to think that no believer has done do.

They, new converts, along with “reverts”, are often the best witnesses.

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I haven’t come across it as much in face to face interactions as on TV or people on the internet or in books.

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