14 users responded " Are We Smug? "

"Are We Smug?" was posted by and 14 users commented
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Alton said,         
December 3 2009

yes, i feel smugness IS justified in this instance. the same way it would be justified if a large portion of our society refused to believe that 2+2=4. if someone approached me saying 2+2=jello, knowing full well they had enough resources available to them by this stage in life to know fully that their calculation is simply rubbish…. then yes, i would be smug, and state that 2+2 does indeed equal 4 and i would kindly ask for them to cease in any and all ideas regarding potential biological reproductive activities.

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Chris A. said,         
December 3 2009

Visions of hell and damnation…it all comes back to the human imagination. The game DOOM 3 gives a very convincing impression of the “Jonathon Edwards” version of hell. But as horrifying as hell is characterized in that game, it still requires people to “design” it.

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andre said,         
December 3 2009

Yeah, it is justified smugness. Why should we be any less proud of our lack of belief than those who are proud of their belief? Atheists must stand proud in order to overcome the prejudice of the believing masses. It is probably not a good thing to rub the believers’ noses in it though 😉

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Sarah said,         
December 3 2009

Good answers, guys. Esp. Alton: imagine if we were discussing any other thing that is objectively wrong, like 2+2=4… (or does it?)
I would be smug and figure I understood reality as opposed to someone who denied this. I wouldn’t be “part of the problem” of stupid people in large groups. I’m not saying that I’m brilliant.
Chris, I don’t know the reference.
One more question: when is it pride, and when is it smugness?

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Clifford said,         
December 4 2009

It’s like the accusation that a Christian will make toward an atheist that they are making themselves god. I like to remind them who rejects evolution because they are indebted to the biblical idea that “man was created in God’s image.” Sure seems like some one is doing the projection.

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andre said,         
December 5 2009

Since English is not my first language I might get wrong the distinction between pride and smugness; but for me having pride in an idea or way of life is simply being proud of it, without necessarily having a feeling of being superior or more enlightened than others. Being smug is probably the (I forgot the exact English term now) step above being just proud; ie. feeling slightly better or superior to others that are somehow different from you, whether that difference be a way of thinking or living your life. If that is the case, then I think it is probably best to stick with being proud than being smug 😉 Being proud in no way means we have to back down from standing up for our way of life. For me it also means leaving the sheeple to do their religion thing, until they make their religion my problem… then I go into smug (and sometimes unabashed offensive) mode 😀

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vixen strangely said,         
December 6 2009

I think there is a comparative diffence between the degrees of smugness between believers and nonbelievers–just look at the difference between the assertions:

US: So, I don’t believe in God because there just isn’t any evidence for it, and I’d rather people concentrate on living their lives the best they can by following reason.

Them: Well, you’re going to go to a place of eternal torment because of that. On the other hand, I am saved because believing in God gives me knowledge of morality (which you don’t have) so I will be with my Creator in Heaven for all eternity.

(With, it bear mentioning, complete knowledge and acceptance of honest atheists who didn’t do anything else particularly wrong–besides not believing.)

The construct of hell is dreadful enough to make me feel a bit smug–I don’t wish that on my worst enemies, let alone people I simply disagree with–well, maybe metaphorically, as a “cuss-word”. But the broader issue of feeling one is compelled to do “A” to avoid hell, or avoid “B” to go to heaven, without viewing actions in context of their logical consequences and the actual real-world good or harm, makes me think our moral reasoning has an advantage over dogma. We know we can have “goodness without god”: but it would seem the believer lacks “faith.”

But in terms of presentation–Andre is correct, in that there is an appreciable dfiference in attitude between “smugness” and “pride”. It’s hard to tolerate someone who comes across as” smug”, so I think I’d rather be seen as proud. I feel my point of view is better, but in general, I don’t want to seem condescending to the faithful (unless their dogma turns out to be immoral and anti-reason–then I’ll bypass condescention to sarcasm and recrimination.)

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Bob said,         
December 9 2009

“Are we smug?”

Well, if you don’t mind a comment from an outsider, I think that is an excellent question to ask.

I’ve always tried to maintain an attitude of humility before the truth. The truth is not something I construct. I can’t make 2+2=5 nor can I make God exist or not exist. There is something about intellectual honesty, a careful consideration of the evidence, that is attractive.

Is there a built-in arrogance implied by atheism? Or are intelligent atheists indeed smarter than superstitious Catholics? Is this superiority a righteous claim?

I wouldn’t be the person to answer those questions, since the best I could ever muster toward the atheist position was a skeptical agnosticism. I didn’t know. Perhaps that is a personal failing of mine.

It is indeed an interesting question whether or not objective truth is indeed Truth. Do I get an Amen? 😉

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Sarah said,         
December 16 2009

Hi Andre,
I think your English is quite good. I know it is a very difficult language, too. Perhaps there is truth that pride turns to (self righteous?) smugness when “sheeple” (good term) tread on us.
Clifford– Yeah, theists who liken themselves to God– what is that if not arrogance? On the other hand, I wouldn’t want to be in God’s image. I’ve said it before: he’s the worst villain in history. God’s “love” for us feels a lot more like hate…
Vixen Strangely (good name!)– this goes back to issues of morality: being good for goodness sakes versus being good based on a childish system of rewards and punishments. We studied this in psychology.
Perhaps there is smugness in knowing that my “goodness” (or lack thereof?) is more mature.
I’ve stated in a previous post that I am very proud to be an atheist. I’m not proud of many things about myself– can’t I be proud of what little I have? Throw me a bone, theists!
Hi Bob– I welcome comments from anyone:) Welcome aboard. I don’t think it’s any failing to not know about God or nearly anything else in this area. Examining the issue is what’s really important.
I’d say when we say “objective,” we mean truth. They are one and the same. It’s objective to say, “Francis Scott Key wrote the lyrics to the Star Spangled Banner.” It’s subjective to say, “I like the lyrics to the Star Spangled Banner.” It’s plain wrong to say, “Someone wrote the lyrics during the Civil War.”
Am I arrogant in knowing the subjective and correcting the wrong? Maybe a little.

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Bob said,         
January 10 2010

Hi Sarah,

Here’s a little bit from Camille Paglia at Salon:
‘On other matters, I was recently flicking my car radio dial and heard an affected British voice tinkling out on NPR. I assumed it was some fussy, gossipy opera expert fresh from London. To my astonishment, it was Richard Dawkins, the thrice-married emperor of contemporary atheists. I had never heard him speak, so it was a revelation. On science, Dawkins was spot on — lively and nimble. But on religion, his voice went “Psycho” weird (yes, Alfred Hitchcock) — as if he was channeling some old woman with whom he was in love-hate combat. I have no idea what ancient private dramas bubble beneath the surface there. As an atheist who respects and studies religion, I believe it is fair to ask what drives obsessive denigrators of religion. Neither extreme rationalism nor elite cynicism are adequate substitutes for faith, which fulfills a basic human need — which is why religion will continue to thrive in our war-torn world.’

I’ve always had a fondness for Camille Paglia, because even though we’ve differed on lots of issues, there is some sense of intellectual honesty, an effort to understand what the other person is saying.

Take for instance your original post where you talk about “god(s)”. I’ve no idea if you’re in this class, but many atheists seem to assume that the difference between monotheists and polytheists is a difference in counting. Now you’ve lived a largely Protestant country, and definitely after Kant’s “Copernican revolution” in philosophy, so you may have this idea that religion and science are at odds with each other. But even Nietzsche seemed to realize that objective truth and God are closely tied ideas. This is a simplification, but a monotheist is a monotheist because there is only one objective truth. For me, Hinduism seems to bear that out, which is (to me) a bewildering mix of polytheistic and monotheistic thought. Hinduism is a system of many truths, as opposed to one.

On the other hand, Pope John Paul II’s “Fides et Ratio” (Faith and Reason) and Pope Benedict XVI’s Regensburg address (the address which upset Muslims) are precisely dealing with the issue of unity of truth, that faith and reason are not two opposing truths. It is the idea of objective truth, a rationally ordered universe that is intelligible, which gives rise to science.

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Sarah said,         
January 11 2010

Hi Bob,
Like I needed another thing to dislike about Camille Paglia, the darling of feminists who somehow manage to be anti-feminists. To respond to Paglia here, I don’t need nor want faith or a substitute.
Many people do think that religion and science are compatible, symbiotic, etc. The truth, though, is in the pudding: religion *does* hamper science. Do you see anyone thwarting, for example, teaching evolution because of reasons other than religion?
I don’t know a lot about Hinduism, so I’m happy if it doesn’t have this particular problem.
Many theists will probably say that god(s) is objective truth.

I suppose the only people who aren’t “smug” are the ones who aren’t sure.

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James Dean said,         
February 4 2010

This is great stuff!

Here go some of my thoughts from the post, comments, and feedback.

Something called ‘quantifiable pride,’ if I’m remembering it right, was suggested to me by an author some time back. He said that the things you’ve achieved give you a place to achieve more, when you take some of that pride as your platform. You might have a better idea than any of us -your into psychology. (I’m a backsliding psychology major … and no, that doesn’t mean I’m going insane.)

For too long, I’ve been humble too much. I was agnostic, but come to think of it, I adopt the full description: agnostic atheist. 🙂 WWFSMD? No, I’m not one of them, but who knows in the future.

Being an atheist simply means a one issue item for me. It doesn’t mean you’re a communist or a freedom fighter, for that matter. It doesn’t even mean you reject pre-atheist morals you held, give or take for some new information and life experiences. (I guess I lean a little towards the tribal, ha ha.) Atheism means just that -logic can be used for anything, even 2+2=5 (in some *non-Orwellian fashion), but not by just anyone and not by someone without the appropriate appreciation for the symbolic quality of language and or math and or non-linear thinking. (Or so I think.)

You can eek a little bit of focus out of happiness, concentration, anger, pride, maybe even hubris(?), which can help you achieve goals. Be proud as long as it works for you. For me, I find it amusing that it is neither self-defeating nor looking down on others to use either description, when appropriate -” “agnostic” “atheist” “, to describe myself. [Picture it as “agnostic atheist,” but try to conceptualize it as all three things. Brain hurting?]

There is no good reason to go ruffling feathers unless it happens to be the lucky move for you, someone else, or both. We’re all a bit ridiculous when the wheels really get spinning.

It would be completely acceptable for you to e-mail or friend me (FB): As far as I know, I’ve only got 50 or so years left. 🙂

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Sarah said,         
February 5 2010

Hi James Dean,
Is that your stage name, or are you really James Dean? Either way, great name:)
A lot of what you’re saying goes over my head– are you saying that optimally, pride motivates us to do more good? Accomplishments breed accomplishments?
As for ruffling feathers, well, that’s sorta what I do here. 🙂 Not every minute, of course.
Pride need not necessarily be smugness. When Xians cite “pride” as a mortal sin, I think what they really mean is smugness or arrogance.

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James Dean said,         
February 6 2010

The Xian vice of pride, in my opinion, is when it reaches the inability for self reflection and correction -but that’s just from personal experience/opinion, whether or not biblical.

My description above, its just me trying to show off. :/ Some times I get a little carried away. 🙂

Yeah, it is “James Dean.”

Your stuff is fun and I love that you are able to interact with your audience. If there is ever a good place for smugness, I’m all down for that -guess I don’t yet have the fullest appreciation for smugness. [Heavy indoctrination can sometimes detract from a sense of humor, but certainly “Mr.Deity” helps.] -Keep up the fun work. I look forward to seeing more here and in that book you’re working on with de-conversions.

Yeah, pride in the sense of a good feeling based on past achievement is what I was calling quantifiable pride. I may have been ramming the quantifiable pride thing into some thoughts from the psychologist Czikinthmihalyi’s concept of flow -he [Czikinthmihalyi] studied happiness for 50 years. 🙂

The confusing or “over your head stuff,” its just sharing from my own smugness *shrug*: My atheism was hard won by battling with a long ingrained concept of hell, psychological [albeit unwitting] shamming, and rigorous logic in opposition to those two things.

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