When I was in Graduate School, I took a course that I definitely expected would be (and later proved to be) incredibly interesting: History of Economic Thought and Method (yes, I am a nerd). The Professor was definitely an intelligent man, and, through the course I definitely gained valuable insight on how current economic orthodoxy evolved over time and how economic thinking interacted with history (as well as discovering quite a few heterodox schools). However, the lecture that I remember the most clearly, and the most specifically, had very, very little to do with economics.
I forget what this lecture was supposed to be about (I think we were in the middle of discussing Thorstein Veblen, but it doesn’t really matter), but, almost instantaneously, this normally intelligent, although somewhat eccentric (as academics can be), man descended into an absolutely batty discussion about why he believes that the world will end in December, 2012. Now, why anyone would trust the ancient Mayans (intelligent as they were) to predict our fates when they couldn’t predict their own demise is beyond me, but this otherwise very intelligent man had a seemingly reasonable proof for his belief–that just happened to fall on its face when its premises were made subject to any scrutiny, but that’s not the point.
What does this have to do with atheism or religion? Well, lots, actually. Thousands–no millions–of perfectly intelligent people who whole-heartedly believe the quite silly belief that the God of Abraham impregnated a virgin with himself so he could be born, give a few speeches, perform a few miracles, and get murdered after being betrayed so that mankind would finally be forgiven for one woman (who probably didn’t exist) eating an apple (or pomegranate) that she wasn’t supposed to. Holding this belief, silly as it may be, does not make someone stupid, per se; it just requires a little cognitive dissonance and a lot of mental gymnastics. Continue reading