You think too much !

I can’t tell you how many times in my life I’ve been told, “You think too much.”  And if your read this blog,  I’d wager you have probably been accused of it too.

Tom Reese at Epiphenom does a great review of a recent study that actually shows that atheists have a greater tendency to “think deeply” as opposed to religious folks who have a greater tendency to judge by mistaken intuitions.  Remember, this is just a “tendency” — meaning tons of religious folks think too much too.

Anyway, as I read Tom’s review, I thought of my own religious sojourn. As I have illustrated in many posts, my mind is highly inclined to supernatural intuitions (listed here). In fact, on finding my best friend dead — those intuitions kicked in (read here) and so began my years as a Christian. But my other habit of “thinking too deeply” is what eventually brought me out of Christianity (read here).

Question to readers:

  • Have you been accused of thinking too deeply?
  • How has “thinking too deeply” played into your religious or skeptical inner life?


Filed under Philosophy & Religion

16 responses to “You think too much !

  1. Jen

    I read the title of this post and had to laugh. Yup–been accused plenty of thinking too much. My lazy side is inclined to say it should be obvious how this played into my skeptical inner life. I’ll give it a bit more effort and say this over-thinking takes on a flavor of questioning everything, sometimes even my own thinking. Like you, I have a tendency to do a little magical intuiting, but when this passes through the fire of doubt there is usually not much left of it to hold on to.

  2. DaCheese

    ALL. THE. TIME! I’m always thinking at least a couple of layers deep about how X might influence Y, which could affect Z, etc. Drives my girlfriend nuts, especially when I start applying it to interpersonal relationship issues.

    Thing is, I tend to react emotionally to my thoughts. Concerns become worries, and thoughts challenging my established notions become troubling on more than just an intellectual level. But I can’t let myself off the hook, either; I’m deathly afraid of being caught-out in a wrong assumption or belief, especially where there might be consequences.

    As to the second question: deep rational thought played a big part in my early loss of faith (aided by a friend who was approaching the issue from the outside), while persistent worrying in later years kept me bound up in a sort of wavering agnosticism for a long time.

  3. Heh, yeah, been accused of that quite a few times. I was an avid reader in my youth (asthmatic, four-eyed and scrawny, meant this little black boy wasn’t playing basketball or hanging out with ne’er do wells). After my BA in Physics, went on to computer programming naturally enough. Always had back-and-forths with my mom (old south, Charleston, SC) about how I didn’t see the conspiracies of the ‘white man’ everywhere, and how I was ‘book smart’ but didn’t have much experience of the real world. Later, my Christian wife complains that I’m too intellectual to understand her faith (it’s about relationship, not religion; cue eye rolling).

  4. Robert

    As a little skinny child wearing glasses I learned to think fast,to keep the bullies of my butt,and it worked.

  5. @ Jen
    Great summary — sounds familiar

    Unlike you, I LOVE being wrong. It has helped me in learning languages. I love discovering a mistake in my knowledge or thinking. It is an odd side of my intellect.
    I agree, introspecting on relationships can be tough for lots of folks.

    Good to see ya again. Did you marry your wife when you were an atheist? How is that workin’ out?
    Ya know, I freaked a friend out by showing him how I could still pray to Jesus. Sitting at my dinner table, sharing a beer, I closed my eyes and said “Watch” and I gave a deeply personal, touching prayer to Jesus. My friend was really disturbed that I could “imitate” all the write things.

    Yeah, being skinny probably drives lots of kids into Math and Physics! 🙂

  6. We’re doing well, methinks. Yes, I married her as an atheist. I think we were both a bit naive. For a long time I was simply a live-and-let-live kind of atheist. After 12 years, two kids and much more experience in life, I’m more outspoken about my atheism and about the harms of religion.

    But what I had to come to grips with is that I married her not because of what she believes happens to us after we die, but because of who she is as a person. Sure, it’s difficult, and especially with the kids, we have some very different opinions on certain things, but we’re working through them, just like every other couple. I don’t hide my atheism from them, and she takes them to church and such (just as I was taken as a child). In the end, it’ll be up to them to decide what they believe and how they want to live. I just do my part to let them know they have options. 🙂

  7. DaCheese

    Reading the linked article made me think about the link between IQ and the thinking vs. intuitive orientations. My first reaction was to argue that IQ and thinking bias are inherently intertwined; but thinking it through a little more, I realize that that’s not necessarily the case. First, of course, there’s the obvious examples of people who have high IQs but don’t seem to apply them (rejecting rational argument or just plain acting foolishly). But second, there are also different styles among those who [i]do[/i] use their intellect.

    Do the rest of you feel like you’re more methodical thinkers, or more intuitive? I’ve come to realize that compared to my colleagues and peers, I’m not much of a methodical thinker; my intelligence manifests more in flashes of intuitive insight. I can’t/won’t sit there and methodically analyze each possible move on a chess board; instead I’m likely to sort of scan the board and possibilities just pop out at me. I “grok” difficult concepts relatively easily, etc. Of course I back that up with logical deduction, etc., but I’m not constantly churning though lots of conscious logic processes and large data sets the way others seem to.

    Often the intuitive flashes are quite brilliant (IMHO 🙂 ), BUT, as with anyone else, my intuition is vulnerable to common tricks and blind spots. And I think *that* is why I’m paranoid about being wrong. In math class I always spent twice as long double-checking my work as I did answering the problem in the first place. And with abstract/philosophical questions, I’m always, always worried that I’m missing something in my seemingly air-tight reasoning.

    (Oh, and I suck at chess 🙂 It seems that having a live opponent is too much for my intuition, even though with static puzzles I’m pretty darn good. Same thing comes up in my work as a weakness in both the security and asynchronous-communications realms)

  8. I was told that, as a form of criticism for not accepting the “truth” of christianity, and found it very hurtful. If you are a person who thinks too much, the only alternative when encountering dubious truth claims, is to have a frontal lobotomy performed. It is no different than the used car salesman who did not want me to take a cart to my mechanic before buying, and just argued that I should trust him…

  9. Justin’s description of his youth reminded me of something and made me happy because I was not aware of this memory and of its impact on my life up to now.

    As a kid (between let’s say 6 and 10) I used to have these ‘summer activites’* books (fun facts, handy crafts, puzzles etc. in one volume). I deliberately put 2 of them next to each other on my shelf, so their titles read: ‘I’m bored. What shall I do?’, ‘Look around!’.

    So I was not so much accused of ‘thinking too deep’ but of finding things intresting that no one else seemed to notice. Is it a familiar phenomenon to any of you?

    * Summer holiday in Hungary is 2.5 months.

  10. Accused of it? Oh yes, quite often.

    The result? I think that it’s caused me to hold any ‘truths’ lightly. I can’t say that anything is certain. A life of thinking to much has made me look at all of reality in terms of ‘probability’. What is ‘more likely’ rather than absolutely true.

    My favorite sayings are ‘Absolute knowledge is knowing that you know nothing’ and ‘Knowing is the enemy of learning’

  11. @ Justin Bonaparte
    I am curious “Why” you have become more outspoken on your atheism. For me, it was as religious folks confronted my family. When I lived in Asia, people did not care if I wasn’t Christian, of course, and only a few people tried to convert me to their Buddhism. Here, people get in your face or tell their kids stuff about our family. Not to mention how it affects science, politics and education.
    Giving your kids options is great — given their environment. Do you take them to synagogues, temples, mosques or are they only aware of two choices?

    @ DaCheese
    I’m intuitive when I have to act fast. I wish I was a little more ‘paranoid’ of being wrong! 🙂

    @ Atimetorend
    “Frontal Lobotomy” !! Laughing.
    Speaking of which, where is your family with their search to fit into a church?

    @ roni
    Arranging book titles === damn, that is fantastic. That would be a great comic strip.

    @ revyloution
    “Holding lightly” –> I agree, that has happened to me too. To some degree at least, I think. 😉

  12. Growing up, and into my 20s, I wasn’t aware of just how pervasive religion was in the mindset of certain people. I thought it was a fairly harmless cultural/ritualistic practice that people went through mainly as a social exercise. Early in my thirties, I began to see the more popular books by atheists come out, and also I got more interested in the political process, and I began to see just how much religion was on the minds of the people of the US. I also began to see more clearly things that I considered harmful about religion.

    By the time my second child was born, I was hooked, reading as much as I could, watching youtube atheists, and keeping track of blogs. I started seriously questioning whether I wanted to keep my kids in Christian daycare and church, when I was reading and hearing so much about those things being detrimental to their thought processes, and some even considering them child abuse.

    There was some definite pain and angst btwn my wife and I as we navigated these waters. She was concerned about her kids’ eternal salvation, naturally. We even got some (Christian) counceling to help us deal with the situation. I think we’ve come through scathed, but intact. I’ve learned that bludgeoning her with arguments against god and interrogating her on her biblical knowledge is not the way to win her heart (yeah, sounds obvious, but it wasn’t at the time). I think she’s learned that I will probably never be a believer as she wants me to be, and she’s less hurt by my not attending church services and doing my own thing on Sundays.

    I liken us to James Carville and Mary Matalin; if those two can make it work, then surely we can, lol!

  13. @ Justin Bonaparte
    Wow, thanks for sharing. Interesting unfolding. Best wishes in the future — as the kids become little adults. 🙂

  14. Sure! I’ll keep tuning in, great topics here!

  15. Man, I hate when people tell me I think too much; I’m inclined to think most people don’t think *enough*. I have found that too much thinking does keep me from acting, though, which at times is a blessing — but can also be a curse. I think in the past few years I don’t think as much as I used to. Not actively, at least. I think it’s related to the decline in writing for myself in my free time. I ought to remedy that, ’cause the signs of robotism are starting to rear their ugly heads in some aspects of my life, and that shit’s scary, man.

  16. @Zachary
    I too find that “thinking deeply” can be slow and actually appear very dumb at times. It has hindered otherwise needed faster thought for me many times. But it has always felt worth the trade off for me.
    “Robotism” is scary for me also. It is habitualization into daily life. Some people love patterns and habits, for you and I, they are numbing and a curse at times, eh?

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