Who is More Intelligent: Atheist or Theist?

inputout.jpg

Someone brought that comic to my attention (via The Flowfield Unity).

No, I don’t agree with it.

I was asked recently if, on the whole, I thought atheists were smarter than the religious.

My gut instinct was to say “Yes.” The vast majority of scientists don’t believe in God. Despite what critics might say, I find the books written by the New Atheists much more intellectually stimulating than most of the “Christian lit” I read.

But I know far too many intelligent theists to say they are not as smart as the atheists I know. There are also a number of atheists who are… well… less than brilliant.

Obviously you have to take it on a case-by-case basis.

So where would you draw the line between intelligent (however you define it) and not?

Maybe you think someone who believes Christ rose up from the dead shouldn’t be taken seriously.

But that would eliminate every Christian from the list including some well-known scientists (atheist Reed Braden adds: “I’m dumber than Francis Collins by far”).

Maybe you think someone who believes in Creationism can’t be very educated.

But Dr. Kurt Wise (who studied under Stephen Jay Gould) is one example of someone who really does know his stuff and chose to follow Scripture instead of science.

Maybe you think you’re smarter than someone who believes in any type of (non-religious) superstition.

But wouldn’t that eliminate virtually everyone you know?

So what’s a dealbreaker when it comes to intelligence and religion?

Where do you draw the line and say that someone is less intelligent than you because of a particular belief?

(Thanks to all the people who let me bounce these ideas off of them!)


[tags]atheist, atheism[/tags]

  • Kate

    I’m glad you said you don’t agree with the comic because I about seizured when I saw it.

    Case by case basis. There are smart atheists, dumb religious people, dumb atheists, and smart religious people.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike Clawson

    So where would you draw the line between intelligent (however you define it) and not?

    I think the idea of multiple intelligences also plays into this question. In my experience most people who go around saying one person, or group of people, is more intelligent than another, have a very narrow definition of what “intelligence” is – usually limited to things like math, science, and formal logic.

    For instance, I had a friend in college who used to brag all the time that he was a member of Mensa and was a certifiable genius, and complained that no one liked him because of how smart he was. But the truth was that most people didn’t like him because he was a social idiot and didn’t know how to interact with people without making them feel awkward and uncomfortable (and I don’t just mean because he was too “brainy”, I mean like creepy awkward).

  • Adrian

    What’s the actual, objective answer? Hmm…

    The most educated people are overwhelmingly atheists (but I doubt that most educated people are atheists), and the most extremely intelligent people are atheists, so the smartest individuals are most likely atheists. But, this doesn’t mean that the median atheist is going to be smarter than the median theist. It’s like asking if the richest people are atheists – since Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are atheists, the richest people are atheists, but that doesn’t mean that the median atheist-on-the-street has any more money than your average theist.

    As for generalities, I’d say:

    - intelligence doesn’t preclude theism, it just gives people more superficially clever ways of justifying their theology

    - education is inversely correlated with religiosity, but there are well-educated theists

    - I’ve no idea what correlation, if any, there is between religiosity and intelligence (however that’s measured). I would prefer to not speculate without data.

    - it’s not true that theists are uneducated or stupid. I do think it’s true that their minds are sufficiently well trained that they apply their intelligence and education to religious questions very differently than to any other question. This can create the impression of ignorance, stupidity, and wilful blindness when discussing theological questions.

  • Daniel Hoffman

    Interesting question.

    I’m not sure if this question is primarily directed at atheists, but I hope it’s ok if I answer anyways (I’m a Christian, for the record).

    I don’t think religious belief has anything to do with intelligence. You made that quite obvious yourself by naming intelligent people in both camps. It would be hard to put St. Augustine, Sigmund Freud, C.S. Lewis, Nietschze, Jonathan Edwards, and Bertrand Russel on any kind of intelligence scale – all were brilliant.

    I guess I can really only answer from a Christian perspective on this situation. According to scripture, everyone alike is born in sin and despite having a ‘religious sense’ and conscience, in their natural state degrade into creature worshiping idolaters like those described in Romans 1 and Acts 17. Natural intelligence, and even brilliance, not leading to a true knowledge of God according to 1 Corinthians 1:21, “the world did not know God through wisdom”. Following from this, acceptance of the Christian gospel comes only by the inworking of the Holy Spirit through the truth revealed in scripture – and that has nothing to do with the intelligence of the person acted upon. The gospel is quite straightforward.

    As for the verses that describe those who say ‘there is no God’ as fools, it should be noted that in the Psalms and Proverbs “wisdom” and “folly” really have nothing to do with intelligence, they are moral qualities.

    I am trying to see this from an atheist perspective, and am thinking perhaps you will ascribe religious belief to personal insecurities or sentiment rather than lack of intelligence. I’d like to point out that you would have a hard time squaring that opinion with the fact that perhaps millions of people have gone, calm and collected, to death for their beliefs.

  • Daniel Hoffman

    PS, I wrote that last paragraph before seeing the first 3 posts.

  • http://bellesouth.blogspot.com Bellesouth

    Just as I came to a logical conclusion about why I am atheist, I respect those who come to logical conclusions for why they believe in a deity. I cannot respect any atheist who calls religious folk “empty-headed” any more than I could respect someone who believes in God and tells me I’m going to Hell for my beliefs.

  • Aj

    I agree with the comic, but I interpreted it as the same person doing three different things. When they start talking about God there’s not a lot going on inside their but they’re perfectly intelligent and reasonable at other things.

  • Richard Wade

    I don’t think there is one single human trait that can be called “intelligence.” There are many kinds of traits that people might toss into the mixed bag generally referred to as intelligence, and those traits can be very mixed in how powerful they are in a given individual.

    Generally we try to measure intelligence by measuring useful skills. What skills we choose to measure has much to do with our cultural bias. So we create Intelligence Quotient tests that measure things that we, stuck in our cultural bias assume to be somehow indicative of this amorphous thing called intelligence. We measure math skills, language skills, problem solving skills, logic skills, spacial perception skills and general knowledge accumulation, to name a few. In different cultures they might measure a different set of skills or use an utterly different method.

    In my opinion these tests do not measure intelligence, they only measure the person’s ability to pass those tests. They measure those skills, but to extrapolate from those skills a general, global power of mental potency or potential is a big jump to a conclusion.

    So there’s intelligence, (whatever that is, if anything) there’s a different thing called wisdom, there’s something called common sense, there’s a new term called “emotional intelligence” or E.I.Q., there’s maturity, there’s street smarts, and on and on.

    So far none of them can be measured directly by some kind of brain phenomenon. They are all implied by observing a person’s behavior and their ability to deal with problems in life, whether it’s a differential equation, how do find your way through the woods, understanding the subtle meaning of that tiny smirk on your friend’s face or knowing which people to avoid on a dark street.

    You all have encountered the stereotypical Professor Bonehead, someone who can do advanced calculus in his head but whose life is a mess because he has very poor social skills or very little common sense. We’d agree that he’s smart but not wise. Some of us have also met people who can’t add a column of five numbers but who seem to be very adroit at getting on through life and getting along with others.

    Since first starting dialogues with people about faith and religion I have become increasingly aware of the compartmental nature of the human mind. We can be strong in one kind of skill but weak in another. Even within one kind of skill, such as critical, logical thinking, we can compartmentalize the subjects of our thoughts, so that we can be inconsistent in how we apply that skill. Hence, the person who is a scientist on Monday throught Saturday but is a true believer on Sunday. Some people can be pretty much non-compartmentalized, their minds like a single room with little contradictory thought patterns while others can be extremely compartmentalized, like pidgeon holes, each one unable to see into the others.

    I think that schitzy quality can be changed with time and hard work. For the last few years I have been looking for disparate compartments in my own thinking and cleaning out the inconsistencies. The criteria I use for which things I keep and which I toss out are from, I acknowlege, my own personal bias. Who is to say which is the “right” way to think thoughts?

    I think the whole idea of comparing “intelligence” and religiosity is an unwise enterprise. It smacks of conceit and degrades the chances for positive dialogue between religious and non-religious people.

  • http://jamesomalley.co.uk James O’Malley

    If someone is an atheist, I’d argue that they’d be more predisposed towards intellectual habits, such as asking questions and examining evidence, and so on.

    I don’t think it can be put down to religiosity or not, but the process of becoming an atheist would perhaps train someone to think in a way that would be defined as “intellectual”.

    And a lot of intellectual ideas associated with atheism, such as natural selection are a lot more difficult to comprehend than “God did it”, so an intelligent person would be more likely to understand quite complex arguments.

  • Kyle

    This is working under the assumption that someone has to have degrees to be considered smart. For example, your Dr. Kurt Wise. Just because he was someone’s understudy or has a doctorate, doesn’t make them smart.

    I contend that someone who is smart is someone who is knowledgeable on a subject, willing to change with new evidence and follows the facts. Mr. Wise doesn’t follow the facts and doesn’t seem willing to change. So, I don’t consider him to be smart.

    Likewise, an atheist who is knowledgeable on a subject but is unwilling to change on things with new evidence would be equally as dumb (or smart, depending on how you look at it).

    My best example would be someone who is a doctorate in mathematics but doesn’t believe 2+2=4 and doesn’t have evidence to back it up. By academic standards, that would be smart because he has as doctorate. But because he challenges 2+2=4 with no evidence, can anyone take him seriously?

    My point is that just because someone appears to have lots of education doesn’t make him a trustworthy source, credible, or smarter than someone with less education. I have a strong argument for academic inflation anyway.

  • Siamang

    I think the main problem is that there is culturally in the United States a deep thread of anti-intellectualism within a broad swath of Bible Belt Christianity.

    The cartoon, as I see it, isn’t merely the product of the artist’s imagination or solely their own biases. It’s a reflection of anti-intellectualism that we see rampant in the conservative Christian American culture wars.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike Clawson

    Since first starting dialogues with people about faith and religion I have become increasingly aware of the compartmental nature of the human mind. We can be strong in one kind of skill but weak in another. Even within one kind of skill, such as critical, logical thinking, we can compartmentalize the subjects of our thoughts, so that we can be inconsistent in how we apply that skill. Hence, the person who is a scientist on Monday throught Saturday but is a true believer on Sunday.

    I agree Richard, though I want to point out that I’ve noticed compartmentalization on both sides. Sure there are those who think entirely like a scientist in the rest of their life (though I don’t know too many, even my scientists friends are a little more balanced than that) except when it comes to religion. But I’ve also noticed that some atheists seem to demand a certain kind of strict, sterile rationalism about religious beliefs that doesn’t apply to the rest of their day-to-day thinking and decision making, which tend to be much messier, complex, and more cognitively integrated processes.

  • http://blackskeptic.wordpress.com blackskeptic

    I agree with Siamang. I don’t think that Christians are any less intelligent than atheists, but I do think that Christians tend to let God do the talking for them. Like if something makes sense to them, and is a rational thought, but the bible says something else, then the bible wins (unless they can reintepret what it means). From what I’ve read of the bible it seems as if there is a putting down of intelligence that contradicts with the bible or anything that God says.

    according to 1 Corinthians 1:21, “the world did not know God through wisdom”

    I’m not writing any of this to put anyone down. In fact, some of my good friends are Christian, and they are some of the kindest people that I know, and they’re also intelligent. But I think that they fear a slippery slope if they start to question the teachings of the bible too much or say, “well that doesn’t make any sense.” After all, “God works in mysterious ways,” and the devil might be behind their doubt.

  • Calum g

    I come from a secular background and have been atheist for most of my life but I’m starting to believe. One of the main reasons that turned me away was all the people who preach creationism and intelligent design, I think that these are the people who make religion seem stupid. Just to get things straight, I would consider myself Christian and I don’t believe that you can explain or prove the existence of God. IT’S CALLED FAITH FOR A REASON!

  • Xeonicus

    Just my own personal anecdote… I have some very good friends that are incredibly intelligent who also happen to be very religious. Not that it’s an amazing revelation to present, but I thought I’d contribute my own “me also” comment.

    When I was first getting to know them years ago I wondered: “How are they so intelligent, and yet still believe in such a thing as God?” I was stumped at the time, and truth be told, I suppose I still am, though I’ve come to accept it.

    I do have to say that the environment you are raised in and the influences of others is likely a very powerful factor in determining your faith. The friend I am specifically thinking of is the daughter of a pastor and attended a private Christian college. It’s no surprise that she is a Christian. She is also incredibly intelligent and insightful. Conversely, I grew up in a family with very minimal religious influences on my life and never any social pressure whatsoever. I find myself at this time in my life as an atheist.

    I hesitate to link religous belief with social pressure, but I think it has a big effect. It’s worth noting that even incredibly intelligent people are swayed by social pressure. Now, this isn’t to say that all religious belief stems from someone who was pressured into it. I’m sure many people arrived at their beliefs through inspiration or careful consideration. There are probably many people raised in very secular environments devoid of religious pressure that adopted religious beliefs later in life.

    I do find it an interesting question though. Ask yourself — and be honest — if you (Christians) were raised in an atheist environment, do you think your current beliefs would be different? For the atheists, if you were raised in a religious environment, do you think you’d still be atheists today?

  • tee

    This is such a tough question but one that I’ve often wondered about; predominantly because I was raised a Jehovah’s Witness and I believe my father to be quite an intelligent man. When I figured out last year that I was atheist (as did one of my brothers); I really started wondering how such a smart man that is so analytical and inquisitive can blindly follow the JW religion.

    All I can think of is exactly that; how blinding it can be, that you are taught NOT to ask questions and there is so much fear involved that you don’t question it. I was raised in it and I didn’t really dare to think otherwise until last year. I knew from a very young age that something wasn’t right (was this because of higher intelligence levels than say, another one of my brothers who has learning difficulties and is a little slow; who wholeheartedly follows the JW dogma?).

    I think challenging religious beliefs that you may have been raised with – has a lot more to do with having willpower and strength rather than intelligence. I had two nervous breakdowns when I realised that I was an out-and-out atheist. My atheist brother (above-average IQ) also had a hard time.

    As for ‘intelligent’ people that spend their lives being non-religious who then become religious at an older, wiser age? It’s really beats me. It’d be interesting to do an in-depth study and find the reasons/ statistics behind such a thing; I’d bet that a lot of these conversions happens because of fear (maybe loss of family for example, and the former-non-believer who hasn’t put down solid atheist roots, now opts out and comforts themself what most religions offer – a chance to see that loved one in heaven, or paradise, whatever the case may be). Who knows, I’m kind of rambling :D

    I tend to link intelligence to scientific thinking too, so if you’re thinking non-scientifically and leaning on ‘blind faith’, then I tend to be a little judgmental of what brain activity must be going on in that skull. Further, I also think it’s a case by case thing, there really are some absolute daft people that are religious – but I’ve also come across some idiot atheists too. And there’s some really intelligent religious folk out there (I know so many; and funnily enough they all were raised in their current religion). So one can’t really stereotype. Interesting topic though.

  • Siamang

    For the atheists, if you were raised in a religious environment, do you think you’d still be atheists today?

    I was raised in a religious environment, though not a fundamentalist one.

  • chancelikely

    Heh… now all we need are twins where one ended up a theist and the other an atheist, and we could do some real research.

  • Polly

    For the atheists, if you were raised in a religious environment, do you think you’d still be atheists today?

    I’ll chime in. I was a xian fundamentalist all my life until less than 2 years ago at which point I “deconverted.” Had I been raised in a non-religious environement, I am quite sure I would not even have considered the stupidity I bought into.

    “If I think too much, I might go to Hell.” That attitude stops a lot of productive ruminating.

  • http://wisertime.wordpress.com Jake

    I don’t think Kurt Wise would say he is choosing Scripture over science, although he would if it were really necessary. There are lots of us who don’t think that’s necessary. We do accept Scripture as an ultimate standard, so everything else is subservient to that standard, including how intelligent people with degrees interpret the evidence they discover.

    There are no “brute facts.” All data has to be interpreted. The naturalist will interpret whatever data he finds to go with his naturalism, just as the theist will with his theism. None of us are neutral or objective.

  • http://ondfly123.livejournal.com Betsy

    I don’t necessarily think intelligence can be measured by education or religious belief. As several others have pointed out, a person can be intelligent in different areas. I know several people who are creatively brilliant but lack knowledge in other areas. To me, what is needed for intelligence in any area is a quest for improvement. Those I see as most intelligent are the ones always asking questions, constantly trying to learn new things – they have an active mind. It’s those who think they have the answers to everything who probably know the least.
    As far as religion goes, I appreciate those who come to their belief in god from logical standpoint, not clinging to any one group’s interpretation. It’s those who refuse to even question or consider alternatives that bother me. At the same time I understand how the questioning can really rock a person’s life; for some of my friends, it would completely alter everything – they would lose jobs, spouse, family, possibly children. So I don’t push it. And I don’t think they are stupid because they cling to their belief.

  • http://blog.myspace.com/johnpritzlaff John Pritzlaff

    On average, atheists are more intelligent than theists.

  • http://www.ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    It is my opinion that atheists generally seem to be better debaters than theists, which of course doesn’t necessarily mean that they are more intelligent. I also think there are definitely more sensing-thinking-judging types among atheists and more intuitive-feeling-perceiving types among theists. But then again, there are the thinking perceivers, and intuitive thinkers. Don’t mind me… I’ve just been studying temperament type indicators.

    Anyway, as far as which group is more intelligent… by whose standards? The cashier at the grocery store could very well be more intelligent than myself, as far as I’m concerned. But then again, most people are… in one way or another.

    I have a good friend who is a Mensa member. He is an atheist who is also spiritual (is that an oxymoron?) I’ll have to ask him what the religious break-down of the group is (?)…

  • http://skepticalmonkey.com Ted Goas

    Whoever does more research on the topic at hand. Also helps to be a good arguer/debater…

  • Kathryn

    Wasn’t there some study on this? Obviously we’re biased, but I thought there was definitely some kind of positive correlation between intelligence and atheism… which is kind of the stereotype.

  • http://ecstathy.blogspot.com efrique

    I don’t think who is more intelligent is a particularly meaningful question, though it has already been answered.

    What I think is more important is why the current culture is so strongly anti-intellectual, so strongly “anti-expertise”, and so promoting of the ridiculous notion that if you want it to be true, it is therefore truer than anything that is independentdly verifiable. Reality itself is reviled in the face of faith. Where the heck does that come from? I think its the single most dangerous issue facing us, because just about every other bad fight the skeptical, rational community is fighting seems to flow out of that.

  • Wes

    It’s important to make a very clear distinction between a stupid idea and a stupid person. The one does not necessarily imply the other. A smart person could believe something stupid and still be a smart person. Also, a stupid person might still have some good ideas (the whole “even a broken clock is right twice a day” phenomenon).

    So we shouldn’t automatically discount what a person says merely because she’s not intelligent, and we also shouldn’t assume that because a person says/believes something stupid he must himself also be stupid. Neither is a logical or reasonable way to evaluate people or ideas.

    I think a lot of religious beliefs are mind-blowingly stupid. But I don’t think that means that anyone who believes them is a stupid person. I also think there’s good evidence to support the idea that mental abilities vary from person to person just as much as physical abilities, and some people just aren’t very bright. But that doesn’t mean they can never be correct, or never make an insightful observation. Nor does it mean they’ll inevitably believe stupid things, such as religion. They might, or they might not.

    However, it should be noted that, statistically speaking, atheism is much better represented amongst the well-educated than amongst the poorly educated. The more educated and intelligent a person is, the more statistically likely that person is to be an atheist. Uneducated and/or unintelligent people are more likely to be religious. These are just empirical facts, and should not be ignored. There might really be some kind of correlation between religion and intelligence. But we should be very cautious how we interpret those facts, and not use them to create false or malicious stereotypes.

  • MTran

    Regardless of native intelligence or tendencies to compartmentalize beliefs, I think there is a danger in subscribing to beliefs that must be “compartmentalized” or reasoned away in the first place.

    One danger is that once we fence off thinking in one area, and are willing to accept supernatural explanations for some things, we create modes or habits of thought that can end up being applied where they have disastrous consequences.

    Another danger is that most religions encourage an acceptance of “truths” based on authority or “revelation.” Both of these approaches undermine critical thinking skills.

    I know full well that there are plenty of intelligent, well educated theists out there. But that doesn’t mean we should encourage or too softly tolerate such thinking ;-)

  • BZ

    @ Jake

    It is true that data has to be interpreted, but that doesn’t mean all ways of interpreting data are equal. If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then the interpretation of duck is better than the interpretation of elephant. Round and flat Earths are not merely two different interpretations of the same data, same for young and old Earths.

  • http://www.skepchick.org writerdd

    Belief has nothing to do with intelligence. I was once a fundamentalist Christian and now I am an atheist. My IQ didn’t change. If I was smart now, I was smart then. If I was dumb then, I am dumb now.

  • The Unbrainwashed

    Come on guys! Let’s be honest here.

    It’s very clear to me: Atheists are generally, on average, smarter than theists. And I’m not buying into stereotypes or cultural generalizations of the Bible belt. Simply, atheism requires high level thought, the ability to rationally answer a difficult question. It requires a mind that can point out rhetoric and doctrine, rather than fall for it.

    Does this mean that ALL theists are stupid? No way in hell. But, ON AVERAGE, atheists are smarter. There was a meta-analysis performed by Mensa of 43 studies that basically proved that atheists are generally smarter (don’t feel like looking it up). Yes we can dispute whether the SAT’s or IQ or anything else constitutes intelligence, but they measure something related to the ability to formulate ideas (which most would agree is intelligence).

    Finally, 93% of the academy of sciences are atheist or agnostic! We win!

    On a side note: I haven’t posted for awhile. Did anyone notice? Or am I grossly overestimating my presence on this site?

  • Badger3k

    Intelligence has nothing to do with the amount of cognitive dissonance a person can support. Add in that many theistic arguments and beliefs are emotional, which can short circuit rather than aid intelligence, and there you go: intelligent people who can juggle evidence-based reality with fantasy and believe both are real.

  • Richard Wade

    Yes, The Unbrainwashed, I noticed your absence. You last posted a comment here on March 18 at 9:00 PM on the thread, “The Double Standard Against Barack Obama.” (Not that I was counting.) Where the hell have you been? Off having a good time with your atheist friends? Blogging in all sorts of unsavory sites? (Don’t blog that! You don’t know where it’s been! ) Out electrogalavanting around when you should have been here adding your clarity, forcefulness and humor to our dialogues? Well, never mind. I missed you and I’m glad you’re back.

    Seriously, I keep reminding myself that all these little blocks of black text on blue or gray backgrounds represent real, living people with real lives happening out there in the three-dimensional world where all sorts of things can happen about which we may never learn. When one disappears some may notice while others don’t. We all have our own lives that pull us away from these keyboards, and some of those things can be very serious. I’m still celebrating the return of MTran! So welcome back.

  • Darryl

    Intelligence is one thing, sense is another. Theists may be intelligent, but they don’t make sense.

  • Raghu Mani

    The Unbrainwashed said,

    It’s very clear to me: Atheists are generally, on average, smarter than theists. And I’m not buying into stereotypes or cultural generalizations of the Bible belt. Simply, atheism requires high level thought, the ability to rationally answer a difficult question. It requires a mind that can point out rhetoric and doctrine, rather than fall for it.

    Finally, 93% of the academy of sciences are atheist or agnostic! We win!

    I don’t think it is clear at all. The membership of the national academy of sciences is not something you can draw conclusions from. People used this sort of logic to prove that African Americans were intellectually “inferior” – it wasn’t valid then and it isn’t valid now.

    There could be many reasons why the membership of the NAS is mostly non-believers. BTW – it is also mostly male and mostly white. Scientists are more likely to be atheists because science attracts people with a more rational mindset – that does not mean that people in other disciplines are less intelligent. Intelligence isn’t one-dimensional.

    Raghu

  • The Unbrainwashed

    @ Richard Wade:
    Thank you. I appreciate your kind words. I’ve been posting more often on another (not religious oriented) website. I’ve posted here a few times under Anon. I was hesitant to sign on as The Unbrainwashed b/c I’m using a family member’s computer.

    Nonetheless, I’m glad to finally post again, but I’m still very much involved at the other forum.

    BTW: How did you find out when I last posted? Is there a place where I can see all my comments??!?!?!?!? That would be so cool.

  • The Unbrainwashed

    OK I think here’s the gist of the dissonance here:

    1) What mental acuities make one more likely to be an atheist?

    2) What is a concise and accurate description of intelligence (if one exists)?

    3) Do higher levels of these mental abilities match said description of intelligence?

    My answers:

    1) Ability to formulate objective ideas. Ability to understand philosophical nuance. Ability to understand the scientific method and the implications of science. etc…

    2) Ability to understand formal logic. Ability to formulate complex ideas in a philosophical, literary, or scientific arena. IMHO: This is somewhat accurately represented on quantitative examinations such as the SAT, IQ, and, more contentiously, college/high school GPA. It’s also characterized by education level, although this is muddled up most forcefully than the others by social factors.

    3) Yes they match up rather well. Thus, I conclude atheism is usually an indicator of higher intelligence.

  • Richard Wade

    BTW: How did you find out when I last posted? Is there a place where I can see all my comments??!?!?!?!? That would be so cool.

    Richard sees all and knows all. But he forgets a lot so don’t press him on stuff.

    Well, there are two ways you can see your own unwashed brainyness. If you type Unbrainwashed into the little search box on the right side of any of these threads you’ll find three threads that mention you in their orginal articles. Seems that you stir up lots of trouble. Keep it up!

    The other way is if you subscribe to get email notices of new comments on threads where you have commented, at the bottom of each email you can click on a link that will go to a list of every thread on Friendly Atheist that you ever subscribed to. Searching each one for your name will give you every thing you ever wrote here and every response that mentions your name. Lots of work, I know but you’re worth it, right?

    The way I did it was by using my very special, ultra top secret security clearance granted to me (with deepest humble gratitude, my lord) by our illustrious host, mentor, leader and generally helpful math guy Hemant Mehta (may all his numbers be rational) deep inside the inner core of the extremely well hidden Central Headquarters of the Friendly Atheist. It is an arduous journey to get down in there. There I was able to find every comment by you or by others mentioning you.

    Knowlege is power! Hoohoohoohohohahahahah!! (ahem) Sorry.

  • Becksi

    Perhaps there could be some difference in character instead?

    If a child is threatened with eternal torture as a child for not accepting the faith, what kind of child would accept the faith and what kind would question the threat?

  • MTran

    The Unbrainwashed said: Simply, atheism requires high level thought, the ability to rationally answer a difficult question. It requires a mind that can point out rhetoric and doctrine, rather than fall for it.

    Although this is a rather flattering characterization, and I would like to think it applied to me, I don’t agree that atheism requires an individual to have those qualities.

    Not all believers who become atheists do so because of logic, reason, or love of the scientific method. Those are the people, however, who seem to be more inclined to write about the reasons for their deconversion and to publicly challenge believers.

    But we shouldn’t forget that plenty of people have rejected theism motivated by ethics/morals, literature, history, aesthetics, or sentiment.

    The ability to apply rationality to difficult questions is just as readily employed by religious apologists to reach utterly different conclusions. Talk to your nearest Jesuit professor and you’ll see that for yourself.

    Factors such as personality and temperament, I think, play a larger part than a love of logic in deconversions to atheism. A person who is driven by curiosity to pose new questions and to seek a greater understanding is more likely to question religious truths and other social customs than a person who doesn’t see any need or fun in such exercises.

    Beyond that, a person who was not raised in an atheist household will need to develop the willingness to be an outsider, to be seen as a rebel, to be unintimidated by authority, and to exist in a world of fluid uncertainty about the aswers to ultimate questions.

    That’s asking an awful lot from most people, especially when the only likely reward is personal satisfaction that you’ve achieved an important insight.

  • bradm

    This strikes me as an incredibly vain post. It seems akin to asking whether blondes are more beautiful than brunettes. Does it even matter who is smarter? If you answer “yes” to that question, I hope that you don’t derive your self-worth from how smart you perceive yourself to be. I say that in all sincerity.

  • Pingback: Spring Tuesday in May: final exam time! « blueollie

  • Jacob Dink

    I think it does come down to what type of intelligence. One needs to be extremely rigorous and intelligent in philosophy and certain types of science.

  • Karen

    MTran

    Factors such as personality and temperament, I think, play a larger part than a love of logic in deconversions to atheism. A person who is driven by curiosity to pose new questions and to seek a greater understanding is more likely to question religious truths and other social customs than a person who doesn’t see any need or fun in such exercises.

    Definitely true. I’m intensely curious about what motivates deconverts and so have asked dozens (hundreds?) of them over the past few years. If there’s any common thread, it’s a burning desire to ask tough questions and follow the evidence – even if it leads to radically challenging what they’ve been indoctrinated into since childhood, a daunting prospect for most.

    Beyond that, a person who was not raised in an atheist household will need to develop the willingness to be an outsider, to be seen as a rebel, to be unintimidated by authority, and to exist in a world of fluid uncertainty about the aswers to ultimate questions.

    That’s asking an awful lot from most people, especially when the only likely reward is personal satisfaction that you’ve achieved an important insight.

    Yup. I would say very few of us in the U.S. were raised in atheist households. That makes the majority of us atheists here deconverts, outsiders, disappointments to our family and friends. To take that path when it clearly leads to strife and discomfort with those who love us the most means we have to have an almost brutal commitment to intellectual honesty.

    This is what differentiates atheists from theists, much more than intelligence itself, in my view. Very smart religious people can be completely happy believing something because they want it to be true. Even modestly intelligent atheists balk at that idea. It’s a personality difference, primarily.

    The way I did it was by using my very special, ultra top secret security clearance granted to me (with deepest humble gratitude, my lord) by our illustrious host, mentor, leader and generally helpful math guy Hemant Mehta (may all his numbers be rational) deep inside the inner core of the extremely well hidden Central Headquarters of the Friendly Atheist. It is an arduous journey to get down in there. There I was able to find every comment by you or by others mentioning you.

    Knowlege is power! Hoohoohoohohohahahahah!! (ahem) Sorry.

    LOL – Richard, you’re on a roll. Mom must be feeling better. :-)

  • ash

    Richard sees all and knows all.

    oh, shit…..god? that you?

  • ash

    i really liked a previous comment left here, a long time ago by someone whose name i don’t remember…so, sorry for not giving credit.

    they also made the point about atheism being an opt-out choice, therefore requiring more thought and reasoning. the reason that resonated so much with me is that i live in England, where lip service is popular, but polarity on the scale of the US is much rarer. plus, the comment also mentioned that if the majority are in one camp, statistically that’s also where you’ll find the majority of teh stoopid. there’s good reason i come to American run sites to read intelligent comments from either side of the religious debates.

  • MTran

    bradm,

    As for questions about blondes, I always heard the classic question to be: “Is it true blondes have more fun?” Given the quantity of hair lightener purchased in the US, it seems that a lot of brunettes want to find out for themselves ;-)

    I’m not exactly sure who the rest of your complaint is directed to.

    If you are responding to Hemant’s original post, then I strenuously disagree with your characterization of it being “vain.” You seem to have entirely missed the light handed, conciliatory tone and content that is typical of Hemant’s postings.

    If you are averse to having the question raised, I’ve got to ask why that would be.

    But it is your final remark that I, in all sincerity, find to be presumptious, arrogant, uninsightful, and vain. You say, “I hope that you don’t derive your self-worth from how smart you perceive yourself to be.”

    Valuing intelligence or education is not an elitist, delusional, or negative quality to have. Nor does valuing intelligence and education interfere with the tendency to value other qualities, such as compassion and tolerance.

    Your gratuitous advice implies that you may have made those unsupportable assumptions. At the same time, many of the self-identified atheists in the thread have rejected the utility of the “intelligence” measure. Did you miss those comments in their entirety?

    Perhaps I have misinterpreted your intent, but really, that’s how your unwarranted admonishment comes across when I read it.

  • bradm

    Yes, you misinterpreted my intent. And yes, I noticed that Hemant’s post was conciliatory, etc.

    Notice that “valuing intelligence” is a lot different than “ranking my own intelligence against other people’s intelligence.” My comment was with regard to the latter, not the former.

    Likewise, my comment about self-worth was about those who feel the need to compare themselves to others to see who is more intelligent. The comparison here to beauty/body image is apt. I can value my looks and my body without comparing it to others. And all too often, when people derive their self-worth from how they look compared to other people, they end up perceiving their self-image as lower than if they just valued their looks for what they were. I think a similar thing can happen when people compare their own intelligence to others.

    And, finally, no I didn’t miss the comments that rejected the utility of intelligence. My comment did not concern them.

  • MTran

    bradm,

    Thanks for trying to clarify your previous remarks. They still come across as gratuitous posturing to me, perhaps even more so, regardless as to whether your intent was innocent or well meaning.

    Why do you think you need to admonish anyone on this thread? What makes you think you are qualified to do so? Why do you rank your own preferences on how people evaluate themselves as being superior to the preferences you (mostly erroneously) attribute to others?

    Whatever wisdom you think you are imparting, you are not. I’d suggest you reassess the rather hypocritical instructions you have issued to the less enlightened masses who frequent this site. I’d also urge you to stop dispensing advice until you get a better handle on your own limitations.

    By the way, which NFL team plays the best game? Which Olympic contenders have been given the best odds of winning? Maybe you don’t care –I know I don’t– but many millions do. Is there something terribly amiss about those who do?

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike Clawson

    It occurs to me that perhaps “who is more intelligent?” is not a very useful question to be asking. Perhaps a better question would be: If you think that you are more intelligent than others (whether you’re a theist or an atheist), how can you make sure to use this intelligence in a way that blesses others, rather than belittles them? How do you nurture your intelligence in a way that avoids the pitfalls of arrogance, self-righteousness, and a blindness to one’s own biases, and at the same time causes others to desire intelligence too and seek it for themselves?

  • Darryl

    Good thoughts Mike. Yes, one may be intelligent and narrow-minded, negative, unfriendly, etc. Intelligence, as we know, is no hedge against error, bias, bigotry, superstition, and ignorance. I consider myself a reasonably intelligent person, but I know my weak points. I know that I have to work at trying to see things as others do.

  • http://mypantstheatre.blogspot.com bullet

    You owe me a keyboard.

  • Richard Wade

    Thank you Mike C. Your question is really a far better one to ask, and one to ask of ourselves constantly. I met so many, many people in my previous work, some of whom were undeniably intelligent, some of whom were pretty dim and most of whom were somewhere in the middle. They had all sorts of other strengths, weaknesses, virtues, flaws, gifts and challenges but none of that ever impressed me for or against them.

    What impressed me was when they demonstrated virtues that could only be used when interacting with others: Kindness, compassion, courtesy, courage, honesty, respect, fairness, tolerance, patience and generosity.

    None of those require intelligence by the usual definitions, nor does any other category of people posess them more than any others, be they atheist, theist, unschooled, educated, rich, poor, old, young, male, female, or any of the so-called races. Anyone can practice these in their daily lives and anyone can fail to do so. Anyone can get better at practicing them no matter how good they already are at it, or how bad they are at it. All we need to practice them is another person in front of us, and any person should be suitable. No, not the one we would prefer but the one in front of us right now.

  • http://www.otmatheist.com hoverFrog

    Clearly theists are imaginative people.

  • http://www.theflowfieldunity.com Adam_Y

    Firstly, it’s a self portrait that I drew regarding my own personal feelings towards my religious upbringing and my subsequent move towards becoming a humanist.

    If you were to have a look at the original post on my site you would also notice that I was prompted to draw this because I was accused of having no faith, by a Christian. I found this rather empty headed of them, since I do have faith… just not in any god.

    I wasn’t saying that all Christians, or any other religious believer are vacant, mind-wise, just that particular one… he was speaking without thinking, as a result of his religious indocrination, as far as I felt anyway.

    I certainly have no problem with the intelligence of religious types en mass, as that would be both discriminatory and, oddly enough against my own faith in humanity.

  • http://www.stephenjaygould.org/ Miguel Chavez

    Answer: who cares. You still have to address the evidence, regardless of your position.

    But “hoverFrog” makes an interesting point…

    Best,

  • Pingback: Psh, cha.

  • crooked wand

    http://kspark.kaist.ac.kr/Jesus/Intelligence%20&%20religion.htm

    studies show a clear correlation between intelligence and atheism


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X