According to psychologists, is an atheist smart and a believer in religions stupid?

People often try to associate the status of people with their beliefs. When they hear that so-and-so is the owner of the largest technology company in the world, the most important businessman in the world, or a Nobel Prize winner, it often comes to their minds to verify the person’s religion or religious beliefs that he adopts. Not far from this is people’s astonishment, astonishment, and constant questions, such as: How does this great physicist embrace a religion that sanctifies animals and things?

Or perhaps you often hear phrases that say: So-and-so began reading in philosophy and religions, and he is inevitably on his way to atheism. Or you may have heard many claims that religious people are less intelligent because they accept elementary explanations, or that they do not like to strain their minds or think freely. There is no doubt that the area of ​​discussions about beliefs and atheism is a thorny area tainted by a lot of sharpness and sensitivity between its supporters and opponents.

This article does not examine the validity of religion or the arguments for atheism, but rather reviews the scientific studies that have attempted to trace the relationship of the level of intelligence to religious belief or the lack of religious belief in an individual. Hence,The aim of this article is to present scientific studies in the field of cognitive and cognitive psychology on the relationship of intelligence to the beliefs held by individuals. Do your religious beliefs determine your brilliance, or is it determined by other determinants?

Not right

It is not true that there is a scientifically clear causal or statistically significant link between belief or atheism and the level of intelligence, or that atheists are more intelligent than necessarily believers; We may find among those who embrace atheism those who record average or low IQs and vice versa, and we may find among those who embrace religious beliefs those who register high IQs and vice versa.

The reason for this famous claim about the association of intelligence with atheism and the association of religiosity with non-intelligence may be due to biased claims made by the pioneers of the Enlightenment and secularization due to the conflict with the Church in the Middle Ages in Europe. With science, humanity and progress, and this means that other than me is obscurantist, backward, and mostly religious (3).

These claims linking atheism with intelligence may be due to the ideas of the evolutionary psychologist “Satoshi Kanazawa” (1). Kanazawa’s principles state that human behavior always derives itself from the environment in which human ancestors evolved. This means that researchers in the theories of evolutionary psychology look at religion as a primitive stage in human cognition, in which the ancestors invoked the statements of religions to explain the existence around them.

This is the basis on which researchers Edward Dutton and Dimitri van der Linden based their research on the link between intelligence and religion (2) (3), and accordingly, they decided that one aspect of intelligence is the ability to rise above our advanced cognitive biases in order to allow us to Better solve new cognitive problems by being more open to unusual potential solutions. Dutton and van der Linden’s argument is simply that humans have certain cognitive biases, and it is intelligence that enables them to flexibly overcome them (4).

One of the important studies that reviewed the studies that examined the relationship of intelligence to religious beliefs or religiosity, is a study conducted by psychologists “Zuckerman” and “Silberman Hall”, where they performed an audit work by looking at the processes that may cause the association between intelligence and religiosity (5) (6), Indeed, they found that atheism or lack of religious belief may be associated with intelligence, but it is not a direct link, but rather is caused by intermediate factors that lead to such statistical associations. According to the researchers, it is related to the cognitive and behavioral characteristics of intelligent people, according to the following dynamics:

  • Intelligent people are more likely than their peers to defy tradition and not conform to group values.
  • People who score high on the g scale of intelligence adopt analytical thinking techniques.
  • People who score low on a G scale of intelligence tend to have intuitive thinking patterns.

So, the relationship is not direct between religion and intelligence, or between atheism and intelligence, as much as intelligence is related to behavioral and thinking patterns that make them more inclined to a particular trend or beliefs. According to the study, humans are drawn to different ways of understanding the world based on their ability to deal with complexity. Science is too complex for those of less intelligence to resort to the simpler explanations and guiding rules for life that religions usually provide.

What is right?

All these hypotheses are undermined; The hypothesis that religious beliefs are irrational, unscientific, and untestable, and therefore unattractive to intelligent people. Also, those conclusions are built on the definition of analytical intelligence without considering newly defined forms of creative and emotional intelligence. Analytical intelligence, also known as the g factor, captures the ability to think, plan, solve problems, think abstractly, understand complex ideas, learn quickly, and learn from experience.

As for Helmuth Nyborg, one of those who tried to prove that atheists outsmart the religious, he left out social, economic and/or financial factors, since most of the countries he referred to as having low intelligence are less “developed” African countries. This puts a researcher like Helmut into doubt, as he previously tried to prove that women are less intelligent than men, and that blacks are less intelligent than whites (7), to lose his theories of credibility in modern science.

In his criticism of the aforementioned research, AI researcher Randy Olson concludes that both religious and atheists in developed countries were all within the limits of average intelligence. In practice, neither is well distinguished from the other. So, all the papers failed to show that atheists were actually smarter just because they were atheists or simply because they were devoid of religious beliefs.

But researchers also wonder: Is there really any sense if atheists or religious people are smarter? (3) Intelligence, according to the American Psychological Association’s Glossary of Psychological Terms, is the ability to elicit information and adapt flexibly to new problems by applying and analyzing past experiences. and learn from them. This definition is important; Because intelligence does not necessarily express the correctness or wrongness of beliefs, and high intelligence of people does not indicate the correctness or wrongness of their beliefs, but intelligence according to many studies is related to the academic and professional performance of the individual, his social and economic status, his health habits, his age, and his commitment to laws (8) (9).

Intelligence does not tell us about the validity or invalidity of beliefs, intelligence does not tell us about the objective value of ideas, religions, and schools of thought, intelligence expresses individuals, their owners, their abilities to analyze and use information and previous experiences they have to solve a new problem or a different situation. There are intelligent people who embrace religious beliefs, and there are those who do not embrace any religious belief, and describe themselves as atheists, yet they score low on the intelligence scale.

Resources for more

In his video, A Scientific Defense of Spiritual and Religious Belief, Tony Jack, Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology, means to explain one of the arguments that has solidified the myth that IQs are associated with belief or atheism, according to which scientists with high intelligence are often atheists. .

the reviewer:

  1. The Myth of the Stupid Believer – Edward Dutton and others (2019)
  2. Are religious people really less smart, on average, than atheists? – Emma Young (2018)
  3. Does it matter if atheists are smarter than believers? – Rob Brooks (2013)
  4. Why more intelligent people tend to be atheistic? (2017)
  5. Are Religious People Really, On Average, Less Smart than Atheists? (2018)
  6. Religious people are less intelligent than atheists, according to analysis of scores of scientific studies stretching back over decades (2013)
  7. Atheists are more intelligent? Refuting that old atheist myth (2016)
  8. IQ and Society: The deeply interconnected web of IQ and societal outcomes (2018)
  9. What Does IQ Really Measure? – Science (2011)

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