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Religious Faith and Intelligence

From: Don W.
Sent on: Wednesday, August 14, 2013 2:37 AM
There is a recent meta-analysis showing that there is less religious faith among those with more intelligence:
It seems obvious that this should be the case. There are literally thousands of claims made by religious dogma that are either impossible, profoundly improbable or so evil in their consequences that a reasonable level of intelligence should preclude any such belief. Religious faith requires the suspension of intellect if someone is to support any of these beliefs. Quoting from the abstract of the study (included at the end) “intelligent people tend to adopt an analytic (as opposed to intuitive) thinking style, which has been shown to undermine religious beliefs.”
 
However, I would caution people in how they make use of this information. I noticed that Richard Dawkins is very careful in his debates to be careful to not imply that religiosity implies a lack of intelligence. I think this can be very good strategy. It disarms the person being debated and places more attention of the logical arguments being discussed. I often cite the fact that 94% of the members of the National Academy of Sciences do not believe in a personal God. I don't do that with the intent to document that this is what bright people do. I do it to counter the religious propaganda that atheists are somehow evil. NAS members are a group for which a very high level of moral behavior is expected.
 
We had the author Ryan Cragun out to our Rockville MD Discussion Group a couple of meetings ago. His book What You Don't Know About Religion (but should) touched on this issue. The effect cited in his book was rather small. It is sufficiently small that, in my opinion, it is not worth playing a card that can be perceived as a personal put down. Beyond that, the implication that we are somehow some kind of elite, better than thou, nerdy bunch can make us seem not attractive as a community that others might like to join.
 
With these caveats in place, this study is still an important new piece of research.
 
Don
 
http://psr.sagepub.com/content/early/2013/08/02/1088868313497266
Abstract
 
A meta-analysis of 63 studies showed a significant negative association between intelligence and religiosity. The association was stronger for college students and the general population than for participants younger than college age; it was also stronger for religious beliefs than religious behavior. For college students and the general population, means of weighted and unweighted correlations between intelligence and the strength of religious beliefs ranged from −.20 to −.25 (mean r = −.24). Three possible interpretations were discussed. First, intelligent people are less likely to conform and, thus, are more likely to resist religious dogma. Second, intelligent people tend to adopt an analytic (as opposed to intuitive) thinking style, which has been shown to undermine religious beliefs. Third, several functions of religiosity, including compensatory control, self-regulation, self-enhancement, and secure attachment, are also conferred by intelligence. Intelligent people may therefore have less need for religious beliefs and practices.

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