I’m no rocket surgeon, but even I understand the importance of enlisting the help of intelligent people when seeking answers to difficult questions.
To that end, there’s a well documented inverse proportional relationship between IQ and religion. Generally speaking, the higher your intelligence, or the more informed you are, the less likely you are to believe in God or value religion.
A 1998 survey of American Academy of Science members revealed that only 7% had a belief in a personal God.
A survey of the Royal Society found that only 3.3% believed in God.
The 2008 report Average intelligence predicts atheism rates across 137 nations found a negative correlation between national IQ and disbelief in God across 137 countries. Their research cites other collaborating evidence, such as a decline in religious belief among aging adolescents, declines in belief as populations become more educated, and 43 other studies that investigated similar questions and found negative correlations 93% of the time. Looking at their chart (right) it appears we humans begin to question God when our IQs exceed 90. If we extrapolate this trend, we can theorize that very few of us would value religion if our IQs were all above 140 or so.
Survey says… atheists are better informed
A 2010 Pew survey reaffirmed these findings when it found that atheists and agnostics were better informed than the average believer. While this wasn’t an IQ test, it did suggest that atheists (and agnostics) were not rejecting religion out of hand, or out of ignorance, but rather with a more comprehensive understanding of religion than those who subscribed to one such belief.
Stay ignorant, stay saved?
Such findings lead us to some unfortunate conclusions about God. For example, the more intelligent he makes you, the less likely you are to ultimately find salvation.
Also, if you want your religion to remain important to you, it’s best that you remain as uninformed as possible, since the more you learn, the less likely you are to value religion.
Intelligent AND religious!
But just because you’re religious, that doesn’t make you unintelligent.
If all high-IQ individuals flocked to the same religion, that might tell us something. Likewise, when we see many intelligent individuals subscribing to many different religions, this too should tell us something: intelligence alone is not enough.
As skeptic Michael Shermer says, “Smart people believe weird things because they are skilled at defending beliefs they arrived at for non-smart reasons.”
Smart people become attached to a religious belief first, and then find intelligent ways to defend their cherished beliefs. Rarely do they openly survey all religious beliefs, and then make an informed decision. Personal bias and preconceived notions can interfere with critical thinking.
Perhaps religious ideas flourish in the IQ range that most of us find ourselves in, just as the idea of Santa seems entirely reasonable within the IQ range of a young child. And perhaps we never outgrow religion, because our IQ never exceeds beyond this range. But when it does, those individuals may be able to recognize the foolishness of the masses, just as adults are able to recognize the foolishness of believing in Santa.
I don’t think it’s unreasonable to suggest that the most intelligent among us should also be the most capable of seeing the truth about God and religion. If a particular religion is true, we should see the majority of intelligent individuals flocking towards it. But the fact remains that, for the most part, educated and intelligent people tend to move away from religious beliefs.