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, 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 finds 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 get smarter, 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 most of us would be atheist if our IQs were 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 most believers. This wasn’t an IQ test, but it does suggests that atheists and agnostics are not rejecting religion based on ignorance, but on a more comprehensive understanding of religion.
Stay stupid, stay saved!?
Such findings lead us to some very strange conclusions about God. For example, the more intelligent He makes you, the less likely it is that He cares to save you. And if you want your religion to remain important to you, you should remain as ignorant as possible, since it’s well documented that the more you cultivate your intelligence, the less likely you are to remain religious.
However, just because you believe, that doesn’t mean you’re stupid (in fact, most non-believers are former believers). 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 preconceived notions for a variety of reasons, and find smart ways to defend them.
As a Christian, I struggled to understand the logic behind these trends. I would reason that scholarly talk of evolution and naturalism were just the “vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called” (1 Tim 6:20).
But haven’t the “vain babblings” of science eventually proven to be far more accurate and useful than any science contained in the Bible? For example, hasn’t medicine proven to be far more effective at treating disease than the Bible’s prescription of prayer?
Perhaps religious ideas flourish in the IQ range that most of us find ourselves in, just as the idea of Santa flourishes in the IQ range that young children are in. Only… we never outgrow religion because our IQ doesn’t grow out of this range. Maybe the smartest of us can see above and beyond what the rest of us see, just as adults can see above and beyond the myths of Santa.
I don’t think it’s unreasonable to suggest that the most intelligent among us should be the more capable of seeing truth in religion or God. If a particular religion is true, all the most intelligent individuals should flock to it. (And if they’re all drawn to different religions, then we still have a problem.) But if these individuals tend to move away from religion, then perhaps this should tell us something.