Atheists more intelligent than religious people

15:00 AEST Tue Aug 13 2013
Kimberly Gillan
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In a controversial piece of research that is sure to ignite debate, US researchers have concluded that religious people are more likely to have lower IQs than non-religious people.

The University of Rochester researchers found there was "a reliable negative relation between intelligence and religiosity" in 53 of 63 studies they reviewed.

The studies began as early as the 1920s, and each was analysed independently for data collection method, sample size and analysis used.

Only two of the studies showed religious people had higher intelligence, and 35 strongly suggested they had lower intelligence.

The authors suggested a number of reasons for their findings.

"Intelligent people tend to adopt an analytic, as opposed to intuitive, thinking style, which has been shown to undermine religious beliefs," they wrote in Personality and Social Psychology Review.

"Intelligent people are less likely to conform and, thus, are more likely to resist religious dogma. And 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."

The three researchers, who are all psychologists, found the trend starts in childhood, with intelligent children more likely to shun religion than individuals with average intelligence.

They also found elderly people with higher IQs are less likely to follow a religion.

They found no such correlation between other factors, such as gender or education, and intelligence.

Your say: Do you agree with this research? Share in the comments below.

User comments
Really? It took a study to figure out that people who believe in a giant invisible man in the sky who always on their side (no matter which side is claiming him) are dumber than people who don't?
Religious doctrines started as sensible rules, which folk had decided were good lores to follow eg "Don't eat scavengers" as they contained bacteria from eating garbage. As time progressed they took the place of tribes, towns, countries & governments, in being a way to expand the mass of your army. The size of your flock meant survival - we are a tribal race who will destroy other tribes to protect ourselves or increase our wealth. It's easier to get people to believe through fear of the unknowable eg "For a man to have sex with a man is punishable by eternal pain" than "We need numbers up, must breed like rabbits so hetero-couple bonding is the only paradigm allowed". The creation of dogma & rituals has been impressive= fascinatingly effective, oft reinforced by law, misery creating. And completely invented by man. I believe no living earth-bound being can know what god is or how it works. Nor could their prophet. Please Stop Trying! PS For a giggle google "cosmic jewish zombie"
Yes but are they wiser? My experience has shown me after having talked to many and also having a close relative that is a Mega Mensa, common sense did not come naturally.
It is not logical to compare apples with oranges. Christianity is based on a living Faith. Atheism originates from Unbelief. It is not possible to compare the two based on the level of Intelligence of the followers of either.
Thanks, Religious! I appreciate this attitude - it's all too rare. I agree, personal attacks and mocking really detract from this sort of discussion, put people on the defensive, and mean that valid points often get lost in the noise. I was a Christian for most of my life, and now I am an atheist - so I've seen this from both sides of the fence.
First of all I would like to thank you for not attacking me on the basis I am a Christian and stating facts rather than attacks. You are right in regards to the fact that the study does not state all Christians are not intelligent etc. Also yes, I would certainly have to critique the study in its entirety prior to being able to comment conclusively on the results. I guess I get a l little annoyed with people rail roading studies like this to pursue their own anti religious views in quite a vehement manner. I guess I should admit I dismissed the study more unfairly than I should have due to my own annoyance at some people immediately commenting on 'the stupid Christians' (my paraphrasing). For that I apologise. So in short I may have to back track slightly and say the study may be correct but it does not validate the attack on Christian's intelligence that is portrayed in many of the comments.
In response to 'Religious!' an intelligent, educated scientist, surely you must understand the difference between anecdotes and and statistical evidence. The fact that you are an intelligent Christian has no bearing on the validity of the study, which is based on aggregate data from 63 studies. It doesn't state that 'all Christians are dumb, and all atheists are smart'. It states that ON AVERAGE, religious people are less intelligent than atheists. Stating that you don't believe the study on this basis is a complete departure from the scientific method. To dispute the study, you would need to actually look at how the study was done and find some flaw in methodology or logic (and the beauty of the scientific method is that this study, with it's data and methodology, is published so that people can do exactly that). The same applies to 'Anon' writing about Wernher von Braun...a single counter-example has no bearing at all on the validity of the study.
Big surprise. Now Stephan of Auckland just proved this to be correct. Ignorance Stephan is believing "hundreds" saw Jesus. In Fact in the area that "Jesus" performed all these so called miracles. like walking on Water, feeding the masses with just 2 fish and healing the sick. There were dozens of Historians writing about all sorts of things during this time. And do you know how many wrote about this amazing person called "Jesus"? Thats right. Not One. Obviously there were more amazing things happening at the time other than some guy walking across water and curing the sick and dying. The 3 kings are stars not people. they are Part of Orions Belt . Along with Sirius the star in the East. And on the 21st of Dec the "Egyptians" believed (long before Christians stole and rehashed the story) that it was the rebirth(or birth) of the Sun. (the winter equinox) The sun god. The bible is full of lies and silly stories. Now if a pool had just 1 *** floating in it would you jump in.?
This is too vague. Were they looking at a particular religion or just people who identify as religious? Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu? And by "non-religious" do they mean just atheists, or people who identify as non-religious? Atheist, agnostic, spiritualist? I'm agnostic but I'm not non-religious - I think that there could be something like a creator or a divine power, but I don't presume to understand it and I haven't seen definitive evidence either way. Atheists are not necessarily different than the religious in that they still believe in something, it's just a different something than somebody who believes in a God or gods. "several functions of religiosity, including compensatory control, self-regulation, self-enhancement, and secure attachment, are also conferred by intelligence." Not true. One can have a high IQ without those things. Religions have other purposes anyway - they unite people, they teach moral values, order society, allay fears of the unknown and death, etc.
Yes, the foundation of this study is none other than good old ignorance. Christians do not believe in Jesus as a result of their poor analytical abilities. Hundreds of witnesses saw everything that Jesus did. If God is not real then nothing would happen if you would reach out to him. The question is rather, what if God actually did exist, in which case, if you dare reach out to him, the chance is 100% that you would know. The lower IQ situation actually shows up where the aparently "wise' ones try to convince everyone else to belive in evolution while not even one speck of evidence have ever been found to prove that evolution is real. The missing link is still missing...

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