From John Ray's shorter notes

15 August, 2013

Religious people are 'less intelligent'?

This claim has been tossed about for quite a while so the comprehensive study below is very welcome. It should go a fair way towards settling the question. And what is shown is clear enough: Just over 5% of the variance in religious attachment is explainable by intelligence. In other words, IQ DOES influence religious attachment but only to a trivial degree. There are almost the same number of high IQ religious people as there are high IQ non-religious people. IQ is unimportant to an understanding of religion. Personality and cultural factors are presumably the main drivers

In fact, cultural factors could also be the drivers of the slight relationship between IQ and religion. High IQ people probably stay longer in the educational system and the educational system is broadly unsympathetic to religion. So high IQ people are exposed to more anti-religious messages and might in consequence be less inclined towards religious observance -- JR

RELIGIOUS people are less intelligent than non-believers, according to a review of 63 scientific studies, but not for the reasons you might think.

Miron Zuckerman led a team at the University of Rochester who found "a reliable negative relation between intelligence and religiosity" in 53 out of 63 studies.

But the group found that it wasn't because intelligent people "know better" but often because they are better placed to offer themselves the psychological benefits offered by religion.

"Intelligent people typically spend more time in school - a form of self-regulation that may yield long-term benefits," the researchers write. "More intelligent people get higher level jobs (and better employment (and higher salary) may lead to higher self-esteem, and encourage personal control beliefs."

The paper, published in the academic journal Personality and Social Psychology Review, quoted a 1916 study which found that, "58 per cent of randomly selected scientists in the United States expressed disbelief in, or doubt regarding the existence of God; this proportion rose to nearly 70 per cent for the most eminent scientists."

"People possessing the functions that religion provides are likely to adopt atheism, people lacking these very functions (e.g., the poor, the helpless) are likely to adopt theism," the researchers wrote.

The Relation Between Intelligence and Religiosity: A Meta-Analysis and Some Proposed Explanations

By Miron Zuckerman et al


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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