Are religious people really less smart, on average, than atheists?

GettyImages-628648170.jpgBy Emma Young

Of course, there are examples of extremely intelligent individuals with strong religious convictions. But various studies have found that, on average, belief in God is associated with lower scores on IQ tests. “It is well established that religiosity correlates inversely with intelligence,” note Richard Daws and Adam Hampshire at Imperial College London, in a new paper published in Frontiers in Psychology, which seeks to explore why.

It’s a question with some urgency – the proportion of people with a religious belief is growing: by 2050, if current trends continue, people who say they are not religious will make up only 13 per cent of the global population. Based on the low-IQ-religiosity link, it could be argued that humanity is on course to become collectively less smart.

One suggestion is that perhaps religious people tend to rely more on intuition. So, rather than having impaired general intelligence, they might be comparatively poor only on tasks in which intuition and logic come into conflict – and this might explain the lower overall IQ test results.

To investigate, Daws and Hampshire surveyed more than 63,000 people online, and had them complete a 30-minute set of 12 cognitive tasks that measured planning, reasoning, attention and working memory. The participants also indicated whether they were religious, agnostic or atheist.

As predicted, the atheists performed better overall than the religious participants, even after controlling for demographic factors like age and education. Agnostics tended to place between atheists and believers on all tasks. In fact, strength of religious conviction correlated with poorer cognitive performance. However, while the religious respondents performed worse overall on tasks that required reasoning, there were only very small differences in working memory.

Also, some of the reasoning tasks, such as an extra-hard version of the Stroop Task known as “colour-word remapping”, had been designed to create maximum conflict between an intuitive response and a logical one, and the biggest group differences emerged on these tasks, consistent with the idea that religious people rely more on their intuition. In contrast, for a complex reasoning task – “deductive reasoning” – for which there were no obviously intuitive answers, there was much less of a group difference.

Daws and Hampshire concluded: “These findings provide evidence in support of the hypothesis that the religiosity effect relates to conflict [between reasoning and intuition] as opposed to reasoning ability or intelligence more generally.”

If, as this work suggests, religious belief predisposes people to rely more heavily on intuition in decision-making – and the stronger their belief, the more pronounced the impact – how much of a difference does this make to actual achievement in the real world? At the moment, there’s no data on this. But in theory, perhaps cognitive training could allow religious people to maintain their beliefs without over-relying on intuition when it conflicts with logic in day to day decision-making.

The Negative Relationship between Reasoning and Religiosity Is Underpinned by a Bias for Intuitive Responses Specifically When Intuition and Logic Are in Conflict

Emma Young (@EmmaELYoung) is Staff Writer at BPS Research Digest

112 thoughts on “Are religious people really less smart, on average, than atheists?”

  1. It would be interesting to dig further into the extent to which intuition is a substitute for reason, only because the individual has a poor grasp of logical reasoning and general critical thinking or if they lack the aptitude for the latter operations at all.. Also what proportion of those that rely on intuition, can improve within a given number of months, at different maturational stages, when allowed to live outside religious influences and when given specific critical thinking education. The Christian vs Muslim vs Hindu etc, question would also be fascinating to explore, in terms of ability to learn reasoning and its relationship, if any, to racial groups, however un-pc it would be viewed by non-academics. I wonder what differences would be detected in people who have been emigrés for different periods of time. Does a host culture change the ability to learn reason, when someone moves country.

    I was an intuitive theist up to the year that I went back to college and did my Gcse’s and then A levels. As soon as my mind had a taste of how to structure my thoughts, it became obviously false to follow the religious route. If this applies generally, it is a total condemnation of our global education system. I believe now, that almost all I was taught at school, was pretty much a waste of everyone’s time, including the teachers. If I could have designed my curriculum in retrospect, I would have just taught basic maths and English and a full course of critical thinking, that’s it. I think that as long as you can think critically, read and write and do basic maths, you have all you need. The core skills could probably be taught in 2 years of school, then go where your interests take you.


    1. This is very interesting. A can of worms? First of all I would have to wonder why anybody would care enough to do a study like this? So religious people aren’t logical? Here’s a quote from the article (I guess try to ignore the fact they started a sentence off using the conjunction ‘but’) ” But in theory, perhaps cognitive training could allow religious people to maintain their beliefs without over-relying on intuition when it conflicts with logic in day to day decision-making.” Try to unpack that quote!? Religious people need cognitive training because they rely on their intuition too much…. what does this mean? Does this come down to the nature verses nurture argument? When I went to school everyone was ranked. You even received your diploma based on your rank, so the people with the worst grades walked up and got their diplomas last! Does anybody else remember doing this or am I crazy? Well, anyway my point is, we all has the same ‘cognitive training’ (the same school) but what seemed to make the most difference is, some people are just smarter! They were given a higher intellectual gift (talent) by God or Nature however you wanna put it. Let me get to another point, is it going to matter who is more “cognitive” in the after life?


      1. andrew packard: I wonder if you have any rational evidence to support the existence of the “giver” of the higher intellectual gift you mention, or the afterlife you assert we will all enjoy. I suspect not.


    2. Why do you feel the need to bring race (a non scientific classification system) into the discussion? It will unnecessarily politicize any conclusions such a study may arrive at. I think that you should examine your own critical thinking skills more thoroughly.


      1. Critical thinking dictates that if we happen to theorize about race, then we use experiments to investigate the validity of our theories. My critical thinking is unbiased by PC political preferences, just facts are my concern. You decide on your conclusions, or rather dismiss them entirely, prior to even considering if race is a valuable area of research. Racial data is free of political meaning, it is only when bigots take that data and twist it to their hateful ends, that it becomes weaponized. Please do not conflate an objective desire for pure research, with lack of critical thinking, just because in your mind, race data, must by definition, be destined for racist purposes.


    3. In my experience, almost all atheists who speak like you do (essentially, “religious belief is a product of low intelligence or deficient critical reasoning skills”) grew up in religious households that relied on dogma and blind faith rather than reason and experience. It backfires, of course — there’s no better way to create an adult atheist that to tell him as a child “Just shut up and read your Bible, boy. Stop asking questions or you’ll burn in hell.”


      1. There really is no better way to create atheists than to tell people to read the bible. It is chock-full of extraordinary claims and baseless assertions that a rational mind will feel compelled to reject.


    4. Ashkenazi Jews are the most intelligent people. They win hands down in IQ tests against any other group of people. They clean upon nearly every academic field, Science, Nobel Prizes, Awards for medical research, They even clean up as world Chess Champions, check out the actual facts about this, it’s all out there on the net. The eargument is seriously flawed that atheists are more intelligent. Jewish are probably the most religious people you will ever find ( Gods Chosen People in the OT) The research is flawed & baseless.


      1. I think they mean generally across all religions, but also, most Ashkénazes of note, tend to be secular jews, who have out grown their mystical belief strategies.


      2. I appreciate that you might think the really intelligent Jews are more likely to be atheist, but my own experience of working for a large Jewish company for many years, (sorry I can’t mention it by name, it is a large media company and the owner is a household name ) opened my eyes to the reality that the key players were anything but atheist, just the opposite they were engaged with their faith.
        On another note a Catholic Priest who attended Cambridge was the first person to propose the Big Bang which is now generaly accepted, it is also the position held by the Catholic Church. It is one in the eye for Atheists for obvious reasons, even the smartest astrophysicists can’t work that one out as the laws of physics must have been in existence already, before it happened. ?
        If Einstein disliked atheism, it’s a good reason to really question everything again … with an open mind, not a quick it’s all rubbish because I don’t understand it


  2. Here we go…

    If ‘intelligence’ is ‘ability to think critically’, then yes, religious people are by definition less intelligent.

    Belief/faith is ‘accepting something to be true without any evidence’ (confirmation and hindsight biases, social contagion experienced at least weekly in the West, on a Sunday morning, construct, reinforce and facilitate religious beliefs about the nature of reality). By its very nature then, belief or faith in the supernatural is the antithesis of science and the scientific method.

    The facts speak for themselves. If you believe in the alternative supernatural realities presented by any one of the 10,000 recognised religions practised on the planet today, then you are effectively not operating in the scientific reality of 2018. Lets face it, they can’t all be right!!!

    The biggest threat the world faces today is not climate change or unsustainable living or global warfare. It is the god delusion. The god delusion divorces us from reality, divides us, allowing us the luxury of procrastination that prevents us from acting responsibly in a timely manner as one species. The sooner we address the elephant in the room – ‘there is no such thing as god outside of human consciousness’, (the human brain), the sooner we can begin to exercise our collective responsibilities to all life on earth.

    We must also put aside the assumption that religious belief equates with ‘goodness’ and absence of religious belief equates with ‘evil’. Real life events (child abuse, mass suicides, beheadings/ stoning’s, abuse and subversion of women, honour killings and jihad) clearly evidence that this assumption is false. Some of the most compassionate,most humanitarian, kind, generous people I know are condemned by christianity and Islam as ‘non- believers’.

    I have been a reluctant baptised ‘christian’, agnostic and atheist at various stages in my life. Some of the most evil people I have met come from self- righteous, hypocritical (belief and behaviourally incongruent), organised religious institutions, that act by their very nature as a reservoir for those in ‘need of redemption’. Finding atheism (being allowed to disbelieve) was the most liberating event of my life.

    I urge all ‘intelligent’ people to get up off their knees and DO something useful like pick up some litter off your local beach or volunteer at a homeless shelter. That is what real christianity, as proposed by its founder is about, not prancing about performing sanctimonious rituals in the hope you might get into the afterlife.

    End of rant 😦

    Liked by 2 people

    1. “The biggest threat the world faces today is not climate change or unsustainable living or global warfare. It is the god delusion.”

      This assertion seems irrational.

      “I urge all ‘intelligent’ people to get up off their knees and DO something useful like pick up some litter off your local beach or volunteer at a homeless shelter. That is what real christianity, as proposed by its founder is about, not prancing about performing sanctimonious rituals in the hope you might get into the afterlife.”

      So, you are ultimately an atheist advocating for ‘real christianity’.

      But why is it even considered good to help the poor? It might be more ‘compassionate’ to let them die off. The strong survive, and the weak are taken out of the gene pool. I doubt that the world will be so much better than it is today if billions of people abandon the so called ‘delusion’ that motivates them to actually help others and also gives meaning to their lives. Not only that, but the world would be decidedly more boring if everyone became atheist. Just the cultural aspects of religious belief/tradition alone … adds so much colour and variety.

      For the record, I’m a former atheist. I see all the problems you mention within organised religion. But I also see the ‘helpers’, all of the people who are trying to be more like Jesus (or, in the case of other religions, aspiring to their highest conception of good) and I’m thankful that these people exist.


      1. “Deleted”,

        It’s no secret the primary goal of religious missions isn’t simply to help the needy, but to indoctrinate them at their most vulnerable. Do the means justify the ends? I would argue no, as the problem of religion only spreads.

        Setting that point aside, do religious people volunteer their time or money more than atheists? I’ve heard the religious leverage that point more than once, but I’ve been unable to find any proof of such.

        Second, whose contributions to society are greater, believers or atheists? Considering the science and technology community are highly-predisposed to atheism and that as this study shows, they tend to be more intelligent, and as other studies have shown, they tend to care more for civil rights, I would argue that whatever modest, minor good works the religious contribute, atheists have contributed far more.

        And those are contributions I would not want the world to be without.


      2. His assertion is not irrational, on the contrary, it makes perfect sense. If being Christian or Muslim or Hindu, is about being morally virtuous, then do virtuous things that benefit the whole earth. Do not, waste your life in prayer, the effectiveness of which is disproven every year, but do something real. If every religious person who goes to a Church or Mosque, went out and picked up litter for just 1 day per week, the Muslim and Christian areas of cities, would be pristine havens, amazingly clean and well kept places. If anything would tempt me to become religious, it is that areas in which these people live, are evidentially better and more pleasant in which to live. That makes perfect sense to me. Preach good, do good. Don’t just make religion about dreadful threats of punitive violence, if you don’t follow deity X and Pascal’s wager.


      3. “Deleted”, you don’t seem to understand evolution. You say, “The strong survive, and the weak are taken out of the gene pool.” In social species, the co-operative survive. It’s not just about strength. A real atheist would understand how natural selection works.

        I doubt that you were really an atheist, except in the weakest sense. I suspect that you simply didn’t believe in any gods, but probably didn’t have coherent arguments for why religion is false.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. As usual, poor grasp of what they are countering. In this case, he argues the strong survive. In this case, social groups are made the strongest, or best adapted to the particular demands of their environment. Hence, he is right, the social cooperation is what makes the social group strong. In chimps, cooperating to surround, corral and then kill small monkeys is an example of superior behaviour, which provides food, survival and subsequent transmission of successful DNA. Evolutionary pressure is multi-variate. You might increase your chances of survival as an individual, in the short-term, by cooperation. However if you don’t get to impregnate a successfully breeding female, then you still fail. Hence, only the strong survive, in action.

        I have a theory that this is how homosexuality might have continued, if, it is significantly genetic, as suspected. Gay males are trusted to not present a pregnancy risk, so women have throughout the ages chosen gay males as friends, due to the survival benefits of having a man around, fending off unwanted suitors, predators and assistance with hunting/gathering. I theorise that the principle of proximity often leads to gay men forming sexual relationships with heterosexual women. Spending time together often overrides other tendencies. Hence they get to pass their genes on, but without needing to be, or fight, the Alpha male pack leader. Homosexuality, might be a clever natural side step of physical superiority.



      5. Thinking about it, maybe genetic populations, who possess homosexual dna, derive some form of indirect survival advantage for female’s offspring and for the entire group, as a whole, because of the benefits of homosexuality. Maybe reducing the number of alpha male fights, in conjunction with female guardianship and possibly acting to culturally define masculinity(something to compare against) and what a women should prioritise in her mates for the best chance of a successful breeding cycle. Interesting stuff.


    2. Beggin’ your pardon, but if you were a baptized Christian, weren’t you one of the fake, hypocritical “Christians” you are complaining about? Is it possible that a bunch of agnostics or atheists are just, ya know, not real Scotsmen, so to speak, and thus are the ones engaging in hypocrisy?


    3. “The biggest threat the world faces today is not climate change or unsustainable living or global warfare. It is the god delusion.”

      The terrible fact of the 20th century is that the greatest mass killer of all time is the modern atheist state. Mao and Stalin killed more people than all religious wars combined. I urge you to form opinions that are informed by facts.

      “‘there is no such thing as god outside of human consciousness’, (the human brain)”

      There is also no such thing as language outside of the human brain either, but it is very real and important.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. umm… excuse you, but Hitler was a DEVOUT christian, and every one of his soldiers wore a belt buckle which said “God mit uns” (god with us). this cherrypicked man killed more people than your cherrypicked ones did put together by far.

        Then we have the Crusades…oh were sticking with the 20th century?
        The Ireland/England catholic/protestant killing still going on.
        Do you want to discuss the incessant war over Isreal, the planes flown into the twin towers, and the hundreds of thousands of deaths caused by fundamental muslims over the years or do you want me to stick with just christianity?
        do you want to talk about the systematic raping of children and hiding and protecting of the offending proests by the catholic church or shall i just stick with deaths? Because the transatlantic slave trade was well documented to be defended with callous bible verses such as “slaves obey your masters” and the American war of Manifest Destiny against mexico and the american natives.
        i can keep going for a long time but the end result is your cognitively dissonant confirmation bias is exactlu what the articles author is referring to, and you prove his point for us all. thank you for that

        Liked by 1 person

      2. They didn’t kill all those people, because of their Atheism, it was just a simultaneous feature of their thinking. No where do I see an Atheist Bible or set of tenets that says, kill X or Y. Stalin and Mao and all the others, were ego infected mentally ill people. They had paranoic delusions and absolute power to implement their sociopathic urges. You blame a movement or philosophy, when it specifically dictates something. Such as the prohibition of Homosexuality or disparate rights between the sexes, as with some Abrahamic religions. The no true Scotsman fallacy applies to religious extremists, because people say, if they did this horrible thing, then they were not true Muslim or Christians. That is wrong because they gained clear and traceable instruction from scripture. Where is the instruction to kill for atheists? Your argument is entirely wrong. Stalin didn’t kill because he was an Atheist, Atheism isn’t a religion or spiritual cult, it is in fact a statement of rejection of something.

        Liked by 1 person

    4. Are we allowed to believe in God at the same time that we volunteer at a homeless shelter (as we all know, religious people NEVER do stuff like that), or do you forbid combinng belief with action?


    5. I loved this! Humanity can’t move forward until everyone stops believing in fairy tales. Technological advancement would be expedited tenfold if the world worked as one. Religion is getting in the way of that!


  3. A fundamental principle required for deciding the truth is to establish the kind of evidence which is required. Unfortunately the existence of God cannot be known through science. Ironically, while causality is at the heart of science, it rebuffs the claim (originating with the Greeks) that there must be a first cause which contains the potential for all that exists. That logical argument has never been shown to be false. Which is more intelligent; to accept that there must be a first cause or to refuse the logic of the argument?


    1. This platform is not to debate the existence of god. Even if it was, it is impossible to argue with the self-deluded.

      In my professional life f over 35 years, I have interacted with hundreds of patients who experience hallucinations and beliefs about their construct of ‘reality’ not shared by anyone else around them. Because these beliefs are not reinforced socially, they are held to be incorrect by the majority, the beliefs being unique to the individual. A dose of anti- psychotic meds and the beliefs and psychotic symptoms go away. when beliefs are endorsed by others then they become a ‘belief system’. A belief system does not have to involve a god at all. There are plenty abounding in psychology for instance!

      These delusionary beliefs may be augmented by sensory hallucinations associated with ‘mental illness’ (what constitutes mental illness is open to debate – but maybe not here :-), that is invariably labelled as being somewhere on the schizophrenic spectrum. Have you ever tried to argue with a person suffering anorexia that their belief about the normality of their body shape, size and food intake is not correct or argue that an individual is not a reincarnation of a famous pop star who committed suicide and who is doomed to repeat that act in fulfilment of their self- fulfilling prophesy?

      Well, religious belief is constructed and maintained in an identical way to any other belief. I direct you to Bruce Hood (Psychologist) : Supersense: From superstition to religion, to Richard Dawkins : The God Delusion and to Michael Shermer’s (psychologist and science historian) The Believing brain. I also direct you to Daniel Kahneman and Tverskys’ work on heuristics in the evolution of belief in things that are not real (how they are culturally transmitted and maintained).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. To be honest, I’m increasingly starting to believe that most debate or argument is impossible. Seems to be the case that most people won’t position switch during a discussion, purely based on disproving of statements. I just wish that this stuff was formalised, but even using rational discussion, you just dive in to pick apart their premises and get lost in the complexity and lack of agreed definitions/facts. I really hoped that being right, would be enough to convince someone of the vegan position years ago, but I soon learned that people choose or are given their position and only then do they shoe horn the evidence to fit their position. It should be the other way round, but it isn’t. Maybe psychology, as the amphitheatre of thinking, should set out instead to formalise a rigid set of objective rules for binary argument. The could call it ‘formal logic’, (sorry being sarcastic).


      2. You made an emperically testable assertion. If belief in God is a delusion akin to psychosis, then taking antipsychotics should markedly decrease or even eliiminate belief in God. Does this happen? Maybe you should test it.


    2. If anything is to be defined as existing, then I’m sorry Quentin, it must therefore, by definition, be knowable through science. If it were not the case, then it wouldn’t exist. All physical things which impinge on our senses must be physical, rule No1 of causation. The same rule that necessitates a dismissal of free will and in fact consciousness itself, as nothing but user illusion. I would say false premise, there’s not just two options. First cause is a supposition, not based on any real evidence. Causality is eternal and infinite, it must be so, as all things have antecedents and are composed of reducible parts.


      1. “Causality is eternal and infinite, it must be so, as all things have antecedents and are composed of reducible parts.” Yes that is an excellent description of God. You now have to consider what potential infinite causality has to have in order to produce what we experience.
        You may have a little problem to overcome, however. You have dismissed freewill. From which it follows that your conclusions can have no truth value since you are claiming that they are inevitably a result of a chain of causalities which you cannot analyse. And, by the way, you have abandoned the concept of morality because you hold that we have no free choice to choose the good rather than the bad.
        You are, so to speak, hoist with your own petard.


      2. Fortunately for you, your grasp of causality is weak at best. You fall at the first fence, assuming that concsciousness is a thing at all. Evolution just required that the human animal produce a set of outputs, as if consciousness were a thing. These outputs include reflexive descriptions of the human model of self, reacting to and describing their own outputs. There is no-one doing the experiencing, just outputs, or thoughts, that simulate that fictional self. Most, probably 99%+ of psychologists have a poor grasp of causality and the necessary implications that it has for human so called consciousness. All we need is ‘all things are caused’ to conclude robustly that all processes and structures are rigidly controlled effects of prior causes. To say that free will could ever be a thing, you have to say, something exists that is not caused. Nothing does exist of that nature, other wise it would not be physical and hence not knowable by human or machine senses.

        You make a huge leap from my statement, to the conclusion that ‘God did it’. Non-Sequitur chap, sorry. You have zero evidence for a god and even less reason to make huge leaps in inference, as you do. Almost without exception, every religious person that I’ve met, has a poor grasp of logic, evolution and the ramifications of a physically caused universe. The illusion of consciousness is something that you’ll probably never grasp, thankfully for your happiness. Morality and such matters are easy enough to live by, due to the practical demands of life. However, you are right, there is no basis for absolute moral value judgements, none whatsoever, there is no ‘me’ to do the chosing, let alone an act of choice.


      3. Dear Nick, thank you for your splendid answer. I see where you are coming from. It would be great to debate this face to face but I doubt if anything would be solved. I once reviewed God Delusion in a newspaper — and was thus involved in some 20,000 words of discussion on the Dawkins’ site. Of course none of my questions were answered. All I can do is to hope we will meet in Heaven where we will have a jolly good laugh over our mugs of nectar. I am confident that you will feel sufficiently conscious to enjoy that. Quentin


      4. Kind response Quentin, that is what is most important. For determinists who have made the journey out of the intuitive ‘User’ based understanding of consciousness, life can be a challenge. Knowing that I and everyone I’ve ever known was a biological automaton, is emotionally very tough to process, day to day.

        The difference between most on my side and me, is that I have no point to make on if heaven or God exists. He/she and it, could exist, under the same set of delusions. God would think that he thinks and would believe that the beings he/she created think also, but would be entirely wrong. So it is a slim chance that I could end up in heaven or hell and be one of maybe 20 former embodied creatures, who know that consciousness is not a thing.

        Just like the mountain in a oil painting isn’t a thing. Yes it appears to be a mountain when assessed through limited senses and perspectives, but on closer inspection, after a perspective change, the mountain is merely suggested or implied in 3d, by a 2d arrangement of pigments. Your consciousness, thoughts and images and every single response inside the brain, are set up to suggest a viewer, but he or she doesn’t actually exist.

        Break down what it is you take as obvious evidence that you exist. I feel, I remember, I remember how I felt about perceiving myself perceiving. All just a declarative output which specifies object/subject relationships. Even the output, ‘yes, but there is something that it is to be like me’, is just another output. Our problem is that we don’t consider these thoughts to be part of the system. Every single response in an example used by you to show to yourself that you are conscious, is just a cognitive output, every one. I felt that, I’m sensing now, I’m thinking about myself sensing and perceiving time, I feel myself, your responses to emotional content, a report which declares that I felt an emotional quality, just inanimate outputs, it doesn’t mean that there is a you to do the feeling, do you understand?

        By the way, I can prove that God doesn’t exist to a satisfactory level, for me. Everything is physical, nothing can be known without being physical, otherwise it could not interact with the senses. God is said to to be known, hence he must interact with our senses. If God is said to exist, via our senses, then he must be physical. If he is physical he is constrained and created by causal antecedents. Thus God’s consciousness, awareness, volition, if it existed, would also necessarily be an illusion, due to being composed of prior cause. Hence, God, even if he did exist, would be as much an illusion to himself, as we are. Ergo, God not only doesn’t exist, but neither is it possible for a past or future God to exist, in any universe, ever. This reasoning puts the idea of God, to bed, forever.

        Cheers, NIck.


      5. Physics is not deterministic, that’s not true, everything physical is deterministic, at the macro level. Quantum does nothing to shake causal necessity, our current understanding is the thing which limits the workings of our postulated system. Our bodies are rigidly determined.. On what do you base this statement.


      6. I’ve rarely read such profound confusion.
        If consciousness is an illusion, then who is being deluded? (“I’m not really thinking that, I just think I’m thinking that…”). And if free will is an illusion, then you believe your argument above because your brain chemsitry compels you to beieve it, not because it is true. It would be like trying to tell the time by consulting a broken clock — it MIGHT just hapen to be right, but what are the chances?

        “All things have antecedents and are composed of reducible parts” contradicts modern science — it implies an infinitely old universe (an infinite regress of antecedents), and it entails that at some point, the “reducible parts” must be smaller than the Planck length (1.6 x 10-35 m), which scientists believe to be impossible.


    3. Quentin, first cause is false, rather obviously, as everything physical is reducible, in an infinite matrix of cause-effect relationships.

      I refer you to my earlier post:

      I can prove that God doesn’t exist to a satisfactory level, for me. Everything is physical, nothing can be known without being physical, otherwise it could not interact with the senses. God is said to to be known, hence he must interact with our senses. If God is said to exist, via our senses, then he must be physical. If he is physical he is constrained and created by causal antecedents. Thus God’s consciousness, awareness, volition, if it existed, would also necessarily be an illusion, due to being composed of prior cause. Hence, God, even if he did exist, would be as much an illusion to himself, as we are. Ergo, God not only doesn’t exist, but neither is it possible for a past or future God to exist, in any universe, ever. This reasoning puts the idea of God, to bed, forever.


      1. I do not claim that I know that God esists. I do claim to believe that God exists. There is a difference between the two. Others appear to believe that the physical world is uncaused. Good for them: as long as they continue to love their neighbours, a fundamental requirement in Christianity, they will happily one day find out.


      2. Let me ask you some silly questions: do you know everything that exists in the universe? Do you believe that your physical senses are capable of detecting all things that exist? Do you believe there are only three dimensions? Do you believe that we’ve progressed so far with our understanding of the cosmos that we have all the answers re: its structure and its laws and where it all came from? Are you not aware of the fact that the majority of the universe is made up of invisible matter and energy?

        Well, then–I would say that there is a very distinct possibility that you don’t know as much as you think you do. Your arrogance is astounding.


      3. I am not arrogant, just sure that all things are physically reducible, hence even if god was an entity who believed he were real, he wouldn’t be. My explanation allows for God’s existentence, as perceived by you, but crucially doesn’t require total knowledge, whatever exists out there, it makes zero difference to the fact that consciousness is an illusion and all entities are not actually sentient. Also, assuming your ad hominem attack was justified and i was arrogant, it is a logical fallacy to then conclude that my arrogance in any way effects the validity of my argument.


    4. The comment about the self-deluded is just one indication of the problems monotheists face — and of the self-delusion and limited philosophical imagination of the atheists.

      For example, suppose that, like breathing. theism didn’t depend on intelligence.
      Suppose further that those whose IQ was in the 110-115 range were just foolishly wise enough to suppose they could get along without breathing normal air and just successful enough to buy scuba tanks.

      Then an analysis of breathers of natural versus tanked air would show that the artificial breathers were smarter than those content to breathe the air. Such a study would BY NO MEANS show which was better. It would show ONLY that at a certain level of intelligence and intellectual training one can make choices that the less educated and less intelligent would not make.

      In other words, perhaps, intellectual incapacity and ineptitude protect some from errors that those who have drunk only lightly from the Pierian spring would think of making.

      The stunning ignorance of philosophy of the atheist on the street or the popular TV atheist is reflected in this study. If you get into the data, for example, you find that while theism declines in the lower ranges of higher than average intelligence, it picks up when you pass around 125 IQ.

      I bet you would find that aragula eating tracks atheism.


      1. Harold, you used an example of doing an apparently irrational thing. We have no indication if the tank breathers had any evidential reason to choose the option that they did. Do you see what the problem is with your example? It lacks even the most basic similarity to our debate. Atheism originates from a rational, reasoned and fully evidence based foundation. Your example does not, hence it is of little intellectual use. I get what you were trying to say, but probably not the best way to say it. Maybe one day when study methods are more advanced, we can have a reliable and valid means of measuring intelligence. Until then, I trust my experience, which tells me that people of low self awareness and lacking in critical thought, are more likely to have a void which needs filling.


  4. I would be curious if they collected info on the Ss’ choice of religion… some faiths are much more doctrinaire (Islam, LDS, Orthodox Judaism vs. Buddhism) and even within the faith (Baptist vs., say, Presbyterian). Or is this a PC thing to not risk non-PC results? Also, we see clear political/ideological beliefs that range from highly doctrinaire to pretty fluid.

    A second question, if I might — I love the test battery – it would be useful as a pre/post to assess impact of educational programs??


  5. Whoa!!!!! This article is straight out of the Third Reich. The only hope for the Master Race continuing with it’s superior gene pool is to eliminate the inferior religious sub-humans. Luckily our Creator left us a Book that warns us of this time coming upon the world. I am not worried; I read the Book and, good news, we win!


    1. Hitler was a Catholic who believed that Jews should be punished for their part in the crucifixion of Emmanuel bin David aka Jesus (read Mein Kampf).

      Which particular in-group is denoted by ‘we’ ? The book you need to read is The Believing Brain by Michael Shermer. It has lots of empirical evidence, unlike the book of mythological fairytale bespattered Chinese whisper on paper I think you are referring to, nicely rewritten by Thomas Jefferson of US president fame. The Jefferson Bible is available from Amazon.

      When you have read Mr Shermer’s’ book, re-read the comment you have made and critique it yourself.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. “Hitler was a Catholic who believed that Jews should be punished for their part in the crucifixion of Emmanuel bin David aka Jesus (read Mein Kampf).”

        Hitler had longed ceased practicing Catholicism, or any type of organized religion, long before he wrote Mien Kampf. Some policies of the Third Reich were specifically anti-Christian, and the SS was particularly anti-Christian. Yes, Hitler was brought up as at least a nominal Catholic, but he had long abandoned it. Calling Hitler “Catholic” makes about as much sense as calling Joseph Stalin a priest because he had once attended a seminary.


      2. Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord. (p. 65)

        His [the Jewish person’s] life is only of this world, and his spirit is inwardly as alien to true Christianity as his nature two thousand years previous was to the great founder of the new doctrine. Of course, the latter made no secret of his attitude toward the Jewish people, and when necessary he even took to the whip to drive from the temple of the Lord this adversary of all humanity, who then as always saw in religion nothing but an instrument for his business existence. In retum, Christ was nailed to the cross (p. 307)


      3. “My feeling as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter.

        It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded only by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God’s truth! was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter.

        In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders.

        How terrific was his fight against the Jewish poison.

        Today, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before the fact that it was for this that He had to shed his blood upon the Cross.

        As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice.

        And as a man I have the duty to see to it that human society does not suffer the same catastrophic collapse as did the civilization of the ancient world some two thousand years ago—a civilization which was driven to its ruin through this same Jewish people.”


      4. It’s fatuous nonsense to assert that Hitler and the Nazis were anti-christian when so much objective evidence exists to prove the contrary – not least of which was the presence of “Gott mit uns” on the Wehrmacht belt buckles, itself a translation of the name “Emmanuel” (Matthew 1:23).

        Ah, but what about the SS – were they were anti-christian, as asserted above? Not at all.

        In addition to the pledge of loyalty, the full text of the SS oath comprises the following three questions and answers:

        “Wie lautet Dein Eid ?” – “Ich schwöre Dir, Adolf Hitler, als Führer und Kanzler des Deutschen Reiches Treue und Tapferkeit. Wir geloben Dir und den von Dir bestimmten Vorgesetzten Gehorsam bis in den Tod. So wahr mir Gott helfe !”

        “Also glaubst Du an einen Gott ?” – “Ja, ich glaube an einen Herrgott.”

        “Was hältst Du von einem Menschen, der nicht an einen Gott glaubt?” – “Ich halte ihn für überheblich, größenwahnsinnig und dumm; er ist nicht für uns geeignet.”

        Here it is in English:

        “What is your oath ?” – “I swear to you, Adolf Hitler, as Führer and Chancellor of the German Reich, loyalty and bravery. We pledge to you and to the leaders that you appoint allegiance unto death. So help me god !”

        “So you believe in a god ?” – “Yes, I believe in a Lord God.”

        “What do you think of a man who does not believe in a god ?” – “I consider him overbearing, megalomaniacal and stupid; he is not appropriate to us.”

        And then there’s the fact that Hitler’s first treaty as Chancellor of Germany was the Reichskonkordat with the Vatican – which effectively guaranteed the rights of the catholic church in exchange for an oath of loyalty to the President of the 3rd Reich (Article 16).

        So there you are, theists. That’s what actual evidence looks like. You can look all that up yourselves too, I’m not just blindly asserting things that I want to be true.


    2. Religiosity, will in all likelihood be responsible for the next third Reich and Holocaust, relevant considering what day it is today. As far as I can see, the silent, peaceful majority, is always irrelevant in atrocities. When Islam tips over in to a majority in the west, I think it is reasonable to predict a radical coup of political power, a western Islamic revolution. Then will come the biggest holocaust we have ever witnessed. I wonder if some person in the 30’s predicted what happened to the Jewish people.

      I guarantee there were thousands who would have dismissed and mocked his predictions as alarmist scaremongering and anti-German bigotry. When it happens, the peaceful majority will be subjugated, just as they were during the Spanish inquisition and most other culls. It is the extreme minority who dominate history and as with all religious people who are cognitively challenged, they will make atrocious errors of thought and commit terrible acts, all in the name of doing what is right and moral.

      Your argument is just another Chamberlain’s cry. Appeasement costs lives, mostly someone else’s, which is the liberal’s racket, let someone else pay for me feeling better about myself.

      By the way, one of the most significant groups killed in the Holocaust were Polish Catholic churchmen.


    3. thats a terrific straw man youve constructed to beat down.
      any other logical fallacies you care to share to establish your dishonesty?


      1. Wonderful, you’ve been busy on youtube watching Dawkins vids, well done. Specifically, what part of my argument is an easier proposition to argue against, which isn’t being made or implied by the opposition. What part of what I have said is incorrect?


  6. Let’s see, atheists are smartest, so that means they are responsible for most of our technology, including thermonuclear weapons and all the sources of toxins polluting our air, Earth, & water. Seems incongruent.


    1. We are still the selfish Ape, hardwired to act in the short term. Before the invention of technology, plastic and nuclear weapons, that worked well for the environment. When technology came, farming in particular, nature’s lot was sealed. If you think human breeding being halted is a bad thing, you are looking at it from a species-centric viewpoint. From the perspective of every other life form on the planet, we are the problem.

      Atheists are smartest, but morality runs parallel and independently of intelligence and reasoning ability. What people fear is when a society is dominated by a book that is used to justify prejudice against groups, like homosexuals and women. Not a problem when religious dissent is possible, but when you get killed for opposing clerical opinion, then it all of a sudden becomes a great deal more serious.


  7. My experience is that the deeply religious mind does not follow scale. That is it does not check its logic on successively larger time and spatial scales or against other logical dimensions. Extreme religiosity functions logically within bounded thought domains. Within those domains any degree of intelligence may be manifest. For example Newton was deeply religious in what now would be categorized as a fundamentalist belief pattern. Newton was smarter than I am by a longshot. But I believe that I think on a wider span of scales than Newton did. This thought pattern may give me an advantage on some tests. It also leads me to conclude that no deity exists. I’m not saying I’m right, or that I’m smarter than theists. Just that I appreciate scale. That is how I would explain any difference in measured intelligence between theists and atheists – appreciation of scale


  8. So highly intelligent religious people don’t self-select to participate in online surveys found on social media sites. Who would have guessed?


  9. Astounding that a magazine covering the field of human responses to their environment would conflate correlation with causality. No, you will say, we did not. Ah, but psychology professionals know how to say a thing without really saying it. Shame on you. And just to be transparent, I have an IQ well above average and I am a Christian.


    1. Proves it then,ha. Intelligence is not a single thing, just averaged abilities on many distinct tasks. You are probably good at spatial awareness, logic and maths, maybe verbal reasoning or visual imagination. However, you are not so good a mental consistency within your own brain, objectivity in assessing evidence and your ability to grasp and join up the implications of causality and determinism. Scoring above average on IQ tests, says nothing about your ability to throw off previous cultural religious bias and to avoid non-sequitur conclusions based on evidence alone.

      By the way, I can prove that God doesn’t exist to a satisfactory level, for me. Everything is physical, nothing can be known without being physical, otherwise it could not interact with the senses. God is said to to be known, hence he must interact with our senses. If God is said to exist, via our senses, then he must be physical. If he is physical he is constrained and created by causal antecedents. Thus God, if he existed, could not have free will and hence is not what we consider God to be.


      1. How can someone claim to have an IQ that is “well above average” if they believe that e.g. an untrained 500-year old man and his three sons could build a wooden boat in one year using bronze-age tools that would house two (Genesis 6:19) or seven (Genesis 7:2-3) of every animal on earth for over a month?

        Because if you don’t think that story is true then the bible as a whole is discredited – you don’t get to cherry-pick the bits you want to keep & dismiss the rest – and if you do think it’s true then your problems are only just beginning…


  10. Did the authors apply this battery of tests across different races and sexes? If not I wonder how they controlled for variations across sexes and races.

    Researching differences between races and sexes is going to be controversial, while looking for differences between believers and atheists is not. This reflects the prejudices in academia, but that shouldn’t prevent the research from being done.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Einstein had hanging on the wall of his study the portraits of what he called; “My heroes of science.” They were; Isaac Newton (1642–1727), Michael Faraday (1791–1867), and James Clerk Maxwell (1831–1879).
    Newton – Laws of Motion and Gravity, Optics, the Calculus.
    Faraday – Relation of Magnetism and Electricity, discovery of Benzene
    Maxwell – four fundamental equations of electricity and magnetism, proved that Light was Electromagnetic Radiation
    Trace most of the physical Sciences back to one of these men.
    All three were devout Christians.


    1. True,the two variables religiosity and intelligence are not mutually exclusive. This misses the point however that Scientific gnosis evolves. It is always inevitably a product of the time and culture in which discoveries are made and the extent to which new knowledge and findings are accepted and fit the current zeitgeist (the defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time).

      “The idea however, that observation and experimentation can be pure and unsullied (and therefore beyond dispute) and that scientists are, by implication, people who can free their minds from the constraints of surrounding culture and innate cognitive biases and reach conclusions strictly by untrammelled experiment and observation, joined with clear and logical reasoning, has often harmed science by turning the empiricist method into a shibboleth” (Steven Jay Gould)

      Galileo, Charles Darwin and Thomas Jefferson all had one thing in common. They all delayed publication or hid their work from the scientific community, knowing that the world would reject their work out of hand because of the dominance of the ‘god myth’, ‘creationism’ and power of the ‘church’ in their respective cultures. Some scientists were even tortured, threatened and made to ‘recount’ their discoveries simply for daring to question the perceived popular notion of ‘the way things are’.

      The last census in the UK showed that 53% of the UK population do not identify with any religion. Religious belief is on the rise in some areas of the world, but in decline in others. This is for several reasons closely aligned to the rise of democracy and capitalism in countries with large populations, most of whom still live in comparatively poor conditions compared to more established Western countries. It has been, and is now, advantageous to adapt behaviour in the presence of rapid change in environment, especially where the providers of health care, education, food and humanitarian aid is funded and delivered by ‘religious’ benefactors and charitable organisations . For instance, I sponsor a child with PLAN who receives education and healthcare from a christian organisation.

      Belief in the supernatural, is not a prerequisite for humanitarian altruism. If it was, secular (not connected with religious or spiritual matters) countries would be exclusively inhumane and religious countries exclusively humane in their treatment of their population and others.

      Religious beliefs about the nature of the end of time, the day of judgement, the existence of heaven and hell, about ‘creation’ have been and continue to be used to justify war, genocide, sexual and societal suppression and exploitation. The Christian and Islamist world -supremacy- agenda and domination of everyone who does not share their beliefs are what drives people to fly planes into tall buildings, detonate a suicide belt in an ambulance, to lock believers in a church and set fire to it, disrupt the funerals of ‘gay’ soldiers and detonate a bomb in a gay nightclub because it doesn’t accord with their beliefs about the way the world is or should be.

      I don’t want to live in a world where self- righteous religious power is wielded in public life and imposed on all people without question. I don’t want to be told what to believe, I want to know. I want the freedom to explore, test and develop knowledge based on facts, not fantastic falsehoods and two thousand year- old concepts of how we got here, what our purpose is and what happens to us when we die, that irrelevant in the modern world.

      It is perfectly possible to accept some of the teachings of a man who thought he was the son of a god and incorporate them into a personal ‘framework for living’ without involving notions of ‘god’ and ‘belief’ at all.

      Psychology and scientific knowledge generally is evolving rapidly with technological advances in processing power and experimentation in every field of endeavour. I don’t claim to have all the answers simply because I am a psychologist, but, psychology, particularly cognitive neuroscience, social and cultural psychology have increased current knowledge exponentially.

      This knowledge is increasingly distant and out of step with ancient belief systems that have failed to evolve alongside them and which we now KNOW to be false.


  12. actually if it wasn’t for people who believe in religion, humanity would not have the current field of institutions of higher learning in which to doubt religion. The modern world was built on the backs of religious people who were also critical thinkers & creators. Some having the highest IQs ever recorded and works of knowledge that still influence modern society after several centuries since they first came to prominence. According to 100 Years of Nobel Prizes a review of all Nobel prizes award between 1901 and 2000 reveals that (65.4%) of Nobel Prizes Laureates, have identified Christianity in its various forms as their religious preference. This also included the fields of Literature and Peace. Overall, Christians have won a total of 72.5% of all the Nobel Prizes in Chemistry, 65.3% in Physics, 62% in Medicine, 54% in Economics.

    This can also be easily proven by looking at a brief over view of these believers in a higher power (christian & non-christian): da vinci, darwin, maimonides, al-farabi, avicenna, averroes, voltaire, volta, leibniz, rousseau, hildegard of bingen, jean buridan, einstein, descarte, pascal, aquinas, wren, knox, newton, thomas more, michaelangelo, albert magnus, chopin, mozart, bach, copernicus, erasmus, shakespeare, ghandi, the list goes on and on. All of these people were persons of belief in a higher power, in most cases, a theistic believer of some kind. In many of these incredible thinkers, their education was provided by religious orders or institutions. Such as voltaire was taught by Jesuits. Many if not all of the oldest academic institutions in the world were founded under religious auspices or by individuals or societies that were religious in their nature, and publicly so. Also you can add moderns into the mix and have older and newer scientists who ware all believers: enoch fitch burr, kelvin, röntgen ,francis collins, kepler, galileo, lisa meitner, otto hahn, francis bacon,werner heisenberg, james britten, andrew pinsent, stanley jake, marconi, fabiola gianotti, juan maldacena, and mike hulme.

    In Peace & Literature you have the following incredible minds & individuals (who are also believers in a higher power) who have shaped the intellects and consciences of modern academics & cultures: Toni Morrison, Herta Müller, Bob Dylan, Mario Vargas Llosa, Derek Walcott, Tomas Tranströmer, Octavio Paz, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn,Heinrich Böll, Odysseas Elytis, Czesław Miłosz, Gabriel García Márquez, Churchill, François Mauriac, T.S. Elliot, Hemingway, André Gide, Pearl Buck, Gabriela Mistral, Thomas Mann, Sigrid Undset, Hermann Karl Hesse, Yeates, Nelson Mandela, Óscar Arias, Mother Teresa, Desmond Tutu, Lech Wałęsa, Alfonso García Robles, Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Willy Brandt, Norman E. Borlaug, Seán MacBride, Betty Williams, Mairead Corrigan, and last but certainly not least, Martin Luther King, Jr.

    These people ARE the modern world and in some instances died or were jailed for defending critical thinking and freedom of conscience or put themselves in harms way defending those ideals in the context of their religion. It just so happens that modern people can inter-relate faith and science and a host of other fields into their consciences, souls as well as intellects.

    why is that so hard for the modern skeptic? why is the modern skeptic so afraid to see this fact, even though it is all around us, and in the very air we believe. The modern world is not necessarily filled with contradictions, but is filled with complementary variety, inclusiveness, and comprehensiveness. This article reads more like it is afraid of all of the openness of the modern world rather then open to the almost infinite possibilities where faith and science and reason and art can and do intersect.

    many more individuals can be found in wikipedia. I mean come on. this article is simply…..well its simply wrong.

    cheers and cheer up people.


    1. None of your examples add weight to your case. The human unit of agency, can simultaneously hold contradictory ideas. So clever people may still remain religious, especially when they’ve had a life long education of religious thought. However, generally, stupidity leads to a higher level of religiosity. I did believe in God, but after years of philosophy and critical thought, I no longer believe in either God, or indeed my own existence, both are equally illusory.


  13. Having been a college professor (Chemistry) for three decades and after publishing more than my fair share of research papers, I remain amazed how “research” like what which has been described here is routinely performed and then advertised in lay journals when politically desired conclusions are reached. Simply because a study has been performed does not mean the study is valid. In fact, it has recently been shown in numerous investigations how huge numbers of research results cannot be duplicated due to experimental errors, improper analysis, untested assumptions, improper or absent controls, and even outright adjustment of the results to meet predetermined prejudices. While these flaws are present in every field, psychology and other allied fields are where these problems are most frequently observed and studies resulting in politically useful results, such as this one, are notorious for reaching predetermined conclusions based on the prejudices of the researcher. Studies of the sort described here are a virtual mine field of potential errors to the point where performing a proper evaluation with so many points of error or prejudice becomes extraordinarily difficult. That the author reaches such a startling and damning conclusion demands an overwhelming amount of controls and such to ensure the results are real and not intentional or unintentional mythology.
    As a researcher myself, I continually see researchers in the hard sciences become believers in God as a higher power for there is no other possible explanation for what they observe in so many areas. For example, the simple question of how life began is one that has not only not been answered, but there is not even any working hypotheses being offered. (And if you immediately argue evolution as the answer, then you are clearly demonstrating your ignorance on the issue.) When you study basic biology and learn how life is defined less by energy flows and far more by information management, then you quickly discover the problem. Think about it. If “life” began, as described in high school general science textbooks, by the de novo synthesis of simple proteins in a primordial soup and these ancient proteins were somehow able to synthesize primitive reactions (the criterion by many for nascent life), then how did the information such as the amino acid sequence become recorded such that that information could not only be retrieved, but retrieved in such a manner that would allow it to generate new, identical proteins? This is a fantastically difficult problem for which no one has offered a realistic solution beyond a hand waving argument. Likewise, if you look at the physical world, then you would know that it would not exist if not for various properties being exactly what they are and in the amount that they are. Even the idea of the Earth and the extraordinary number of factors with our sun, solar system and the construction of the Earth, that had to be present to encourage life to flourish here is something far beyond the imagination. When you encounter these and a seemingly unlimited number of other similar questions and observations, then the argument for some sort of intelligent control becomes something that must be considered.
    No, when I read claims of researchers where they obtain results such as the one described here, I far more often than not, upon careful reading of the paper, their methods and such, discover enormous flaws in the research that led to the essentially predetermined results. In the case of this particular research project, I would be less surprised if the researcher had an ax to grind (either conscious or unconscious for in my years of research I have observed enormous amounts of arrogance by some researchers towards people of lesser ability with an especially strong hubris towards those who are religious who are viewed by these researchers as being nothing more than contemporary ignorant Neanderthals who are beneath contempt) that led to the results he was hoping to show and more surprised if his actual results turned out to be true and repeatable.


    1. The ‘it can only work in exactly the way it does’ argument, does nothing to shake natural selection. I’m surprised you would make such a suggestion. Even if people are driven toward a ‘God solution’, it still has no evidence and as such should be discarded, until such time as some becomes available. I don’t care you being a theist in your own head, it’s when Churches and Mosques start to indoctrinate the young, with ideas such as burning in hell, that I have a wish to oppose all religion.


      1. Well Nick what exactly do you think are doing, if not indoctrination of our youth. You do the same at the other end of the scale. Ever read the Bible? or the Koran? Thinking people can believe in God and religion. To someone like you the current policial climate of hate and intolerance must be heaven.
        Also who said religion was all intuition? Faith is not the same as intuition. God is not just a religion. There can be bad religions and very bad atheists. You think you can just frame an argument from poor science and win.
        Keep yelling the loudest guy always get heard.


      2. What is bad science in my post? Secondly, my position is to promote critical thinking. That can never be indoctrination, as what I push is a free method for assessing positions, I say nothing as to if God exists or not or which position is superior. I just want people to have full critical abilities and to rely on replicable real world evidence, as opposed to feeling and intuition. You have misrepresented my argument entirely.

        If God existed in any meaninful way, I suggest that it is likely that at least one human would have had one piece of actual physical evidence. The fact that they do not and never have had, undermines the extraordinary claim they make, for a creator and omnipotent being. That is NOT to say that one might exist somewhere or everywhere, but atheists and agnostics agree on the level of acceptable evidence and the absence of same. Christians and Muslims claim all kinds of things for very flimsy and subjective or fallacious so called evidence.

        Just like Ghosts, either produce real evidence, after agreeing what that evidence should look like, or just practice your religion or belief in your own head.


  14. Nicksps. Without consciousness there would be no causality. We are aware of ourselves and the world around us even if we are part of a very intricate computer game.
    But the fact that we are here having this conversation can be directly attributed to the catholic church.


    1. Quite possibly the most fatuous statement yet posted on this article. No causality without consciousness. Causality is entirely independent of what we mistakenly believe as consciousness. Just remember, the last source for an explanation of the object of study, should be from the object of study. A biologist doesn’t ask a cow to explain its physiology. Almost same case, a handful of Phil of Mind theorists grasp the thinking mistake that we make every day when attempting to define human cognition. I think therefore I am is not correct. I have a set of output which model the actions of a being with reflexive mental agency, therefore the system refers to itself through specific mental output as being in a state of ‘I am’. You’ll probably never deconstruct sufficiently to grasp the basics of this idea, the intuitive understanding of our own minds is incredibly powerful and hard from which to break free.

      Anyone who says that consciousness is a thing, is deluded. Anyone who claims A-causality of any mental process, is deluded. Anyone who thinks that I or you are conscious, are deluded. These are just the output of a biological machine which evolved due to the competitive advantage gained when a model of independent thought was given as an output.

      It’s odd to think that we don’t exist, but I can assure you entirely without any doubt, that you do not exist.


  15. Naturally, the entire argument depends upon the definition of terms. In particular, the definitions of “religiosity” and “intelligence” are key to the matter. In that we, as humans, have the gift of language and have therefore “decided” what certain words mean, the outcome of any argument is more or less predetermined. The pomposity of those who claim to be able to measure objectively either religious beliefs or intelligence is disheartening. Humankind is capable of so much more than these infantile semantic games which are so terribly poplar in today’s “culture”.


    1. That’s why we have academic consensus, most psychologist agree on the loose definition of religiosity and IQ. It is only slippery people who can’t attack the main argument, who attempt to relign and challenge the premises. Thick people need to believe in a higher being, clever people don’t. Sometimes clever people’s cultural education persists, as it is part of their very being as a person. Hence religious scientists. Given enough deconstruction, all would lose their superstition.


      1. Not the case at all NickSPS – even the so called father of intelligence testing Alfred Binet acknowledged that ‘intelligence was complex’ and could not be adequately captured by measures, let alone be generalisable


      2. Same pseudo argument about beauty being in the eye of the beholder, rubbish. People generally know, very expertly, what a hot person looks like and what an ugly person looks like. Same with intelligence, it’s about averaging their characteristics relative to the mean. A person who relies on evidence will get more correct responses on tests, than a person with no process in his thinking, fact, if you like it or not. Logical non-religious minds score higher on IQ. You and your type tend to argue as if using IQ tests have no predictive power or use, because they are wildly wrong. Binet was admitting the non-exact nature of quantifying, what is, a complex set of behaviours. He was definitely not saying that all IQ test results are not to be relied upon as a means of crude differentiation of IQ groups. IQ tests split people very well, the more apart they are in intelligence. Religious people tend, on average to have very significant distance in terms of performance, from those that are rational, objective and methodical in their thinking. You hate to be tied down by classifications don’t you?


  16. After reading this article, I can’t decide when the atheists should start their extermination campaign on the inferior.

    Since just about all people until very recently believed in God, or even a whole bunch of gods simultaneously, yet there were still smart and not as smart people, maybe other factors control the entire process.

    But, mainly, this is just another elitist article in a time of attacks on Trump’s Deplorables to prove they are dumb and should not be allowed to influence the national discourse, and certainly not elect a President.

    Yet, these lower IQ people beat what this article claims are the higher IQ people, so who is really smarter, God-belief or not?

    And, while I won’t likely take the gold medal, I am confident that as among the author and the posters here, neither my IQ, degrees, or accomplishments will be in last place, either.


  17. Good read. A thought. Maybe the question, “Are religious people really less smart, on average, than atheists?” is the wrong one. Even if religious people score slightly lower on IQ tests but higher on intuition scoring, perhaps the question should be “Do atheists somewhat lack intuition?”. And the follow up, “What does this mean?”.

    Example: A person can be convicted of murder entirely on circumstantial evidence. No one piece of evidence is near strong enough to convict and other plausible explanations may exist for each piece. However, adding all circumstantial together and even after discounting some of the individual pieces of evidence to be weak, a reasonable person can find their way to voting for conviction.

    This is not a trivial. At the extreme, if every major decision (even life and death decisions) we have to make individually, or as a group, needed absolute proof to take action, we could get nothing done and we would significantly add to the sometimes horrible consequences of inaction to the list of human miseries.


  18. Writing as a fully paid-up ‘born’ Catholic (10 years education from the Jesuits), I would like to note that extremists in any field tend to be dangerous.It would seem that some people who are unable to cope with uncertainties defend themselves by adopting absolute positions. These are sustained by confirmation bias. This can be seen in politics — to the left or to the right. In science — see global warming. But it can also be found in religion. There are extreme Christians and extreme Muslims for example. I imagine that it is this extremism which is found in the less intelligent religious believers.
    The gift I had from the Jesuits was the word ‘why?’ We were not allowed to state propositions without being interrogated — a tradition we can safely associate with Socrates.


  19. The statement that if “cognitive training could allow religious people to maintain their beliefs without over-relying on intuition when it conflicts with logic in day to day decision-making” is oxymoronic – were they to be adequately trained in rational processes they would leave irrational beliefs behind.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Spot on. The funny thing about humans is, they tend to blend together and camouflage any differences. On any given day, a test situation won’t be present to reveal the differences. Thus you get scientists, who seem totally rationale, but are hiding a completely disparate and cognitively dissonant component in their brain. I believe that the tendency to be religious is hardwired, so hence why it is so hard to shake off, with or without a lifetime of cultural indoctrination. Look at Mehdi Hasan, an ostensibly rationale and intelligent guy, but due to years of religious brainwashing and huge family and community pressure to never leave his religion, he tolerates collossal quantities of dissonance in his brain. When he admitted to the flying horse belief, you could clearly see the discomfort and embarrassment that he felt, but the religious punishment awaiting him if he joins up his thinking, must loom very large and be very frightening indeed. I feel so sorry for him, because he seems like a really good lad. If he had been born in to the Chinese or Russian community, he would have been a totally different guy.


  20. I find the trouble with so many studies and articles of this kind is that they treat “religion” as if it were one sort of thing, or perhaps many quite similar sorts of things. But what people call religion can vary dramatically one to another. To some, religion can be as innocuous as a vague belief in “the connectedness of all things”, while others flatly deny reality and the principles or reason and thought, holding such bizarre propositions as “God is real and he created the Earth and the whole universe a few thousand years ago.On Judgement Day, the dead will regain their physical bodies and rise up out of their graves and ascend to heaven. We know what is true by faith and the Bible alone, knowledge of the truth requires no other evidence.” etc.,etc. Such disparate beliefs cannot be lumped together and still say anything cogent about religious belief or believers.


  21. It is not surprising that that the anti-religious flame throwers come out with this article. However, maybe it might not hurt to think a little about the science here?

    So, first lets start with how big are the differences?

    Average religious person – IQ = 97
    Average atheist – IQ = 103

    It is not that large of a difference. What are the practical implications of having a 97 IQ instead of a 103? Both are squarely in the average range.

    Let’s think about it in a different way. If you consider a pure numbers game, are there more religious believers above a certain IQ level than there are atheists above a certain level? Of course, just based on the numbers. I guess religious people could say, “we have a lot more smart people than you do, but we’re happy to have people of all IQ ranges.”


  22. My wife died nearly two years ago after 60 years of marriage. Being a good person I believe she is now in Heaven. So I talk to her for a few minutes every day — and I am confident that she continues to love and help me. I feel better and my morale rises. What if all that is superstitious nonsense? I lose nothing but I retain my benefit from my belief. If there is no such thing as life after death, that won’t hurt me because I won’t be there to hurt. Aren’t I lucky?


  23. Whenever I start questioning my agnosticism I just read through a comment section like this.

    None of you are smarter about life than me, and I haven’t got a clue about any if it. If you’d get off your Horse of Certainty once in a while and checked his shoes, youd find them pristine because he’s never set foot on anything solid.


  24. It seems logical because religion tends to give one the ‘answers’ and makes one complacent. Intelligence is directly related to problem solving activities and critical thinking abilities, both of which are less utilized and needed when one has the answers.


    1. to further your point; this unquestioning acceptance of illogical and irrational nonsense such as the jesus myth trains followers to use fallacious logic to induce/deduce additional “truths” in their lives, where real logical progression is lost to these people.
      It’s this foundational dunning-kruger-ish way of (not) thinking that sets the stage for wholesale communal ignorance to facts in the form of confirmation biases, cherry picking facts to fit preconceived notions, and utter disregard of professional/phd level diagnosis that actually fit our reality by highschool dropouts with failed educations. ie flat earthers, or youtube “christians against dinosaurs”
      consider for a moment the depth of failure in our educational and social structures that has and is occurring in order to produce “creationists” by the hundreds. these are people with no knowledge and no experience in physics, geology, biology, and paleontology whose critical thinking and logical areas of their brains have been damaged to the point that they truly think they know more/better than doctoral level science.
      its sad really, and im arguing that it all starts with the acceptance of a mythical being who is utterly disappointed with his own creation, and instead of trying again, or dealing with his failure, attempts to destroy the creation over and again and each time decides to be angry or disappointed with behavior of his own doing. then, instead of simply accepting his subjectively perceived flaws in his creation, decides to send himself in another form as a sacrifice to himself in order to obtain retribution for the things he has set into motion.
      utter nonsense
      but people but into this illogical, irrational philosophy lock, stock, and two smoking barrels, and it inhibits their ability to make rational decisions and deductions from that point onward, and has held back humans from true progress ever since.

      and here we are, wasting valuable thought and time in a vain attempt to explain how to think to the brain damaged.
      i posit this is the utmost clever way to chain a species, and prevent any real social and scientific progress. by the time our species finally sheds this constricting waste, it will be too late


      1. You and I are agreed here. We both think that people who know nothing about a subject should refrain from writing about it. The difference between us is that I know a good deal about both science and religion, while you apparently know nothing about religion. I am sorry for your ignorance but you have let yourself down.


  25. Religious people are not dumb. They can enjoy religion because they see it as fact. Facts are not life because to fit in means to justify others ideas as good. Most people don’t read themselves so when people judge them they don’t think of how they justified it as good to think that way. Its high testosterone why you can see God. Its more rational to think plants and animals evolve to a universal knowledge because it works well and plants don’t have brains.


  26. Science/logic/intellectual reasoning through a problem: cause>effect, i.e. the candle was left unatended, therefore the house burned down.
    Religion: effect>cause
    I.e. I was told there is a God, so if you question that, I will grab “causes” to make the “effect” seem true. Whatever is convenient to me at that moment. Illogical, therefore anti-intellectual.


  27. Religious people have to be smarter than atheists because they must use all their brain capacity to make sure that their different and contradictory beliefs remain compartimentalized. They must constantly reconstruct and redfine themselves to maintain equilbrium while suffering constant cognitive dissonance, aka as moral hypocrisy.They are geniuses.


    1. hahahha, sooo true, reminds me of a woman in a vid i saw, saying that people from the religion she left, can have many many, completely contradictory facts in their head at once and be totally fine with it. Maybe people should be forced to do a logical internal consistency test and if they fail, they don’t get to hold any position of responsibility or influence.


  28. So…. since most of the world has religious beliefs in a higher power – I’m wondering about how the small cross-section of atheism can be fairly contrasted. I mean if you pit the whole mob of the world against a tiny group and declare that group implies the contrasted universe of this comparison – that’s pretty misleading. A more accurate impression – should be from asking “among the smartest people on the planet how many are atheist compared to believers?”


    1. Good point Michael, now why didn’t I think of that? But what about the conventionality of the cut-off line, what degree of inteligence would you consider an adequate demarcation point or there would need to be weighting according to the size of the intelligent population for different percentiles. Although, you seem to miss the point Michael of how the question is posed, the question emphazises its about averages, which undermines your statistical caveat.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s