Don't Believe in God? You're Smarter

Atheist? Or do you believe in God?  A new study says if you're the former, you're smarter.

According to Matthew Mientka at, "A review of scientific studies finds that people who hold a more naturalistic view of the world are generally smarter than those who believe in God" (my capital "G").

Mientka reports that a researcher at the University of Rochester found “a reliable negative relation between intelligence and religiosity” in 53 studies. But while 10 of the studies showed a positive correlation, only two of them showed a significant link, he writes.

My husband -- and my 12-year-old, who devastated me when he told me -- do not believe in God.  My husband, who is in his mid-60's, is now saying maybe there's someone up there.  But Phillip, who will be bar mitzvahed next year, calls himself an atheist.

Maybe that's because there's some confusion in our house.  I'm Christian, a Presbyterian (I call it the "white bread" religion because we believe in everything!), and Phillip was baptized.  (My husband doesn't know the significance of this.)  To me, he will always be a Christian.  My husband is Jewish.

But to think Phillip does not have the same fuzzy feeling that someone is watching over him makes me very sad.  I've come, over time, to believe more in the universe and fate, I do have to admit, and I'm not sure at all there's a heaven. But I do trust to something to help me find my way.

I wouldn't call myself  "religious," but I would say that I'm spiritual.  Sometimes I have my doubts, but most of the time, I believe there is a force greater than me running the universe.

Mientka goes on to say that 35 studies, however, showed a significantly negative correlation between intelligence and religiosity, according to researcher Miron Zuckerman.

"Most extant explanations [of a negative relation] share one central theme —the premise that religious beliefs are irrational, not anchored in science, not testable and, therefore, unappealing to intelligent people who 'know better,’” he quotes Zuckerman, who wrote this in a paper published this month.

What's intelligence? Zuckerman and two other psychologists reviewing the literature called it the “ability to reason, plan, solve problems, think abstractly, comprehend complex ideas, learn quickly, and learn experience.”

Religiosity is defined by psychologists as "participation in some facets of worship", which might range from passive attendance at weekly services to the speaking-in-tongues, fainting and not allowing an unmarried woman and man to sit in a room together evangelism I saw in the Midwest when I lived there briefly in my 20's.

So, are atheists really smarter?  A 1928 study that followed 1,500 gifted children with IQs over 135 throughout their whole lives, "even in extreme old age and closer to death (and some would say God), these children remained steady in their beliefs, or non-belief," Mientka recounts.

"Intelligent people typically spend more time in school — a form of self-regulation that may yield long-term benefits," he quotes Zuckerman. "More intelligent people get higher level jobs and better employment may lead to higher self-esteem, and encourage personal control beliefs."

Defenders of religious belief say, what about emotional and creative intelligence?

But maybe here's the clincher, Mientka writes.  Albert Einstein believed in God.


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