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Author Topic: Is there a correlation between religious beliefs and intelligence?  (Read 2591 times)

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Offline TorchTopic starter

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An exchange with another member prompted this question. Do we think less of others dependent upon their own personal religious beliefs and/or practices? Would a Western Christian consider a practicing Hindu to be less intelligent because of a belief in reincarnation? Do non-Catholics consider those who practice Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy to be off the beam because they believe in transubstantiation i.e. bread and wine becoming the body and blood of Jesus Christ.

I could give more examples, but I think the picture is clear. Feel free to share your opinions and thoughts.


Offline Bloodied Porcelain

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Re: Is there a correlation between religious beliefs and intelligence?
« Reply #1 on: August 13, 2012, 12:02:34 PM »
I have absolutely no issue with those who believe in a God or who have faith. Not a single one, despite the fact that I see no evidence to support that one exists. If having a personal God gives you hope in a better world or whatever, then more power to you. I have no issue with faith in itself.  I do, however, think it's not only logical, but responsible to look at a person's beliefs and determine whether or not someone who holds those beliefs should be considered for a position of power that should be reserved for someone honestly intelligent or even be considered completely sane.

For example... if you read the bible and take it literally. If you believe that Moses actually did part the red sea, or that there was a flood that covered the entire earth and that a man and his family gathered two of EVERY animal in existence on to a boat of all things and waited the flood out, then somehow managed to repopulate the entire planet from that? If you believe that the Jews stated in the bible were actually here in the US and not the middle east. If you think that man and dinosaurs walked together because the bible says the earth is only a few thousand years old...

Then you have no business being in a position of power and/or authority. I'm sorry, but I am absolutely terrified of the idea of a person who completely overlooks all historical evidence presented to us not just by history, but by science, math, etc... and instead chooses to take a book written during the bronze age (or during any age, for that matter) that has absolutely NOTHING backing it up as fact and you decide to look at it as a history lesson? That type of person shouldn't hold a position that gives them any power at all over the lives of others.

Reliably, the majority of intellectuals and those who are at the top of their given field (biology, astrology, physics, etc) are often Atheist or at the very least Agnostic. Why? Because there is nothing logical about religious beliefs. There is NOTHING logical about the bible, or believing it as an actual factual recounting of history. It's the recounting "miracles" that happened thousands of years ago. Re-telling of events witnessed by uneducated, unenlightened poor people in the middle east during a time when the answer to everything we couldn't explain was "Sky Daddy did it". Not just that, it's been verified that most of the retellings were second or third hand! The stories about Jesus? Written LONG after his death. By people who couldn't have possibly been there to witness it. That's how tall tales and fables started.

We know that Jack and the Bean Stalk is a fairy tale. What makes religious texts and stories so different? They were created for the same reason. To teach people morals and how to live. But some people take this stuff LITERALLY. It's when you take it literally, that I question your intelligence (in at the very least the area of common sense), not to mention your sanity.

I wont even get in to the more new age religious beliefs like Mormonism that basically teach that if you disagree with even ONE WORD of their teachings... if you don't take it all completely literally... that you can be excommunicated. And their stuff makes even LESS sense than the older religions do.

Offline Iniquitous

Re: Is there a correlation between religious beliefs and intelligence?
« Reply #2 on: August 13, 2012, 12:30:00 PM »
Wow.

You open by stating that you have no issue with those who believe in a God or who have faith and then you turn around and tear apart anyone who believes in the bible and everything therein. I do not think you are as tolerant as you think you are.

As for Torch's question - I try very hard to not judge people, especially for their beliefs, and I do not think someone who practices a faith different than mine is less intelligent. As I am human and not perfect I might catch myself wondering how on earth they could believe some of the things they do. With that said, I struggle for the stance of 'what they believe is none of my business so long as it is not negatively affecting me and my beliefs.'

Offline Lilias

Re: Is there a correlation between religious beliefs and intelligence?
« Reply #3 on: August 13, 2012, 12:38:19 PM »
There may be correlation, but correlation does not equal causation.

Fanaticism is a character trait, and my experience says that a bigot of any stripe who changes their mind and goes to bat for another team, any other team, will be a bigot there as well.

Offline Bloodied Porcelain

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Re: Is there a correlation between religious beliefs and intelligence?
« Reply #4 on: August 13, 2012, 12:42:21 PM »
The issue with what you're saying is that there is a difference in believing in an all powerful, unidentifiable being and believing in a holy text written by men. If people can look at the stories logically and say "maybe this has a more logical and realistic explanation" or "maybe this stands for something else", then it's all good. However... if they look at them and take them literally, word for word, as THE word of God. Not the words of imperfect, FALLIBLE men, that is when I have call to question their intelligence and possibly their sanity.

Offline Chelemar

Re: Is there a correlation between religious beliefs and intelligence?
« Reply #5 on: August 13, 2012, 12:47:05 PM »
I have found that in my personal experience that in most cases people of faith, unless they are extremists, are tolerant of others and their beliefs.  Because they share one thing in common, and that is faith.   

Where I find that people are the most condescending, insulting or belittling of what they perceive to be my intelligence level are when they do not believe at all, in anything.  They are amazed that someone appears to be intelligent and reasonable can believe in something without proof, and sneeringly demand that I show them some sort of proof of God's existence to them.  What they fail to realize is that they are missing the whole point of faith. 

There are many things in the universe that we can't see, or feel, or experience, but we believe in them.  Science can not prove love, yet we feel it.  It can't prove truth, yet we know it, it can't prove logic, yet we argue it. It can't prove faith, because it must be believed. 

Offline Hemingway

Re: Is there a correlation between religious beliefs and intelligence?
« Reply #6 on: August 13, 2012, 12:54:43 PM »
If you're asking if there's a correlation between rates of religiosity and intelligence ( as measured in IQ ), then according to Wikipedia, the answer is yes. From the abstract of one of the papers referenced:

Atheists score 1.95 IQ points higher than Agnostics, 3.82 points higher than Liberal persuasions, and 5.89 IQ points higher than Dogmatic persuasions.

However, that doesn't answer the question of why that's the case. It's not, after all, as simple as saying that this difference exists and therefore religious people are all unintelligent and religion is obviously wrong. And, having a basic idea of what the geographies of income, religiosity, education and so on look like, I doubt that it's as simple as smarter people being less religios - or less intelligent people being more religious.

Not to mention how complex intelligence is, how cultural differences affect IQ scores, and so on.

To answer the question according to what I think, I'd say religious probably are not less intelligent ( or at least that's not what separates the believers from the non-believers ). They are, I would say, less critical, at least in that particular area. I don't think it would be very controversial of me to suggest that the more dogmatic and literal-minded a person is in their approach to religion, the less critical they are. When you believe things that are demonstrably false - such as the age of our planet being somewhere around 6000 years - you have more or less discarded your critical faculties. And this goes all the way up to religious agnostics - people who aren't certain there's a god, who don't "know" and "feel" their alleged creator, but who still believe in one way or another.

The same may be said of atheists, though I'm not convinced even the most dogmatic atheists can quite be compared to the most dogmatic religious people.

Offline Will

Re: Is there a correlation between religious beliefs and intelligence?
« Reply #7 on: August 13, 2012, 12:56:47 PM »
There are many things in the universe that we can't see, or feel, or experience, but we believe in them.  Science can not prove love, yet we feel it.  It can't prove truth, yet we know it, it can't prove logic, yet we argue it. It can't prove faith, because it must be believed.

Just because something can't be proven or explained at this present moment doesn't mean it will never be.  There's no reason to jump from "I don't know" to "God did it."

Offline Bloodied Porcelain

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Re: Is there a correlation between religious beliefs and intelligence?
« Reply #8 on: August 13, 2012, 01:07:52 PM »
Just because something can't be proven or explained at this present moment doesn't mean it will never be.  There's no reason to jump from "I don't know" to "God did it."

^^ This.

Offline Vekseid

Re: Is there a correlation between religious beliefs and intelligence?
« Reply #9 on: August 13, 2012, 01:14:13 PM »
Authoritarianism is linked to less exposure to outside ideas, less logical ability, and less education, and authoritarianism is, in the United States, linked with religious fundamentalists. However in the Soviet Union it was just as linked with 'faith in the Party'. Hardcore Soviet communist atheists turned out to be very much like their free-market fundamentalist brethren in the United States. 

You can be an authoritarian atheist just as you can be an authoritarian Christian. It's just that, in the US, about half of Christians have some degree of authoritarian leanings, and about half of those are very strongly authoritarian.

I don't think that, after correcting for this, you'd see much difference in intelligence. I recall seeing similar tests to the one Hemingway linked to that corrected for educational achievement and other factors, and the difference vanished, but I can't find that study unfortunately.

Offline Beguile's Mistress

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Re: Is there a correlation between religious beliefs and intelligence?
« Reply #10 on: August 13, 2012, 09:29:24 PM »
I am a practicing Roman Catholic who believes in a higher power that I call God.  I have faith.  Everyone has faith of some sort.  Even Aetheists have faith there is no god or higher power or karma or guiding spirit.  That's okay.  As long as you let me believe how and what I want to believe I'll do the same for you.  My interpretation of the bible is not the same as the one above and while I don't disagree that there are some who take a literal translation too far not everyone does.

Now, if a person can have faith in some sort of higher power and use that faith to guide them through life and as a source of inspiration and courage to build standards, ethics and morals to live by I'm not going to throw rocks at them.  I actually think that some sort of faith in a guiding force is necessary to be an upstanding person because I don't know how you can have a conscience without it.  Atheists with consciences have a moral code they live up to as well and the few good ones I've encountered use that as a guide for living their lives.

I've worked with atheists, volunteered along side them and have supported them in elections and one thing I must say is that the best of them are the ones who are capable of living in a world with all sorts of people and understanding that their belief system is theirs, mine is mine and that of everyone else is unique to them as well and that there is no need to tear down or debase another person who does good just because they don't agree with us.

There is no way to prove or disprove the existence of the higher power so many of us acknowledge so I choose to believe in my God.
« Last Edit: August 13, 2012, 09:32:08 PM by Beguile's Mistress »

Offline TaintedAndDelish

Re: Is there a correlation between religious beliefs and intelligence?
« Reply #11 on: August 13, 2012, 09:41:47 PM »
Believing, or not believing in a god is not a matter of intelligence. There are plenty of folks who are both religious and intelligent.  I would say that in most cases, people believe in a god because its something they learned from their environment.

If I prove to someone that there is no god, and they continue to cling to their belief, then its not that they are unintelligent, rather its that they don't wish to let go of that belief. On one hand I say, "To each his own", but when people start imposing their religious beliefs by making laws and policies that are based on those beliefs, I am forced to protest.



Offline Beguile's Mistress

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Re: Is there a correlation between religious beliefs and intelligence?
« Reply #12 on: August 13, 2012, 09:47:13 PM »
But that can be said of all of us.  Stupid is as stupid does and intelligence comes in many different packages.  It usually works best when coupled with some wisdom and common sense, though.

Offline Bloodied Porcelain

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Re: Is there a correlation between religious beliefs and intelligence?
« Reply #13 on: August 13, 2012, 09:52:35 PM »
I have faith.  Everyone has faith of some sort. Even Aetheists have faith there is no god or higher power or karma or guiding spirit. 

You're kind of missing the entire point of being Atheist... it requires no faith whatsoever to be an Atheist... it's kind of anti-faith. I do not believe in something there is no evidence for, period. Faith implies belief. For me to "believe" in something, there must be evidence. If there is evidence, then it's no longer faith, it's knowledge. Faith is believing in something without evidence, I have a distinct lack of faith due to the lack of evidence.

This is rambly because I'm tired, but I think I made my point.

Offline Beguile's Mistress

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Re: Is there a correlation between religious beliefs and intelligence?
« Reply #14 on: August 13, 2012, 10:03:35 PM »
You're kind of missing the entire point of being Atheist... it requires no faith whatsoever to be an Atheist... it's kind of anti-faith. I do not believe in something there is no evidence for, period. Faith implies belief. For me to "believe" in something, there must be evidence. If there is evidence, then it's no longer faith, it's knowledge. Faith is believing in something without evidence, I have a distinct lack of faith due to the lack of evidence.

This is rambly because I'm tired, but I think I made my point.

As was explain to me by several atheists you need to believe in the nonexistence of something in order to talk about it.  They have faith that they are right.  Atheism is a belief that there is no god or whatever you or someone else chose to call it.  It is much more complex that a simple denial of a god.  There are many aspects of atheism and even atheists have trouble coming to a concensus.

Offline TaintedAndDelish

Re: Is there a correlation between religious beliefs and intelligence?
« Reply #15 on: August 13, 2012, 10:07:02 PM »
You're kind of missing the entire point of being Atheist... it requires no faith whatsoever to be an Atheist... it's kind of anti-faith. I do not believe in something there is no evidence for, period. Faith implies belief. For me to "believe" in something, there must be evidence. If there is evidence, then it's no longer faith, it's knowledge. Faith is believing in something without evidence, I have a distinct lack of faith due to the lack of evidence.

This is rambly because I'm tired, but I think I made my point.

I think of faith as more of a personal quality than a divine gift. In that sense, faith is indeed independent of one's beliefs. In the bible there was a passage where Jesus praised a roman soldier for his faith, and scolded his apostles for their lack of faith - suggesting that they aspire to have faith as this particular soldier did.

I have faith in myself, my ability to work through problems, and in the people in whom I place my trust. Without it, I would be a worrisome mess.

As for atheism being an admission of faith in god, I disagree. If I claim that the flying spaghetti monster created the universe, and you denied it - writing off my claim off as foolishness, would that denial or rejection be a veiled admission too?

Offline Bloodied Porcelain

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Re: Is there a correlation between religious beliefs and intelligence?
« Reply #16 on: August 13, 2012, 10:35:14 PM »
As for atheism being an admission of faith in god, I disagree. If I claim that the flying spaghetti monster created the universe, and you denied it - writing off my claim off as foolishness, would that denial or rejection be a veiled admission too?

This.

Offline Will

Re: Is there a correlation between religious beliefs and intelligence?
« Reply #17 on: August 13, 2012, 10:36:25 PM »
As was explain to me by several atheists you need to believe in the nonexistence of something in order to talk about it.  They have faith that they are right.  Atheism is a belief that there is no god or whatever you or someone else chose to call it.  It is much more complex that a simple denial of a god.  There are many aspects of atheism and even atheists have trouble coming to a concensus.

If even atheists can't really agree on what it means to be atheists, then it seems problematic to claim one thing about all atheists, i.e., all atheists have faith.  For myself, it's more an assumption of nonexistence than a belief.  I don't believe with all my heart that there is no god, but the total lack of evidence means that I assume that there's no god and act accordingly.  It's a subtle difference, I know, but it's a very real one.  It's not at all the same as a dogmatic belief, so I do tend to look a little sideways at the notion that atheism is just a "religion of non-religion" or whatever.

Offline Beguile's Mistress

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Re: Is there a correlation between religious beliefs and intelligence?
« Reply #18 on: August 13, 2012, 10:38:56 PM »
Do you believe the proof is there and that it is valid? 

Offline Will

Re: Is there a correlation between religious beliefs and intelligence?
« Reply #19 on: August 13, 2012, 10:39:38 PM »
What proof?  Proof of what?

Offline TaintedAndDelish

Re: Is there a correlation between religious beliefs and intelligence?
« Reply #20 on: August 13, 2012, 10:44:04 PM »
The burden of proof belongs to the one making the claim. Atheists do not need to prove the non existence of god, rather its the other way around. 

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Re: Is there a correlation between religious beliefs and intelligence?
« Reply #21 on: August 13, 2012, 10:48:42 PM »
What proof?  Proof of what?
Do you believe there is proof there is no god?  The point is that among the atheists of my acquaintance there are those who profess belief that god does not exist and that the proof of such is available and valid.  Discussions with them are interesting and entertaining.

The thing I'm trying to say is that faith is more that a belief in god or the teachings of a religion.  We have faith in many things or want to like parents, teachers, the sun rising in the morning.  It's individualistic.  Your system works for you.  It doesn't work for most of the atheists I've talked to.


The burden of proof belongs to the one making the claim. Atheists do not need to prove the non existence of god, rather its the other way around. 
Yet atheists claim there is no god.

Offline Bloodied Porcelain

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Re: Is there a correlation between religious beliefs and intelligence?
« Reply #22 on: August 13, 2012, 10:58:54 PM »
Faith means believing in something without evidence. I do not understand why this has to be repeated so much, but it does. In order to have faith, one must look at the lack of evidence for something (in this case, God) and still chose to believe in it. Atheists look at the lack of evidence and say "there's no evidence, therefore I have no faith."

There is no evidence for unicorns, leprechauns, dragons, etc either, but you do not imply that because an Atheist does not believe in them, that we have to have faith to do so. It's called being rational, and faith is completely irrational

Offline TaintedAndDelish

Re: Is there a correlation between religious beliefs and intelligence?
« Reply #23 on: August 13, 2012, 10:59:54 PM »
If I claim that the flying spaghetti monster exists, you are under no burden to prove that it does not exist, likewise atheists are under no burden to prove that this god does not exist. If  I insist that the FSM or god is real, but I provide no proof, then what business have I to expect others to disprove these beliefs?

I could make up a million fictional entities, but that doesn't make them true. Without proof, how can one say that this god is any more real than the FSM? For that matter, why was the bible loaded with tall tales about miracles? Perhaps its writers too believed that without proof, their fictional god was as real as the pagan's false gods?







Offline Will

Re: Is there a correlation between religious beliefs and intelligence?
« Reply #24 on: August 13, 2012, 11:02:25 PM »
Do you believe there is proof there is no god?  The point is that among the atheists of my acquaintance there are those who profess belief that god does not exist and that the proof of such is available and valid.  Discussions with them are interesting and entertaining.

The thing I'm trying to say is that faith is more that a belief in god or the teachings of a religion.  We have faith in many things or want to like parents, teachers, the sun rising in the morning.  It's individualistic.  Your system works for you.  It doesn't work for most of the atheists I've talked to.

Yet atheists claim there is no god.

Well, maybe I am the exception rather than the rule.  It sounds like I would find those conversations just as interesting and entertaining as you do, heh.