Is there a relationship between IQ and Religion?

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Titilayo's picture
Is there a relationship between IQ and Religion?

Sometimes those whom we see as intelligent folks making some stupid pronunciation that will make you cringe
Does religion lower human iq or does it attract people of lower Iq
Another of my observations is chances are 70% of those who believed 100% of what they preach or what their pastors preach end up poor.
Who can explain this phenomenon to me.

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Sheldon's picture
"Religious people are less

"Religious people are less intelligent on average than atheists because faith is an instinct and clever people are better at rising above their instincts, researchers have claimed. 

The theory — called the 'Intelligence-Mismatch Association Model' — was proposed by a pair of authors who set out to explain why numerous studies over past decades have found religious people to have lower average intelligence than people who do not believe in a god"

That's an article from The Independent in May last year. Note that numerous studies have evidenced the negative correlation between IQ and religiosity. However there are multiple factors to consider, and this article sets out their own paper.

This does not mean that all theists are unintelligent or less intelligent than atheists.

The research shows an anomaly, that on average IQ's are lower in religious demographics. It's not hard for example to see why it's easier to indoctrinated or manipulate someone as their intelligence quotient lowers.

A far more salient question for me has always been why extremely intelligent people are superstitious. Invariably high achievers with correspondingly high intelligence tend to be atheistic, but not always.

Taking America as an example, religiosity among elite scientists almost mirrors the opposite of the general populace, yet there are members of the elite scientific associations who are theists.

Francis Collins, head of the human genome project and a leader in the field of genetics is a born again christian.

He must a thorn in the side of creationists of course, but if you read about his "epiphany" he claims convinced him the christian deity is real it's risible, especially for a man of his intellect. I mean it's truly baffling to me someone as intelligent as Collins would think seeing a waterfall frozen into 3 parts confirmed the trinity, yet this is what he claims.

Cognostic's picture
Apparently there is....

Apparently there is.... Zuckerman, Silberman, Hall
A meta-analysis of 63 studies showed a significant negative association between intelligence and religiosity. The association was stronger for college students and the general population than for participants younger than college age; it was also stronger for religious beliefs than religious behavior. For college students and the general population, means of weighted and unweighted correlations between intelligence and the strength of religious beliefs ranged from −.20 to −.25 (mean r = −.24). Three possible interpretations were discussed. First, intelligent people are less likely to conform and, thus, are more likely to resist religious dogma. Second, intelligent people tend to adopt an analytic (as opposed to intuitive) thinking style, which has been shown to undermine religious beliefs. Third, several functions of religiosity, including compensatory control, self-regulation, self-enhancement, and secure attachment, are also conferred by intelligence. Intelligent people may therefore have less need for religious beliefs and practices.

Sheldon's picture
It's important to remember

It's important to remember that whilst intelligence can help you make critical and analytical decisions, and reduce intuition and emotion behind choices, there are no guarantees, and of course there are many other factors at play.

Human intelligence is first and foremost fallible, and even at genius level it's likely to be anachronistic. It's easy to demean ideas now that were considered profound during periods where education was non- existent for almost everyone, beyond learning practical applications needed for day to day survival.

Newton was a genius whose scientific theories on gravity advanced human knowledge exponentially. Yet he also was an alchemist, an astrologer, and of course a christian.

His science Mark's him as a genius, the superstion's were of the period, and merely show he was fallible like everyone else. The science is revered because it can be supported by objective facts. The superstion's cannot.

How many people live and die even today not knowing who Newton was, or having even a basic grasp of his scientific work?

Don't forget Breezy thought he was a genius on here who'd bested every evolutionary scientist including Darwin. Yet he laughed when I referred to Newton's "theories" of gravity. Intelligence is not much use of you cling to ideas that defy objective facts, even to the point where you deny the definition of a phrase like scientific theory.

I have no more than a middling intellect myself, and a mediocre formal education, and I try never to forget that.

Titilayo's picture

RE: "A far more salient question for me has always been why extremely intelligent people are superstitious. Invariably high achievers with correspondingly high intelligence tend to be atheistic, but not always."

this is where I am confused, do they really believe it or they just pretend so as to fit in?.

Sheldon's picture
"do they really believe it or

"do they really believe it or they just pretend so as to fit in?."

I'm sure in some parts of the world it's still very unwise to announce you are an atheist. However I doubt this applies in most developed western democracies. With the caveat that in the US if anyone has an political aspirations of any kind, then declaring yourself an atheist would end those aspirations for any sort of public office.

In the UK it is completely irrelevant, as in most other western European countries.

Nyarlathotep's picture
Maybe the relationship goes

Maybe the relationship goes the other way. I mean you don't see bear priests in big white hats promising a magically happy afterlife to the other bears, in exchange for 10% of their food and sex with their cubs.

/e Seems it takes a certain amount of intelligence to pull off that kind of scam.

Grinseed's picture
In her book "Why We Lie"

In her book "Why We Lie" Dorothy Rowe suggests irrational beliefs have as much to do with emotional issues as intelligence levels.

Those who have been indoctrinated as children into religious faiths tend to identify with that faith at very personal levels and any challenges to that faith will be taken as a personal attack at a subconcious level. In these cases intelligence can be trumped by deep seated inability of a person to seperate their ideas from themselves. "You are not your ideas." as Cas had suggested elsewhere on AR.

This might explain why academics suddenly convert to religious faiths if long suppressed and unaddressed indoctrination pushes them to seek some form of emotional comfort in overt expression, despite obvious contradictions to their professional lives.
One example that has always intrigued me was the scientist who claimed to have refound his god in the shape of his baby daughter's ear. I studied my daughter's ear and while marvelling at the complexity only found Nature.

reedemption's picture
I can only speak from the

I can only speak from the perspective of Christianity.

Christianity does not lower IQ (on the contrary God gives you more wisdom) but expects you to submit your will to God. The average human being gets upset when his or her will is restricted or hampered. This is why we need the grace of God to do this.

Now, there are people who go to ridiculous extent to do some strange things such as worshipping their Pastor (instead of God), eating grass as commanded by their Pastor etc...when you closely examine their intents, they are not even that interested in God, they just want what God can give- how their needs can be met- and so, they will rather take selfish and lazy routes rather than do both the actual spiritual and physical work. It will appear they have low IQ but they are selfish, greedy and ignorant people. Okay, some may actually have low IQ in this


If you as an unbeliever is trying to use human comprehension to understand the things of the Spirit, then you are on your own because this is an entirely different case! This is because God uses the foolish things of this world to confound "the wise".
It is fallacy to associate believing in God with low IQ on the average when Albert Einstein even believed in God. And the wisest person recorded is in the word of God.

And who IQ help anyway?? The race of life is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor the success to those with high IQs.

Tin-Man's picture
@Reedemption Re: "This is

@Reedemption Re: "This is because God uses the foolish things of this world to confound "the wise"."

And, by golly, God certainly did make a FANTASTIC choice in implementing YOU to accomplish that goal... *grin*...

Tin-Man's picture
For what it's worth, I

For what it's worth, I believe Reedemption's posts (in general) are FANTASTIC examples of the relationship between religion and lower IQ's.

Sheldon's picture
reedemption "I can only

reedemption "I can only speak from the perspective of Christianity.

Christianity does not lower IQ (on the contrary God gives you more wisdom)"

The hilarity of that is going to keep me smiling all day. You haven't even grasped the question properly, so your beliefs haven't gifted you extra wisdom, not that we needed confirmation.

No one us claiming superstition lowers your IQ ffs. Though your penchant for saying stupid things has me wondering. However it is a well documented fact that multiple studies have shown a negative correlation between religiosity, especially theism, and IQ.

Fair play you never disappoint, what a hilarious own goal. Almost as hilarious as this...

reedemption "It is fallacy to associate believing in God with low IQ on the average when Albert Einstein even believed in God."

You do know what einstein said about the bible and your beliefs don't you, and his thoughts on the asinine idea a human can survive their own physical death in any meaningful way?

Apparently not then, it seems the "extra wisdom" your deity has given you has raised it enough to google Einstein's opinions on your religious beliefs before choosing to misquoted him as a theist, which he was not. Again what a fucking hilarious own goal, you're priceless you really are.

Sheldon's picture
reedemption "Albert Einstein

reedemption "Albert Einstein even believed in God."

Firstly, what does that have to do with research showing a negative correlation between AVERAGE IQs and religiosity?

Secondly the man who recently bought a letter from Einstein where he (Einstein) declares his atheism, at auction for $3m will be disappointed with this news. Here's a snippet from it you fucking clown.

"Einstein says: “The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive, legends which are nevertheless pretty childish.”

Albert Einstein

Good grief reedemption, but your posts are asinine nonsense , even for a superstitious god botherer.

Do understand that the research is conducted on large test groups, and that the average result consistently shows a lower average IQ in the theistic demographic? Do you see why one person in that group being both a genius and a theist wouldn't change the result? It's not that fucking complicated, it really isn't.

algebe's picture

Intelligence doesn't make you immune from fear of the unknown or oblivion.
Religion is one of the most powerful forces in human society. I'm convinced that the highly intelligent people who make up the highest echelons of religion organizations are mostly cynical closet atheists

boomer47's picture
As far as I'm aware, there

As far as I'm aware, there are some30,000 religions in the world.

Found this:

"Worldwide, more than eight-in-ten people identify with a religious group,” says a new comprehensive demographic study of more than 230 countries and territories conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life.

“There are 5.8 billion religiously affiliated adults and children around the globe, representing 84 percent of the 2010 world population of 6.9 billion,” the analysis states."

I can accept there is a correlation between intellect and religiosity, but not convinced there's a causal connection. Not sure how a reliable extrapolation can be made from even a huge population to billions of people .

I HAVE noticed a strong correlation between ignorance, (as in lack of education) poverty, and religiosity.Those things do not in themselves equal stupidity.

The most noticeable traits in theists I see on atheist forums is a purblind ignorance and industrial level cognitive dissonance. Those things do not equal stupidity necessarily .

Imo faith doesn't have a lot to do with intellect.Religiosity is universal because it meets important human needs. If that were not the case, there would be far less religion.**

Plus, for perhaps most people, religious belief if is an accident of birth. Most absorb their parents beliefs uncritically like little sponges. My observation is that few people ever seriously question the religious or secular beliefs with which they were inculcated as children.

Imo it is no coincidence that a noticeable rise in secularisation is occurring in the more affluent countries. Conversely, that the most noticeable increase in Christianity especially is occurring in the poorer nations, such as parts of Africa and South America.

A teacher at my Catholic boys school taught us "Only a fool does not question his faith from-time-to-time" It seems to me the bulk of believers are foolish rather than.

I will need to see a lot more evidence before I'll accept that intellect within religions is other than the normal IQ spread within populations generally. .

I belong to two atheist forums.One soon notices that the overall native intelligence and education of forum members seems to be a lot higher than in the general population with whom one comes into contact . .IMO that's because atheist forum members are aytpical.

**The formal approach I use is mainly a mixture of structural functionalism and cultural relativism . This only one approach,. I make no truth claim.

Paul1047's picture
The Church has historically

The Church has historically fought the spread of knowledge tooth and nail. Christianity traps itself in self-defeating concepts such as biblical inerrancy and a changeless immortal god. A classic example is the church's failed medieval stance against the heliocentric universe. A modern example would be the church's slow acceptance of same-sex marriage. Essentially the Christian faith desires a static universe that matches a static heaven, while any kid with a grain of sense (and there are a lot of them out there) understands that a fulfilled life is a life of change and growth. A quick side note. I've heard so many times, preachers warning their graduating high school seniors headed for college to be careful and not let the university program destroy their faith, i.e., don't go for too much knowledge.

reedemption's picture

Newton doesn't believe in Jesus Christ, and was known as a heretic. Y'all should do your research. Why should I be doing your work for you

Sheldon's picture
reedemption "Newton doesn't

reedemption "Newton doesn't believe in Jesus Christ, and was known as a heretic. Y'all should do your research. Why should I be doing your work for you"

Since I never claimed anything about his belief in Jesus, that's another spectacularly stupid own goal. He held to a Christian belief was all I said, try learning to read. I never claimed he adhered to an orthodox christian belief did I? He did not believe in the trinity. Try doing a proper research you clown.

You've also entirely missed the fucking point again. Probably in a fatuous attempt to remove the egg from your face after your hilariously stupid claim that Einstein was a theist, and even more hilariously implying the claim somehow repudiated the research that has evidenced a negative correlation between religiosity and IQ, because you've failed to understand that the research measured IQ levels in large test groups of atheist and theists and has consistently shown a lower AVERAGE IQ in the religious group. So one person's IQ is of course utterly irrelevant in that context ffs.

Dear oh dear, your posts really are the comedic gift that keeps on giving...

Grinseed's picture
Newton was a Unitarian and he

@ reedemption

Newton was a Unitarian and he's been dead quite a long time. He believed in Jesus but he did not think JC and God or the Holy Ghost, were made of the same 'essence'. What he did not believe in was the Holy Trinity. There, now I have done your proper research for you.

Unitarians today, think you, reedemption, are the heretic.

I hereby absolve you of doing any research for me. Your feeble attempts at marshalling relevant and worthy information of any sort are simply too shoddy. I never went to university, so you can drop that bullshit complaint with me, but unlike you I maintain rigid standards in my own studies.

Sheldon's picture
So, so far reedemption has

So, so far reedemption has

1. Utterly failed to understand the research and its conclusions.
2. Wrongly tried to imply Einstein was a theist.
3. Thought one theist being a genius refuted research making analogous comparisons of average IQ levels in two opposing groups of atheists and theists.
4. Tried to imply Isaac Newton was not a Christian because he was a Unitarian, and thought worshipping the trinity was a sin.

I said it before and I'll say it again, reedemption you are fucking priceless. Though it is starting to feel like kicking a puppy now, a slow helpless puppy, that can't understand why it's being kicked.

CyberLN's picture
Titilayo, let’s first decide

Titilayo, let’s first decide what intelligence is. If one can compute trigonometric functions in one’s head, are they intelligent? What if they also think big foot exists? If someone can recite “MacBeth” without reference material, are they intelligent? What if they also think they are visited by ghosts? If a person can figure out how to survive by only their wits alone on the woods are they intelligent? And what if they also think aliens have visited earth?

Some studies show a correlation between religiosity and lower iq. But, is religiosity the cause of that lower intelligence or is there simply an appeal in it for folks who can’t (or don’t want to) manage all aspects of their lives for themselves?


Attach Image/Video?: 

boomer47's picture
I think in the 70's a

I think in the 70's a psychologist wrote a book 'proving' ; that black children in the US are smarter than white children . To do this he gave the same test to a group of middle class preppies and a group of black kids from the projects. Once the black kids were given socially appropriate tests, the results evened out.

In OZ one occasionally hears about small indigenous children, say aged 3 and 5, who just wander away . Some times, a couple of weeks later ,the kids just wander back, apparently without harm. Pretty sure no urban white child of any age could be put naked and alone in the outback and survive.

My grandfather said to me. "Remember that almost everyone you meet can do at least one thing far better than you." I've found that to be consistently true.

I think it's meaningful to ask "How is that person smart?" rather than" How smart is that person?"

IQ measures a certain kind of intelligence , and isn't always helpful in determining what a person can actually DO.

Sheldon's picture
cranky47 "IQ measures a

cranky47 "IQ measures a certain kind of intelligence , and isn't always helpful in determining what a person can actually DO."

I agree completely. Though you must admit it's pretty funny watching reedemption's histrionics.

Cognostic's picture
I know there is a stigma

I know there is a stigma against using IQ tests in our culture. It does not negate their utility. Police departments will not hire people with high IQs.

US Court Ruling: You Can Be “Too Smart” to Be a Cop.

You can be "Too Stupid" to go into the army. If you are too stupid for the Army, no one else wants you. All military recruits must take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) to qualify for enlistment. To qualify, recruits must score higher than roughly one-third of all who take the ASVAB. The lowest acceptable percentile score to join is 36 for the Air Force, 35 for the Navy, 32 for the Marine Corps, and 31 for the Army." 31 According to Jordan Peterson ( I know, I know, but the man makes good points.) is an IQ of 83. If you do not have an IQ of 83 the army believes you are too stupid to be trained to do anything.

Companies and Universities throughout the world use standardized IQ testing under the guise of "aptitude." Regardless of your position on standardized IQ tests, they are used regularly and seen as exceptionally useful to business, industry, education, and the military.

There are UNCOMFORTABLE FACTS about the use of IQ testing.

Nyarlathotep's picture
Cognostic - To qualify,

Cognostic - To qualify, recruits must score higher than roughly one-third of all who take the ASVAB. The lowest acceptable percentile score to join is 36 for the Air Force, 35 for the Navy, 32 for the Marine Corps, and 31 for the Army." 31 According to Jordan Peterson ( I know, I know, but the man makes good points.) is an IQ of 83.

That is consistent with my memories of my time in the Army. If I remember correctly I put the estimate at 80 I.Q.

Also: if I remember correctly, to re-enlist a soldier needed to have an even higher score. Often soldiers would take free correspondence courses to try improve their scores (on future tests). I think I estimated this new score to be about 100 I.Q. This was in the late 1990's.

Sheldon's picture
Cognostic " If you do not

Cognostic " If you do not have an IQ of 83 the army believes you are too stupid to be trained to do anything."

An IQ of below 70 is broadly considered to indicate a learning disability, though definitions vary, and there are several criteria at stages below that. So the army is happy to arm people and send them into combat with an IQ 13 points above the entry level criteria for a learning disability, that's pretty scary.

Incidentally people born with an IQ of of less than 20 would be described as having a profound learning disability. A person with an IQ of 20-34, a severe learning disability. A person with an IQ of 35-49, moderate learning disability. Now will god be sending them to Hell to be tortured forever if they are unable to properly comprehend it's existence, and cannot therefore believe it exists? It's an interesting point I think?

boomer47's picture
Content: The fictional

Context: The fictional Forest Gump had an IQ of 70.

There was also the notorious case of "McNamara's Moron's"

"At various times in its history, the US military has recruited people who measured below specific mental and medical standards. During the Vietnam war, “McNamara’s Moron’s” as they were called, were barely literate, or could not read or write, or did not speak English. They were underweight, or obese, were too short, or semi-blind, or missing fingers. In basic training, they often could not tie their shoes, button their uniforms, march in drills. Many failed at physical exercise, at tossing hand grenades, could not quickly assemble weapons, or smartly shoot at moving targets.: "

The Youtube clip linked below features Hamilton Gregory, who wrote the book "McNamara's Folly"

I was conscripted into the Australian army in 1968. During corps training (infantry) I discovered that I was the ONLY person in my platoon who had finished high school.

During the 2 years, I served, I never once ran into the son of a politician nor that of a doctor, lawyer or any other profession. In my battalion (500 men) the top of the tree economically was the son of a bookie, who was also the camp bookie.

I understand the same applied with US conscripts during the Vietnam war. That there were a disproportionate number of poor black kids from the projects and poorer US southern States.

The rich and the privileged kept their kids from being sent off the Vietnam. I don't blame them for a second . I avoided Vietnam by pure serendipity; I went to Malaysia, considered a holiday posting. (guys got to take their wives and kids)-------of my intake of 1200 men , just 12 of us were sent to Malaysia.

The Creedence song "Fortunate Son'" has always resonated with me:

The clip below was recorded live, and is pretty good, imo.,

Cognostic's picture
I ran 6 group homes. If the

I ran 6 group homes. If the kids were about to turn 18 and had not yet finished High School, we took them to enlistment in the Army. The army will take 17 year old students without a HS diploma, however, they must pass the Army's HS equivalency program as a condition of acceptance. It's not like any normal HS. The little gang-banger s get their first serious reality check. Most of them manage to get their HS degree and get through Basic. I think you must have a HS degree to be in the army or enrolled in their HS equivalency program. Some end up court marshaled and given the boot.

Calilasseia's picture
If some of the glue sniffers

If some of the glue sniffers and lead paint chewers that I see, lining up to become ideological cannon fodder for their invisible magic men on Facebook, are any indication in this matter, then mythology fanboyism is strongly correlated with being a total fuckwit. And almost as strongly correlated with being a lying sack of shit.

Apart from the fact that some of the specimens in question, exhibit a level of functional illiteracy that is disturbingly indicative of foetal exposure to a raft of neurotoxic heavy metals, the dribblingly encephalitic ersatz for genuine deductive reasoning, that they champion as being some sort of killer discoursive weapon in the fight to achieve hegemony for their mythologies, would have been considered an embarrassment among a good few five year olds that I know. Indeed, the willingness of mythology fanboys to present, in public, on a globally accessible public medium, a spectacle of their inadequacy that would normally invalidate them from any remotely responsible occupation, is an aspect of the aetiology that is both amusing and disturbing to behold.

At one end of the spectrum, you have the truly anencephalic - these are the ones whose output bears the hallmarks of having been produced with crayon beforehand, and in some cases, by authors who then ate several of the crayons in question. Developing nations suffering from past infection with Catholicism are fertile sources of this ilk, all the more so if their territory has been, past or present, a battleground between rival brands of mythology fanboyism involving resort to actual warfare. Of course, the remedy in the case of such nations, in the form of heavy investment in education and the infrastructure of a properly constituted, decent, humane civil society, that would reduce their output thereof, is frequently frustrated by stupidity and corruption at home, and racism fuelled vulture capitalism abroad. It's not just religious organisations that want to keep these people stupid, the likes of ExxonMobil have a vested interest in the same, if the people in question are sitting on lots of nice, exploitable oil. But exploring this avenue further will take this post into the realms of a 20 volume encyclopaedia.

However, even supposedly 'developed' nations produce a disturbing number of wannabee god-bots, all of them poster children for that infamous admonition by Augustine of Hippo. While the USA has its own festering canker sores in this regard, even some European nations, whose history alone should be informing the requisite populace of the inherent dangers lurking in the world of mythology adherence, can produce some weapons-grade instances of mental decrepitude. Some of these seem to harbour as a life ambition, the yearning to provide a global audience with a peculiar species of entertainment, in the form of operating in public, with the discoursive competence of a broken Furby. Even a nation normally considered sane, such as Canada, occasionally produces some full time inhabitants of the moon-pie and goo-goo cluster demographic, one spectacular instance thereof I had dealings with elsewhere.

The opposite end of the spectrum, is characterised by the wilfully duplicitous, the sort of people that you would expect to see building a career path that began in real estate, moved on to televangelism, and finally culminated in the search for high political office through a venal, corrupt right wing party. These are the serious objects of scorn, derision and utter contempt, the ones who possess some skills, but choose to misuse their gifts in the pursuit of what is, all too frequently and sadly, a lucrative excursion into professional discoursive criminality. Insufficiently competent to be the generators of substantive positive contribution to human advancement, but sufficiently versed in that sleazy combination of low cunning, basic indolence and manipulative scheming, to appear on the radar as forthcoming icons of mendacity, a good few of these moved into the world of mythology fanboyism, not through misplaced and gullible conviction, but through the underhand application of that famous dictum by P. T. Barnum. These are the ones for whom one should keep in reserve, the stilleto dipped in cobra venom. Swift and ruthless extirpation of their malfeasance in the public arena is not merely the only effective prophylactic, but a public duty to be pursued with vigour and enthusiasm.

I think this covers the essential bases, so to speak.

Sheldon's picture


You make a salient and interesting point about rival mythologies. There is a school of thought to explain why the US is an anomaly among developed western democracies in having an overwhelmingly religious populace, and it's the fact that the constitution separating church and state inadvertently set religions up in a free market to aggressively market themselves and compete with each other.

In other countries like the UK, that have a state religion which has traditionally had little competition, religiosity has been in steady decline for decades.

I'm going to trot out the late Christopher Hitchens quote again as it seems slightly apropos.

"Many religions now come before us with ingratiating smirks and outspread hands, like an unctuous merchant in a bazaar. They offer consolation and solidarity and uplift, competing as they do in a marketplace. But we have a right to remember how barbarically they behaved when they were strong and were making an offer that people could not refuse."

Christopher Hitchens, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything

Tin-Man's picture
@Cali Re: "If some of the

@Cali Re: "If some of the glue sniffers and lead paint chewers that I see, lining up to become ideological cannon fodder..."

Damn, Cali. That one was an absolute joy to read. Best part, I actually understood every bit of it... *chuckle*...


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