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Religious People Are Less Intelligent Than Atheists, Concludes New Study

How did we miss this little gem. Thought you'd all like discussing this one...

A review of 63 scientific studies dating back to 1928 has concluded that religious people are less intelligent than non-believers.

Only 10 of the 63 studies showed a positive correlation between intelligence and religiosity.

The paper, entitled The Relation Between Intelligence and Religiosity: A Meta-Analysis and Some Proposed Explanations, was led by Professor Miron Zuckerman of the University of Rochester, and was published in the academic journal Personality and Social Psychology Review on 6 August.

Zuckerman’s team studied decades worth of analysis, noting many atheism and intellect studies “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’.”

The study defined intelligence as the “ability to reason, plan, solve problems, think abstractly, comprehend complex ideas, learn quickly and learn from experience.”


Personally I've known some pretty intelligent people covering most religions, but I do get the reasoning behind this premise. Not sure if this can ever really be "proven" though.  And, of course there is the fact that you can manipulate data to say whatever you want it to. 


Asked by Crafty26 at 10:02 AM on Aug. 15, 2013 in Religious Debate

Level 44 (186,779 Credits)
This question is closed.
Answers (12)
  • There is an inherent flaw in any study that defines "religious" based on "church attendance" when the majority of religious people on earth don't attend a church. They should just come out and say what they've really measured - intelligence and Christianity.

    Answer by NotPanicking at 10:29 AM on Aug. 15, 2013

  • looks like HuffPo left out a key part of this study. i read about this study on the NY Times website and the researcher stated that it wasnt so much that Atheist's were smarter, but rather that smarter ppl dont see the point in God...they have no need for God. when you are smart you are more likely to succeed in life, meaning you dont need God to help you or give you hope for a better life. its why so many poor ppl are religious, they have a need for hope.

    and if i recall correctly, they study followed ppl with genius IQs starting from the 1920s on and found that their rate of believing in God was lower than the national 20% lower. so its not that religious ppl are less smart, but rather that smart ppl are more likely to be Atheists.

    Answer by okmanders at 2:01 PM on Aug. 15, 2013

  • more fundamentalist religious beliefs

    That goes hand in hand with that other bias. Fundamentalist is based on a specific criteria that only applies to a very small segment of religious people. It's like insisting that Fox News represents the majority of conservatives or the majority of Christians, yet only 3.7% of the population watch even their highest rated show, and that's also the least hardline conservative of their shows. (FOX comparison shamelessly stolen from Reza Aslan).

    Answer by NotPanicking at 1:40 PM on Aug. 15, 2013

  • While I agree with NP about an inherent flaw with the study as it seemingly pertains to Christianity, I also believe we would see similar results with any religious society, where those that break away from the herd mentality of the sociological societies beliefs would be found to be more intelligent than those that conform to the religious majority of their demographic area. In order to break that mold to begin with one has to exhibit the ability to question what they have been taught since birth.

    Answer by KristiS11384 at 12:05 PM on Aug. 15, 2013

  • Now that is not to say "religious people are dumb" but those that QUESTION and apply logic are less likely to "follow the herd" in terms of religion. Fundamentalist sects discourage questioning their beliefs.

    Answer by KristiS11384 at 1:46 PM on Aug. 15, 2013

    • Whatever. Like you said yourself, data can be manipulated to say anything the researchers want it to say. 

      This isn't the first time these studies have come out and regardless of if you like it or not there is a consistent pattern with less intelligent people having more fundamentalist religious beliefs. 


    Answer by KristiS11384 at 1:31 PM on Aug. 15, 2013

  • Fundamentalist is based on a specific criteria that only applies to a very small segment of religious people.

    Well yes but i"m pretty sure there have been studies regarding the degree of fundamentalism in religion and intelligence. Not just believing and non believing and in those studies the more strictly fundamentalist a belief was the less schooling and the poorer they performed on aptitude tests(The "bible says this and you don't question it) Where as the more liberal the religious belief the higher the scores.

    Answer by KristiS11384 at 1:44 PM on Aug. 15, 2013

  • Yeah, there seems to be a bias in the testing. It makes more sense to say that those who are more rational & logical are less likely to believe.

    However on a personal level, I feel good about this study since religion never "took" on me. No matter what I was told, it never added up....yay I'm smarter! :P

    Answer by 3libras at 11:28 AM on Aug. 15, 2013

  • well shit! I guess I am not as smart as I thought I was, running to my room to cry now...................
    not really but I am going to stick to I am smart enough to know that religion has its flaws and I don't believe everything I was taught.

    Answer by luvmygrandgirl at 3:15 PM on Aug. 15, 2013

  • Whatever. Like you said yourself, data can be manipulated to say anything the researchers want it to say. And if there did happen to be a study with results that put the intelligence of non-believers in question, we would be seeing frenzied protest from those who are just happy with thisparticluar "gem" because its conclusions support their opinions.

    Answer by Ballad at 1:19 PM on Aug. 15, 2013