General Question

niki's avatar

Are atheists usually smarter than religious people?

Asked by niki (714points) June 12th, 2011

Is it true generally speaking?
Perhaps because in my personal opinion and based on my own personal experiences & observations, atheists are usually able to be much more critical thinker, and also able to see things in much bigger picture than religious people (especially Christianity, no offense).

What do you think?

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120 Answers

Cruiser's avatar

I don’t know about smarter…more so a wee bit wiser!

chyna's avatar

Really? I think this is an asinine assumption.

obvek's avatar

This was asked a while ago when a study came out that said atheists are more literate than religious folks.

sliceswiththings's avatar

Yes. As an atheist, it seems extremely foolish to me that religious people believe what seems to me like magic. The atheist point of view is much more logical, in my god-dismissing opinion.

zenvelo's avatar

I find them to be more close minded and adamant in their certitude.

Perhaps it might be stated that atheists that have thought deeply about beliefs and non-beliefs are more contemplative, and as a subset of all non-believers skew a little higher (meaning the average IQ of such group is higher than 100). I believe there are probably a lot of people who are non-religious that would respond to a question by self-identifying as “atheist.”

And there are probably significant numbers of “believers” that have never examined their beliefs, but attend church and follow along because that’s what they’ve always done.

But as a group, all atheists are not smarter than all religious people.

Rarebear's avatar

No. And I say this as an atheist.

seperate_reality's avatar

On the contrary, because atheism itself, is based largely on false information. As a Religious individual I have realized myself, that God exists and is quite real and true. Atheism only has opinions and theories and no individual realizations to speak of.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Define what type of smart you are talking about? If we are talking points on an IQ test, I have no way of knowing because I do not know if such a test was performed head-to-head. On the part of critical thinking, I have found equal as many atheist as well as Christians to be bull headed and dogmatic in their thinking. We as humans do not know everything but many believe they know it all or enough that anything other than what they think, can see, smell, hear or measure cannot be probable in the least. Just as Christians cannot imagine what was said in the Bible was said from the slant of the culture back then and the language they used and assume every word and act transpose 100% to today’s culture and acts.

Aethelwine's avatar

I <3 @chyna.

There is no possible way to know the answer to this question.

koanhead's avatar

No one knows, because there is no scientifically rigorous definition of what “intelligence” is, and therefore no useful way of measuring it. Also there is no reliable way to distinguish someone’s actual beliefs from their stated beliefs.

Anecdotally I have observed that non-believers are more intellectually flexible, at least, than are believers; but the plural of “anecdote” is not evidence.

Also, as I’ve stated elsewhere, I do tend to feel sorry for those who believe in magickal sky fairies. I think they are foolish- but my opinion doesn’t matter to anyone but me, nor should it.

Nullo's avatar

Arguments in favor of atheism frequently make appeals to a person’s pride and intelligence, building in a sort of filter. Ultimately, though, the answer question that you are really asking is not so simple.

JLeslie's avatar

Here is a question that was very similar you might be interested in.

Atheists are probably statisically more likely to be more anaytical, but we probably cannot say they are definitely more likely to be smarter or more intelligent.

RubyB's avatar

The smartest people I know understand that Mother Earth doesn’t need us at all, and we need Mother Earth for everything. Atheist, religious .. the only thing that matters, that has ever mattered, is respect and responsibility toward each other and Mother Earth. That is spirituality. All the rest is just words .. words .. words, to quote Hamlet, or Shakespeare.

ninjacolin's avatar

Why wouldn’t they be? lol.

Seriously, I don’t think so. It’s kind of like saying: Are people who know their way to my grandma’s house any smarter than people who don’t know the way?

You learn the way to granny’s via a particular set of experience just like you learn whether or not there’s a god via a particular set of experiences. Anyone can learn it but not everyone has the same opportunities to learn the exact same things.

FutureMemory's avatar

Critical thinking skills, definitely.

Otherwise, no.

BBSDTfamily's avatar

A lot of them that I’ve met have sure thought they were!

Nullo's avatar

Food for thought: theists (used loosely here) vastly outnumber atheists. It may very well be that the number of smart theists is greater than the total number of atheists. It certainly stands to reason that there might be more smart theists than smart atheists.

The last couple churches that I’ve attended regularly counted among their ranks teachers, businessmen, doctors (one was a neurologist), engineers (mechanical, mining, and software), a lawyer, and a retired meteorologist. The one that I attend now is packed to bursting with young professionals.

plethora's avatar

@Nullo My experience has been very similar

Jellie's avatar

This question in itself works against religious people because religion is in fact based in faith. I think you can argue for religion all you want based on facts and logic but at the end of it, it all comes down to faith and believing. Since there is no mathematical or logical explaination beyond that people tend to think that atheists are smarter. I don’t think it’s true. I have always wished to find religion because I find religious people generally more pleased with their lives.

_zen_'s avatar

If someone is truly religious, and abides by the proper tenets of most Judeo-Christian rites, rituals and laws – then they might be inclined to have more empathy, tolerance and even sympathy for their fellow man. No adultery, loving your neighbour as you would thyself – et al – it could seemingly make one more compassionate and caring, patient and loving. This, in turn, could be measured as a form of Emotional Intelligence, which might be more important then points on a (very subjective, often misleading) IQ test.

Just thinking out loud. Notice I used mights and coulds.

King_Pariah's avatar

I think it’s a silly assumption.

snowberry's avatar

They are not smarter, but they like to think they are, which sometimes is taken to mean the same thing.

sarahtalkpretty's avatar

We have to consider the geographical location and culture of said people. I always get the feeling that this question is really asking about the intellectual difference between Liberals and Conservatives in America. To clarify, no I don’t think Liberal atheists from Berkley, California necessarily have an intellectual over a religious people in Israel or Tibet though they probably would have an advantage over a Sarah Palin lovin’ religious Conservative from Kansas.

nikipedia's avatar

Some data:

1. Lynn et al., 2009 concludes, “intelligence . . . is negatively related to religious belief.”

2. Nyborg, 2009 finds “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.”

3. Poythress, 1975: “Religious Believers as a group were found to be significantly less intelligent . . . than Religious Skeptics.”

Faidle's avatar

I have met some pretty dumb athiests… But I’ve met equally dumb believers. I think it’s equal.

manolla's avatar

I can’t understand how your belief system could determine how smart you could be, there are more inventors from the past and till today and people who contributed the most to our world who are all people with a belief system compared to atheists, and our world wouldn’t have reached this far without thier contributions to it.

So both Atheists and Believers could be smarter or dumber depending on the individual.

ragingloli's avatar

Let me put it this way, 93 percent of the scientists in the National Academy of Science are either atheist or agnostic.

augustlan's avatar

I’m going to bite the bullet here, and say yes, BUT, only generally, and not by all that much. It’s been borne out in many studies (like those that @nikipedia linked to up there ^^).

On a personal level that doesn’t really mean much of anything, though. Any one religious person may be brilliant and any one atheist may be a dolt. It’s not like if you’re an atheist, you can (or should) go around claiming to be smarter than all theists. It wouldn’t be right, and it wouldn’t be true.

Response moderated
Sarcasm's avatar

[Mod says:] Please remember that this question is in General, and try to keep the responses on-topic.

DominicX's avatar


So, no one can realize that God doesn’t exist? What makes a realization that God does exist anymore valid than a realization that God doesn’t exist? I’m sure many atheists would believe that theism is based on false information.

To answer the question, I have no idea, but there is a common image of the dumb hick Southern Christian and the liberal yuppie college-educated atheist, but there are all kinds from both groups. Sometimes I do feel like this country is populated by a majority comprised of uneducated conservative Christians, though…

I’m not going to pretend I can answer this question factually because I don’t have any facts on intelligence’s relation to belief or lack of a belief in God. However, most atheists I know have had to think about an atheistic position and they’ve had to examine their beliefs, whereas most theists I know were raised that way and questioned it little. Not sure if that correlates with intelligence, but to me it corresponds with “critical thinking” as was said earlier.

phoebusg's avatar

This is a tricky question, even close to flame-bait. I must say that in my personal experience yes. But defining smart as – being able to hold debates without committing as many logical fallacies – being better critical thinkers as you said. Though this is a very skewed statistic. And there are exceptions – in which case, being an Atheist, I am puzzled why my intelligent yet religious co-speaker, is in fact religious. (My family Doctor in Canada was Muslim, but very intelligent, and—on any topic of conversation).

This hints that religion is built in such a tricky way philosophically that it can “trap” or “lure” people across the intelligence spectrum.

So to conclude, smarter? Maybe. More aware (of fallacies, delusions etc) – definitely.

JLeslie's avatar

@sarahtalkpretty I gotta say that idea does not come to mind at all. Most of the liberals around me, most of the Democrats are religious people here where I live. True many of them are not liberal on some of the social issues, but they still identify with and vote for Democrats.

Silence04's avatar

Yes, it is true that the majority of people with higher range iq are not religious.

Qingu's avatar

Atheists on average are better educated than religious people. And secular countries have better education on average than religious societies.

And as @ragingloli pointed out, most scientists reject a personal god.

I don’t think religious = stupid, but as the evidence has mounted against the claims of major religions it becomes harder and harder to keep people religious without simultaneously keeping them in the dark.

SuperMouse's avatar

I am a pretty bright girl and I believe in God. Being a pretty bright girl and a theist, I tend to hang with theists who are also bright. As a matter of fact I come from a family jam packed with intellectuals (several college professors, lawyers, teachers, etc.) who are all theists. My feelings about religion or faith of any kind have always been that an unexamined faith is not a faith worth having. A faith or any belief system that we have been indoctrinated with from birth and only believe because someone told us to isn’t a real or true faith at all. Before coming to the point in my spiritual life where I believe unequivocally in a power higher than myself I did lots of independent investigation of different belief systems including atheism. In other words I did the critical thinking and came to my own conclusion.

If there is an argument to be made that the minds of believers are different than those of non-believers, I believe the difference is in the area of critical thinking – not level of intelligence.

snowberry's avatar

@SuperMouse, you said it all. Thank you!

Rarebear's avatar

I’ll rephrase my answer. No, but we’re often more arrogant.

snowberry's avatar

@Rarebear Yeah, that too. But atheists don’t have the market cornered on arrogance either.

Rarebear's avatar

@snowberry Clearly not. I was just reading some of the responses on this thread.

King_Pariah's avatar

No, atheists don’t have the market cornered, any obnoxious extremist (either religious or atheist) do. And Paris Hilton.

ddude1116's avatar

Because religious view is totally connected to intellect.. No.

cazzie's avatar

I don´t know about intelligent, but there is a connection to level of education and atheism. The higher the educational level, the more likely atheist. This is simply a trend and average, not a rule.

JLeslie's avatar

Let’s just go ahead and pretend a huge percentage of atheists are smarter, does it matter to those who are religious? I mean if you are smart and religious, do you care that statistical averages show many people who are in your “group” regarding this are not high on IQ measure or education? You are still smart, no matter what the generalization and statistics say. You can pose the same question in the reverse, if atheists were less smart than theists, does it really matter? It’s like the Bell Curve all over again. What if certain ethnic groups are weighing down your stats? In the US Blacks and Hispanics are more likely to be religious, and they test lower on IQ tests, remove them from the equation and how do theists compare to atheists? Starts to sound awful right? So many factors influence IQ and religiousity we can’t just pick out one thing and say it really matters I think, no matter what a statisic says. Sure, the stat might be valid in termsmof accuracy of the number, but the correlation drawn might not be very valid.

Nullo's avatar

@JLeslie It only matters because it gives the wrong impression. From over here, I see a bunch of people who are effectively pitching themselves headlong into Hell because they think that Jesus is for dimwits – and you’re not a dimwit, are you?
It also contributes to an ongoing marginalization of the faithful, which isn’t very fun either.

JLeslie's avatar

@Nullo I was not trying to say it shouldn’t matter. In fact, that is why I brought up, the Bell Curve, because it is basically frowned upon now to generalize by race and ethnicity. Whenever I do it, and I am guilty of talking stats and making generalizations, there are always a bunch of people on fluther who get all over me about it. I understand why it feels bad to have a negative stereotype out there about a group you might be associated with, but if the stat is true, it just is, it does not mean every indivual in the group fits the stat. I guess also what I was suggesting was this type of generalization maybe should be as taboo as generalizing about race and ethnicity.

I would bet there are plenty of sub categories that influence that atheist theist statistic.

QueenOfNowhere's avatar

Yes. Smarter. Religious people believe in something that has been created. On the other hand, atheists are the ruler of their own thoughts. they experiment and decide for example.. They are not dependent so they can think better. They live free so they learn more because they let their minds open to everything. They don’t have an imaginary thing from keeping them doing anything. they choose not to “SIN” in many cases because they’re smart. not because they are religious.

lonelydragon's avatar

I don’t know about intelligence, but as others have noted, there is a negative correlation between education level and belief.

choreplay's avatar

Well are we talking about academic, intuitive or emotional intelligence? Academic, probably; intuitive, probably not. IMHO.

From another angle I think most would agree that God can not be proved or disproved, so as I see it the most intelligent group are likely the agnostics.

Qingu's avatar

Here’s what I think about agnostics:

Agnostics tend to believe the exact same thing about any given deity as atheists do. It’s just semantics.

JLeslie's avatar

Yeah, generally I find agnostics live their life as athiests. I identify athiest, but I could reasonably fit into the definition of agnostic.

King_Pariah's avatar

I’ve found what one of my friends said to be fairly amusing.

“Atheists are those who can’t cope with the idea of eternal life, Theists are those who can’t cope with the idea of eternal death. Also one should note that those who have a higher education tend to be atheist as well as those who are rich, why? Because they feel that life is the best it’ll get and it can’t get much better but probably could get worse so death is a way to come to an end where they’re no better than they started. Those who lack education tend to theists as well as on the lower end of the economic scale, why? Because they find hope in that they can be rewarded for their good deeds in an afterlife and live eternally blissfully rather than a short crude wearisome life. Now is it stupid for them to hope for an afterlife? No. If we were to prove that there is no higher power, then those on the lower end would probably just become a mass of ruthless beings willing to back stab each other in order to get to the “top” just to be able to gleam a little “happiness” before death. Religion provides the “idiots” a reason to be selfless, though those reasons are pretty selfish, otherwise society would return to the natural state of things which we call natural selection…

That’s why I believe in reincarnation, an eternal cycle of death and life, and what you come back as is determined by chaos theory.”

JLeslie's avatar

@King_Pariah I disagree with the atheist part of that quote. Most athests I know, even if they are just fine with ceasing to exist after death, sometimes wish they believed in afterlife. Goodness knows I wish my grandmother possibly saw her father when she died, having lost him when she was 5 and missed him her entire life. Yet still, I have peace that when you die it is over. You might be interested in this Q which is quasi related.

The athests I know don’t think much about death or after life at all.

What I do say on the topic of death is of the three Abrahamic, the Muslims seem obsessed with it, the Jews almost never mention it, and the Christians seem somewhere in between. Since most of the atheists I know personalky are Jews, that might explain my perspective.

King_Pariah's avatar

I’m not saying I agree with my friend, I just thought it is amusing. It seems to me that I know roughly just about equal amounts of atheists and theists and a decent amount of both groups are very intelligent either in an IQ way, an EQ way, or both.

niki's avatar

@King_Pariah I love your friend’s explanation on the correlation between the riches and poors with the atheists and theists. Pretty spot on, as I also often thought of the same thing.
However, I’d like to know more on why you believe in reincarnation? it seems to be jumping there.

AdamF's avatar

With respect to arrogance….“Atheism: The arrogant belief that the entire universe was not created for our benefit.”

manolla's avatar

Well after reading most of the posts, I still don’t think that they are, but they just think that they are.

choreplay's avatar

@manolla, they certainly embrace academics but I don’t put academics at the top of the intelligence scale. The kids with the straight A’s are not always the most successful in life, the well rounded ones with various elements of intelligence are. With success defined as happiness, control of destiny, or resilience in the face of tragedy.

Can’t reference the study but the test of a child’s capacity for success and intelligence is where they have a decision of having one marshmallow now or five later. The longer sited children have more of a probability for success.

A majority of Atheist and a majority of Theist are certainly perspective centric. I have a problem with the notion that only what can be proved by science is real. There are a lot of experience and phenomena that are thrown in the trash with that proposition. I would like to see an atheist explain to another atheist from the 18th century that in the future he will be able to talk to someone else on the other side of the world by a small box held to the ear and mouth. Even after a long explanation of the science I’m sure the future atheist would be considered a fool. The supposition that we know it all now is very very short sited.

Qingu's avatar

@King_Pariah, you said: “That’s why I believe in reincarnation, an eternal cycle of death and life, and what you come back as is determined by chaos theory.

I do not think this word means what you think it means.

King_Pariah's avatar

@Qingu @niki I didn’t say that, my friend did, you’ll see that that part is also in quotations, I seperated it because with how he said it was as if it were an after thought. I know what Chaos Theory is and so does he. He was actually being sarcastic at that part, all of his friends know him to be a devote Lutheran in the Navy and in line to inherit a ton of money. I fall under the atheist category as a nihilist.

augustlan's avatar

@Season_of_Fall I don’t think most (any?) atheists go around saying we know it all now. Just that what remains to be explained will end up having a perfectly rational, logical explanation. That, eventually science will explain it. Most are comfortable with the unknown, and see no reason to attribute such things to a god.

King_Pariah's avatar

@augustlan I’m sad to say but there are plenty of “know-it-all” atheists here in Stockton…

choreplay's avatar

@augustlan, am I even allowed to disagree with you, lol. Sadly though, as passionately as Atheist on fluther jump all over anything said by a theist I find that difficult to accept, even from someone I respect as much as you. I am always left with, “Thanks for your opinion, so now we can tell you why you are wrong”

DominicX's avatar


Why do you interpret a challenge to your opinion as a “disallowing” of you opinion?

choreplay's avatar

@DominicX because they are more than challenges, they are designed to refute, to discredit and correct, not to consider the differences. That’s not to say that I have had many respectable challenging conversations, as I have. This question itself is absurd and perspective centric. I gage credibility in those who are not so entrenched or hostile. I respect you as, although I see most of your post as defensive I have seen reasonableness many times. What I am trying to say if someone cant meet in the middle or concede to a stance of who knows at least some of the time than, as far as I’m concerned they have no credibility. Here’s a challenge to you, if you respond to this tell me what you agree with before you tell me what you disagree with.

DominicX's avatar

Well, I don’t agree with much, so that will be difficult. I agree that this question is one-sided and that it could have been asked in a netural manner, but I disagree that the concept of this question is absurd. It’s perfectly valid to wonder if there is a correlation between intelligence and religious beliefs or lack thereof. But I don’t agree that anyone needs to concede anything in every argument. Concessions are not necessary unless there are concessions to be made. If you disagree with all parts of an argument, then there is nothing wrong with being honest and admitting that you disagree with all parts.

I don’t see any of the challenges to your comments as “hostile”. Where, in @augustlan‘s comment, for example, was she “hostile”? The problem is that you see any challenge as inherently hostile because you handle disagreements with your opinions. Part of an argument is refuting the position you disagree with, so of course people’s comments are going to be designed to refute. If you have to counter the attempted refutation, then I don’t see your argument as being that valid or strong in the first place.

choreplay's avatar

@DominicX I’m glad you feel so strong about all of that. I like how you even know what I think, wow taking a lot of liberty there. I don’t agree with you. It is likely that you convict yourself rather than me, so maybe you need to recite the above to yourself in the mirror. I don’t know though, only you know that about you. “The one who says he knows, knows nothing”

You said “handle disagreements with your opinions” yes Dominic, my opinions, my experiences, my convictions. Do you really know what my opinions are, you seem to, but you don’t know the measure of me as a human, but yet you compartmentalize me and convict me merely from your perspective rather than what might be more real and closer to the truth.

Go back and reread my response to her. I didn’t take it as hostile and merely disagreed in what I attempted to make as respectful as possible. You are far more aggressive in having to be right and do nothing for your self outside of those who reside in your own camp of beliefs.

DominicX's avatar


You said “am I even allowed to disagree with you” and then you went to talk about how atheists “jump on” theist point of views and generalized responses to theist responses as “thanks for your opinion, now we call tell you why you are wrong”. You are the one who needs to read your own responses because I am questioning whether you even understand what you have written. That responses, to me, indicates that you see disagreements with theist opinions (I am only guessing that you are referring to your own responses, but there could be others) as “jumping on” them and that disagreements somehow “disallow” a theist from having these opinions in the first place. That is where I am disagreeing. I do not agree that disagreeing with an opinion, refuting it, explaining what is wrong about and challenging it are means of “disallowing” a person from having this opinion in the first place. Your response to augustlan was not about the content of what she said, but rather about the fact that you see responses to theist comments as “disallowing” the opinions expressed within the comments altogether.

And enough of this “you don’t know me” bullshit. I am not speaking of specific opinions or “who you are”, but rather on your insistence that you be allowed to state your opinions without having them refuted, criticized, disagreed with, even proven wrong, etc. based only on this one thread

I just want to ask a question: can you have someone challenge/refute/disagree with your theist opinion without seeing it as an attack or an attempt to prevent you from having that opinion in the first place? If so, what is the best way for that to happen?

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Here we go, lets piss off the left and the right again

I gage credibility in those who are not so entrenched or hostile. I respect you as, although I see most of your post as defensive I have seen reasonableness many times. While I an sympathize with @Season_of_Fall many atheist may not intend to come off as hostile but the words and phrases used can allude to that. Phrases like magic-, _mysticism, in the mind, make believe, don’t sound as if one is trying to be on middle ground. I don’t know any atheist that would like me saying evil, heathenish_, depravity, to describe there non-belief in God; I would then come off hostile and unbending. Where, in @augustlan‘s comment, for example, was she “hostile”? I did not see her as saying anything hostile but many others I have seen go right up to the line and lean over.

@DominicX I agree that this question is one-sided and that it could have been asked in a netural manner, but I disagree that the concept of this question is absurd. The question is launched from a flawed premise. One could ask a question “If you look at who were people of faith before they went to prison doesn’t that prove faith people are more moral and nice?” You tell me those not of faith won’t be all over that thinking it is flawed. I would not expect to see any less of you. One of the things I can say I respect you for is you debate hard for what you believe and your fight is always the same with no flip flop. A question like that I know you and a few others would be all over it like ants on a pic nic hotdog. :-)

@Season_of_Fall I read what @augustlan said. Some of it I don’t agree with because I believe there are things science will never prove and many of the things they believe they know today 50, 85, 105 years from now will be false, but she wasn’t on the attack in my book.

DominicX's avatar


Again, I agree that the question is one-sided and the premise is flawed. A better way for the question to have been asked could have been “Is there any correlation between intelligence and religious belief?” or something along those lines, one that doesn’t make an assumption or a conclusion.

choreplay's avatar

@augustlan did I say or insinuate that what you said was hostile? I didn’t think I did and didn’t mean to. As far as I went was to respectfully disagree. The last sentance in the post was not directed at augustlan, but maybe that wasn’t clear.

Now @DominicX is another story. I will feel fine with myself, matching how aggressive he is being.

augustlan's avatar

@Season_of_Fall (@others, too): I did not read your response as if you were saying my post was hostile. Not at all. I read “Am I even allowed to disagree with you” as referring to the fact that I’m the manager, here. Right? A little joke? I may have to whip you for daring to disagree! :p

I do think you may have misinterpreted what I was talking about. I wasn’t saying that no atheists are arrogant, hostile, know-it-alls. Certainly quite a few are (just as quite a few people in general are). I was just trying to point out that most atheists would never say “We know everything there is to know in the world. Nothing remains unexplained. Science knows all.” On the contrary, there are a great many unexplained things in the world. Generally, we just believe that those things will be explained at some point, and don’t ascribe the unexplained to a supernatural being. Unexplained, to me, is not the same as inexplicable. Just means science hasn’t gotten there yet.

choreplay's avatar

@augustlan Thank you for you respectful wise response. I couldn’t agree more. Now I can see why you are in charge. Oh, and yes first line said jokingly. The only point I diverge on is, I do believe in God and believe if we did know all there was to know, science would not be in contradiction to him. I don’t think science is in contradiction to him now, but that’s a whole other conversation, not to be had here.

GracieT's avatar

The HomeChurch that I attended in Dayton has a nurse, a doctor, a reporter, a computer engineer, and has added several people with advanced degrees since we’ve moved. The HomeChurch that we attend in here in Columbus, which is also part of the larger church which is in Columbus has fewer people with advance degrees. The people in the main larger church have various degrees such as doctors, lawyers, scientists. I don’t know if it would be wise to go by just what degrees are held, but it is what it is.

mattbrowne's avatar

If you mean IQ when you say smart (and not EQ for example), please keep in mind that determining IQ is difficult and controversial. But for the sake of the argument we could do the following analysis:

1) Determine average IQ by country
2) Determine population per country
3) Use statistics to determine number of atheists and religious people

For #1 we could use this

It’s quite time consuming to calculate the comparisons. Example: (IQ average 106)

No religion 46.5% (IQ average 105)

No religion 10% (IQ average 102)

No religion 29% (IQ average 98)

No religion 16%

(...) (IQ average 83)

No religion 3%

and so forth

Maybe one of our Jellies is a student who needs a project. Collecting all the data worldwide requires time. There are also published studies examining particular countries like the US linking religiosity with IQ:

“In 2008, intelligence researcher Helmuth Nyborg examined whether IQ relates to denomination and income, using representative data from the National Longitudinal Study of Youth, which includes intelligence tests on a representative selection of white American youth, where they have also replied to questions about religious belief. His results, published in the scientific journal Intelligence demonstrated that on average, Atheists scored 1.95 IQ points higher than Agnostics, 3.82 points higher than Liberal persuasions, and 5.89 IQ points higher than Dogmatic persuasions. “I’m not saying that believing in God makes you dumber. My hypothesis is that people with a low intelligence are more easily drawn toward religions, which give answers that are certain, while people with a high intelligence are more skeptical,” says the professor.”

JLeslie's avatar

@mattbrowne Interesting way to look at it.

How can it be that Saudi Arabia only has an average IQ of 83? That seems surprising low to me.

mattbrowne's avatar

@JLeslie – Good question. IQ is influenced by several factors, above all genes, but also food and the condition of the mothers during pregnancy and food and the condition of the early period of newborn babies. I can’t explain the 83 in Saudi-Arabia. The system is extremely oppressive for all women there. Lots of vitamin D deficiency because most women do not get enough sunlight. Perhaps women don’t exercise except walking inside their homes. Maybe all of this cause more stress than usual which affects unborn babies. Not sure about the food in Saudi Arabia.

JLeslie's avatar

@mattbrowne Interestingly one of our Jelly’s is living there now, and he described it as being like a third world country. I mean I thought he was describing Cuba when he spoke about the hotel, and some of the living conditions regarding electricity, conveniences, etc. I never think of Saudi like that, I was shocked. He was a little shocked also. The Arabs I know are so modern, beautiful, sophisticated, and part of the higher classes I guess. Just, I have this picture in my mind that must be way off. I have never been to the middle east myself, so these are all Arabs I encounter in America. Most of the Americans I know who lived in Saudi speak very postively about it, but I knew them years ago, they were all men, and I am not sure exactly what they thought was so great about the country.

mattbrowne's avatar

@mattbrowne – I think Saudi Arabia is one of the most decadent and immoral countries in the world. Women are treated like cattle. And there’s so much money, but the rich folks rather buy their second private jet and third yacht than help transform their country. It’s absurd. Just look at this map

Qingu's avatar

Slavery is also basically legal in Saudi Arabia.

mattbrowne's avatar

Which is kind of ironic, because Bilal Ibn Rabah, the revered first muezzin of Islam in Medina, was a freed slave.

snowberry's avatar

In Saudi Arabia there is a tradition of marrying within the family (first cousins to first cousins). This creates generation after generation of inbreeding, which results in a high number of brain damaged people, including downs syndrome and other mental problems.

In addition, even when children are given the option of education, many parents will not enforce them going to school. I know because I work closely with people from this culture.

JLeslie's avatar

@snowberry Increases in genetic disease are very small for cousin to cousin marriage, maybe a 2% increase at most. I doubt that is why. Not that I am an authority on it or anything.

snowberry's avatar

@JLeslie Muslim populations have been inbred sometimes for thousands of years. I include a short copy and paste of the article (consanguineous marriage refers to first cousins marrying first cousins):

Several studies show that children of consanguineous marriages have lower intelligence than children of non-related parents. Research shows that the IQ is 10–16 points lower in children born from related parents and that abilities related to social behavior develops slower in inbred babies:

“Effects of parental consanguinity on the cognitive and social behavior of children have been studied among the Ansari Muslims of Bhalgapur, Bihar.

IQ in inbred children (8–12 years old) is found to be lower (69 in rural and 79 in suburban populations) than that of the outbred ones (79 and 95 respectively). The onset of various social profiles like visual fixation, social smile, sound seizures, oral expression and hand-grasping are significantly delayed among the new-born inbred babies.” (Indian National Science Academy, 1983 Consanguinity Effects on Intelligence Quotient and Neonatal Behaviours of nsari Muslim Children”).

Qingu's avatar

Wow, that’s one sketchy-assed source, @snowberry.

I’m pretty skeptical of this inbreeding business. It sounds vaguely racist, a term I don’t throw around lightly, and it reminds me of similar claims about Jews being inbred.

JLeslie's avatar

@snowberry There probably is a statististic that lower intelligence people tend to inbreed, with the exception of maybe royalty. All it means is lesser intelligent people marry or have sex with lesser intelligent people, not that the inbreeding made them less intelligent.

cazzie's avatar

@snowberry ,super dodgy source.

Here in Norway, we are allowed to marry cousins as well. How do you explain the reasonably high IQ here?

@mattbrowne that study you quoted, I read the synopsis of it and it was well done. I think I ran across it on one of my mensa/atheist websites. lol

GracieT's avatar

I am a member of Mensa, but I’m also a Christian, also an environmentalist, also an Apple Computer user, and progressive politically- I live in the US). I don’t believe that any of the qualities are contradictory, and like I said in an earlier post some of the most intelligent (but also some of the least intelligent) people I know are religious. It is the same with some of the atheists I know. I don’t think that intelligence and faith are mutually exclusive.

snowberry's avatar

I’m no expert. I do know that these people have been intermarrying for thousands of years, which is not the case in other countries.

JLeslie's avatar

@snowberry Doesn’t it make sense to you that low intelligence people would likely produce low intelligence people no matter what the relation?

JLeslie's avatar

By the way genetic diseases increase about 2% for children born to parents who are cousins.

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mattbrowne's avatar

I’d like to point out that the trouble of incest and inbreeding is mostly related to genetic disorders and a less diverse immune system facing new threats. Intelligence certainly isn’t the main issue here.

A good example in the plant kingdom is the small gene pool of today’s bananas leading to difficulties fending of a formidable fungus.

snowberry's avatar

Thanks @mods!

I never pretended to be an expert on such things, but my son in law knows a great deal about sled dogs in Alaska. He told me that the best sled dogs were the ones that were inbred, but the result was that they were insane. Wouldn’t inbreeding in humans have similar results?

This reasoning is what drove my earlier comments.

JLeslie's avatar

@snowberry Well, if the dogs have both traits, insanity, and stamina, or whatever it is that make a sled dog very good, then both traits would be more likely to come up. If I remember correctly certain segments, or sequences, I don’t know the correct term, are near each other and those traits tend to be seen together. For instance, on the DNA sequence it might be…ATCGTTTAAG… And those ten might ten to stay together, while the next 5 flip around, so within the ten that tend to stay hooked together there might be blond hair and schizophrenia within a certain population. Or, blue eyes and breast cancer predisposition. So, in that population when blue eyes comes up it is very likely they will be susceptable to breast cancer, while in other families there simply is no breast cancer gene present at all. So, if someone wanted to breed for blue eyes, hopefully the ones selected are the ones without the other negative trait, or you get higher and higher percentages of people with breast cancer unwittingly. Same with the blond, the majority of blond people on earth might not have a schizophrenic tendency, but it a lot of inbreeding went on in a small community where there are blonds and brunettes, but the schizophrenia gene kind of stayed hooked on with the blond gene, every time the recessive blond trait showed up in a child, they would be much much more likely to develop schizophrenia. I made all of that up to explain how it works. When breeding for one trait, sometimes inadvertently they wind up breeding an undesirable trait.

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snowberry's avatar

Hmmm, Interesting. Thanks @JLeslie I teach English to a group of people who have a tradition of first cousin to first cousin marriage. One of my students (age 22) is pregnant with her first child, and the doctors are concerned it’s a down syndrome child. My students have told me of several down syndrome children in their small community (and all of them are from the same tradition of cousin to cousin marriage).

I know, I know, this is anecdotal, but I think it’s significant that so many young women would be giving birth to down syndrome babies. (I believe I read somewhere that down syndrome can be a result of inbreeding.)

JLeslie's avatar

@snowberry I think that is significant also. I don’t remember if down syndrome is considered to be heriditary or random? Sounds like it is passed down from what you are observing. I’ll have to look it up when I have a little more time. I am pretty sure men with down syndrome are sterile, but I need to confirm that also.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I’ve always wondered….people can inherit exact duplicates of some of a parent’s physical features…the eyes, the nose, whatever. Which got me to thinking…can they inherit exact duplicates of their internal features as well? Like…the brain and its predisposition to intelligence or lack of? Obviously, the experiences will create a brain unique to everyone, but can the basic structure be an exact duplicate?

Also, we tend to associate intelligent people with wearing glasses. Is there a gene that predisposes intelligence tied up with a poor eye sight gene? And if the worse a person’s eyesight is, the more intelligent they are, then I’m a freakin’ GENUIS!!! And should never be modded. : >~

nikipedia's avatar

@Dutchess_III, brain structure is largely experience-dependent.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@nikipedia Yes, I know. But I mean the original brain part. I know. This doesn’t make much sense. But everyone’s brain must be pre-disposed to something….like, heart disease, running in the family. Their hearts are genetically disposed to heart disease….

JLeslie's avatar

@Dutchess_III I would say yes. Schizophrenia is thught to be heriditary along with other mental illnesses. There is the idea that people are born with a range of IQ and depending on their environment they will beon the lower or higher end of their possible range. I think that has somewhat to do with structure of the brain. They are studying people who have incredible memories, they remember every day of their life. Name a date they know what happened. When they scanned their brains, the people being studied, they did not expect to see anything significant, figured that would be too easy, but indeed a certain part of their brain is significantly bigger than the average brain.

ninjacolin's avatar

I resent this discussion somehow.

JLeslie's avatar

@ninjacolin Which part? The atheist smarter part, or the genetic discussion?

Dutchess_III's avatar

I agree with @JLeslie…I’m curious to know which part you resent @ninjacolin? I agree, the question is rather insulting to Christians (which I am one,) but I’m not taking any personal offense.

ninjacolin's avatar

@Dutchess_III I’m an atheist. I just think it leads people to thinking the wrong thing about beliefs and their value where concerns intelligence.

Anyway, I just saw this article:

“For many people, believing in God comes down to a gut feeling that a benevolent deity is out there. A study now finds that gut feelings may be very important in determining who goes to church every Sunday and who avoids the pews.

People who are generally more intuitive in the way they think and make decisions are more likely to believe in God than those who ruminate over their choices, the researchers found. The findings suggest that basic differences in thinking style can influence religious belief.”

”...people who went with their intuition on the math test were found to be one-and-a-half times more likely to believe in God than those who got all the answers right. The results held even when taking factors such as education and income into account.”

full story at live science

GabrielsLamb's avatar

Again… Sometimes it’s just too much to type so here…

JLeslie's avatar

@ninjacolin That is very interesting. So people who tend to be more analytical might also be less likely to believe in God maybe? And, ruminating about decisions sounds like a lot of Jewish people I know, so the culture of the community might lend itself to belief or not regarding God. And, the math study makes me think the people who paused before giving an answer are people who are probably very skeptical. Makes me also wonder if confidence is associated with the results?

GabrielsLamb's avatar

The religious “experience” takes place in a specifically activated portion of the brain by repeated experience, habit and so called “faith.” Which is also “experienced” in this same hemisphere of the brain and strangely enough, it lights up in SPET in the same area as…



The “Spiritual” experience is created by a hormone that the pineal gland sucretes. *I forget… DMT or something like that?

ninjacolin's avatar

@JLeslie, i didn’t quite understand these sentences, could you rephrase? Thanks!

“That is very interesting. So people who tend to be more analytical might also be less likely to believe in God maybe? And, ruminating about decisions sounds like a lot of Jewish people I know, so the culture of the community might lend itself to belief or not regarding God. ”

JLeslie's avatar

@ninjacolin The following is all generalizations, and does not apply to everyone I generalize about. Jewish people are taught in childhood to question. On a recent Q on fluther a Jelly I have seen around before was talking about childhood and that she was from a family where children were “to be seen and not heard.” I had always thought this jelly was Jewish, but when I heard that, I said to her I always thought you were Jewish, but it is so odd to me that you grew up in a household with that attitude and you are Jewish. Her reply was she is a WASP from New England. See, Christians, especially back in the day, were raised to be obedient, not to question, in both the church and at home. I was never told by my parents, “don’t talk back.” Of course there were times my parents had to put their foot down when I did not want to do something they asked, but my parents were 97% of the time willing to explain to me why if I asked a question. It teaches reasoning skills.

Questioning is a part of being analytical. Wanting to know all sides of a matter, and being ok with prior assumptions being proven wrong based on evidence is very Jewish too. It is argued Aristotle led the way to this type of thought, or lined up well with Jewish thought. I won’t get into the varied opinions on the topic.

Jews generally enjoy debate, maybe that is why there are so many Jewish lawyers. They also look for justice.

Now, you kind of put together the crap the Jews have been through, especially in Russia and Europe in the last 120 years (but of course there is crap over the last 5,000 years) along with Jews being analytically oriented to question, that is a pretty good combination to not rely on God.

Jews also seem to have a tradition of overanalyzing decisions to be made, or already having been made. You can probably see how that all fits together. The old superstitions of not saying so ething good out loud, because you might jinx things, also kind of lendsitself to Jews expecting the other shoe to drop, the bad thing to happen when everything is going well. So, many Jews spend a lot of time thinking about what could go wrong to try and prevent the bad thing, or be ready for it. Another analytical behavior, and also a behavior that seems like a lot of unnecessary worry to people.

BiZhen's avatar

In general, people who know truths are smarter than people who blindly believe in absurd “gou pi”. Some religions have ways of destroying minds. Atheists have freed themselves from this destructive process.

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