Are Atheists Really Smarter? - Los Angeles News | FOX 11 LA KTTV

From Anchor Tony McEwing

Are Atheists Really Smarter?

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I ran across an article recently that immediately caught my attention and caused me to seriously question the conclusions of a collection of studies mentioned in the piece. According to an analysis of 63 scientific studies by the University of Rochester, atheists are more intelligent overall than religious, church-going people. My first reaction was, 'you've got to be kidding me, right?' Apparently not.

Of the analyzed studies, 53 of them noted "a reliable negative relation between intelligence and religiosity." In all fairness, the psychologists involved were quick to say that it doesn't mean that people who believe in God are dumb. But the studies purport to show the more intelligent people are, the more inclined they are to form their own world view. These studies defined intelligence as the "ability to reason, plan, solve problems, think abstractly, comprehend complex ideas, learn quickly and learn from experience."

I have a number of questions about the studies. First and foremost, what's the point? Is the point to prove that somehow being religious makes you less able to think critically and analytically about things? Just because someone has faith in a higher power does that necessarily mean he or she is likely to be less intelligent as defined by these studies? I would be interested in knowing the specific methodologies used in the various studies, the number of people involved, the questions asked and how the results were analyzed? I'd also like to know the personal beliefs of those who conducted the studies. Yes, sometimes that does matter when it comes to the results.

Even one prominent sociologist who also happens to be an atheist objects to these studies saying: "As an atheist I take an exception to the claim that my views are the product of my intelligence. Like many others I exercised my capacity for moral autonomy and made an existential choice."

And that is precisely my point when it comes to these studies. I don't know to what extent they are able to take into account one's choice to have faith in a higher power. And why that choice might somehow make a person less capable of critical thinking? It has been my experience that making sweeping generalizations about any group of people typically leads to faulty conclusions.

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