Are theists less intelligent?

Few days ago I came across few articles claiming just that. Apparently according to to 53 out of 63 studies theist are in fact less intelligent. Sorry I haven’t got links to any papers but in a nutshell believers don’t score well in tests that suppose to be counter intuitive and also can’t “rise above instincts”(so it suggests it is only certain type of intelligence).
I would like to hear from other believers what they think about it, especially in the light of people converting. Does it mean they suddenly became less intelligent or that they were always destined to do that because of their lower IQ?

I wonder if you read it here in this thread?

Personally I think it is a silly idea. People who really think about their faith and, as they say here, “wrestle with God” are probably using their intellect more than those who stop at “the Bible says it so I believe it”. Some of the most profound thinkers I have found have been engaged with religion. What one believes about religion doesn’t make one a genius or a fool, but how one cultivates what they believe might. I think there is depth to religion so long as one isn’t too passively engaged.

Oops, wrong thread. There was one recently that addressed your question and I thought I had found it. But this one addresses a different criticism of religion. Perhaps someone else will remember which thread it was that addressed your question, or perhaps my memory is just misfiring.

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It may well have been here. I tend to read stuff randomly and forget where I read it. It is sort of ironic that researchers investigating whether religious people are less intelligent made such a boneheaded error in analyzing the dara.

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@marta actually sent me the article via Instagram first, she’s the one who originally sent it to me which resulted in me posting it!


Dear Marta,
I have not seen the study, but I have seen anecdotal evidence that supports this. Not to say all theists are dumb, but that the compartmentalization needed to hold conflicting information in the brain, limits the brain’s capacity to be fully open to all possibilities. I can imagine that is what the study has uncovered.

Remember, IQ is only a small fraction of intelligence and creativity. I have met enough people with high IQ’s who had no reason. I also know a number of atheists who have come to the conflation that there must be a Creator, but cannot believe any of the established religion doctrines.
Best Wishes, Shawn

You’ve got me scratching my head, Phil. What is “the dara”? When googled it I found wiki references to a knot, a clan in India and this OT reference.

Dara was a descendant of Judah (son of Jacob). (The Bible. 1 Chronicles 2:6). Dara (also known as Darda) was one of four men noted for great wisdom, but exceeded by King Solomon (1 Kings 4:31).

Can you elaborate a little? I’m not following.

Thanks everyone for replying​:slightly_smiling_face: (I’m new here and I don’t know how to address reply to more than one person​:thinking:maybe cause I’m not intelligent enough?:joy:) I tend to agree more or less with all of you but Shawn, are you saying this compartmentalisation is something you are born with or is acquired later on?

Dear Marta,
To reply to multiple people you have to add their screen name by typing the @ sign, then you get a list of users to add.

Compartmentalization is broken down on the path to enlightenment. Upbringing has a big part to play, but unfortunately (for my parents) it did not work on me. Think about how many children are raised, specifically girls in the US. They are required by their parents (and peers) to be different people, to act differently in different situations and to compartmentalize their personalities- one with family, one with siblings, one with ace girls, one with boys and, oh, another one on Saturday night.

This is a generalization of course, but there are society pressures to compartmentalize - church, politics, work, friends. Some though are born with a strong enough personality that they are are able to overcome the pressures of society - we call them old souls.
Best Wishes, Shawn

Hi @Shawn_Murphy
Thanks for clarification.
I think what I was really asking when I created this topic is whether it’s possible there’s something that we are born with that determines our views and it seems to me that authors of this study were trying to do just that. I seem to remember a book from few years ago claiming there’s a gene that says what our beliefs are going to be and another theory that whatever we believe at the age of 13 will be what we believe for life. I’m wondering how seriously we can take these studies to be, I mean are they scientific?

Don’t mean to be to personal but what did you mean by that?


Atheists are only 7% of the world’s population, and higher levels of education correlate with lower levels of religious belief. I wonder what your stats would look like if you took a sample of theists compared to a sample of atheists that was adjusted for parity in economic level and education level, factors that are known to skew IQ test results. At some point aren’t they just claiming that higher IQs correlate with higher education levels? Duh.

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Dear Marta,
I grew up in strict Catholic household which I rejected from an early age. I left the church at 14, but my four siblings are devote Catholics even though some rejected it temporarily.

Fatih is in the soul and not in a gene, but there is no study for these types of questions. As long as science ignores the possibility of the pre-existence of a soul, no study is considering all the variables. Compounding the problem is that there is no way to test if the soul is “old” or “young” - wise or corrupt.

I think one thing is true about the age 13-14, and that is when the true nature of the soul starts to exert itself.
Best Wishes, Shawn

M [quote=“MarkD, post:6, topic:41404”]
You’ve got me scratching my head, Phil. What is “the dara"

Alternate spelling for “data” by people with fat fingers.


That’s a relief. Guess I’m not the only one.

No doubt. Silly stuff but many atheists swear by it, thereby calling their own intellectual adequacy into question.

I doubt these “studies” do much anything other than confirm that intelligence ends up looking like what the architects of the studies think it should look like. I.e. almost always like themselves. It reminds me of something I read somewhere recently (maybe around here…):

God created humankind in God’s own image. And ever since we’ve been returning God the favor!


Hi all, the finding that intelligence and religiosity are negatively correlated (in other words, that there is tendency for religious people to be less intelligent than non-religious people) is pretty well established. The bigger questions are about why this is. Here is one interesting research report that suggests that the effect of religiosity is not on intelligence per se but on cognitive function (these are not the same thing).

These kinds of findings are easy to abuse. But the casual dismissal of the data, by people in this thread who should know better, is both intellectually irresponsible and strategically risky, the latter because, you know, it makes religious people look like they’re not very bright.

That’s a key distinction. I haven’t read anything linked here, because I’m just that kind of responsible person that jumps into a conversation uninformed and has an opinion anyway. But any time I hear people talking about IQ being linked to other qualities, I’m immediately suspicious, just because IQ testing has repeatedly been shown to be inherently biased, and people have correlated IQ with all sorts of things in irresponsible ways.

If you could design a test of cognitive function (that did not privilege people of the same social space of the test designers), that would be a something different. It would not surprise me at all that religious people are more prone to certain cognitive biases that, while they may be a shortcut to maintaining belief, actually hamper critical thinking to a noticeable degree. But is resistance to cognitive biases a function of intelligence? I don’t think so. I’ve known some incredibly bright people with some incredibly strong biases.


I agree. It’s unfortunate that IQ got injected into the conversation. This does not overturn the evidence that shows that religiosity is negatively correlated with intelligence. Not all of that evidence is about IQ. The paper I mentioned isn’t about IQ.

That would be the domain of cognitive science, which I am sure you did not intend to dismiss wholesale.

That looks like a shell game, but for me, the answer is “I don’t know.”

No, of course not. Actually my sensitivity and skepticism in this area does not come from identifying with Christians, it comes from identifying with majority world, minority populations, most of whom are “religious” though not Christian. I am suspect of anything that essentially says, “We rich white Western atheists are the smartest,” because it just smacks of colonialism to me. Like I said, I didn’t read the links. :slight_smile:

I know I’m not supposed to introduce political discussions, but it would actually be nice to be able to blame a certain voting bloc’s choices on cognitive impairment. The other option is lack of moral judgment, which is harder on my belief system, though I’m thinking there might be some of that going on too.


Yeah, yeah … that was just for me even though Stephen was too polite to use my name.

And like Christy, I’m just giving a knee-jerk reaction even while I too am not chasing down all the latest research that you may have read. But I remain to be convinced that my reaction is unwarranted - specifically regarding IQ which I think had already begun to be discredited back when I did pay a little more attention to such things. And I see in subsequent posts here that we could probably back away from the phrase ‘IQ’ anyway - which is probably a sound decision.

Regarding overall “intelligence” (which I have the same reaction to as others have when the word “natural” is casually bandied about) I shouldn’t be surprised that it may be true that religious groups are observed to be below average in some or even many regards. Religion is what constitutes a support system for many, after all, and those who are from the upper crusts of life in areas of wealth, resources, and yes … intelligence too, will probably be the most likely to decide they are the masters of their own fate, captains of their own destinies … no assist needed, thank you very much. And those who hale more from the side of emotional / material desperation and need (which will probably tend to consist disproportionately of the groups with less educational / wealth resources) are probably most likely to take refuge in religious community for support. I’m sure they probably tried to control for all that - though I still don’t put a lot of weight on such a foot since I don’t really have a dog in this fight. I’m not much motivated to pursue such studies (though I can find the time to mouth off about them here).

If I am wrong to be so dismissive … I’ll happily accept correction here - that my own bulb may burn just a bit brighter.

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