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How much smarter, less religious?

How much smarter, less religious?

November 27, 2021

The construct of intelligence is one of the great triumphs of scientific psychology and, at the same time, a subject that generates great debates and controversies.

When this type of discussion includes the religion , the mixture is explosive. Especially if it is based on a meta-analysis published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Review, whose conclusions point to the fact that the most intelligent people tend to be, also, less believers than the rest. At least, that's what the statistics show.

Related article: "The people" of the left "are more intelligent"

How does the study was realized?

This investigation is an analysis of a multitude of studies already done on intelligence and belief in religions . That is, it is a kind of summary in which a conclusion is offered that includes the results of many investigations that deal with a similar topic.


Specifically, to obtain the results, 63 studies were selected that approach a somewhat different topic from a somewhat different approach: the relationship between the IQ (or, in some cases, the performance on exams) and the degree to which people believe in a religion , in various parts of the planet. With this data, the scientists synthesized all the information obtained about the different variables and compared the results on both scales.

The results

Of the 63 studies, 33 showed a negative correlation between intelligence and religiosity statistically significant . That is to say, that in these investigations a general tendency had been detected that the most intelligent people were less religious. In another 10 cases, the correlation was positive, since they revealed an inverse trend to the rest.


Why does this happen?

The researchers propose three explanations, although none of them has been put to the test (since that was not the objective of the study).

The first explanation highlights the fact that the most intelligent people are also the most curious and most likely to question certain rules and thought patterns imposed from outside. In this sense, it is easy for someone with a high level of intellectual quotient to reject certain ideas from the religious tradition and prefer to "go it alone" with regard to explanations about reality, especially if in the society in which Live religious orthodoxy is very strong.

The second explanation relates a high intelligence to the tendency to think logically and base their beliefs on empirical tests. That is, the most intelligent people would tend to resist ideas that can not be rejected or validated through traditional logic and analytical thinking.


The third explanation, and perhaps the most interesting one, is born from the idea that, although religion has been useful for humanity throughout great stages of our history, there are more and more people whose mental capacities make unnecessary the belief in a beyond . That is to say, that intelligence is replacing religion in the functions it once fulfilled: providing an explanation about the world, giving an orderly and predictable vision of reality, and even generating well-being through self-esteem and a feeling of lace in society.

Does that mean that if I am a believer I am less intelligent?

Not at all. This investigation it is still a meta-analysis whose objective is to detect statistical trends , which means that only patterns that are visible in a very large number of people are described.

In addition, there is something that always has to be taken into account: Correlation does not imply causality . This means that less believers can be statistically more ready simply because, for social and economic reasons, they tend to live in richer societies than the rest, which means that they have enjoyed a better quality of education and health than the rest. The intelligence, remember, does not exist isolated from the physical world, and if it can not develop well because of a context full of deficiencies, this will be reflected in the IQ tests.

However, it must be borne in mind that in this meta-study the influence of three relevant variables was isolated at the time of seeing the relationship between religiosity and intelligence. These variables were sex, level of education and race.

Bibliographic references:

  • Zuckerman, M., Silberman, J and Hall, J. A. (2013). The Relation Between Intelligence and Religiosity. A Meta-Analysis and Some Proposed Explanations. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 17 (4), pp. 325-354.

Are Atheists Smarter Than Religious People? (November 2021).


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