Are Atheists more intelligent?
About a week ago, I ran across an article that stated religious people are less intelligent than atheists, according to a new review of sixty-three scientific studies stretching back over several decades to 1921. A team from the University of Rochester found “a reliable negative relation between intelligence and religiosity” in fifty-three out of sixty- three studies, even in cases of extreme older age where people widely believe that humanity turns to God as they age. Nevertheless, while previous studies have tended to assume that intelligent people (those with IQs over 135) simply “know better,” the researchers conclude that the reasons for their findings may be more complex. For instance, because they find that intelligent people are more likely to be married and are more likely to be successful in life (are you beginning to get agitated?), they may need religion less. The article concludes with the words of the researchers: “People possessing the functions that religion provides are likely to adopt atheism; people lacking these very functions (e.g., the poor, the helpless) are likely to adopt theism.”
When I first ran across this article, read its title and began to read its content, I admit that I got a bit offended. I believe my intelligence is average to above average, but certainly not in the 2.2% of the population used for this study. I did well in school and made good grades. Yes, I was a nerd! I admit it. Thus, when I read this article, it took me back a bit. Moreover, I know some pretty smart Christians. Therefore, is this really accurate? Is this fair? How should we respond to such? Do we get riled up and wish to protest? Do we ignore and consider it rubbish?
As these thoughts quickly ran through my mind, I remembered something that Paul declared, which set my mind at ease. Indeed, this article may be true and factual, and I do not have to allow it to bother me at all. Consider a marvelous passage that Paul wrote to the church at Corinth (1 Cor. 1:18-31). Through Paul’s quotation, God said that he “ will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent ” (1:19). He then asks, “ Where is the wise ? … Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world ?” (1:20). Thus, Paul contrasts the wisdom of this world (those intellectual Greeks who seek after wisdom [1:22], such as those who are mentioned in this article and see no need for God in their lives) with godly wisdom, contained in the preaching of the gospel and considered by intelligent ones as “ foolishness ” (1:21). Paul begins his conclusion, “ For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards …” (1:26 ESV). Is this not exactly how the article concludes? God knew this all along! He explains at the end of this first chapter that this is by design, because God has selected things that intelligent men consider foolish, weak, base and despised to manifest Himself so “ that no flesh should glory in his presence…He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord ” (1:29, 31).
In other words, I do not have to be offended or repulsed by such statements and conclusions, because I know that Jesus Christ is the personified wisdom of God (1:24, 30), and it is a tragic fact that people with high intelligence are also haughty, self-sufficient and render themselves in a position that often makes it difficult to see God. May our prayer and aim be to reach them in such a way that they are able to see the evidence of God (and their own need for God) before it is eternally too late!