University of Rochester study: atheists smarter than religious believers

Searching for a topic today and I came across this: a new study concludes that religious adherents are less intelligent than atheists.

Nothing controversial there, right?!

prayAt first glance, the study seems legit. The details: Professors Miron Zuckerman and Jordan Silberman, from the University of Rochester, looked at 63 studies in the field carried out between 1938 and 2012.

In their paper, entitled “The Relation Between Intelligence and Religiosity: A Meta-Analysis and Some Proposed Explanations,” Zuckerman and Silberman drew the conclusion that the majority of studies found that more intelligent people were less likely to subscribe to organized religion.

Out of the 63 surveys, 53 showed a negative correlation between intelligence and religiosity, while only 10 displayed a positive one.

The study claims that during the early stages of a child’s life the higher the individuals aptitude, the greater the chance in an increase in the likelihood that particular individual would not develop a strong religious identity.

The Christian Post rounds up strong criticism of the study methods. Specifically, the methods used to define intelligence and what constitutes a person’s religious identity.

From the Post story:

The study’s use of intelligence only considered an analytic framework of intelligence and did not address the impact that other forms, such as creative and emotional intelligence, had on a person’s overall aptitude in relation to an individual’s religious identity.

The study also narrowly defined a person’s religious influence as one’s involvement in part or all aspects of religious practice.

I still think it’s an interesting discussion to have. There are those who believe children are indoctrinated into religion. A study like this lends credence to those opinions.

What do you think of the relationship between intelligence and religious beliefs?

About John Hilton

I grew up in Susquehanna County, Pa. and graduated Syracuse University with a dual degree in journalism/political science in 1998. After working for nearly three years for a weekly paper in upstate New York, I came to southcentral Pennsylvania. I spent 13 years as a reporter and editor for The Sentinel in Carlisle and joined the York Daily Record as religion reporter in September 2011.
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One Response to University of Rochester study: atheists smarter than religious believers

  1. There is plenty of evidence to the contrary, especially by William Jeynes, published by the Marriage and Religion Research Institute, showing Math and English averages go up substantially with religious attendance, and Baylor U, showing credulity re a range of superstitions, New Ageisms and pseudo science (paranormal, UFOS) goes down when religious attendance and belief go up; hilariously, credulity goes up with high education: post grads are the most credulous. See
    There Jeynes also attacks Zuckerman study’s methodology convincingly

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