believe it or not, the inspiration for this blog post comes from an article on, entitled 4 things both atheists and believers need to stop saying.  the author asserts that Atheists in general have a superiority complex, and think of the Religious as simple minded or stupid. 


while it may be true that many or even most Atheists tend to lean towards this stance, i wonder about the validity of the premise - not whether or not Atheists think they are smarter, but whether or not Atheists are smarter.  i know that some research has been done on this, but the results are murky and unremarkeable.  there have been studies linking high IQ to a disbelief in God, but i take these with a grain of salt.  it doesn't prove anything.  i think at best all we can do is add up what we know and discuss the information.  so what do we know?


1.  indoctrination is hard to break out of


or you could use the word brainwashing, no difference.  i don't think that it's a coincidence that many people break away from religion as their brain grows.  the human brain continues to grow into our 30's.  we get smarter, not through accumulation of information, but literally with additional capacity.  as we smarten up, the same traditions, ceremonies, and beliefs start to take on a different meaning.  most religious people have experienced doubts when they start to question things that they've come to accept as fact.  many of these questioners become non-believers as their questions simply grow too large to ignore.  however, the great majority seem to brush off their questions and return to blind faith.  so, the question is why some, and not others?  is this where intelligence comes in?


2.  not everyone is smart


visit an amusement park on a hot summer day and you surely know this to be true.  about 16% of the general public have IQ's over 115.  i don't know where the line between smart and stupid is, but i would think that 115 seems to differentiate the smart with the less intelligent.  it's obviously coincidence, but most figures show that about 15% of people are Atheist.  but if 84% (or even 60%) of humans are not exactly 'bright', is it that difficult to conclude that they may not have the mental faculties to break free of religious indoctrination?


3.  scientists are smart


by their very nature, they kind of have to be.  they use complex mathmatical formulas, dig deep into research, understand diverse and difficult concepts, and read ALOT.  as the religious love to point out, scientists are overwhelmingly Atheist.  the connection is almost too obvious to point out. 


4.  conversion is a one way street


while it occassionally occurs, an Atheist becoming a Christian is nearly impossible.  without knowing every single case where this has happened, it is reasonable to assume that most of this kind of conversion is questionable - did this person REALLY not believe in God?  it's also reasonable to assume that many of those who converted to religion did so out of pressure from family and friends.  on the other hand, religious devotees are turning to Atheism in droves.  thousand of former religious folk leave their religions daily.  the reason is obvious - once you break the spell, you can never fall under it's power again.  if your mind can be freed from religion, there is simply too much evidence against belief.  all it takes are two things:  information and critical thought.  at some point, all believers are exposed to information that should make them question their belief, but only those who possess critical thinking skills can make the leap. 


5.  critical thinking is a sign of intelligence


on the surface, i'm sure that most people would agree with that statement, although it is not an outright fact.  you can be highly intelligent and not possess critical thinking skills.  but i would argue that is the exception, not the rule. it is essential to becoming an Atheist to put aside blide faith and use your faculities to dismiss what you've been taught.  this is critical thinking, or problem solving if you like.  the problem in question is what to do with the inconsistencies that you encounter when dealing with religion.  i maintain that the less intelligent are not as adept at using their problem solving skills, so when they are presented with incongruities in their religion, they shuck it aside to avoid an unpleasant thought process.  those who are more comfortable in using critical thinking (the more intelligent) will embrace this dichotomy of thought, research, question more, think more, and ultimately make a rational and logical conclusion.  hence, Atheists converting from religion. 


6.  freethinkers, rationalists, reason


these are the words that describe the Atheist movement.  isn't it funny that even the religious describe Atheists using these words?  look at those words again - the very definition of intelligence is right there!


i'm sure i'm just scratching the surface here.  i'd welcome some additional viewpoints, research, and opinions on this topic.  please feel free to share your thoughts. 


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Comment by matthew greenberg on February 4, 2012 at 11:34am


semi-related study, which was briefly discussed on last night's Real Time with Bill Maher. 

Comment by Cane Kostovski on January 3, 2012 at 6:51pm

What happened to operation T4?

Comment by Alice on January 3, 2012 at 1:38am

Glen - it's a good hypothesis - I wonder if any study has been done already?

Comment by Frankie Dapper on January 2, 2012 at 9:15pm

Alice, I maintain ability to analyze is the pinnacle of  intelligence. It would be interesting to evaluate the intelligence of those individuals who have rejected religion inspite of growing up in super fundamentalist cults. I would be surprised if the great majority of those apostates are not highly intelligent.

Comment by Alice on January 2, 2012 at 8:04pm

Not so long ago experts predicted the imminent collapse of religion in modern western cultureSocial_Psychology_Quarterly_Cover_March_2010. Religion – often synonymous in these discussions with superstition, magic, and delusion – would at last give way to the autonomy of human reason and the power of the experimental method of natural investigation. But something happened on the way to religion’s funeral. People kept on believing. Recent neuroscientific and evolutionary research has suggested that either many of the hallmarks of religion are, or are byproducts of, adaptations that helped our earliest ancestors survive. The more that has been learned about the way our brains and our genes function it is the evolutionarily novel lack of religious belief and practices that is truly puzzling. A recent study by Satoshi Kanazawa provocatively titled, “Why liberals and atheists are more intelligent,” suggests that people that are more intelligent are able to overcome the limitations of our evolutionary past. In other words, the smarter you are the more likely you are to be an atheist.

The Hypothesis

Why do people want what they want?

African savannaWhere do individual values and preferences come from?  Why do people want what they want?  What explains the origin of idiosyncratic individual preferences and values?

The problem of values – their origin and individual differences – is one of the unresolved theoretical questions in behavioral sciences.  The economists’ traditional answer to the question of individual values and preferences is:  De gustibus non est disputandum.  There is no accounting for tastes, and one therefore cannot explain individuals’ idiosyncratic values and preferences.

Comment by Maruli Marulaki on January 2, 2012 at 10:26am

when you google the 'savannah hypothesis', there is much more interesting research by kanazawa

Comment by matthew greenberg on January 2, 2012 at 10:11am

"In the current study, Kanazawa argues that humans are evolutionarily designed to be conservative, caring mostly about their family and friends, and being liberal, caring about an indefinite number of genetically unrelated strangers they never meet or interact with, is evolutionarily novel.  So more intelligent children may be more likely to grow up to be liberals."


""Humans are evolutionarily designed to be paranoid, and they believe in God because they are paranoid," says Kanazawa.  This innate bias toward paranoia served humans well when self-preservation and protection of their families and clans depended on extreme vigilance to all potential dangers.  "So, more intelligent children are more likely to grow up to go against their natural evolutionary tendency to believe in God, and they become atheists."


wow, great find Alice.  those 2 points are particularly striking. 

Comment by Alice on January 1, 2012 at 10:16pm

Data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) support Kanazawa's hypothesis.  Young adults who subjectively identify themselves as "very liberal" have an average IQ of 106 during adolescence while those who identify themselves as "very conservative" have an average IQ of 95 during adolescence.

Comment by Alice on January 1, 2012 at 2:22am

Cane - the definition I heard was those who are able to make finer distinctions - I suppose that adds up with your ability to remember more stuff :)  I'm not sure if either are correct.

Comment by Alice on January 1, 2012 at 12:22am



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