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Study: Are Atheists "Smarter" Than Religious People?

A review of scientific studies has found that religious people tend to be less intelligent than non-believers.
 
 
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Minnesota Atheists march in the Twin Cities Gay Pride Parade on June 26, 2011.
Photo Credit: miker / Shutterstock.com

 

Are religious people less intelligent than atheists? A new study says so.

Yahoo! News reports that a review of 63 scientific studies over the years has found that religious people are less intelligent than non-believers. The study, by Miron Zuckerman of the University of Rochester, found that there is “ a reliable negative relation between intelligence and religiosity” in 53 out of the 63 studies review. This is the case even when intelligent people who are non-believers grow old.

While previous studies suggest that smart people just think they know better and that’s why they don’t believe in a higher being, this study suggests other reasons. Smart people are more likely to be married and successful in life, meaning they don’t turn to religion as often.

One study reviewed followed children with high IQs until they grew old. When they were between 75-91, they were less religious than the general population.

“Intelligent people typically spend more time in school—a form of self-regulation that may yield long-term benefits,” the researchers write. “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.”

One flaw in the study, though, is that it does not appear to take into account socioeconomic factors. Growing up in a comfortable household impacts  a person's educational levels and professional success, and therefore may influence the  religious beliefs of the person.

 

Alex Kane is AlterNet's New York-based World editor, and an assistant editor for Mondoweiss. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

 
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