Are atheists smarter and humbler?

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What should we make of a recent study that, like earlier ones, says atheists are more intelligent than religious believers? This latest is really a study of 63 individual studies, in which 53 showed less religiosity among the more intelligent participants. Hmmm. Most atheists, myself included, have a skeptical nature and want to delve deeper into such studies—even when they put us in a favorable light.


For instance, how was intelligence defined and measured? Intelligence was defined in this study as the capacity for analytical thought, problem solving, and the understanding of complex ideas. The studies, which included a life-long analysis of the beliefs of 1,500 gifted children with IQs over 135, showed fewer religious believers among the gifted than in the overall population. Additional studies corroborated that religiosity tends to decrease with increased educational level. For example, only 7 percent of the members in the National Academy of Sciences believe in a personal god.

You could argue that the studies might be flawed for a variety of reasons, which include ignoring emotional intelligence and other worthwhile qualities that can contribute to a high quality of life. However, religion aside, I think most people believe that scientists (and even mathematicians) are smart. The cliché, “You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure it out,” means you can do it even if you’re not that smart.

But I’d rather let others discuss the relationship between religiosity and intelligence.

I’m more interested in perceived character flaws of atheists, perhaps related to intelligence. Some atheists come across as arrogant and smug when they gratuitously criticize and even mock religious beliefs, occasionally quoting ludicrous biblical passages to those who don’t interpret the Bible literally. Yet I can make a case for ardent atheists being more humble and open to change than religious fundamentalists, illustrated by the T-shirt phrase: “Will Convert for Evidence.” Richard Dawkins, the world’s most famous atheist, supported a bus ad campaign with the relatively humble slogan, “There’s probably no God.” I’ve yet to see a comparable religious ad that says “There’s probably a God.”

 

Written By: Herb Silverman
continue to source article at washingtonpost.com

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  1. Humility and arrogance be damned! Mindless religion is ruining our societies and the environment. We have to stand up to these idiots and “preach” the truth otherwise, the human psyche will never evolve.

    • In reply to #2 by AlGarnier:

      Humility and arrogance be damned! Mindless religion is ruining our societies and the environment. We have to stand up to these idiots and “preach” the truth otherwise, the human psyche will never evolve.

      No, just don’t let theists, or anyone else for that matter, get away with glaring intellectual arrogance unchallenged.

      • In reply to #3 by Peter Grant:

        In reply to #2 by AlGarnier:

        Humility and arrogance be damned! Mindless religion is ruining our societies and the environment. We have to stand up to these idiots and “preach” the truth otherwise, the human psyche will never evolve.

        No, just don’t let theists, or anyone else for that matter, get a…

        The biggest difference between theists and atheists is scepticism. Atheists may have taken that early leap of faith but, their scepticism and curiosity forced them to seek better answers to their questions.
        Most theists are more spiritual and less sceptical of accepted truths. Once that leap of faith is taken, they accept the stories as “inexplicable truths” that can easily defy any empirical scientific proofs to the contrary. It is early and continued mental conditioning that takes a hell of a lot of arrogance to overcome. Any atheist raised as Christian will admit to that.

  2. I admit that I may seem arrogant, probably because I am intelligent. However, I am not intellectually arrogant because I recognise that some people know more than me about certain things.

    • In reply to #4 by Peter Grant:

      I admit that I may seem arrogant, probably because I am intelligent. However, I am not intellectually arrogant because I recognise that some people know more than me about certain things.

      Ha ha! I was waiting for you to express words to this effect. ; )

  3. This makes me think of the correlation of higher intelligence within the gay community, given that people emigrate from their own cultures into gay villages, it means that the requirements of admission tend to be the ability to have that kind of self awareness to know that life in such a community is what you need rather than a closeted life in the mainstream.

    Similarly, people who don’t care about religion will happily sleep through church if that is what society expects of them (which is still regarded as attendance). Contrast people who identify as atheists, which means they do care, have thought about it and have come to a position of skepticism.

    • In reply to #8 by Uriel-238:

      This makes me think of the correlation of higher intelligence within the gay community, given that people emigrate from their own cultures into gay villages, it means that the requirements of admission tend to be the ability to have that kind of self awareness to know that life in such a community i…

      This is exactly why I self identify as an atheist and not the gentler sounding ‘agnostic’. It implies that I’ve thought about the matter and I’ve come to a conclusion, rather than simply taken the line that ‘ nobody knows for sure’.

    • In reply to #8 by Uriel-238:

      This makes me think of the correlation of higher intelligence within the gay community, given that people emigrate from their own cultures into gay villages, it means that the requirements of admission tend to be the ability to have that kind of self awareness to know that life in such a community i…

      I agree that atheists are more adept at critical thinking than the theists. Unfortunately, there is no results shown here about the correlation between the wealthy and atheism. I would wager that many of the wealthy are intelligent enough to be atheists but, support the theists in their grand pyramid scheme of controlling the citizenry. It is their wealth that dictates how the spoils are divided and are not about to give up their position of privilege regardless of what they believe. True democracy does not exist in the world and the world will not change until we have true global democracy. Googles project to expand the Internet to all global citizens may prove to be the most significant tool toward obtaining true global democracy. The free internet has already proved to be a silver bullet for theism. The WEB is “The Universal Educator.”

  4. Some atheists come across as arrogant and smug

    To the smugly bigoted ignorant, all confidence in hard earned knowledge is arrogant!

    when they gratuitously criticize and even mock religious beliefs, occasionally quoting ludicrous biblical passages to those who don’t interpret the Bible literally.

    If it is rubbish why profess to believe in it, and then try to pretend words literally don’t mean what they say? This is either stupid or disingenuous!

    There is nothing arrogant or smug, about mocking wilful stupidity, or blatant dishonesty!

    This is merely a perception of those too ignorant and stupid to recognise their own ignorance and stupidity, and too pig-headed to learn from good advice.

    Are atheists smarter and humbler?

    While studies can give general indications, they cannot be extended into dichotomies or these sorts of generalisations.

    • In reply to #9 by Alan4discussion:

      Are atheists smarter and humbler?

      While studies can give general indications, they cannot be extended into dichotomies or these sorts of generalisations.

      Though this survey of our intellectual crème de la crème – top natural scientists, members of the NAS – showing 93% doubting the gods hypothesis and 100% doubting human immortality, is very very very strong correlation indeed.

      Too bad they don’t have the courage of their convictions (this survey was done anonymously) to be as vocal as Professors Dawkins and Krauss. After all those movies, documentaries, interviews, articles, debates and lecture tours addressing the undecideds and the opposition perhaps the next campaign should focus on prodding (fittingly, with that device normally used on cattle) those on our side who still cower in the ivory tower.

      • In reply to #12 by godsbuster:

        In reply to #9 by Alan4discussion:

        Are atheists smarter and humbler?

        While studies can give general indications, they cannot be extended into dichotomies or these sorts of generalisations.

        Though this survey of our intellectual crème de la crème – top natural scientists, members of the NAS – showing 93% doubting the gods hypothesis and 100% doubting human immortality, is very very very strong correlation indeed.

        That would show that being a top intellectual or top scientist gave a tendency to be an atheist
        The converse does not follow.
        There are plenty of atheists (eg. – especially in Buddhists of India – who are full of superstition, reincarnation etc. and not very bright), who are neither top intellectuals nor scientists. It is partly an educational opportunity thing and exposure to scientific methodology in my opinion.

        • In reply to #15 by Alan4discussion:

          In reply to #12 by godsbuster:

          In reply to #9 by Alan4discussion:

          That would show that being a top intellectual or top scientist gave a tendency to be an atheist
          The converse does not follow.
          There are plenty of atheists (eg. – especially in Buddhists of India – who are full of superstition, reincarnation etc. and not very bright), who are neither top intellectuals nor scientists. It is partly an educational opportunity thing and exposure to scientific methodology in my opinion.

          It would have appeared evident that the definition of atheist I used for the purpose of this particular discussion is the one used in the article to which this particular discussion pertains. Therein the definition appears to have been expanded (incorrectly if we insist on lexicographical schoolmarmery) from the strict dictionary definition -a person who disbelieves or lacks belief in the existence of God or gods – to meaning non-religious and non-believer as the quotes from the article below would strongly seem to suggest:

          • “Religious people are less intelligent than atheists, study finds”.
          • “A team led by Miron Zuckerman of the University of Rochester found a reliable negative relation between intelligence and religiosity in 53 out of 63 studies.”
          • “Even in extreme old age, intelligent people are less likely to believe,”

          Moreover, anecdotes abound from atheists who came to their atheism in spite of their educational environment and without direct benefit from exposure to scientific methodology. Hitch comes to mind when he describes how he reacted to his grade school teacher banging on about how her god made the grass green and the sky blue with “hang on a minute, this is bollocks.”

  5. I can be awfully silly at times and I really wonder about myself…So the only uncontested claim I can make about myself is that I am as nutty as a fruitcake.However, I am smart enough to be unashamedly atheistic in my outlook because well, duh.THERE IS NO EVIDENCE FOR A GOD!

    If there is,such a being is lurking in the shadows,looking on at the immense suffering of sentient beings and refusing to lift a finger.He refuses to show himself and ‘save’ people but he makes dire threats about what he intends to do after these people pass on.Likely??
    I think not.

    In my own experience, I’ve found that those who know the least are the ones with the strongest convictions about how right they are, and they are very quick to pass on these convictions as fact.These folk are anything but humble.

    One has only to look at the mega church pastors for a definition of arrogance.

    The truly intelligent are always open to new ways of looking at and doing things provided it is reasonable.We have all benefitted from this approach.

  6. about time too

    what faith heads fail to understand is that being this intelligent and remaining humble takes a lot of effort. on a daily basis i’m reminded of my own brilliance yet somehow manage to never let on just how impressed i am with myself

    well done, maybe now i’ll get the respect i deserve but don’t really want in which case damn you for making it worse for me, good job i’m smart enough to deal with the responsibility of being so humble…

  7. Do smart people avoid religion, or does religion make people stupid?

    Children taught from day one not to question authority no matter how goofy its assertions are having their brains damaged.

    • In reply to #19 by Roedy:

      Do smart people avoid religion, or does religion make people stupid?

      The smartest avoid it entirely, but religion can make even some relatively smart people behave incredibly stupid.

      Children taught from day one not to question authority no matter how goofy its assertions are having their brains damaged.

      Cheers to that!

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