A brand new study out of the University of Rochester shows that Atheists are more intelligent than religious believers. The study is considered particularly significant because it is a meta-analysis of 63 other studies. Meta-analyses are performed to rule out errant results of individual or smaller studies, and to find a reliable trend among studies over time. A meta analyses, according to Merriam Webster is “a quantitative statistical analysis of several separate but similar experiments or studies in order to test the pooled data for statistical significance.”
The study was performed by lead researcher Miron Zuckerman and found “a reliable negative relation between intelligence and religiosity.” In one of the studies in the meta-analysis, researchers followed a group of 1,500 gifted children over a period spanning 92 years. The study still continues today. The results of that study so far show that less religiosity continues in gifted individuals well into their senior years. This appears to contradict the commonly held belief that people grow more religious as they get older, at least in gifted individuals, who do not tend to turn to religion as they age, and instead, hold more Atheistic beliefs for their entire life spans.
Another study from 1958 concluded “…although intelligent children grasp religious concepts earlier, they are also the first to doubt the truth of religion, and intelligent students are much less likely to accept orthodox beliefs, and rather less likely to have pro-religious attitudes.”
Researchers point out, however, that while the common view of Atheism has pointed to more intelligent people “knowing more” than less intelligent people, it may be that highly intelligent people simply “need” religion less. They may be able to adapt their abilities for “self-regulation and self-enhancement,” to improve their lives without the need for religion, and this could also account for their lack of religious beliefs. “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,” the study says.
The new study showing Atheists are more intelligent than religious believers also points out that Atheists may also engage in behaviors that ultimately lead to a lack of religious faith, such as pursuing education and obtaining higher-paying jobs:
Intelligent people typically spend more time in school—a form of self-regulation that may yield long-term benefits. More intelligent people get higher level jobs (and better employment (and higher salary) may lead to higher self-esteem, and encourage personal control beliefs. Last, more intelligent people are more likely to get and stay married (greater attachment), though for intelligent people, that too comes later in life. We therefore suggest that as intelligent people move from young adulthood to adulthood and then to middle age, the benefits of intelligence may continue to accrue.
This accrual of benefits from being intelligent could be what causes those with stronger intellects to be less religious. However, other studies have consistently shown that Atheists also tend to be more intelligent than other groups as well, such as conservatives who are not necessarily religious. The idea of “needing conservatism” does not seem to play into the results of those studies. However, some psychologists think that all belief systems are connected to reproductive goals, and not raw intelligence.
Obviously, there are still many questions to be asked and more research to be performed to determine exactly why Atheists appear to smarter than religious believers and other groups.
By: Rebecca Savastio