Religious people are less intelligent than atheists, if you can believe the findings of a recent study on the relationship between religion and intelligence. The findings will undoubtedly ruffle the feathers of many devoutly religious people. We should be careful in our interpretation of these findings and consider whether or not they say anything about those who get ordained in groups like the ULC.
Part of this means taking a closer look at the study’s methodology. University of Rochester neuroeconomics graduate student Jordan Silberman and his colleagues conducted a meta-analysis of sixty-three studies on religion and intelligence conducted between 1928 and 2012. They found a negative correlation between religiosity and intelligence levels in most of the studies, concluding that the more religious a person was, the less likely they were to be intelligent.
A common explanation is that “religious beliefs are irrational, not anchored in science, not testable and, therefore, unappealing to intelligent people who ‘know better’”, but Silberman, et al, have painted a more complex picture, pointing out that intelligence may boost personality traits that help one better cope with his environment, thereby eliminating the need for some of the benefits religion provides.
Other Factors and Considerations
Still, is it all about intelligence? Culture, race, and gender play a role in the findings as well. Since it seems religion is less appealing to those that already thrive within their environments, we would expect this to be reflected in an examination of what groups yield more believers. This is exactly what we see, as whites and males are less likely to be religious when compared to minority groups like non-whites and women.
While the duration of these studies would seem to strengthen their conclusions, it also means that newer forms of religion and spirituality aren’t their focus. These results have more to say about traditional religions and their parishioners than post-modernist concepts such as interfaith churches like the Universal Life Church. While one could argue that such organizations enjoy membership that includes those that subscribe to the more “mainstream” religions discussed in the studies. There is a counterpoint that the added notion of encouraged respectful interaction within a religiously diverse community, something not found in more traditional structures, constitutes a meaningful difference.