Science Proves Religious People Are Stupid and Atheists Are Smart

Where to begin with this one?

A group of researchers have performed a metastudy purporting to show that atheism is correlated to high IQ and that religiosity is not (sorry, it’s behind a pay wall).

Normally I like metastudies, but this is just bad. Seriously. There are so many things wrong with this I cannot address them all. So I will just pick five:

1) Racist sources

2) Secular education

3) “Religions” are all the same, and “atheists” are all opposed to them in the same way

4) Garbage in garbage out

5) Your IQ is not worth… ____


Lord, they came for the non-whites, but I was white, so I just wrote a term-paper on it. Then they came for the foreigners, but I was American, so I just scoffed and hoped the xenophobes would go away as they aged and died. But then they came for the “religious” people, and being a convert from irreligion, and not satisfied to think of myself as dumb, I got pretty annoyed by this and had to write a blog post.

Just one example. One source for this metastudy which is getting some media attention is a study by Richard Lynn of the University of Ulster which correlates religion, nationality, and intelligence. Guess what that means? What could “nationality” be a proxy for? Richard Lynn is a racist eugenicist. And he does not hide it, just look at his work on his Wikipedia page, linked above.

Yes, according to Lynn, people of African descent are not as intelligent as people of European descent.  What a remarkable discovery for a European person to find.

How does this relate to religiosity? Traditional societies are also more religious. Less-traditional societies tend to secularize. What are some major differences between European and African societies besides skin color and religiosity? Maybe, say, the availability of a comprehensive educational system that includes training for standardized testing? Like IQ tests?

In a traditional society far from Western secularity let me tell you a skill that would be completely useless: the ability to score well on an IQ test. You are not going to encounter one, and if you did it would be a big waste of your time. So when the racist Westerners show up to give you something you have never seen before and never will see again, you might be forgiven for 1) not knowing how to score well on it, and 2) not particularly caring about scoring well on it. And ultimately, the only thing it will affect are the egos of racist Westerners.

Let me be clear: the only thing an IQ test really measures is how well you do on an IQ test. And I say that as a person who has scored very well on a few of them.


Education teaches you how to take standardized tests. The longer you are in the educational system, the better you get at it, and if you do not get better at it, then you do not advance. After all that training, what is being measured might not be so much how smart you are, but how readily you uptake training for strange tasks such as filling in bubbles on paper or clicking spots on computer screens.

Education, in the secular West at least, also tends to be a highly secularizing environment, and one which likes to reproduce this secularity in its consumers. In other words, the farther you go in the system, the stronger the forces are to move you away from religion.

Once a system like this is set up it is extremely difficult to dislodge because it reproduces itself: the highly trained people who do best on tests are also highly trained to drop their religion. If you are good at being trained, then you may likely pick up both traits: good testing skills and good secular-believing skills.

What this metastudy is really measuring is that people in traditional societies, which tend to be more religious and lacking in schools, score lower on school-related tests.

And the reverse: people in less-traditional societies, which tend to have intense school-systems and secular populations well trained in taking tests, score higher on tests.

Correlation, not causation.


But what are “religion” and “atheism” anyway? I have only delved into a few of the studies covered by this metastudy, so I cannot speak for how well all of them address the issue of definitions. But I’ve studied Lynn’s work, I’ve read The Bell Curve, I’ve read cognitive science of religion (and published on a topic related to it), I’ve studied the eugenics movement and that sort of stuff.

Just returning to Lynn’s work, he studied nationalities and religions around the world. That is a pretty broad definition of “religion” right there, that includes the three monotheisms, Eastern religions, tribal religions, etc. Who is not included? Anyone who calls themselves “atheist.” But what does that mean? Is communism an “atheistic religion”? Some forms of Buddhism are atheistic. What about North Korean leader-worship?

Is an atheist in a Christian nation the same as an atheist in an animist nation? Furthermore, its not like “atheists” don’t have worldviews – they are not blank slates without beliefs. Presumably in majority-atheist nations you will even discover that some atheists have below-average intelligence. And some studies have indicated that perhaps atheists might even still believe in God.

These categories are not easy to work with, in fact, they are likely verging on the impossible to work with. Bad definitions destroy your ability to do research.


Which brings us to the fact that if garbage goes in, garbage will come out. I cannot speak for all the studies in this metastudy, but for the examples above and others that I am familiar with, I can tell you that some are garbage. If you put enough garbage into a metastudy your will get garbage out.

Nothing more to say about that.


Your IQ is not worth… feces. Ultimately this is just ego-stroking, and in that way it is very sad.

What really matters in life has little to do with your ability to do well on an IQ test. What matters more in life is the ability to be a good person, to love others and treat them well. Both atheist people and religious people are capable of this. And it is measured by the tests of life, not a standardized paper or computer test.

What would be a more interesting study would be if Christians were in fact not as nice as atheists. And yet even if this were true, what would it show? What really matters is how much less nice the Christians would be without their religion. Personally, my religion forces me to be nicer all the time – you have no idea how much differently this post would be worded were I not a Christian.

There are more things wrong here. This is a subject I am interested in, but I’m not going to say more because 1) I don’t have the time, and 2) it infuriates me. Come on researchers. If you are so smart, see past your biases. You are producing data to reinforce your own worldview.

My consolation in this is that many if not most or nearly all atheists, in their intelligence, will also see that this study is crap.

9 responses to “Science Proves Religious People Are Stupid and Atheists Are Smart

  • keithnoback

    If I remember right, this meta-analysis is out of the Sociology literature. I think it remains useful in that context, for the reasons you list. As neuro-psych. not so much, also for the reasons you list.

  • Philosiful

    The last IQ test I did was about a month ago. Because I scored better in the linguistic part than the logic part I have a female brain. What a joke. I’m a student in the humanities, if I would be an engineering student I bet I would have a super manly brain in no time. When you focus in your education on logic, you’ll be good in logic. When you focus on something different, you’ll get probably good in that.
    I’m not sure whether all IQ tests are all equally ridiculous. If they are, they won’t be of much use. Just like you wrote: “Let me be clear: the only thing an IQ test really measures is how well you do on an IQ test.” So why bother using them in any research at all? Bad data gives bad results.

  • WaterToWords

    I recently read the quote, “Atheism is a religion that people join to appear smarter.” I’d say its pretty clear they think they are superior to the rest of us. Ironically, Atheism is a religion in its own right because it requires faith, just like any other religion. Please excuse the all caps below as its the only way I could put emphasis in. Atheism is a BELIEF that there is no God. Atheists prescribe to scientific THEORY (the Big bang THEORY and the THEORY of macro-evolution) which can be proven no more than God can. In fact, it quite possibly takes more faith to believe in when you go back and look at the probability (calculated by scientists) and see how unlikely it is that the conditions of the planet we live on just happened to be so perfect to support life as we know it. I just watched a documentary last night on TV about how the Earth & life evolved, and I’m sorry, but I don’t have enough FAITH to believe that we evolved from giant fish that grew large fins and decided (for no good reason) to climb on to land. This “science” which can not be proven sounds like a faith to me. The funny thing is that science presents it as fact which confuses many people. It takes a lot of faith, I know because I don’t have that much. And belief in God began LONG before the theory of evolution or the big bang theory ever existed. Another thing to consider is that the belief in no god actually hindered science when they were discovering that Earth actually had a start (strangely aligning with the Bible). Go back to Einstein who tried to downplay his discovery until he couldn’t deny it. He even said it was the “biggest blunder of his life”. Atheist scientists couldn’t bear the thought so they had to come up with the multiple universes theory…another THEORY. Just think about it. If you still have enough faith to believe in this, you definitely have more faith than me.

    • Stan Chung

      I’m sorry, most atheists believe in science based on fact that were derived from hypothesis, theories & experiments etc. It’s ever evolving and never static from a book or with mumbo jumbo don’t sometimes threatens one’s life if you ever dare to point the mistakes/outdatedness of parts of it.

      Religion and it’s followers are not all bad but it always seems the loudest ones are really PITA’s.

      The new Pope seems to be smart and kind enough to highlight the problems besetting us in the world. He has gained my respect.

      But on the other hand the handful bigots of the Westboro Church, fundamentalists in Muslim countries continue to give me facepalms with their illogical or hateful messages.

  • Marks & Spencer apologizes after saying Muslim staff may refuse to serve customers pork and alcohol

    […] accelerate or close the thread Science Proves Religious People Are Stupid and Atheists Are Smart Science Proves Religious People Are Stupid and Atheists Are Smart | TheMoralMindfield Religious people are dumb inside no matter how successful they are in their life because Religion […]

  • Rob Czar

    You are indulging in confirmation bias. Your objections are invalid. You need to look at some evidence instead of just asserting what you believe. Just a few problems with your objections: First, IQ is strongly correlated with all measures of life success (e.g., income, creativity, job performance). IQ is also highly correlated with measures of cognitive ability. IQ is also a long-standing psychometric which has been refined over many years. We have no better measure of human ability. IQs don’t change much as a person ages or even is educated. So, schools can’t make your IQ higher, though they can enable you to take the test.
    For a long time, the scores of self-identified racial groups have shown differences. Some races/ethnicities do better than others in the US. Data across countries and cultures is not good enough to draw conclusions at this point.

    Let me also say that the definition of “atheist” has been popularly set by the religious (so that the number is as small as possible). Many highly skilled occupations that require high intelligence have higher numbers of atheists. Racist sources? Can’t racists be correct or intelligent? How bigoted of you. Labeling a source as racist does not discredit the source. I wonder how you would howl if someone said “religious sources” as a way to discrediting an assertion?

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