Does religion affect intelligence?

I have seen this claim floating around social media for some time now, so I thought I’d address it. There have been a number of studies done by psychiatrists to suggest that as a whole, religious people score lower on intelligence quotient (IQ) tests, but with that said, there are some extremely intelligent religious people. The problem that religious people have regarding IQ tests is their lack of logic and reason, as they accept dogma and rely on intuition, and blindly believe everything is God’s plan so there’s no need to question it. But does performing poorly on an IQ test accurately ascertain intelligence levels, or are religious people wired up differently? If that person was to break free of the shackles of their faith, would they think differently and apply critical thinking more often?

In an article published in the Frontiers of psychology the results of an online survey was published where a 30 minute test was issued to atheists, agnostics and theists, and theists scored the lowest, and the scientists running the study suggested that religious people lacked cognitive skills. Below is an excerpt briefly explaining the concept of general intelligence, but I highly suggest that you visit the article it comes from, and it can be found here.

“General intelligence refers to the ability to reason, deductively or inductively, think abstractly, use analogies, synthesize information, and apply it to new domains.”

Religious people rely on instinct, and often instead of seeking the truth, they wear blinkers and focus on their Biblical, Torah, or Qur’an narratives, and if anything conflicts with their religious texts then the majority dismiss it, and a perfect example of this is creationism, especially young Earth. There are religious people that have the ability to rise above instinct and apply cognitive skills, but they are usually in relation to some form of science ie: ‘Sir Isaac Newton, Sir Francis Bacon, Emmanuel Kant and Georges Lemaître‘. Whilst they were all highly religious, they were able to separate their personal religious beliefs from their scientific studies, but they are exceptions.

“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.” – Galileo Galilei

It’s naturally human to be curious and to question, and intellectually curious, and not relying purely on instinct. Some may argue that religion has no effect on intelligence, but I’m afraid it does, and I apologise to anyone religious that’s reading this. People who are considered smart, aren’t gullible, they use reason, logic and apply rationality to a problem, and use critical thinking skills and scepticism and require evidence before reaching a conclusion. Many religious people don’t apply these methods and instead adopt faith and belief. And whilst this may be comforting to be at one with their god, they are missing out on a world of possibilities. Take evolution as an example. There are many areas where evidence is in abundance, natural selection can be easily proven with bacteria and antibiotics, there have been early human remains found that suggest we have changed to adapt to our surroundings, but religious people think their god made everything, and some are so blindly adamant that there’s no room to question the possibility that they may be wrong. This is partly through brainwashing and their family and society are to blame, but being so susceptible to supernatural stories instead of understanding the reality we are in is sheer lunacy and incredibly ignorant.

“In classical Greece and Rome, it was widely remarked that “fools” tended to be religious, while the “wise” were often skeptics.” – Live Science

Is religion a sign of lower intelligence or is it the inability to open your mind to possibilities? Why build a church where people can pray to heal the sick, when hospitals are needed where professional doctors are trained to repair what praying can’t affect. Does a sailor pray for the wind to change, or does he learn to sail? Imagine being at a sporting event and the two teams both have religious people praying for victory. One team wins comfortably and their supporters are confident that god heard their prayers and helped their team win, but does that mean that he favoured their team over the other?

Take religious belief in morality. Their god’s words on what’s moral and what isn’t just so happens to conveniently match what they think, so instead of thinking for themselves and using empathy, reason and compassion they are just copying what their god allegedly thinks. If their holy book said that it was morally sound to kill kittens on Monday at 3pm, they would happily slaughter kittens as it’s their god’s will. But that’s going too far I hear you cry, but read the Torah, there’s plenty of reference to sacrifice. Oh, and god wants your money, kids!

“Religion is an illusion and it derives its strength from the fact that it falls in with our instinctual desires.” – Sigmund Freud

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