Religion, Intelligence, and Socialization

A recent post for Fare Forward, in response to a widely publicized study:

The Independent just reported that “religious people are less intelligent.” Whatever remains of the “new atheist” crowd will argue that this study proves that education causes one to reject religion. Atheism is academic. Being enlightened or “bright” means you reject that dim-witted dogmatism of your fathers.

Read the rest at:

I’d also like to note one of the wiser commenters, Rebecca Trotter, made a decent point:

… The church is often a terribly unwelcoming place for highly intelligent people. A person who is highly intelligent can’t help but ask questions, be skeptical, look at thing in New and novel ways. The fact that people given to do these things find what is often their first experience with acceptance and affirmation among the non-religious is an indictment of the church.

I am a religious writer, a member of mensa who could give away two standard deviations and still be a member of mensa and a highly creative person. Every time I write about the intersection of creativity, intelligence and the church, I am inundated by people sharing their experiences of being practically hounded out of the church. Some churches and Christians are very open and even vicious about those who are intelligent. Scientists are evil and serve the devil. There are bible verses which gets used as weapons to put down intelligence. Nearly every church has a policy of not supporting the work of their creative members.

But, as always, “Christians”, such as they are, would rather cast blame outward than look inward for solutions. It’s a comfortable but narrative, but one which is complete an utter horse hockey of the most putrid sort.

I never meant to imply that my socialization hypothesis is the end all, be all explanation. It’s just an alternative theory that would be worth exploring more, and an example of how we should be careful when it comes to drawing immediate conclusions about studies revealing correlation. Rebecca is right that some Christians (particularly the fundamentalists) have definitely been hostile toward science and intelligence over the years in a way that has driven people away from Christianity. But it’s interesting that those people have been driven – not to the arms of liberal churches – but from the church altogether. In that case, it seems to me that socialization is still playing a role because secularism is the alternative taken rather than a more intelligence-friendly form of Christian faith.

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