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.

New Post at Fare Forward – What the Church Can Learn from the Reza Aslan Affair

My latest post is now live:

Reza Aslan has become famous for what has quickly become dubbed “Fox News’ Worst Interview” about his new book Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth. I agree with Robert Long’s assessment at The American Conservative that the interview is motivated by bulverism, which attempts to show why a man has come to the incorrect position before demonstrating that he is incorrect. Bulverism in general accounts for a significant portion of religious reporting and indeed for any interesting subject that gets pulled into the culture wars. The problem is that few journalists will be able to offer serious criticism on such a divisive subject, so they resort to either a blanket acceptance of radically controversial claims or an ad hominem refutation. My frustration is compounded when I realize that while there are countless scholars defending the orthodox position, it’s only the new outlandish theories that generate news stories. After all, “they were right all along” doesn’t make for a good headline.

I haven’t had the chance to read the book yet, but judging from what he said during his NPR interview, I’m not sure that it’s a worthwhile contribution to the field. Unlike our friends at Fox, however, I’ll give you some of the reasons why I think he’s wrong.

Read the rest over at Fare Forward:

The Spirit & The Letter

My latest blog post over at Fare Forward’s blog at Patheos, a meditation on what The Great Gatsby can teach us about interpreting Scripture.

As director of The Great Gatsby, Baz Luhrmann made a controversial choice in choosing to depict the parties of the Roaring Twenties with music featuring today’s top artists and styles. In one sense, this made the movie a less “true” depiction of what life during the Jazz Age was life. The minor allusions to that era, the droning trumpets and hints of blues, are authentic twenties, but the rap styling and rapid beats would have been foreign to those alive during that era. Yet in another sense, Luhrmann’s decision better conveyed to our modern ears the sense of excitement and vibrance that roaring parties offered at the time.

Jazz sounds quaint and old-fashioned to us, but at the time, it was provocative and dramatic. Conservative commentators at the time anxiously questioned the value of jazz. If one is trying to convey a scintillating, rambunctious party to a modern audience, jazz music won’t do it. To communicate the heart of the jazz age to a modern ear requires, in a way, abandoning literal authenticity. This permits Baz Luhrmannt to actually convey a deeper truth – to pass along the spirit of things.

Read the rest at:

Spiritual Friendship

I’ve got a new blog post up at Fare Forward on friendship. A preview:

This weekend, I was blessed to have the opportunity to hear Wesley Hillthe author of Washed and Waitingspeak at Harvard on spiritual friendship and sexuality. One of the challenges he posed sprung from his reading of St. Aelred of Rievaulx’s reflection Spiritual FriendshipHe noted, “there aren’t a lot of similar treatises [on friendship] that we could point to in today’s church. Why is that? Could we be part of rewriting them ourselves? Could we be part of living into them ourselves and recovering them? Taking a book like that and dusting it off the shelf and enlivening it with our own practice in the church today?”

To see my thoughts on why we lack treatises on friendship and why we should fix this problem, read the rest at: