Religious people are less intelligent than non-believers, according to a new review of 63 scientific studies stretching back over decades.
A team led by Miron Zuckerman of the University of Rochester found “a reliable negative relation between intelligence and religiosity” in 53 out of 63 studies. Even in extreme old age, intelligent people are less likely to believe, the researchers found - and the reasons why people with high IQs shun religion may not be as simple as previously thought.
Previous studies have tended to assume that intelligent people simply “know better”, the researchers write - but the reasons may be more complex.
For instance, intelligent people are more likely to be married, and more likely to be successful in life - and this may mean they “need” religion less.
The studies used in Zuckerman's paper included a life-long analysis of the beliefs of a group of 1,500 gifted children - those with IQs over 135 - in a study which began in 1921 and continues today.
Even at 75 to 91 years of age, the children from Lewis Terman’s study scored lower for religiosity than the general population - contrary to the widely held belief that people turn to God as they age. The researchers noted that data was lacking about religious attitudes in old age and say, “Additional research is needed to resolve this issue.”
As early as 1958, Michael Argyle concluded, “Although intelligent children grasp religious concepts earlier, they are also the first to doubt the truth of religion, and intelligent students are much less likely to accept orthodox beliefs, and rather less likely to have pro-religious attitudes.”