Religious people are likely to be less intelligent than their atheist counterparts, a study claims. The analysis, which looked at almost a century of data, found a negative correlation between high IQs and religiosity.
Professors Miron Zuckerman and Jordan Silberman, from the
University of Rochester, looked at 63 studies in the field
carried out between 1938 and 2012. In their paper, entitled
“The Relation Between Intelligence and Religiosity: A
Meta-Analysis and Some Proposed Explanations,” Zuckerman and
Silberman drew the conclusion that the majority of studies found
that more intelligent people were less likely to subscribe to
Out of the 63 surveys, 53 showed a negative correlation between
intelligence and religiosity, while only 10 displayed a positive
They found that infants with higher intelligence would be more
likely to reject religion. Furthermore, older people with above
average IQ are less religious, the study suggests.
“Our conclusion is not new,” Zuckerman said. “If you
count the number of studies which find a positive correlation
against those that find a negative correlation, you can draw the
same conclusion because most studies find a negative
He noted that what set his study apart was the emphasis on
The paper defines intelligence as the capacity for analytical
thought, problem solving and the understanding of complex ideas.
In this way, it assumes that subscribing to a set of religious
ideas not grounded in science and reason would repulse an
individual with above average intelligence.
"Most extant explanations (of a negative relation) share one
central theme —the premise that religious beliefs are irrational,
not anchored in science, not testable and, therefore, unappealing
to intelligent people who 'know better',” the study
Other factors such as gender or education have no bearing on the
correlation between intelligence and religious belief, the study
says. However, the study suggests that individuals with a higher
IQ who reside in predominantly religious communities were more
likely to resist dogma, because they are less inclined to
Despite the ample statistical analysis, the study hits a few
stumbling blocks. Firstly it only takes into account analytical
intelligence, disregarding creative and emotional intelligence.
Moreover, it could be argued the study is not representative, as
over 87 per cent of the participants involved in the various
studies were from the US, the UK and Canada.
Also, the predominant religion is the study is Protestantism, while other beliefs are not investigated.
The academics only looked at two studies that investigated the
relationship between religiosity and intelligence in other
cultures, namely Japan and Latin America.