Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Not So Fast...

The news today on my Yahoo feed is that studies show that religious people are not as smart as atheists.


Very amusing, actually. There have been 63 comprehensive studies, and 53 of them have reached the conclusion that people with higher IQs tend to be less religious.

If only life really was that simple.

First of all, there's religious as in following some doctrine without questioning it, following it because your parents did and everyone around you does, following it without inspecting it closely, following it because it helps you get through the days of your difficult life.

Then there's religious as in appreciating the underlying philosophy in a particular path or paths, without a comprehensive belief in each and every particular of the path, independent of others who follow the path but sharing affinity with some of those others, and embracing the philosophy as a way to better understand yourself and others.

Then there's religious as in approaching the universe with the humble wonder about the limitations of the human brain, its ability to comprehend the complexities of the universe at this current stage in its evolution. This type of religiosity may lead to experimentation with mind-altering substances. It might also lead the seeker to try to discern symbolic patterns in the collective unconscious that have driven widely varied segments of humanity in oddly similar directions.

Then there's religious as in taking a particular religion and posing and/or answering deep philosophical questions about the nature of humankind based on the tenets of that religion. Your basic Kierkegaard.

Then there's atheism, which is quickly becoming the repository for a number of smug people who are perfectly content to believe they're smarter than religious people. Note that I am not saying all atheists are smug, but we are getting a louder and louder chorus of the ones who are, at the expense of the ones who aren't.

I don't know what criteria these 63 studies used for determining the level of religion in people. Did the researchers just ask, "Do you believe in God?" Which God? Which underlying concept of God? What about the Goddess? Is believing in the Goddess the same as believing in God? How do you define "religious?" What's the difference between religion and superstition? For that matter, is there a simple test that can determine the intelligence of an individual, measuring for all the qualities that go into a member of the species, drawn from anywhere in the world?

"I don't believe in religion. I believe in science." How many times have you heard that? As if the two could never share the same park bench. My father and grandfather were scientists. They both went to church every Sunday. For the love of fruit flies, Charles Darwin was a devout Christian!

It doesn't boil down to whether or not you're religious. It boils down to the level of intensity with which you engage the world.

Want to hear something stupid? Try this one: "I don't believe in God. What's God ever done for me?" Oh, but there's no such thing as a stupid atheist!


Anonymous said...

Also, how was the study controlled for class and educational level? Was any thought given to the possibility that the prevalence of atheists in higher levels of certain fields is a function of social gatekeeping? etc. Rodger C

Anne Johnson said...

Rodger C, some of the studies suggested that the higher the class/educational level, the less religion. This same study, conducted in 1313, would have found religion at the very highest intellectual, creative, and artistic levels. I would think that, in order to arrive at a sweeping statement about religion and education, the survey sample would have to be very high, very broad, and followed for a lifetime. The study authors think they accomplished that, but I saw little data to prove it.


I laughed my ass off.

Anonymous said...

Rodger C

I always tell my students that Farinata was a guy like this, and that was the real reason Dante put him in a red-hot sarcophagus.