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Why Intelligent People Are Less Likely to Be Religious
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My story is almost always met with surprise: How could an atheist convert to Christianity at Harvard, the bastion of secular intellectual elitism?

Now this reaction has some empirical justification. A recent meta-analysis of studies on religion and intelligence found that yes, overall, people with high IQs and test scores are less likely to be religious. Researchers analyzed 63 studies on religion and intelligence from the past 80 years with differing results to discover the slightly negative correlation between the two.

Unlike previous studies that tried to explain the data by suggesting that smart people simply see past religion's claims, these researchers, led by University of Rochester psychologist Miron Zuckerman, tried to identify other social factors in play. Nevertheless, the hype about their conclusions is overblown, and all of us—the religious and the non-religious—should be wary of placing too much weight on their findings.

There are the standard caveats. Correlation does not equal causation. Just because intelligent people are less likely to be religious doesn't mean that their brilliance causes them to reject religion. One look at Christians' intellectual contributions throughout history —made by thinkers such as Donne, Newton, Aquinas, and many others—does away with this misconception.

Plus, in spite of presenting a sweeping meta-analysis, the study's authors relied on a limited range of research, as they admit in the paper. They primarily address Protestants, in the U.S. (This highlights a common problem in psychological research, which is heavily weighted toward a particular population that is rather WEIRD—Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic—when ...

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Why Intelligent People Are Less Likely to Be Religious
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August 2013

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