Intelligence and faith.

You want to know something that really, really irks me? The fact that there are atheists in the world who go around saying things that suggest that having a belief in any religion makes a person less intelligent than an atheist or even stupid.

I did not become smarter when I stopped believing, my I.Q. didn’t jump up any number of points, and in the period of time that I was a believer I was not dumber for it.
What changed was my willingness to listen to the opposite side, the amount of information I had available to me, and a willingness to admit I was wrong and that I really didn’t have life figured out to any extent the way I thought I had before. I did not get smarter though, and I’m tired of having to explain to Christians that I don’t believe that they’re stupid because some other atheists took it upon themselves to believe so. It genuinely makes me sad that this has become a battle of intelligence.

There are perfectly intelligent people of all religions who do amazing things, there are scientists who have made significant breakthroughs all while still holding a belief in God. There are doctors that save lives and believe in God. There are people who do not believe in God who consider themselves superior in terms of intelligence and yet have nothing to show for that intelligence.

So I’m here, as an atheist, to say that I do not think that any of you religious people are believers because you may be stupid. I believe that there are believers because maybe there are too many people who don’t have all of the information available to them, because indoctrination and fear in religious dogma is a very hard thing to shake, because people often believe they won’t be as happy without religion and God, because humans are unbelievably stubborn and routed in tradition (old habits die hard), because no one has any other answers that are so satisfactory, because religion offers the hope of an afterlife, and because religion is effective at manipulating the way people think and playing on the most human parts of us. Does this mean that there aren’t people who came to their faith through ignorance and because they do not understand the opposing side? No, there are stupid people who come to their beliefs because their stupidity brought them there – but atheists can also be among this group of people when they do not attempt to understand why they are atheists, when they do not look for reason, when they do not even attempt to understand the other side, but just claim that God does not exist without any more reason for thinking so than a Christian who does believe.

So why am I even bringing this up? Because it’s impossible to have productive, meaningful conversations with theists if they think that I just dismiss them because I think I’m smarter than them just because they believe something I think to be false. Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, all of those – they’ve presented pretty good, confusing arguments to keep believing that intelligent people could reasonably believe. They also offer a sort of poetic aspect in explaining the world that science doesn’t have, which makes it even more favorable – especially to a creative mind. So I’m not trying to argue about who is wrong or right with this post, because my position is clear, only that intelligence doesn’t guarantee that you’ll believe one or the other.

Everyone is welcome on my blog, you can all rest assured I won’t resort to calling you stupid because of your faith if you’re a theist. However, if I do call you stupid (and you’d be hard-pressed to put me in such a sour mood where I’d start calling you names) then it’s probably because you have demonstrated your stupidity in some other way.


About thatcatkatie
I came to this site to discuss my beliefs, and yours too, and hopefully learn some things from my fellow human beings.

10 Responses to Intelligence and faith.

  1. john zande says:

    Great post. Believing in a god (for want of some greater meaning to life) does not mean someone as unintelligent, but you have to admit those who hold up the bible as ‘gods word’ can err on the dumb side πŸ™‚ Still, pointing this out doesn’t help anyone.

  2. goldheathen says:

    I run into this a lot too and it bothers me as well. I’ve never been a religious person, I’ve never experienced anything I would call “faith” but I know people of faith who i would say are every bit as smart as I am. The problem, in my opinion, isn’t one of intelligence but of a sort of intellectual complacency, a willingness to ignore or excuse the errors, falsehoods, and inconsistencies that abound in any theistic system. That is coupled of course with the all too human tendency to see what you want to see and dismiss what you don’t. There are a great many theists as or more intelligent than I am, and a great many more who are far better educated than I am. Where we differ is that I let the evidence take me to truth, they discovered “truth” and then sought out their evidence. Thanks for the post.

  3. Nan says:

    IMO, intelligence doesn’t enter the picture at all.

    To me, it’s more of an unwillingness to open one’s mind and allow new information to enter. As you wrote: ” … indoctrination and fear in religious dogma is a very hard thing to shake,” Once trapped in the “loving arms” of Christianity, it’s almost impossible to break free.

    I wrote all about this in my book, “Things I Never Learned in Sunday School” (read more about it at

    P.S. Hope you’ll forgive the plug, but the book really is about how little Christians know about their faith.

  4. Nan says:

    Just so you know, right now it’s just in eBook format. The print edition should be ready soon. Hopefully by the time your semester ends. πŸ˜‰

  5. I’d say also, that very intelligent and learned people can get it wrong. They also get it wrong when they stray out of their area, as atheist philosophers would say about Richard Dawkins’ book The God Delusion, for example. Intelligence and knowledge are two different things!

    • thatcatkatie says:

      They can, but getting it wrong, if you can accept and acknowledge it can lead to getting it right. Trial and error. You have to make mistakes to learn, you have to discuss these things to learn more about them. I don’t know what you mean about The God Delusion being wrong?

  6. I absolutely love this post.

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