From: David Powers
Subject: Re: Why intelligent people believe: one man's opinion
Organization: Tilburg University, Tilburg, The Netherlands
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (David Powers)
> From: email@example.com (Jim Perry)
> From: firstname.lastname@example.org.EDU.AU (ron house)
> From: r3dsh@VAX1.uakron.edu (Douglas S Hiwiller)
> From: email@example.com (young.u.huh)
> From: firstname.lastname@example.org (David K Higgs)
So many interesting response to the Intelligence vs Religion debate.
So many different issues raised: education, rebellion, independent
thought, famous people, questionnaries, mensa religion, atheism,
agnosticism, brainwashing, evangelicalism, fundamentalismn, death,
disease, convertees, blind faith.
Unfortunately it's not easy to followup on more than one, so I'll
choose the following:
In article <1992Mar12.email@example.com> firstname.lastname@example.org writes:
>In article <1992Mar10.email@example.com>, firstname.lastname@example.org
>(Josh N. Vander Berg) writes:
>> It has been my observation that there seems to be an inverse correlation
>> between the presence of religious beliefs and IQ.
>I have thought a lot about this (there was a thread called "Smart atheists"
>on a.a. a few months ago) and I think it's not as simple as that.
>Some theists are in fact extremely clever and well-educated. I would say that
>high intelligence tends to push people towards a non-Christian world-view,
>but the deciding factors are non-intellectual. Highly intelligent people
>believe the most absurd nonsense if it suits other aspects of their
>personality eg. romanticism, insecurity, fear of death, fear of
>Of all these, I think romanticism and fear of ambiguity are the most active
>in people of high intelligence. ...
>The imaginative world of Christian myth is more
>attractive to them than the world around them. Who can blame them?
>Who hasn't read some work of fantasy literature and thought, "I wish life
>was like that!" Good vs. Evil, magic, miracles, a diabolic enemy, victory
>assured in the end, immortality - MEANING. How attractive to the desolate
>20th century bourgeois! Christianity sells that fantasy as truth,
>backed up with a lot of "evidence" so the believer doesn't feel like a twit.
>Yes, to be a Christian is to succumb to the most seductive temptation
>of all, the temptation to curl up and go to sleep in the arms of a
>benevolent protector, and dream sweet dreams of miracles, and heroes who
>never lose, and dream that death is illusion, that our secret selves will
>live forever, and never, ever be hurt again.
>Note: The above is true whether Christianity is true or not.
>Anyway, for what it's worth, that's what I think.
>And now, excuse me while I go put on my flame-resistant underwear...
I quite liked this characterization of Christianity, notwithstanding the
obvious biases. Christianity claims God made man to have a relationship
with him, but in order for that relationship to be somehow real, he also
made it possible for man not to. Christianity (cf also Judaism and Islam)
is about God's attempt at reconciliation after man chose long ago not to,
and to run his own roost.
BTB This is the short answer to the problem of povery, pain and hunger which
has been raised. It is very well treated by C.S. Lewis, one of the famous
persons already mentioned, in a book called "The Problem of Pain", I
think. But of course it is one of those problems, "mysteries" if you
prefer the euphemism, which has never quite been answered in a way which
satisfies me. But nonetheless Lewis has some pretty useful things to say."
I especially like the quote email@example.com (young.u.huh) cited
as 1 Corinthians 13:11 (RSV):
> "When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought
> like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became
> a man, I gave up childish ways."
This captures the problem of atheist and religious person alike, of the
intelligencia and the average. And remember you've only got to be with
a couple of dozen people in the room and the chances are there's a Mensa
candidate there. I'm really here talking about the people who claim or
aim to be thinkers vs those who wouldn't know an original thought if they
tripped over it. Indeed what I'm suggesting is that when it comes to our
attitude to God, most of us fall into this latter category, whatever
intellectual achievements the rest of our lives may show:
Some people talked about us being brainwashed, indoctrinated as a child
with our parents beliefs. It was noted that rebellion against
indoctrinated relgion, and equally conversion from indoctrinated atheism,
were evidence of independent thought - which itself is an important aspect
of both intelligence and creativity. On the other hand it's been argued
that, our childish "blind faith" is something we'll grow out of naturally,
that at some point we'll make our own decision.
On the other hand, Jesus commends faith like a child's; whilst as in the
above quote, Paul (and elswhere other biblical authors) points out that we
need to grow up too; we can't live on milk all our lives - we need "meat"
(solid food). Doubt is clearly a big problem, and that is what
Jesus is getting at. Modern christianity is divided into those
with this simple faith, like a child's trust in his father, and an
intellectual assent, like a scientist's adoption of a hypothesis.
Paul's point was somewhat different in the above quotation. The
christian should be leaving behind these basic fatherhood
questions and going on to be a profitable member of society,
growing in mind, soul and spirit (whatever they are).
Modern education is strongly biased, and religious preference and
schooling is a part of this. It is interesting here in Holland that there
is a sharp line as to where the reformation spread - the protestant north
is regarded as having become a bit to intellectual and degenerate (!),
a result of taking the reformation too far, and many families send their kids
to Catholic schools/unis in Belgium! (About the survey at some school - was
there a Catholic school in the vicinity which would have made the
demographics of the school unreflective? Also most Catholics (substitute
freely any other comparable denomination, e.g. Anglicans) are so nominal
that it is hardly valid - and I would think that intelligence correlates
inversely with nominalism since that equates with sitting on the fence
without thinking about or facing up to the issues.)
But whatever we may claim about the biases of religiously run schools,
secular schools are equally biased: Science can do know wrong; all the
problems are solved; evolution is fact, the bible is fiction. Sometimes
this is overt, sometimes fairly subtle.
Have a look at the facts of genetics, archaeology, etc. Have a look at
the creation account in Genesis. The "naive" classifications are
surprising good in genetic terms, the order of creation surprisingly
accurate in archaeological terms. In Darwin's day, the common belief, and
his own, tended to be a default of creationism. Today the trend has
reversed. Try reading the first few pages of the bible from the
perspective of a bystander. Think of "day" as I used it above of Darwin's
time, a breadth meaning it has in the original biblical languages too.
Think of the archaelogical epochs as telescoped down into periods that you
as a human can appreciate as a day. The correlations, the accuracy, is
astounding for a text that is thousands of years old!
Once you acknowledge the myth of science, the fact that science has NOT
yet explained everything, you come down to a religious taxonomy
(plagarized roughly from an impressive talk I heard years ago by Brian
Hill, Professor of Education at the University of Western Australia).
You believe that in the beginning there was nothing, or something.
Almost everyone (solipsists aside) believe the latter. Here is in
columnar form with the latter choice being expanded in each case - a
taxonomy of christianity:
Inanimate something (Laws/Mass/Energy) Animate something (God)
Personal God Impersonal God
Unknowable God Knowable God
Disinterested God Interested God
Amoral God Moral God
Unrevealed God Revealed God
Unloving God Loving God
Many ways to God One way to God: Jesus
This is no doubt a long way from Prof. Hill's taxonomy, but the point is
clear. There are lot's of choices everyone of us, wittingly or
unwittingly make. If you branch of from one of the left hand nodes, there
will be many similar decisions we implicitly or explicitly shape your
So where does intelligence come into it? Well one negative correlate of
intelligence is failure to consider the implications of one's world view.
Does that matter? Well yes! If you think you can fly and jump off the
Empire State Building (if it still exists), and you can't, it makes a very
big difference (not to mention, mess). If you think this life/world is it,
you have no sense of being anything more than some accidental jumble of
organic material which superficially resembles a machine - but is not as
there is no mechanic; it has no purpose, if you have such a view and it is
wrong, and there is a God, a fire and brimstone hell, and all the rest of
it, then it IS important. This is why Christians and adherents of other
religions are so evangelistic.
So all I'm saying is that the intelligent person thinks about things for
himself, and doesn't just calmly swallow whatever he has been brought up
on. In the case of Christianity it is a bit more though: there IS the
negative side of punishment, but there is also the (Acts 17) desire of God
"that all people be saved", and there is the emphasis that Christians are
not just people that believe something which lies at some point in some
academic's taxonomy, but that Christians have a relationship with God.
Sounds far fetched, unless you already suspicious or inclined towards a
suitable part of the taxonomy. But Jesus says of the search for this
relationship with him, with God: "Seek and you will find, ask and it will
be given to you." In other words pray (which really just try talking to
God): "God, if you're there, reveal yourself to me." and look at the Bible
which is the primary way (evangelical christians believe) God reveals
If you believe that you have a relationship with someone, it will be very
hard to persuade you to believe they didn't exist. If you ask "What would
it take for you to stop believing in God?", I can say "Exactly what it
would take for me to stop believing in my wife!"
Intelligence and Relgion? Historically the science of the West is founded
in the Christian heritage we, like it or not, have. Some of the historical
figures people mentioned, and many others beside, are also notable because
they faced up to how their science and their religion relate. THAT takes
intelligence AND courage.
Burying your head in the sand is not particularly intelligent.
Dr David M. W. Powers Email: firstname.lastname@example.org SHOE E xtraction
ITK, Tilburg University, Tel: +31-13 663116 O f
P.O. Box 90153 Fax: +31-13 663019 H ierarchical
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