1. What I really love about this article, Travis, is how you show that all intelligence cannot be based on a singular standard. How often do we hear book smarts vs street smarts? If people are multifaceted gems, it then comes to reason so is everyone’s level of intelligence is reflective of that.

    And, forgive me if I preen a bit here, I love how you said: “Creativity, for example, which most people (including experts) agree is a form of intelligence, cannot be measured by IQ.” Maybe I’m smarter than I thought! hahaha!

    I know there is a push for intellectualism, and I fully support that in regards to the faith. In the battle of ideas, you have to use the same kinds of weapons as your enemy only make sure yours are better aimed and just as sharp. But at the end of the day, God meets us where it matters, in our hearts.

    Thanks again for a great article.

    • Travis Perry says:

      Thank you, Parker. Yes, I agree that God meets people where they are and has given everybody alive at least some form of gift of understanding, even if flawed and partial (as all of us are, at least compared to God himself).

  2. Steve Taylor says:

    What I see is that atheists love their sin so much they wouldn’t admit to belief, much less follow Christ, if he were to stand right in front of them. Deep down inside they do believe but suppressed it so much they have even fooled themselves. I’m not saying to give up on them, just be prepared to give a very convincing argument.

    • Travis Perry says:

      Steve, I agree that many atheists if not all not only don’t believe in God, but don’t want to believe, either. I think I see that when I present logical arguments for God’s existence, which wind up getting ignored by atheists as they quickly shut me out.

      But while it’s a bit of a Calvinist perspective, I’m willing to consider the idea that some people may be predisposed to skepticism on God based on how their brains operate. It is at least possible in my mind that less intuitive people are innately less aware of God. Which is not an excuse for disbelief, but just as someone raised by atheist parents is more likely to become an atheist, so it might be (possibly) that a certain kind of brain is more likely to belong to a doubter.

  3. Interesting thoughts, Travis. I’m not ready to give credence to those studies, though. I mean, just because someone doesn’t hold a degree in science doesn’t mean they have a lower IQ. Think CS Lewis and Pascal and William Lane Craig and John Lennox and a host of others. Here’s an article that lists 50 such scholars: https://thebestschools.org/features/smartest-people-faith/

    But apart from all that, Scripture says spiritual things are discerned spiritually. So in truth, intelligence plays no part in having a relationship with Jesus Christ. It probably plays a part in our ability to articulate our faith and to explain faith to those who claim they don’t have any (they do have faith, but they misunderstand it, thinking that all faith is blind faith, but their faith in a scientific report is somehow different that faith in the Bible. It’s not. They have not conducted those scientific studies: someone else has and they are simply trusting the results and the conclusions to those people they agree with.)


    • Travis Perry says:

      Becky I don’t know if the studies who say higher IQ is correlated with atheism are true or not. I speculated they might have some basis in truth, but that’s a far cry from me being certain about it.

      And of course I was just speculating when I suggested that maybe greater intuition may make a person more inclined to believe in God (just as being raised with Christian parents makes someone more likely to believe). I don’t actually know that’s the case. Nor do I know if greater intuition is inversely proportional to IQ, thought it makes sense to me that it would be. And of course there have been many high-IQ Christians, but that fact actually has nothing to do with my speculative ideas about intuition, because I was talking about average IQ versus average intuition and it is certainly possible for above-average individuals to exist without changing the general tendency.

      It does seem that Scripture offers an inverse-proportional relationship of sorts between the “wisdom of the world” (which is perhaps may to refer to intelligence, at least in part) and belief in God (in I Corinthians 1 and elsewhere). But in the Bible, I’d say the pride of people “wiser in the world” is the reason they reject God.

      And maybe that could be the best explanation for an inverse relationship on average between IQ and faith, if such a relationship in fact exists.

  4. notleia says:

    Really, intelligence is not the issue, because smart people are willing to believe dumb things all the time, i.e., anti-vaccination weirdos.

    It’s more about motivated reasoning and cognitive dissonance.

    • Travis Perry says:

      Richard Dawkins and other atheists are attempting to make intelligence the issue, buoyed by studies that supposedly show an inverse relationship between IQ and faith. They in effect claim dumb people find it easier to believe.

      While I am actually skeptical that an inverse relationship between IQ and faith exists, I offered here an “even if, then” sort of argument, saying that even if atheists have higher IQs on average, that does not equal them being more intelligent, because IQ does not equal intelligence.

      Or course you are correct to point out that intelligence and being right are not always aligned. But I was questioning something more basic than that–I don’t think it’s correct to equate IQ with intelligence in the first place.

  5. I’d be very nervous about actually posing this argument to an atheist/agnostic … because I think an enhanced tendency toward pattern recognition is precisely the *weakness* they would charge against believers.

    Erroneous “recognition” of patterns that aren’t actually there is what gives rise to superstition. Imagine that you hang a rabbit’s foot on your bag as decoration, and every time you bring it along to work, you happen to have a good day. If you’re highly prone to spotting patterns in things, you might notice this correlation between the presence of the rabbit’s foot and good events in your life, and conclude that preserved rabbits’ feet are lucky.

    The key to defeating a superstition like the above is to remember that you need a large sample size and well-designed experiment before you can conclude anything … if you observed many people carrying many rabbits’ feet over the course of many days, alongside a control group who weren’t carrying, the correlation between rabbits’ feet and good luck would most likely disappear. But these are scientific/rational thoughts, not intuitive thoughts. Atheists, who allege that all religion is elaborate superstition, will not be impressed by claims that we are good at intuiting patterns. They’d consider that the *problem.*

    You mentioned the ability to see faces in clouds and so forth (the technical name for this is “pareidolia”). I’ve actually seen an atheist use this as a defense against people’s claimed experiences of supernatural phenomena, such as “ghosts.” (Oh, you thought you saw a face or some other spirit-form? That could’ve just been pareidolia. Your pattern-happy brain imagined the whole thing.)

    If atheists really do have superior IQ (on average of course), and if I had to venture a guess as to why, here’s what I would suggest:

    1) As someone who struggled horribly with doubt when I was a teenager, and got essentially no help from fellow Christians, I would suggest that the church often fails those with rational personality types. I hid my doubt from others because I was too ashamed to speak of it … and those to whom I did mention it assumed I was rejecting Christianity out of a desire to rebel. (In reality, I wanted nothing more than for the doubts to go away, but I couldn’t dispense with intellectual honesty, so I was stuck … until I finally managed to re-stabilize things on my own.) There’s a tendency to think the arguments in favor of God’s existence are just so *obvious* that anyone who doesn’t find them convincing is being willfully stupid, so there’s little patience with those for whom it’s *not* obvious. I’ve seen poorly researched, poorly argued apologetics materials treated as worthy tools; other times, it seems there’s just not much effort given to apologetics at all.

    2) 1 Corinthians 1 might indicate that, when God draws people to Himself, He exercises a preference for those with inferior intelligence. “Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were *wise by human standards*; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” In other words, God makes a point of not filling the church with superheroes, because He wants it to be obvious that He, not us, is the power behind it.

    • Travis Perry says:

      Yes, to some of your points about false patterns, but there are correct recognition of patterns, too. And someone can and no doubt will dismiss the ability of someone else to see a pattern they cannot see as meaningless. Rather like my hypothetical colorblind person declaring seeing color is meaningless because they do not have that ability.

      As for this being any kind of rational argument versus atheists, it wasn’t. It was an attempt to explain a situation that exists (or MAY exist), using reason. I’m launching a new series of posts I intend to be apologetic. I’d be interested in your thoughts on them, but don’t be mistaken about the nature of what I already wrote.

      As for your comment concerning your look at I Corinthians 1, I’m actually arguing that perhaps it is the case (perhaps) that the “wisdom of the world” does not equal intelligence, but rather a certain kind of intelligence that the world applauds (which happens to line up with IQ) but which in fact does not help somebody understand God as much as intuition does. Just a speculation, but I thought it was worth considering.

      And yes, Christian churches tend to do poorly in training believers in rational argumentation. But the Jewish religious tradition of teaching does an excellent job in teaching logic (if not apologetic per se) and there are plenty of Jewish atheists…so perhaps (perhaps) the lackluster teaching in logic in many Christian churches is not the real issue here.

  6. As a former (and probably future) member of Mensa, I can absolutely attest that a fairly large percentage of individuals with high IQs have bizarrely low intuition. High IQ correlates with a whole range of odd things you might not expect: suicide, homosexuality, autism spectrum disorders, difficulty holding a job. Atheism could be one more thing on the list. But Mensa has subgroups (SIGs) for Catholics, Jews, Wiccans, Charismatics, Athiests, UFO believers… There’s an Anglican priest who used to conduct an interconfessional service on the Sunday morning of every Annual Gathering. Faith and non-faith, of many varieties, are both well represented among high IQ individuals.

What do you think?