From the Examiner:
Have you ever heard the claim “all smart people are atheists”, or maybe its inverse: “people who believe in God are dumb”? It’s quite a pervasive urban legend, and one which I’ve known is false for a long time, but I didn’t realize just how false until the other day. I recently decided to do a quick cataloging of the ten highest IQ’s on earth, and discovered that it’s nearly the exact opposite of the truth!
There’s lots of things one can tentatively infer from this tidbit, with varying degrees of certainty. One of the hastier conclusions might conclude that most smart people are theists, like the juvenile wording of the Examiner article suggests. It’s a tempting proposition; inverting commonly held beliefs has salacious appeal. But I would maintain some version of the opposite: that most dumb people are theists.
Here’s why, doing some armchair stats analysis. Most people throughout history have had some theistic belief. Whether the material reason stems from social forces like tradition/parentage, or for some innate psychological mechanism for coping with harsh environments, I can’t say if that’s known to researchers or not. Concurrently with this is the fact that theism seems to need to be “trained” out of people—as though it were unnatural*, not in the negative or anti-social sense, but more in the impartation of complex ideas to fill the “vacuum” left by non-theism.
Because, along with this “retraining” to impart atheism, comes with learning other things, as in the collegiate level of education. Naturally, this would attract people of higher IQ, since, holding everything else constant, smarter people tend to want to learn more, and currently higher learning is the modus operandi. So the ostensible eggheads get even more ostensible with their eggheadedness.
This tends to leave a lot of stupid people, for lack of a better phrase, in the “uneducated” category, which tends towards theism. This isn’t that terrible unless you come from a diehard Western intellectual tradition that equates intelligence with virtue. The “most stupid people are theists” could mean that theism is easy to understand or comes naturally, as I said before. That sluggards believe in it has no bearing on its truthiness.
* I hope I don’t need to point out that I don’t mean, because atheism comes via intentional re-socialization or that theism is natural, that the former is a false belief and the latter a true one. It’s a bit tiring to think one needs to make this disclaimer, but this is the Internet, the place where people come to get offended by inferring things that simply are not there.