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Faith and Belief

Are Atheists Smarter or Simply More Self-Reliant and Self-Indulgent? (Cold-Case Christianity Broadcast S7E09)

Are Atheists Smarter or Simply More Self-Reliant and Self-Indulgent
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A national poll reveals that non-believers have higher IQ’s than believers. Does this mean they deny the existence of God based on their superior intellectual skills, or are they simply more self-reliant and self-indulgent? What are the real reasons intelligent people sometimes reject the claims of Christianity or the existence of God? J. Warner answers these questions in this episode of the NRBtv Cold-Case Christianity Broadcast.

Be sure to watch the Cold-Case Christianity Broadcast on NRBtv every Monday and Saturday! In addition, here is the audio podcast (the Cold-Case Christianity Weekly Podcast is located on iTunes or our RSS Feed):

For more information about the scientific and philosophical evidence pointing to a Divine Creator, please read God’s Crime Scene: A Cold-Case Detective Examines the Evidence for a Divinely Created Universe. This book employs a simple crime scene strategy to investigate eight pieces of evidence in the universe to determine the most reasonable explanation. The book is accompanied by an eight-session God’s Crime Scene DVD Set (and Participant’s Guide) to help individuals or small groups examine the evidence and make the case.

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Written By

J. Warner Wallace is a Dateline featured cold-case homicide detective, popular national speaker and best-selling author. He continues to consult on cold-case investigations while serving as a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. He is also an Adj. Professor of Christian Apologetics at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, and a faculty member at Summit Ministries. He holds a BA in Design (from CSULB), an MA in Architecture (from UCLA), and an MA in Theological Studies (from Gateway Seminary).



  1. Todd Norris

    May 3, 2021 at 8:51 pm

    Atheists think they are smarter and self-reliant because by and large they are left leaners, and that’s how the left view themselves (intellectually superior). They are also more self-indulgent by necessity because their politics demand it. In their minds there is no higher call. Since God and the Bible conflict with their politics, they have no choice but to reject them, constantly and loudly because they, and the conservative right, get in the way of their me-first agenda.

    In other words, atheism today is as much a political stance as it is a religious one.

  2. Devin Squeri

    May 24, 2021 at 3:54 pm

    I have gone through a 2 year battle with doubt and being on the intellectually inferior side was one of the issues. I have omitted most of the detail here to avoid TLDR, but the full examination will be at my blog SuddenlyAdrift.

    The basis that atheists are more intelligent is commonly justified by quoting a paper from 2013 where researchers at the University of Rochester and Northeastern University complied the studies of intelligence vs. religious belief from the last 80 plus years. The conclusion was that it showed that there was a direct negative correlation between religious belief and intelligence.

    When I started digging into the above mentioned research, I found some enlightening details that are not promoted when it’s quoted. First, the studies spanned over 80 years and mixed sample sizes from 20 to over 14,000 people. Right off, this is a major problem for many reasons. First, sample sizes of 20 people are unreliable. Statistically, the larger the sample, the less margin of error but under any scenario, 20 is not large enough of a group to give a low enough margin of error to have any confidence in its results. Secondly, having such a large variance between sample sizes and then considering them equally makes no sense. Third, and probably most troubling is how can you combine data for over 8 decades without having some method of correlation?

    The conclusion of the analysis was that roughly half of the studies did show a negative relation between religiousness and intelligence, but the other half did not.

    Additionally, the groups were mixed between pre college, college and post college ages. Again, combining life focus demographics this widely spaced is not going to give reliable results. I know from personal experience as well as from statistical studies, that the same people have different perspectives and priorities depending on what point they are at in their lives. Can anyone argue that the priorities and behaviors of a college student are the same as the father of 2 small children? In my experience, in one scenario, the 2 AM trip to the Mi-T-Mart is for beer and chips and the other for formula and diapers. It is also disturbing to note that some of the studies were focused around religious behavior – such as going to church or praying – and others centered around actual belief in God. Simply put, these are two different things. If your survey is on the religious behaviors of college students, does anyone think that is a valid metric to measure religious belief vs intelligence?

    Lastly, the “intelligence” was determined by things such as college entrance exams, vocabulary tests or scientific knowledge tests; hardly standardized or consistent and certainly not a valid method for testing intelligence. And just to pile on, there was no uniform method of questioning or testing across the studies – not surprising as they spanned over 80 years (which is absurd in itself unless the test is to determine variance over time) but again, is useless without a control group.

    When you look at the different groups studied and then break it down a little more as to look at it from another angle, religious behavior had no real relationship with intelligence irrespective the age group. To say it differently, no matter the persons age, there was zero connection between religious behavior and intelligence.
    Religious belief had virtually no relationship with intelligence for precollege subjects. For college level or post college level, there was a very weak negative relationship. To be more specific, there was a -0.17 correlation for college students and a -0.20 for post college, both are such a small variance that they can be easily attributed to a variety of outside factors. So, the assertion that the study showed that there is a connection between intelligence and religious belief is technically true, but it is so minute that it is not only within the range of error, it’s is so small to be considered trivial – if the study is to be believed at all.

    Anyway, I think this addresses the claims that the atheists hold the intellectual high ground but more detail is at my blog.


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