Are Smart People Less Likely to Believe in God?

Are smart people less likely to believe in God?  Is faith linked to intelligence?  Professor Richard Lynn, emeritus professor of psychology at Ulster University, seems to think so.  He says that "several Gallup poll studies of the general population have shown that those with higher IQs tend not to believe in God."  In addition, he argues that most school children believe in God, but as they enter adolescence - and their intelligence increases - many start to have doubts. Others like Dr David Hardman, principal lecturer in learning development at London Metropolitan University, say: "It is very difficult to conduct true experiments that would explicate a causal relationship between IQ and religious belief. Nonetheless, there is evidence from other domains that higher levels of intelligence are associated with a greater ability - or perhaps willingness - to question and overturn strongly felt institutions."

So what do you think?  Are smart people less likely to believe in God?  Before you answer that, let's consider Jesus' words in Matthew 11:25-26:

I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants.  Yes Father, for this way was pleasing in Your sight (emphasis mine).

At first glance we might interpret these verses to mean that the wise and intelligent are the educated ones and the infants are the uneducated ones.  With that interpretation we would conclude then that intelligent people are less likely to believe.  But Jesus makes this contrast not between the educated and uneducated.  Rather, he contrasts people who have a prideful attitude with those who have a humble one.  God will not reveal himself to those who think they are wise in their own eyes.  Instead he takes delight in revealing himself to those who come to him like children--not ignorant of the gospel, but humbled by it and ready to receive it by faith. 

So back to the original question.  Are smart people less likely to believe in God?  My answer: Yes, if you mean the self-sufficient ones who find more satisfaction in pursuing knowledge for their own glory.  And no, if you mean the humble ones who have seen themselves rightly (and God rightly) and use their intelligence as a means to knowing and treasuring Christ and his glory.

  • Read the whole article by Graeme Paton here
  • Read my article, What Our Children Must Teach Us