Are Atheists Smarter or Simply More Self-Reliant and Self-Indulgent?

by J Warner Wallace

After attending Southern California universities for nine years, I was a committed atheist. Was my atheism the result of my intellectual prowess and education, or something else? One controversial study seems to imply a direct correlation between intelligence and atheism. A review of 63 studies of intelligence and religion from 1928 to 2012 allegedly reveals the following: non-believers, on average, score higher than religious people on intelligence tests. I think there may, in fact, be some truth in this discovery, but non-religious people should hesitate before they start celebrating. I think folks with higher IQ’s may be more inclined to reject God, not because they’re better able to assess the evidence and draw reasonable inferences, but because they are far more likely to reject any authority other than themselves.

When I was a young boy, my teacher encouraged my mother to have my IQ tested. I was only six years old, but I can still remember the room where they administered the test. When it was all said and done, I found myself in “gifted” classes for the rest of my public education. As the years passed, I never forgot my IQ score and I came to think of myself as someone who was too smart to believe in imaginary beings. The more I thought I knew, the more self-reliant I became and the less I was willing to listen to what others had to say, especially about matters related to God. I was comfortable as my own judge and jury; my own authority about any number of things. My self-perception as a “smart guy” resulted in an arrogant, self-reliant and self-indulgent attitude toward life.

I don’t think I’m the only smart person who has experienced this. Studies repeatedly show the practical difference between non-believers and religious people when it comes to wise decision making. Religious people consistently demonstrate wisdom unmatched by their non-believing peers…


Are Atheists Smarter or Simply More Self-Reliant and Self-Indulgent? | Cold Case Christianity