Also, let us not forget the tendency to see the stupidity in people who are unlike us. This is an automatic psychological mechanism to make us feel smarter.
I have met a number of interesting people on Google+. This social network is particularly well suited for meeting people you are NOT already friends with, unlike a certain other social network. It has more of a sourdough effect, growing through contact – you see someone comment something sane on a friend’s post, and you can start finding out more about them (in so far as they allow it). So due to my nature, I have added a bunch of intelligent, curious people to my list of acquaintances. They are almost all atheists, either missionary or functionally. But why are atheists generally noticeably more intelligent than Christians?
The answer is, “because you live in a Christian country”. Most English-speakers do. And in such a country, most people are raised as Christians, in theory at least. (The behavior they actually see while growing up may be somewhat different from the creed. As Mitt Romney’s guardian spirit says in The Next President: Americans worship Mammon, but officially they worship Jesus Christ.) If you don’t have more intelligence than you need to hold a job, you probably don’t spend it on being contrary. You go with the crowd, and stick to interests that are less abstract. Â So the people who break out tend to be the smartest ones.
It is easy to test this, because there are countries in which it is not normal to be Christian. In Japan, for instance, only less than 1% are Christians (although some attend Christian rituals in addition to those of other religions – church weddings are popular, and Christmas is almost universal.) You don’t see Japanese suddenly convert to Christianity simply because they are stupid. Clearly it is not the stupidity that does it.
A more relevant example is my native Norway, which used to be a Christian country, in theory. Actually, it still is according to its constitution, but people just politely ignore that now. The elderly are often still Christians, as they were raised that way. But from my generation (around the age of 50-60) and downward, it is more like 10% who are Christian. Most people are agnostic or rather, they are atheists but don’t stir up trouble about it. So does this mean that 90% of the Norwegian population is as smart as the smartest 10% of the US population? Well, Norwegians may think so. We tend to have a ridiculously high self-esteem. But judging from such factors as the frequency of very high education, we don’t excel. Clearly the loss of religion does not come from a sudden surge of intelligence, and neither has atheism made us geniuses.
On the contrary, we are now in a situation where stupid people just accept atheism without thinking, and mindlessly parrot atheist fantasies that are at odds with science. For instance that millions died in the witch hunts (the actual number is a few thousand, not that this is not enough) or that Christianity caused the Dark Ages (the Germanic migrations did, whereas Christianity provided the last refuge of literacy during that time), or thatÂ Christians burned down the Great Library of Alexandria (burning it down was a fairly regular occurrence, even Julius Caesar did it according to Plutarch, and later so did Aurelian; its final destruction happened under Islam. While Christians destroyed the temple, contemporary pagan scholars make no mention of books being destroyed. Nobody knows where and when they met their end.)
Stupid people tend to have a stupid understanding of religion. And so do most smart people, because it is not really something they think a lot about. The main difference is that they don’t just do whatever their parents did, but try to create an identity of their own. In this generation, in English-speaking countries, atheism is often a part of that. In the 60es, Hinduism and Buddhism were popular. Who knows what it will be next time. Happy Science, perhaps? It certainly seems to be a hit among the upper classes of Japan, as a religion that subtly implies that intelligent people are spiritually superior, born to rule and that it is for the best of everybody that they control the power and money in society. I guess we could be worse off than that.