85 - No. 1
WORDS FROM THE PASTOR...You Calling Me Stupid?
I know when I’ve been insulted!
A few month ago, headlines trumpeted the results of a new study: “Proven: Atheists are Smarter Than Believers!” The University of Rochester surveyed 63 different studies on the correlation between intelligence and religious involvement–and announced that 53 of those studies supported the idea that unbelievers are more intelligent than believers.
Did those guys just call me...dumb?
This suvey goes hand in hand with a trend among atheists to call themselves “brights”. They realize that the word “atheist” carries negative freight, so they’d like to be referred to as “brights” because of their higher intelligence.
I will try not to take this as a personal knock on my intelligence, and instead will submit a few reflections on this idea that really smart people don’t believe in God.
There are many different kinds of intelligence. This survey measured only one. The guy who built your kitchen cabinets may not understand what modern physicists mean when they say that there are not three dimensions, but sixteen, with thirteen of those dimensions rolled up so tight that we can’t see them. But using the three dimensions that he can see, your cabinetmaker constructs a masterful set of cabinets. That is certainly a kind of intelligence, too. (For the record, I also have no idea what modern physicists mean when they say that there are really sixteen dimensions.) I suspect that a much larger percentage of cabinetmakers than physicists believe in God!
I also would point out that high intelligence does not always correlate with practical sense. There is a passage in Brilliant Disaster, a study of the Bay of Pigs, in which the author depicts President Kennedy and his advisors finalizing the plans for the for the invasion of Cuba. The author points out how highly educated all the men in that room were–truly “the best and the brightest”. Yet for all their brilliance, they could not see the glaring flaws in the invasion plans. I remember William F. Buckley’s famous comment that he would rather be governed by the first 200 names in the Boston phone book than by the faculty of a certain famous university. People may score lower on an IQ test, but still have more practical sense.
And I suspect that a large percentage of folks with practical sense believe in God.
I don’t mean to disparage the kind of intelligence that can be measured. Heck, my SAT scores were nothing to be ashamed of. I can proudly discourse on all kinds of intellectual topics. But I stand in awe of the man who can fix a transmission. Now that’s intelligence. It’s not the kind that can be measured as handily. But it’s real. And I suspect a large percentage of tranny men believe in God!
Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is simply: There are different kinds of smart. Maybe atheists in general score higher on intelligence tests. But that doesn’t mean they are “smarter” in the fullest sense of the word. If you were lost in the woods, who would you rather have at your side? The Turtleman from Animal Planet’s “Call of the Wildman”, or someone with a measurably high IQ? Again, there are different kinds of smarts.
But let me mention a couple of guys who were not lacking in the measurable intelligence department and who believed in God:
Linnaeus - He was a devout Swedish Lutheran scientist. He invented the system for classifying animals–species, genus, etc. He did this as a way of glorifying God–of helping us understand the wonder and the diversity of God’s creation.
Mortimer Adler -He was for many years the editor of Encyclopaedia Britannica. He also wrote books defending the existence of God and of angels. He didn’t explicitly identify as a Christian, but he was known to attend a Christian church now and then.
Francis Collins - He directed the Human Genome Project, which unlocked the secrets of human genetics. He is also a devout Christian. Like Linnaeus, he sees his work as an extension of his faith–he is trying to better understand God’s creation, and magnify the glory of God the creator.
Antony Flew - For many years, he was the premiere philosopher of atheism. Then he announced that his mind had changed–he now believes in God. He hasn’t yet made the leap to Christianity. Some people attribute Flew’s changed attitude to his advanced age. But oddly enough, the survey about belief and intelligence contends that intelligent people generally don’t change their minds about religious belief when they grow older. Flew certainly breaks that mold.
There are lots of other names I could mention–like T. S. Eliot, C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkein, J. K. Rowling and many others. (Hmmm...do smart believers have a thing about using only initials?) But again, I would not want to forget all the believing cabinet makers and transmission men either. They are smart as whips in their own way.
I’d like to close with something C. S. Lewis once said-- that Christianity kind of levels us all intelligence-wise. It challenges the simple with complex, mind-expanding concepts like the Trinity. And it forces the smart and sophisticated to take part in a primitive blood ritual (i.e., Holy Communion). It elevates the humble and humbles the elevated.
Does that sound like a dumb religion to you?
God loves you and so do I!
Cordially in Christ, D. W. Anglin