American atheism and intelligence

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In terms of the various atheist populations in the world, there is a significant amount of variance as far as the cultures they reside in terms of their regional intelligence levels (see: Asian atheism and intelligence and European atheism and intelligence and irreligious Australia and intelligence). As far as individuals, families and societies irreligion/religion can have an effect on intelligence.

In terms of the portion of American atheists who have high intelligence, it is significantly affected by socioeconomic factors positively correlated with intelligence which is discussed below.

Atheism, intelligence and the General Social Survey

See also: Atheism, intelligence and the General Social Survey

Citing data from the General Social Survey (GSS), Theodore Beale writes: "..the two most common types of atheists are the High Church atheists with +2SD IQs (128+) and Low Church atheists with -2SD IQs (65-72). Note that the Low Church atheists actually outnumber the High Church atheists, 22.9 to 17.2 percent."[1] (click on the graph above to enlarge)

In the United States, social scientists define atheism in various ways which makes determining the number of atheists in the United States more difficult to determine.[2] See also: Definition of atheism and Attempts to dilute the definition of atheism and Definitions of atheist and agnostic

Atheism, as defined by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, the Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, and other philosophy reference works, is the denial of the existence of God.[3]

In his article How Many Americans are Atheists? Fewer than You Might Think, Bradley Wright wrote:

Another quality measure is offered by the General Social Survey, probably the best-known, most rigorous social survey out there. It gives respondents a series of statements about their beliefs in God, and it asks which come closest to what they believe. The 2010 survey found that:

• 3% of Americans “don’t believe in God.” • (Another 6% reported that they “don’t know whether there is a God and don’t believe there is any way to find out,” i.e., agnostics.)[4]

The national IQ for the United States is 98.[5]

The General Social Survey (GSS) is the "largest project funded by the Sociology Program of the National Science Foundation. Except for the U.S. Census, the GSS is the most frequently analyzed source of information in the social sciences."[6]

As you can see above, the social scientists at the General Social Survey do not define as strictly as encyclopedias of philosophy and many other reference works.[7] As a result, in reporting their survey results there is some overlap with individuals who some may consider to be merely agnostics.

Citing data from the General Social Survey, Theodore Beale writes about atheist intelligence quotient (IQ) scores:

"..the two most common types of atheists are the High Church atheists with +2SD IQs (128+) and Low Church atheists with -2SD IQs (65-72). Note that the Low Church atheists actually outnumber the High Church atheists, 22.9 to 17.2 percent...

Now, the statistically naive might look at this chart, note that the +2SD theists only account for 3.5 percent of the theistic population, and assume that this means there are more highly intelligent atheists than highly intelligent theists. This is not the case. As it happens, there are 11.4x more +2SD theists who either know God exists or believe God exists despite having the occasional doubt than there are +2SD atheists who don't believe God exists.[8]

In a 2010 article, Beale writes:

Never forget that the smarter and more knowledgeable act put on by many atheists is inevitably nothing more than that, an act, and one that has absolutely no basis in empirical reality except for a three-point average advantage in IQ which is almost surely a statistical artifact of their insignificant numbers and self-selected identification.[9]

American weak atheism and individuals with low intelligence

See also: Weak atheism and intelligence

Weak Atheism (sometimes referred to as "negative atheism") describes a belief system and philosophical stance whereby a person lacks a belief in God/gods. Using this very broad definition of definition of atheism, there are atheists who argue that babies are atheists (Of course, atheists cannot verify what is in the minds of babies).[10] Also, using this very broad definition of definition of atheism, it could be argued that individuals with severe mental disabilities and/or individuals born with extremely low IQs are more apt to be weak atheists (Of course, this also would be difficult to verify in many cases). This helps explain why the General Social Survey (GSS) data has twice as many low IQ atheists as high IQ atheists.[11]

American atheists, socioeconomic data and intelligence

The atheist and evolutionist PZ Myers giving a presentation to a group that is likely largely made up of white males.[12][13][14] In June 2010, PZ Myers commented that atheist meetings tend to be significantly more attended by males.[15]

In 2015, BloombergView reported concerning the United States:

According to a much-discussed 2012 report from the Pew Research Center on Religion and Public Life, only 3 percent of U.S. atheists and agnostics are black, 6 percent are Hispanic, and 4 percent are Asian. Some 82 percent are white. (The relevant figures for the population at large at the time of the survey were 66 percent white, 11 percent black, 15 percent Hispanic, 5 percent Asian.)

...Craig Keener, in his huge review of claims of miracles in a wide variety of cultures, concludes that routine rejection of the possibility of the supernatural represents an impulse that is deeply Eurocentric.[16]

Research in the United States indicates that the daily pressures associated with being in the low income bracket reduces IQ by 13 points.[17] African-American and Hispanic Americans are more likely to live in poverty in the United States. The poverty rate for Blacks and Hispanics is more than double that of non-Hispanic Whites.[18] In addition, schooling increases IQ scores and many racial minorities in the United attend low quality, inner city public schools with high drop out rates.[19][20]

American atheism, additional socioeconomic data and intelligence

Social science researchers do know that socioeconomic factors are positively correlated to higher intelligence as it affects a household's wealth which in turn affects educational opportunities, nutrition, healthcare and other factors positively correlated to wealth.[21] In addition, in the United States, racial minority households have lower levels of: household income, education, access to healthcare and other socioeconomic variables positively correlated to higher income (see also: Western atheism and race).

The Pew Research Forum reported in 2013 concerning American atheists: "About four-in-ten atheists (43%) have a college degree, compared with 29% of the general public."[22]

In 2012, the Pew Research Forum reported regarding American atheists: "And about 38% of atheists and agnostics have an annual family income of at least $75,000, compared with 29% of the general public."[23] See also: Atheism/Christianity and socioeconomic status diversity

So the socioeconomics of American atheists who are at the upper percentages of IQ in the GSS data cited above is certainly a significant explanation in relation to their intelligence levels (see: Atheism, intelligence and the General Social Survey).

American atheism and social intelligence

See also: Asian atheism and intelligence

Howard Gardner at Harvard University has identified various distinct intelligences: interpersonal, intrapersonal, visual–spatial, verbal–linguistic, logical–mathematical, musical–rhythmic, bodily–kinesthetic, and naturalistic.[24] Gardner later suggested that moral intelligence may merit being included in his multiple intelligence model.[25]

In comparison to Asian atheism (Asian cultures are known for stressing social harmony), American atheists have lower social intelligence (interpersonal intelligence). See also: Atheism and the theory of multiple intelligences.

American atheist population, social intelligence and American atheist testimonies

Former American Atheists board of director on atheist infighting

See also: Atheist factions and Atheism and arrogance

Blair Scott served on the American Atheists board of directors. Mr. Scott formerly served as a State Director for the American Atheists organization in the state of Alabama. On December 1, 2012 he quit his post as a director of outreach for the American Atheist due to infighting within the American atheist movement.[26]

Mr. Blair wrote:

I have spent the last week mulling over what I want to do at this point in the movement. I’m tired of the in-fighting: at every level. I am especially tired of allowing myself to get sucked into it and engaging in the very behavior that is[27]

Atheist Neil Carter on biting and critical nature of atheists

See also: Atheism and forgiveness

The atheist Neil Carter wrote:

Friends of mine have noted lately how biting and critical the atheist community can be, not only toward outsiders, but even toward its own members. Has there ever been a subculture more prone to eating its own than this one? I really don’t know.[28]

Atheist Eddie Tabash on atheist cantankerousness

See also: Atheism and emotional intelligence

The American, atheist activist Eddie Tabash said in a speech to the Michigan Atheists State Convention, "Since we are a bit of a cantankerous, opinionated lot...".[29]

Galen Broaddus on opting out of atheist movement due to its toxicity

The atheist columnist Galen Broaddus wrote about opting out of the atheist movement due to its toxicity:

...I am practically beside myself with rage at how many atheists in the movement have conducted themselves in particular over the past few weeks. These are largely people who openly castigate religious people for their credulity, for their lack of compassion, for their groupthink and wagon-circling — only to perfectly and completely obliviously act out those same behaviors.¹...

At the end of last year, I stepped away from the group I’d been a part of for nearly four years and led for almost two of those... it was a deeply frustrating experience for me....

If I need community, I can find a less toxic one.[30]

American atheist social intelligence and its effect of American public opinion

The lower social intelligence of American atheists compared to East Asian atheists may have had a negative effect on the American public's perception of atheists. American atheists are widely mistrusted by American to a high degree (see: Views on atheists).

Americans and Canadians distrust atheists as much as rapists

See also: Distrust of atheists and Atheism and rape and Atheism and social outcasts

Studies and web traffic data appear to indicate that women in the Western World tend to be more religious than men.[31] See: Atheism and women

On December 10, 2011, USA Today reported in a story entitled Study: Atheists distrusted as much as rapists: {{cquote|The study, conducted among 350 Americans adults and 420 Canadian college students, asked participants to decide if a fictional driver damaged a parked car and left the scene, then found a wallet and took the money, was the driver more likely to be a teacher, an atheist teacher, or a rapist teacher?

The participants, who were from religious and nonreligious backgrounds, most often chose the atheist teacher.

The study is part of an attempt to understand what needs religion fulfills in people. Among the conclusions is a sense of trust in others.

"People find atheists very suspect," Shariff said. "They don't fear God so we should distrust them; they do not have the same moral obligations of others. This is a common refrain against atheists. People fear them as a group."[32]

See also:

University of Minnesota study on American views towards atheists

The American atheist and biologist PZ Myers teaches at the University of Minnesota at the Morris, Minnesota campus. Fellow atheist biologist Massimo Pigliucci said of Myers, "one cannot conclude this parade without mentioning P.Z. Myers, who has risen to fame because of a blog where the level of nastiness (both by the host and by his readers) is rarely matched anywhere else on the Internet...".[33]

See also: American atheism

A 2006 University of Minnesota about American views of atheists reported:

Some people view atheists as problematic because they associate them with illegality,

such as drug use and prostitution--that is, with immoral people who threaten respectable community from the lower end of the status hierarchy. Others saw atheists as rampant materialists and cultural elitists that threaten common values from above--the ostentatiously wealthy who make a lifestyle out of consumption or the cultural elites who think they know better than everyone else. Both of these themes rest on a view of atheists as self-interested individualists who are not concerned with the common good.[34][35][36]

The Barna Group found that atheists and agnostics in America were more likely, than theists in America, to look upon the following behaviors as morally acceptable: illegal drug use; excessive drinking; sexual relationships outside of marriage; abortion; cohabitating with someone of opposite sex outside of marriage; obscene language; gambling; pornography and obscene sexual behavior; and engaging in homosexuality/bisexuality.[37]

For more information, please see:

American views on atheists: Results of University of Minnesota study

Study: Atheists As “Other”: Moral Boundaries and Cultural Membership in American Society, Penny Edgell, Joseph Gerteis, Douglas Hartmann, University of Minnesota, 2006

A table of the results of the study is found below.

Position: This group does not at all agree with
my vision of American society:
I would disapprove if my child wanted
to marry a member of this group:
Atheist 39.6% 47.6%
Muslim 26.3% 33.5%
Homosexual 22.6% NA
Conservative Christian 13.5% 6.9%
Recent Immigrant 12.5% Not Asked
Hispanic 7.6% 18.5%
Jew 7.4% 11.8%
Asian American 7.0% 18.5%
African American 4.6% 27.2%
White American 2.2% 2.3%
University of Minnesota indicates that American dislike of atheists grew

A 2016 press release of a University of Minnesota study on atheists reported:

Survey data collected in 2014 shows that, compared to data collected in 2003, Americans have sharpened their negative views of atheists...

The findings of this most recent survey support the argument that atheists are persistent cultural outsiders in the United States because they are perceived to have rejected cultural values and practices understood as essential to private morality, civic virtue, and national identity. Moreover, any refusal to embrace a religious identity of any type is troubling for a large portion of Americans.[38]

The atheist Dan Arel reported:

In 2014, Pew Research found that atheists ranked down at the bottom of the list, only 1 point above Muslims as the least trusted religious demographic in the United States...

Now, according to a new study released by University of Minnesota sociologists shows that today, atheists are the most disliked.

The study compared a previous 2003 study with the new study, originally conducted in 2014, and found that Americans have only sharpened their dislike for atheists and religious nones.[39]

According the American atheist author Kevin Davis, atheism has an "unshakeable stigma".[40]

See also


  1. Mailvox: The distribution of atheist intelligence
  2. How Many Americans are Atheists? Fewer than You Might Think by Bradley Wright, January 26, 2012
  3. Multiple references:
  4. How Many Americans are Atheists? Fewer than You Might Think by Bradley Wright, January 26, 2012
  6. About the General Social Survey
  7. Multiple references:
  8. Mailvox: The distribution of atheist intelligence
  9. Always call their bluff
  10. Are babies born atheists? by Matt Slick
  11. Mailvox: The distribution of atheist intelligence
  16. The Atheism Gap By Stephen L. Carter, BloombergView, Mar 27, 2015 4:26 PM EDT
  17. Poverty Stresses The Brain So Much That It's Like Losing 13 IQ Points, Business Insider, 2013
  18. U.S poverty rates
  19. Schooling in adolescence raises IQ scores
  20. Drop out rates
  21. Socioeconomic status and the growth of intelligence from infancy through adolescence, Intelligence. 2015 Jan-Feb; 48: 30–36.
  22. 5 facts about atheists By Michael Lipka, Pew Research Forum, October 23, 2013
  23. “Nones” on the Rise - Demographics, Pew Research Forum, October 9, 2012
  24. Multiple Ingelligence
  25. Howard Gardner, multiple intelligences and education
  26. Former 2012 web page at website entitled "An Open Letter from Blair Scott"
  27. Former 2012 web page at website entitled "An Open Letter from Blair Scott"
  28. It’s Past Time for Atheism to Grow Up by Neil Carter
  29. Atheists Speak Up - Eddie Tabash - Part 2 of 4
  30. I’m Opting Out of the Movement by Galen Broaddus
  31. Multiple references:
  32. Study: Atheists distrusted as much as rapists
  33. Reflections on the skeptic and atheist movements By Massimo Pigliucci Scientia Salon, Posted: May 13, 2015
  34. Atheism and Secularity edited by Phil Zuckerman, page 84
  35. Atheists As “Other”: Moral Boundaries and Cultural Membership in American Society, Penny Edgell, Joseph Gerteis, Douglas Hartmann, University of Minnesota, 2006
  36. Atheists As “Other”: Moral Boundaries and Cultural Membership in American Society, Penny Edgell, Joseph Gerteis, Douglas Hartmann, University of Minnesota, 2006
  38. Atheists Remain Most Disliked Religious Minority in the US
  39. Study: Atheists remain the most disliked religious minority in the U.S.
  40. An Atheist Walks into a Christian Meeting about Atheism by Kevin Davis