By James S. Spiegel, Touchstone.
It is common to hear people complain about “stupid” Christians. Some suggest, in less crass terms, that religious people, and Christians in particular, tend to be less intelligent than unbelievers. A recent meta-study by Miron Zuckerman, Jordan Silberman, and Judith A. Hall in the Personality and Social Psychology Review appears to confirm this impression. According to their analysis, there is a “significant negative association between intelligence and religiosity.”
Naturally, Christians have been concerned to rebut this claim, and the blogosphere has been rife with critical responses. For example, on the blogBlack, White and Gray, sociologist George Yancey argues on the basis of his own data that the irreligious are no more rational than Christians regarding their own beliefs. Consequently, he recommends that we be “skeptical of claims that Christians, and other religious individuals, are intellectually inferior to those who are not religious.” I appreciate Yancey’s efforts, and I, too, think such claims are dubious.
But what if there is something to the accusation? What if the Christian community really is, on the whole, less intelligent than unbelievers? What follows from that? Would it constitute evidence that something is seriously wrong with the Church and with Christianity as a religion?
Presumably, those who make such claims want us to think so. But I don’t think that follows. In fact, I believe it is possible that the opposite is true, that the presence of people of low intelligence in the Church, even in disproportionately high numbers, is actually a good sign. I want to suggest that, ironically, all of these stupid—or perhaps I should say intellectually challenged—people in the Church just migh tconfirm the truth of Christianity. Sound crazy? Or evenstupid? Well, let’s see.