Is Religion Related to Intelligence?

By: Michelle Bookal, Tabitha Husein, and Negin Kabolian


What Is Intelligence?

Intelligence is one of the most discussed subjects within psychology itself. What embodies “intelligence" is still not clear for most psychologists. Some researchers believe that intelligence is a single, general ability; while others believe that intelligence incorporates a range of abilities, skills and talents. Uncovering the neural networks involved in intelligence has proved difficult because, unlike, say, memory or emotions, there isn't even a consensus as to what constitutes intelligence in the first place. It is widely accepted that there are different types of intelligence—analytic, linguistic, emotional, to name a few—but psychologists and neuroscientists disagree over whether these intelligences are linked or whether they exist independently from one another.

Charles Spearman - General Intelligence
Psychologist Charles Spearman explained a concept he referred to as general intelligence, or the g factor. After using a technique known as factor analysis to examine a number of mental aptitude tests. He concluded that intelligence is general cognitive ability that could be measured and numerically expressed.

Louis L. Thurstone - Primary Mental Abilities
Psychologist Louis L. Thurstone offered a differing theory of intelligence. Instead of viewing intelligence as a single, general ability, Thurstone's theory focused on seven different "primary mental abilities."

• Verbal comprehension

• Reasoning

• Perceptual speed

• Numerical ability

• Word fluency

• Associative memory

• Spatial visualization

Howard Gardner - Multiple Intelligences
 Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences theory describes eight distinct intelligences that are based on skills and abilities that are valued within different cultures.

• Visual-spatial Intelligence

• Verbal-linguistic Intelligence

• Bodily-kinesthetic Intelligence

• Logical-mathematical Intelligence

• Interpersonal Intelligence

• Musical Intelligence

• Intra personal Intelligence

• Naturalistic Intelligence

Robert Sternberg - Triarchic Theory of Intelligence
Psychologist Robert Sternberg defined intelligence as "mental activity directed toward purposive adaptation to, selection and shaping of, real-world environments relevant to one’s life" (Sternberg, 1999).

• Analytical intelligence: This component refers to problem-solving abilities.

• Creative intelligence: This aspect of intelligence involves the ability to deal with new situations using past experiences and current skills.

• Practical intelligence: This element refers to the ability to adapt to a changing environment.

What is Religion?

There are many prominent religions that make up Canada, however the most prominent religion in North America is Christianity. An article from the Canadian Encyclopedia by Slater, Coward & Chignon (2009), is a highly reliable source and will be very efficient in gathering information on the true definition of religion. It covers the foundations of what religion is as well as provides clear and concise dates as to when religion was founded and the various types of religions that exist in todays society. Religion (from the Latin, religio, "respect for what is sacred") may be defined as the relationship between human beings and their transcendent source of value. (Slater, Coward & Chagnon, 2009). Religion takes various forms such as Catholicism, Christianity and Islamic. However, the main practice of religion involves various forms of communication with a higher power, such as prayers, rituals at critical stages in life, meditation or "possession" by spiritual agencies (Slater, Coward & Chagnon, 2009).

When did Religion Start?

Religion dates back as far as the 19th century. As a matter of fact, as recently as the 1971 census, almost 90 per cent of the population claimed adherence (Slater, Coward & Chagnon, 2009). Over time, the variation of religions in Canada has grown, and now there are many different types of religions such as Judaism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Hinduism, Islam, and many more. According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, written by Slater, Coward & Changnon (2009), “As of 2011, 8.8 per cent of Canadians adhered to religious faiths other than Christianity”. Although there are a lot of religions in Canada, there are also different forms of religion which can be broken down into three categories: atheist, agnostic and extremist.

Defining Atheism

Atheism is the view that there is no God or deity. To be an atheist is to affirm the non-existence of God, known as positive atheism, whereas to lack a belief that God or gods exist is to be a negative atheist. Negative atheism would apply to someone who has never reflected on the question of whether or not God exists, also having no opinion about the matter and conclude that they either have insufficient evidence to decide the question, or that the question cannot be resolved in principle.

Atheism can be narrow or wide in scope. The narrow atheist does not believe in the existence of God. A wide atheist does not believe that any gods exist, including but not limited to the traditional “God”. The following article by Mastin gives the complete definition of what the ideology Atheism is and how it is experienced. The article explains different forms of the ideology and connects the similarities and differences throughout the piece. It focuses heavily on the explanation that the different types of Atheism have different viewpoints on whether or not God exists in general, or just the idea of a certain deity.

Defining Agnosticism

A philosophical or religious view that claims regarding the existence of God, gods, deities, and the afterlife — is unknown or, depending on the form of agnosticism.

Agnostics either claim that it is not possible to have knowledge of the existence or nonexistence of God or gods; or personally have not come into understanding this knowledge. Agnosticism in both cases involves some form of skepticism. Agnosticism is not necessarily without a belief in God(s). Rather, its belief is that the existence of God or gods is unknowable. The article focuses heavily on the matter of Agnosticism being a view that needs evidence, a form of knowledge to confirm the existence of God, gods, and deities. The article is clear in explaining how the ideology has different views and how they connect through the idea of the existence of God being unclear.

Defining Extremists

Extremism is a complex phenomenon that can be defined as activities, beliefs, attitudes, feelings, actions, or strategies of an individual far removed from the ordinary (Coleman and Bartoli, n.d.). However, defining a person to be an extremist can be subjective, as one would need to define what is ‘ordinary’. This type of belief is prominent in many different religions, even though it can seem as if it is only existent in a few religions such as Christianity and Islamic beliefs. Through this article by Coleman and Bartoli (n.d.) the question of how extremism arose can be thoroughly answered. This article is very informative in breaking down many possible ways that extremism can arise. According to Coleman and Bartoli (n.d.), extremism arose in a few different ways:

• Extremism as an Outlet: “Persistent experiences of oppression, insecurity, humiliation, resentment, loss, and rage lead individuals and groups to adopt conflict engagement strategies which ‘fit’ or feel consistent with these experiences” (Coleman and Bartoli, n.d.). This ultimately results in acts of violence because these individuals feel as if they are obligated, righteous and vengeful.

• Extremism is Grown and Constructed: this form of belief is grown out of a widening gap between what people believe they deserve as human beings such a basic needs and equal access to health care, and what they can actually attain. The result of this widening gap is extreme acts.

• Extremism is a pathological illness: This is a way of viewing extremism as a way for individuals to feel alive through acts of violence—which can become self-destructive. Greun (2003) writes, “The lack of identity associated with extremists is the result of self-destructive self-hatred that leads to feelings of revenge toward life itself, and a compulsion to kill one’s own humanness”.

As stated previously, extremism is not exclusive to just Christianity and Islamic religions, however the most prominent example of extremism is found in the Christianity faith. It is a church called the Westboro Baptist Church. Even though this church believes in Christian views, their views are so extreme that they ultimately go against Christian beliefs by condemning and forming hateful protests. Their main focus is on the homosexual population as they tend to go against any and everyone who they think supports homosexuality.

Intelligence and Religion

The Relation Between Intelligence and Religiosity

A meta-analysis of 63 studies showed a substantial negative association between intelligence and religion. The association was stronger for college students and the general population than for participants younger than 18 years old; it was also stronger for religious beliefs rather than religious behaviour. Three possible explanations were discussed. First, intelligent people are less likely to obey and, thus, are more likely to resist religious beliefs. Second, intelligent people tend to adopt an analytic thinking style, which has been shown to challenge religious beliefs. Third, several functions of religiosity, including compensatory control, self-regulation, self-enhancement, and secure attachment, are also presented by intelligence. Intelligent people may therefore have less need for religious beliefs and practices (Gottfredson, 1997).

Intrinsic orientation is the practice of religion for its own sake; extrinsic religion is the use of religion as a means to nonspiritual ends. Since the launch of IQ tests early in the 20th century, intelligence has continuously occupied a central position in psychological research. Religion, on the other hand, has a more broken history. (Gottfredson, 1997)

Given the importance of both intelligence and religious beliefs in psychological research, the relation between them constitutes an intriguing question. The nature of the relation between intelligence and religiosity can advance our knowledge about both constructs: We might learn who holds religious beliefs and why; we might also learn how and why intelligent people do or do not develop a particular belief system.


Catholicism is one of the most prominent religious groups in Canada. It is the faith, practice and church order of the Roman Catholic Church. Seemingly, Catholicism can appear to be similar to Christianity but there are a few significant differences. In Christianity the main holy book is the Bible, and while Catholics still use the bible as well, they also follow a book known as the Catechism to outline certain guidelines as to how they should live as Catholics.

The Catechism
Promulgated by Pope John Paul II in 1992, the catechism is an official authoritative and authentic reference that individuals of catholic faith are expected to doctrine and echo the faith in their own lives (Cortes-Sjoberg, 2011). This article defines the catechism as a “compendium of all Catholic doctrine regarding both faith and morals” (Cortes-Sjoberg, 2011). It is formatted in a question and answer way, which covers all of the different questions of life, answered in such a way to inform Catholics as to how they should live.


Christianity is one of the most influential religions in world history. Although this faith began as a small sect of Judaism during the first century in ancient Israel, the Christian religion has nearly two billion followers at the beginning of the 21st century and can be found in every corner of the globe. The Christian faith lives out within the institution called the Church. The three major branches of the Christian church are Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, and Eastern Orthodoxy. There are similarities and differences between these three branches.

The Bible
The Bible is a source of the Christian religion in that the Bible contains the words of God and how the Christian is to apply the words of God to his life.The Bible is the account of the work of God in history bringing to fruition his prophetic declarations concerning Jesus. Jesus was born of the Virgin, died on the cross, and paid for sins, just as the Bible prophesied in the Old Testament and fulfilled in the New.1
Some say that the Bible is nothing more than fairy tales. But this cannot be for it contains great wisdom and truth and it has been verified throughout history as being accurate. Its historical accounts are flawlessly accurate. In fact, archaeology routinely demonstrates the accuracy of the biblical records concerning locations and events recorded in the Bible.


Islam originates from an Arabic root word meaning "peace" and "submission." Most opinions about Islam are that it is a religion of peace, whereas others place the emphasis upon submission or obedience to the will of God (Allah). Islam is a major world religion, with over 1.2 billion followers worldwide; it ranks second only to Christianity (Bolsen, 2009). Islam educates people to be faithful to God through prayer, through concern for others, by being involved with your mosque, and by living a moral life based on the teachings of the Qur’an. Throughout the article it is clear what the message is being sent focuses on, how the religion is based on the people’s use of the sacred text. It focuses on the history of the religion, and explains how it connects through God’s Will.

The Qur'an
The Qur’an (Koran) is the name of Islam’s sacred text. Muslims believe that the Qur’an was said orally to the Prophet Muhammad by God, through the angel Gabriel. Muhammad memorized what he heard, and conveyed the Qur’an in Arabic. For Muslims, the Qur’an is the vital source for truth and inspiration (Tennent, 1995). The Qur’an explains God’s creation of the world, and is the source of Islamic law. It also contains vivid explanations of heaven and hell to encourage Muslims to obey “God’s Will” so that they can be accepted into heaven (Haider, 2000).

Evolution and Religion

What is Evolution?

The process by which different kinds of living organisms are thought to have developed and diversified from earlier forms during the history of the earth.2

Religion itself, no matter what kind, has evolved over time. Many people think that Evolutionists are thought to be closed minded, and use science as a way of not believing, however, being an Evolutionist simply means supporting a policy of gradual growth or development rather than sudden change or expansion, therefore, finding evidence that supports the situation. This theory was advanced itself by Charles Darwin.

61% of Canadians believe that humans evolved from less advanced life forms, while 22% believe that God created human beings in their present form within the last 10,000 years. The US has one of the highest levels of public belief in biblical or other religious accounts of the origins of life on earth among industrialized countries. According to a 2007 Gallup poll, about 43% of Americans believe that "God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so." This is only slightly less than the 46% reported in a 2006 Gallup poll.Only 14% believed that "human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process", despite 49% of respondents indicating they believed in evolution. Belief in creationism is inversely correlated to education; only 22% of those with post-graduate degrees believe in strict creationism. A 2000 poll for People for the American Way found 70% of the American public felt that evolution was compatible with a belief in God.3

How Evolution relates to Religion?

Evolution has been threats to many religions; questioning ways of how things scientifically work, instead of letting [false] information stand alone. For example; The Heliocentric Theory, By Nicolaus Copernicus.
Nicolaus Copernicus was born on February 19, 1473 in Torun, Poland. He was an Astronomer and a Mathematician who developed a celestial model of a heliocentric planetary system. For seven years, and after many finalizations of his project, Copernicus's heliocentric solar system named the sun, rather than the earth, as the center of the solar system. He even wrote a book on it, called, “De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium”.4

De revolutionibus orbium coelestium, was banned by the Roman Catholic Church because it went against the word of god (in the Bible).

Copernicus's theories incensed the Roman Catholic Church; his model was considered heretical because it was contrary to the Church’s teachings. In the bible, it said that all the planets revolved around the earth, and his theory said that the planets revolved around the sun.5 Although, in the 15th century, the Roman Catholic churches were more powerful, his theory ended up being proven true years later. It proved that the Bible was wrong in that sense, and that actual evidence of research supported his theory. Other Astronomers continued his theory as Copernicus passed away and added more towards it; Galileo.

Evolution relates to religion because it allows people to think outside the box, question the truth, and understand life with supporting evidence given.


To conclude, here's a little video on religion!

References with Annotated Bibliography

What Is Intelligence?

Human intelligence | psychology. (n.d.). Retrieved April 15, 2015, from

The article focused on mental quality that consists of the abilities to learn from experience, adapt to new situations, understand and handle abstract concepts, and use knowledge to manipulate one’s environment.

What is Intelligence? - Machine Intelligence Research Institute. (2013, June 19). Retrieved April 15, 2015, from

The article focused on how Intelligence is the computational part of the ability to achieve goals in the world. Varying kinds and degrees of intelligence occur in people, many animals and some machines. Successfully intelligent people discern their strengths and weaknesses, and then figure out how to capitalize on their strengths, and to compensate for or remediate their weaknesses.

Intelligence. (n.d.). Retrieved April 14, 2015, from

What is Religion?

Religion. (n.d.). Retrieved April 15, 2015, from

Defining Atheism

Mastin, L. (2011, January 1). Arguments for Atheism - What Is Atheism? Retrieved April 15, 2015, from

The following article by Mastin gives the complete definition of what the ideology Atheism is and how it is experienced. The article explains different forms of the ideology and connects the similarities and differences throughout the piece. It focuses heavily on the explanation that the different types of Atheism have different viewpoints on whether or not God exists in general, or just the idea of a certain deity.

Defining Agnosticism

Agnosticism. (n.d.). Retrieved April 15, 2015, from

The article focuses heavily on the matter of Agnosticism being a view that needs evidence, a form of knowledge to confirm the existence of God, gods, and deities. The article is clear in explaining how the ideology has different views and how they connect through the idea of the existence of God being unclear.

Defining Extremists

Addressing Extremism. (n.d.). <i>The International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution</i>. Retrieved April 14, 2015, from

Intelligence and Religion

Zuckerman, M., Silberman, J., & Hall, J. (2013, January 1). The Relation Between Intelligence and Religiosity. Retrieved April 13, 2015, from

The following article by the SAGE journals explained the results of the meta-analysis established a reliable negative relation between intelligence and religiosity. It was also demonstrated that the relation is more negative when religiosity measures assessed religious beliefs as opposed to religious behaviours.

Cortes-Sjoberg, S. (2011, July 1). What is the Catechism of the Catholic Church? Retrieved from

1Slick, M. (n.d.). What is the Bible? Retrieved April 15, 2015, from

This website helped describe Christianity by giving examples of what the religion does as a whole and how the Bible gives people a more graceful way of following the lords’ words and how life should be looked upon. This source supports the Christian view on intelligence and what people follow.

Islam. (2015). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved from

Throughout the article it is clear what the message is being sent focuses on, how the religion is based on the people’s use of the sacred text. It focuses on the history of the religion, and explains how it connects through God’s Will.

Evolution and Religion

2 Definition of evolution in English:. (n.d.). Retrieved April 14, 2015, from

This source was useful because it gave a general description of what evolution is for people who have a troubled time understanding the concept.

3In U.S., 42% Believe Creationist View of Human Origins. (n.d.). Retrieved April 15, 2015, from

This source provided great statistics that enhanced our information by showing the ratios of Canadians and Americans and of what they thought of Evolution in the past years. This source was needed because it goes to show how many people are religious, and how many aren't.

4Nicolaus Copernicus. (2015). The website. Retrieved Apr 14, 2015, from

This site had useful information on Nicolaus Copernicus; it explained his life growing up, and his journey through creating an eye-opening theory that changed the minds of many. It showed his accomplishments and provided us with insightful thoughts that supported how Evolution trumped religion.

5The Heliocentric Theory of Nicolaus Copernicus. (n.d.). Retrieved April 15, 2015, from

This source explained more about the heliocentric theory by Copernicus, and by that, it explained the planets alignments. It was useful information because it proved that his work had depth and supported his theory that later on became a reality.

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