Why ArenÕt More Intellectuals Believers?

Studies have shown that atheists tend to be smarter than Christians. Why?

BY DAVID DENISON GOD / CHURCH September 19, 2013

“God’s alright when he isn’t making bears eat children, you know?”

I didn’t. But this was just one of the arguments that would be lobbed at me by my new atheist friend, Tyler.

Tyler used to believe in God. Though I didn’t know him at the time, his theology degree and sleeve of artfully ambiguous Christian tattoos suggest he took the whole thing pretty seriously, so when we began discussing his recent de-conversion, I paid attention.

We considered the aforementioned story from 2 Kings. Elisha curses a group of boys for calling him “baldy,” so the Lord sends bears to maul a few dozen kids. After debating how feasibly the story could be implemented in a Rogaine commercial, I conceded that it seemed a bit harsh.


We talked about how a loving God could allow the immense suffering in the world, discussed Balaam and his talking donkey, and crunched some numbers on the six-day creation.

As Christians, it’s easy to view this approach of picking apart Scripture and doctrine as cynical and unhelpful. For many of us, our experiences with God are enough to cultivate genuine belief. For others, the thought of accepting something as true without being certain of it’s intellectual credibility seems absurd.

But is this intellectual approach to Christianity a faith killer?

The University of Rochester recently published a review of decades of research demonstrating that “religious people are less intelligent than non-believers.” A summation of 63 studies on the subject, the Rochester report cannot be dismissed by the religious community. We must recognize as an objective fact that people with higher IQs are turning to atheism.

Atheist author Richard Dawkins points out that, according to a survey of the National Academy of Scientists, only 7 percent of American scientists believe in a personal God.

So why aren’t more of our best and brightest minds believers?

It’s a complex question, but I have two theories. First, there is an incredible bias against theism within higher education. In 2009, Dr. Brent Slife published a study of this “pervasive, implicit bias,” and demonstrated ways that the anti-God mentality is a systemic part of academia.

The result of this bias is that the most intelligent people (since they are likely to attend college and grad school) are exposed to tremendous negative pressure from both mentors and peers regarding their beliefs.

Secondly, I believe the present Church culture in America is unfriendly to intellectual scrutiny.

I have experienced firsthand the judgmental glares of church ladies who didn’t take kindly to me polluting their potluck fellowships with tough theological questions. Once the conversation gets messier than the Sloppy Joes, it’s time to wrap it up with the catch-all “His ways are higher than our ways,” or “If we knew everything we wouldn’t need God now, would we?”

This has to stop.

We must stop pretending that Christianity doesn’t make any claims beyond our personal experiences with God. The it’s-not-a-religion-it’s-a-relationship rhetoric sells short what Christianity is—a series of significant truth claims.

Yes, if accepted as true, these claims are simply the jumping off point for a profoundly intimate relationship with a powerful, loving creator. But when we discourage members of the body of Christ from challenging the status quo or even the fundamentals of our faith, we limit their own discovery of truth. By testing the claims of Christianity, we substantiate them in our own hearts.

If what we believe about God is true, no genuine discovery can ever contradict it. If we are to bolster the perception of Christianity in an increasingly secular world, we must welcome the skeptics, and we must be willing to answer their questions. We can be confident that the same God whom skeptics are trying to disprove designed the minds that seek to disprove him.

Still, the atheist seeking a dialogue is not the biggest issue here.

A fact we must face with American atheists (since their growth has been primarily in the last two decades) is that most of them were raised in Christian, or at least theist homes. Thus, these disproportionately intelligent people are rejecting Christianity based on their experience within the Christian community.

What attitude do we have toward other Christians who question the fundamentals of the faith? Typically, we tend to view them as less solid in their walk or unconnected to God. This mindset is incredibly damaging.


Christ’s call to have a childlike faith has been bastardized to a point that encourages blind acceptance of whatever we happen to have been told. So let’s examine the reality of this calling. I believe the faith of children carries with it two significant qualities. The first is that kids are remarkably uncynical. The skepticism that plagues our generation is a learned trait, one that desperately needs unlearning.

Secondly, they are annoyingly inquisitive. An inquisitive mind asks why the sky is blue. It asks why the grass is green. It asks why Arrested Development got cancelled but George Lopez still has a successful career. There are some things we will never know, and that should drive us crazy.

The Berean Jews were commended in Acts because they “examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. As a result, many of them believed.” How far we have come from church leadership that commends those who question their teachings!

As followers of Christ, we must not only make the Church a place that is open to the questions of others, we must ask tough questions ourselves. Our faith should be based on what we are certain of, not just on how we feel. If our belief in God is rooted solely in the shallow soil of human emotions, this shallowness will be evident in the fruit that our faith produces.

We are not called to blind faith. We are called to let the Spirit “guide us to all truth.” And when you know the truth, the truth will set you free.

David Denison

DAVID DENISON

David studies psychology at Sam Houston State University. He enjoys camping, staring at recipes he wonÕt make and writing bios in third person. He tweets at @daviddenison, and rumors are circulating about a separate account for his beard.

31 thoughts on “Why Aren’t More Intellectuals Believers?

  1. After reading this article, I realize I’m in an incredible position. Honestly, I’ve always grown up as one of those sciency kids in elementary and now I’m majoring in marine science. Now, I believe in Jesus. I’m not sure if my peers realize I’m a science major and a religious person at the same time.

    I definitely have to agree with the religion/relationship rhetoric. As true as it sounds (and feels good), we, the body of believers, need to recognize that we can’t go off how we feel but also what’s hard fact. We do know facts because God revealed it through Scripture. We don’t have all the answers, but that’s part of faith…you wrestle with God and what he says. You digest it and think about it. Christian really need to stop and think and really to stop compartmentalize Jesus as just some religious feel. Come on, family! We’re talking about the Creator here. God over everything, yeah?

    Secondly, I feel fortunate that I have been brought up in churches and culture that encourage academia and intellectualism. Of course, I’m branded with the Chinese American stereotype. Ok, I get it. It’s a stereotype, but the fact that most of my friends come from University High in Irvine…my friends from church are brainy. Way more brainy than I am. My point is…perhaps the general American church needs to take a page from Chinese (maybe Asian) American Christian culture. Maybe academics is important? And with the supremacy of Christ and unity found in Him, science and faith can exist.

    Has anyone thought science as the what’s going on; when does it happen; where does this happen; how does it arise and religion as the whodunit? (the why can be arguably shared…)

  2. After reading this article, I realize I’m in an incredible position. Honestly, I’ve always grown up as one of those sciency kids in elementary and now I’m majoring in marine science. Now, I believe in Jesus. I’m not sure if my peers realize I’m a science major and a religious person at the same time.

    I definitely have to agree with the religion/relationship rhetoric. As true as it sounds (and feels good), we, the body of believers, need to recognize that we can’t go off how we feel but also what’s hard fact. We do know facts because God revealed it through Scripture. We don’t have all the answers, but that’s part of faith…you wrestle with God and what he says. You digest it and think about it. Christian really need to stop and think and really to stop compartmentalize Jesus as just some religious feel. Come on, family! We’re talking about the Creator here. God over everything, yeah?

    Secondly, I feel fortunate that I have been brought up in churches and culture that encourage academia and intellectualism. Of course, I’m branded with the Chinese American stereotype. Ok, I get it. It’s a stereotype, but the fact that most of my friends come from University High in Irvine…my friends from church are brainy. Way more brainy than I am. My point is…perhaps the general American church needs to take a page from Chinese (maybe Asian) American Christian culture. Maybe academics is important? And with the supremacy of Christ and unity found in Him, science and faith can exist.

    Has anyone thought science as the what’s going on; when does it happen; where does this happen; how does it arise and religion as the whodunit? (the why can be arguably shared…)

  3. It seems likely that the reason more bright people aren’t Christians is because the Christian religion is factually incorrect about many of its core claims, and the more educated one becomes the more apparent that is to them.

    While there is an endless appetite among Christians for ever more convoluted and creative rationalizations to save the credibility of scripture, as in KEKE’s posts, which another Christian described as “refreshing” (no doubt, it’s exactly what he wanted to hear!) they are ultimately only excuses, and of course there’s an infinite supply of those.

    If that’s what you’re really searching for, you’ll always find one. If instead you seek to honestly evaluate the credibility of scripture by reading it *without* the a priori assumption that it must be true in some way, you will make some very interesting discoveries:

    (#1:) The “six days = six indeterminate periods of time” apologetic for reconciling Genesis with evolution falls apart when more closely scrutinized.

    Yes, the Hebrew “yom” can mean an indefinite period of work, but it can also mean a literal day. To figure out which was meant, we should examine the context. In the context of Genesis 1:4-5 where God creates separates day (yom) from night, and the evening and then morning of the first day follows, it’s quite clear the authors were referring to literal days which have evenings and mornings rather than indefinite work periods which don’t:

    “3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.”

    Compounding this, the geneaology provided later traces back to Adam and Eve as literal ancestors. This by extension confirms that the story of Adam and Eve in the garden is something ancient Jews and later Christians sincerely believed to have occurred. Indeed, if it didn’t occur then Adam never incurred original sin by eating of the tree. Which means we did not inherit original sin and Christ died for nothing on the cross. A literal Genesis account is a load bearing pillar, without which the rest of Christian theology collapses.

    Moderate Christians are lying to themselves about this because the content of scripture embarrasses them. Anything possible to flatly disprove is reinterpreted as metaphorical.

    (#2.) Jesus explicitly predicted his second coming would occur imminently after his death.

    Matthew 16:27-28:
    *”For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done. Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”*

    Christ predicted his second coming would occur very soon after his death. That never took place. This is consistent with the scholarly consensus that Nero/Neron is the only name which fits both 666 and 616 in gematria (a sort of Hebrew numerological code). Revelations was a metaphorical prediction of the fall of Rome, written as metaphor because Christians could not openly criticize Rome at the time for fear of persecution. Absolutely everywhere in the New Testament that Christ discusses his second coming, it is explicitly said to be imminent, never 2,000+ years later.

    *”…he was wrong. He clearly knew no more about the end of the world than anyone else. It is certainly the most embarrassing verse in the Bible.”*
    —C. S. Lewis, The World’s Last Night and Other Essays (New York: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1973), 98. (Post-conversion)

    Pre-emptive answers to common objections:

    1. “No one knows the day or the hour” means that the date cannot be known precisely. However, that does not stop Jesus from repeatedly giving a general timeframe of several decades within which to expect his second coming.

    2. It can’t be interpreted to mean you and I as metaphorical apostles because he specifically says “some of you standing here”, as in the people he was talking to at that time. The full context reinforces that, he was speaking to disciples who accompanied him to Caesar Phillipi who wanted to know how they would recognize the second coming.

    3. It can’t be interpreted as referring to the transfiguration because the events described in verse 27 don’t happen at the transfiguration (Jesus, God and angels coming from the clouds, judging mankind according to their deeds).

    4. Daniel’s visions don’t satisfy the claim either because while they depict seven apocalyptic creatures (representing kingdoms that ruled over the Jews up to that point) nowhere does Daniel’s vision describe Christ’s return.

    5. The 666/616 gematria code known as the number of the Beast must mean Nero/Neron, because only that name fits both 666 (Nero) and 616 (Neron). Source: http://www.math.harvard.edu/~elkies/mp666.html. This is because the book of Revelations was intended to metaphorically describe the fall of Rome, in a time when Christians could not openly predict it.

    6. It’s true that some of the events Christ said must occur before his second coming have not yet occurred. However, submitting this as proof that Christ must have meant something else in the verses supplied above presupposes that he actually was clairvoyant, instead of simply being wrong about those predictions too, because he was a regular human being without the ability to see the future.

    7. For those who say that no Christian tastes death but lives on forever, it is clear Christ meant bodily death by other verses wherein he tells his traveling companions which signs they may personally expect to witness as his second coming approaches. They, according to Christ, should anticipate those signs within their lifetimes and would know by those signs that his second coming was imminent.

    8. Jesus’ resurrection does not fit the criteria supplied by the verse because he did not, on that occasion, “come in his Father’s glory with his angels, andl reward each person according to what they have done.” By that description it’s clear he is referring to his second coming, as explored more thoroughly in Revelations.

    (#3.) The Biblical conception of the soul is comprised of attributes now proven to be neurochemical:

    …If memories are stored as patterns of neuronal connections
    http://www.livescience.com/32798-how-are-memories-stored-in-the-brain.html

    …And emotions are neurochemical reactions
    http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2005-05/aps-lai053105.php

    …and personality, i.e. how you react differently from another person to the same thing because of different past experiences, is neurological
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100622142601.htm

    Then what does the soul do? Or, if neuroscience is wrong about everything, and the soul does all of the things above, then what do we need brains for?

    Or, if our soul includes none of what makes us distinctly who we are, how can it be said that anybody goes to an afterlife?

  4. It seems likely that the reason more bright people aren’t Christians is because the Christian religion is factually incorrect about many of its core claims, and the more educated one becomes the more apparent that is to them.

    While there is an endless appetite among Christians for ever more convoluted and creative rationalizations to save the credibility of scripture, as in KEKE’s posts, which another Christian described as “refreshing” (no doubt, it’s exactly what he wanted to hear!) they are ultimately only excuses, and of course there’s an infinite supply of those.

    If that’s what you’re really searching for, you’ll always find one. If instead you seek to honestly evaluate the credibility of scripture by reading it *without* the a priori assumption that it must be true in some way, you will make some very interesting discoveries:

    (#1:) The “six days = six indeterminate periods of time” apologetic for reconciling Genesis with evolution falls apart when more closely scrutinized.

    Yes, the Hebrew “yom” can mean an indefinite period of work, but it can also mean a literal day. To figure out which was meant, we should examine the context. In the context of Genesis 1:4-5 where God creates separates day (yom) from night, and the evening and then morning of the first day follows, it’s quite clear the authors were referring to literal days which have evenings and mornings rather than indefinite work periods which don’t:

    “3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.”

    Compounding this, the geneaology provided later traces back to Adam and Eve as literal ancestors. This by extension confirms that the story of Adam and Eve in the garden is something ancient Jews and later Christians sincerely believed to have occurred. Indeed, if it didn’t occur then Adam never incurred original sin by eating of the tree. Which means we did not inherit original sin and Christ died for nothing on the cross. A literal Genesis account is a load bearing pillar, without which the rest of Christian theology collapses.

    Moderate Christians are lying to themselves about this because the content of scripture embarrasses them. Anything possible to flatly disprove is reinterpreted as metaphorical.

    (#2.) Jesus explicitly predicted his second coming would occur imminently after his death.

    Matthew 16:27-28:
    *”For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done. Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”*

    Christ predicted his second coming would occur very soon after his death. That never took place. This is consistent with the scholarly consensus that Nero/Neron is the only name which fits both 666 and 616 in gematria (a sort of Hebrew numerological code). Revelations was a metaphorical prediction of the fall of Rome, written as metaphor because Christians could not openly criticize Rome at the time for fear of persecution. Absolutely everywhere in the New Testament that Christ discusses his second coming, it is explicitly said to be imminent, never 2,000+ years later.

    *”…he was wrong. He clearly knew no more about the end of the world than anyone else. It is certainly the most embarrassing verse in the Bible.”*
    —C. S. Lewis, The World’s Last Night and Other Essays (New York: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1973), 98. (Post-conversion)

    Pre-emptive answers to common objections:

    1. “No one knows the day or the hour” means that the date cannot be known precisely. However, that does not stop Jesus from repeatedly giving a general timeframe of several decades within which to expect his second coming.

    2. It can’t be interpreted to mean you and I as metaphorical apostles because he specifically says “some of you standing here”, as in the people he was talking to at that time. The full context reinforces that, he was speaking to disciples who accompanied him to Caesar Phillipi who wanted to know how they would recognize the second coming.

    3. It can’t be interpreted as referring to the transfiguration because the events described in verse 27 don’t happen at the transfiguration (Jesus, God and angels coming from the clouds, judging mankind according to their deeds).

    4. Daniel’s visions don’t satisfy the claim either because while they depict seven apocalyptic creatures (representing kingdoms that ruled over the Jews up to that point) nowhere does Daniel’s vision describe Christ’s return.

    5. The 666/616 gematria code known as the number of the Beast must mean Nero/Neron, because only that name fits both 666 (Nero) and 616 (Neron). Source: http://www.math.harvard.edu/~elkies/mp666.html. This is because the book of Revelations was intended to metaphorically describe the fall of Rome, in a time when Christians could not openly predict it.

    6. It’s true that some of the events Christ said must occur before his second coming have not yet occurred. However, submitting this as proof that Christ must have meant something else in the verses supplied above presupposes that he actually was clairvoyant, instead of simply being wrong about those predictions too, because he was a regular human being without the ability to see the future.

    7. For those who say that no Christian tastes death but lives on forever, it is clear Christ meant bodily death by other verses wherein he tells his traveling companions which signs they may personally expect to witness as his second coming approaches. They, according to Christ, should anticipate those signs within their lifetimes and would know by those signs that his second coming was imminent.

    8. Jesus’ resurrection does not fit the criteria supplied by the verse because he did not, on that occasion, “come in his Father’s glory with his angels, andl reward each person according to what they have done.” By that description it’s clear he is referring to his second coming, as explored more thoroughly in Revelations.

    (#3.) The Biblical conception of the soul is comprised of attributes now proven to be neurochemical:

    …If memories are stored as patterns of neuronal connections
    http://www.livescience.com/32798-how-are-memories-stored-in-the-brain.html

    …And emotions are neurochemical reactions
    http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2005-05/aps-lai053105.php

    …and personality, i.e. how you react differently from another person to the same thing because of different past experiences, is neurological
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100622142601.htm

    Then what does the soul do? Or, if neuroscience is wrong about everything, and the soul does all of the things above, then what do we need brains for?

    Or, if our soul includes none of what makes us distinctly who we are, how can it be said that anybody goes to an afterlife?

  5. Bob, I will reply to your comments as one who would probably be considered on the conservative end of the spectrum. I’ll address #2 first.

    2. You state about Mathew 16:28 “It can’t be interpreted as referring to the transfiguration because the events described in verse 27 don’t happen at the transfiguration (Jesus, God and angels coming from the clouds, judging mankind according to their deeds)” however; you are incorrect. This same story is told in Luke 9:23-27. Verse 26 of that section states: “Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” The “Whosoever is ashamed of me” clearly ties this teaching to the preceding statements about the cost of following Jesus. This is a statement about the rewards the faithful will receive upon Jesus’ return. So in Luke’s account we see that the statement about Jesus returning to judge is tied directly to the teaching on the cost of following Jesus. The next verse about some who are present seeing Jesus’ Kingdom is a distinct idea meant to lead into the transfiguration story.

    To make it clear that this verse is meant to be directly tied to the transfiguration; this same story is also told in Mark 9:1. In this account there is absolutely no reference to Jesus’ mention of the reward awaiting the faithful or his returning with the angels. Instead the idea of some who were present seeing the Kingdom is only used as a set up to the transfiguration story. So the verse about people seeing Jesus’ Kingdom occurs three times. In only two of those instances is Jesus’ statement about coming with the angels mentioned, but in all three the transfiguration story occurs directly after. This seems clear to me that the statement about Jesus coming with the angels is a separate idea from some who were present seeing the Kingdom.

    If I were to paraphrase what I think Jesus was saying it would go something like this: “It will cost you a lot to follow me, but there will be a reward when I return and some of you will get a glimpse of this Kingdom even in your lifetime.” These are two distinct ideas which is why Mark feels perfectly free to include the second idea without the first.

    Finally as much as I admire C.S. Lewis he was no theologian a statement he himself wouldn’t argue with. I think he blew it on this one.

    1. I lean toward a younger earth so I am gritting my teeth defending otherwise, but here I go. You state: “Moderate Christians are lying to themselves about this because the content of scripture embarrasses them. Anything possible to flatly disprove is “strategically reinterpreted” as metaphorical” in relation to the interpretation of Genesis 1 that many Christian’s use to support an old earth. I take you to mean that those who take this interpretation are doing so out of embarrassment over the obvious fact that science has dis-proven a young earth. To this I would simply point out that one of the most respected theologians the church has known, Augustine, interpreted the days of Genesis to be something other than literal days. This was over 1000 years before he would have anything to be “embarrassed” about. So while it is true that some Christians may take this view out of embarrassment (I happen to think some do) it certainly can’t be said that it’s the only reason to take it.

  6. Okay, well I feel sufficiently chastised by the graciousness of David’s response and wish to backpedal a little to apologize for the tone in which some of my comments were made. Truth is, I ought to know better as one of the things I try to emphasize with fellow believers is that it is none of our business to be judging those who are outside the church (1 Cor. 5:12). Anyway, I’m sorry; I probably shouldn’t have used some of the language that I did. I followed the flesh and not the spirit.

    I do want to address some of David’s response, though, and in connection, at least one of Bob’s comments.

    For starters, I agree with David’s points regarding Bob’s point #2 (about Jesus’ return). I also found Ian’s response interesting and will need to dive into that at some point. Thanks, Ian.

    Not so sure about David’s response to Bob’s #3. The blanket statement “Our personality is a result of neurology” seems overly simplistic and doesn’t account for a number of plausible explanations (explanations that would go way beyond the scope of a comment thread). Anyway, I think I just have to disagree with my brother here.

    Regarding Bob’s comment #1: The “six days = six indeterminate periods of time” apologetic for reconciling Genesis with evolution falls apart when more closely scrutinized.”

    I see this as somewhat of a strawman argument so I have to disagree with both Bob and David and instead side with Ian. Bob’s premise here seems to be that most Christians are trying to reconcile evolution with Genesis. I do not find this to be the case at all. This is what is referred to as Theistic Evolution and it is clearly untenable; which I suppose means that in one respect I am siding with Bob. 🙂 Anyway, at the end of the day, I find TE to be both bad science and bad faith.

    In any event, a six day creation is only a problem if there is no God. I don’t have a problem with portions of scripture being allegorical but, while I’m not staking my salvation on it either way, I don’t think this is such a case. My problem here is the science. I find that evolution requires way more faith than I’m able to muster, and that both empirical science (what we can determine through testing) and observation (what we would expect to see) are much more consistent in light of an Intelligent Design model.

  7. Okay, well I feel sufficiently chastised by the graciousness of David’s response and wish to backpedal a little to apologize for the tone in which some of my comments were made. Truth is, I ought to know better as one of the things I try to emphasize with fellow believers is that it is none of our business to be judging those who are outside the church (1 Cor. 5:12). Anyway, I’m sorry; I probably shouldn’t have used some of the language that I did. I followed the flesh and not the spirit.

    I do want to address some of David’s response, though, and in connection, at least one of Bob’s comments.

    For starters, I agree with David’s points regarding Bob’s point #2 (about Jesus’ return). I also found Ian’s response interesting and will need to dive into that at some point. Thanks, Ian.

    Not so sure about David’s response to Bob’s #3. The blanket statement “Our personality is a result of neurology” seems overly simplistic and doesn’t account for a number of plausible explanations (explanations that would go way beyond the scope of a comment thread). Anyway, I think I just have to disagree with my brother here.

    Regarding Bob’s comment #1: The “six days = six indeterminate periods of time” apologetic for reconciling Genesis with evolution falls apart when more closely scrutinized.”

    I see this as somewhat of a strawman argument so I have to disagree with both Bob and David and instead side with Ian. Bob’s premise here seems to be that most Christians are trying to reconcile evolution with Genesis. I do not find this to be the case at all. This is what is referred to as Theistic Evolution and it is clearly untenable; which I suppose means that in one respect I am siding with Bob. 🙂 Anyway, at the end of the day, I find TE to be both bad science and bad faith.

    In any event, a six day creation is only a problem if there is no God. I don’t have a problem with portions of scripture being allegorical but, while I’m not staking my salvation on it either way, I don’t think this is such a case. My problem here is the science. I find that evolution requires way more faith than I’m able to muster, and that both empirical science (what we can determine through testing) and observation (what we would expect to see) are much more consistent in light of an Intelligent Design model.

  8. I’ll attempt to elaborate on Bob’s (in my view) core objection without going into Biblical veracity as that’s generally never-ending and this isn’t really the forum…

    David, I felt you didn’t really discuss the most interesting issue (for me) which is this: what are the consequences to the Christian faith (and religious thinking in general) if it does in fact open itself up to intellectual scrutiny? I think you unwittingly solved it: intellectuals aren’t leaving the faith because they feel shunned by a blind-faith community; they’re leaving the faith because an intellectually honest scrutiny (take that description as my biased assessment) leads them down a secular path.

    What you says is true: if Christianity is true, then no amount of genuine discovery could ever contradict it. The corollary, which you unfortunately ignore, is this: if Christianity is *untrue*, then genuine discovery will surely lead one to its rejection. Therefore one would have to conclude that either most intellectuals are deluding themselves with intellectually dishonest thought processes, or intellectuals are true to their title and have discovered the untruth of theism. THAT is the dilemma that is threatening to religion (institutionally and personally); if droves of intellectuals are leaving their faith, clearly an intellectual approach only increases one’s likelihood of defecting. This, for someone who takes solace in the notion of God, is incredibly upsetting and is rejected. It’s self-preservation at its finest.

    You attempts to reconcile this by concluding “thus, these disproportionately intelligent people are rejecting Christianity based on their experience within the Christian community,” yet this is problematic because you can’t actually differentiate faith rejection *because of* experience with the community and faith rejection *in spite of/in conjunction with* experience with the community. I come to a different conclusion: intellectuals are intellectuals regardless of their community. They’re leaving the Christian faith not because they feel unwelcome (although it may be a contributing factor) but because they have simply answered the question of faith for themselves and they see no further purpose in being a part of the community. I believe this exodus will only be exacerbated by, not solved by, opening up Christian communities to deeper intellectual scrutiny.

    Admittedly it helps my argument to assume a binary intellectuals/nonintellectuals, which is not the case, but I feel the point is made in a reasonable amount of space even without splitting those hairs.

  9. Another thing to keep in mind when considering religious trends, and subsequent notions about what “intelligent” people believe, are broader historical contexts. Since the 1960s and especially the 1970s, European scholars unquestioningly promoted the idea that secularization went hand-in-hand with modernization. They believed that any developed country would eventually see a complete death of all religions. This was a leftover assumption from the Enlightenment. However, it wasn’t necessarily true.

    Different geographical (and sociopolitical) locations experienced modernity differently. Europe experienced dramatic cuts in religion because the Church was inextricably connected with an oppressive State that they wanted to overthrow. Because of that, Europe is less religious today.

    On the other hand, while all of that was happening in Europe, some people who were on their way to the United States saw what was happening and wanted to be free to believe— free to be religious in whatever way they wanted to. As a result, many forms of religion thrived and continue to exist in the States, but they were (and continue to be) often associated with particular socioeconomic classes of people.

  10. Great article. I am one of those mentioned as American atheists who have grown up in a strongly Christian home. In my case I come from a strongly knit Mennonite community in which all my extended family on both sides are also Mennonite. As described in the article, I became an atheist in grad school (in which there is a high percentage of atheists). However, in my situation at least, the reasons for becoming an atheist are not those given in the article. I did not reject Christianity because of my experience in the Christian community (I loved the close-knit community) or because of pressure from mentors and peers in grad school (a lot of people I have met are examples that I DON’T want to follow).

    Instead, I changed my view because of years of reading and looking into questions that I had asked before, but never really heard any answers to (I wouldn’t say there was any particular suppression of questions in my faith community…….its just that no one seemed to find the questions particularly interesting or important). I would also say that there was great value in being outside the exclusive faith community. Instead of hearing only one side of most arguments and unintended stereotypes of outsiders (like atheists), I got to know real-life atheists and hear and read about arguments from the other side. Since I didn’t find atheists to be particularly “better” or “worse” behaving (or “happier” or “sadder”) than the Christians I knew, the question that kept coming back to me was: “What reason can I give my atheist friends that they should become Christians?” As I looked more deeply into the evidence for God, I was astounded at the weakness of the arguments (other than “personal experience”). Knowing people from other religions also have plenty of “personal experience” supporting their beliefs made me question how much this counts. How likely is it that I was born into the only small group of people on earth who has the correct beliefs? Once I finally began reading some authors from the atheist perspective, I began finally finding coherent answers to some of the questions that I could not find in the Christian literature.(of course, all of this involved a terrible personal struggle which Im not describing).

    So my point is that I think its very important to pursue questions tenaciously even if no one else seems very interested. Either God is truth and favors us pursuing truth or God is not true and its worth finding out! One of the dangers of Christianity, from my perspective, is the promotion of being content with not understanding something. Why did I need to ask questions? God is in control. Some things which seem contradictory are just a mystery. Our minds are not high enough to understand. Let me just say that, if anyone reading this is in that situation…..its worth the struggle! I can’t say strongly enough how good it feels to have a coherent worldview.

    I know that looking into hard questions can be a difficult and even painful! experience (at least it was for me). I would be open to discussion with anyone who has questions about my beliefs (or wants to tell me the reasons you believe what you do).

  11. Great article. I am one of those mentioned as American atheists who have grown up in a strongly Christian home. In my case I come from a strongly knit Mennonite community in which all my extended family on both sides are also Mennonite. As described in the article, I became an atheist in grad school (in which there is a high percentage of atheists). However, in my situation at least, the reasons for becoming an atheist are not those given in the article. I did not reject Christianity because of my experience in the Christian community (I loved the close-knit community) or because of pressure from mentors and peers in grad school (a lot of people I have met are examples that I DON’T want to follow).

    Instead, I changed my view because of years of reading and looking into questions that I had asked before, but never really heard any answers to (I wouldn’t say there was any particular suppression of questions in my faith community…….its just that no one seemed to find the questions particularly interesting or important). I would also say that there was great value in being outside the exclusive faith community. Instead of hearing only one side of most arguments and unintended stereotypes of outsiders (like atheists), I got to know real-life atheists and hear and read about arguments from the other side. Since I didn’t find atheists to be particularly “better” or “worse” behaving (or “happier” or “sadder”) than the Christians I knew, the question that kept coming back to me was: “What reason can I give my atheist friends that they should become Christians?” As I looked more deeply into the evidence for God, I was astounded at the weakness of the arguments (other than “personal experience”). Knowing people from other religions also have plenty of “personal experience” supporting their beliefs made me question how much this counts. How likely is it that I was born into the only small group of people on earth who has the correct beliefs? Once I finally began reading some authors from the atheist perspective, I began finally finding coherent answers to some of the questions that I could not find in the Christian literature.(of course, all of this involved a terrible personal struggle which Im not describing).

    So my point is that I think its very important to pursue questions tenaciously even if no one else seems very interested. Either God is truth and favors us pursuing truth or God is not true and its worth finding out! One of the dangers of Christianity, from my perspective, is the promotion of being content with not understanding something. Why did I need to ask questions? God is in control. Some things which seem contradictory are just a mystery. Our minds are not high enough to understand. Let me just say that, if anyone reading this is in that situation…..its worth the struggle! I can’t say strongly enough how good it feels to have a coherent worldview.

    I know that looking into hard questions can be a difficult and even painful! experience (at least it was for me). I would be open to discussion with anyone who has questions about my beliefs (or wants to tell me the reasons you believe what you do).

  12. You left out 3) They examined the truth claims of Christianity and found them intellectually untenable. The fact that you leave out this third possibility shows that you yourself aren’t open to people actually questioning the fundamentals of Christianity. You set up a false scenario with a predetermined outcome. In your set-up, the only legitimate testing of the faith is that which leads to affirming it in the end.

    I’m from a conservative Christian background, and I’m getting a Phd from an Ivy. Yes, to a certain extent there is bias against religion in academic circles (though in my anecdotal experience, few people in the academic circles I run in care about my religious beliefs). And yes, to a certain extent conservative Christians do not encourage intellectual engagement with the tenets of the faith. Though again, I’ve seen many Christians show patience with those like me who have questioned the tenets of the faith.

    But neither academic bias nor Christian disapproval had much impact on my journey out of Christianity. I find both pretty annoying, but much more to the point is the fact that I spent years wrestling with the central truth claims of Christianity, and in the end, I simply can’t believe them. I have no interest in nitpicking any particular part of the Bible. I think it’s an amazing book. I have deep respect for people of faith and admiration for many aspects of Christianity and other religious traditions (though I will argue against aspects of those traditions that I think are immoral or harmful). But I can’t say the Apostles’ Creed and intellectually assent to it.

    This is the case with many of the smart people I know who have left Christianity. You do us a disservice when you refuse to acknowledge the possibility that someone could wrestle sincerely and honestly with the fundamentals of Christianity, and in the end find they simply can’t believe them.You can engage in mental gymnastics if you want, attributing our disbelief to peer pressure in academic circles, or faults in the church, or bugaboos like “the skepticism that plagues our generation.” But until you acknowledge that smart people can rationally examine the claims of the faith and come to the conclusion that they aren’t true, you won’t come close to answering the question of why many intellectuals aren’t Christians.

  13. You left out 3) They examined the truth claims of Christianity and found them intellectually untenable. The fact that you leave out this third possibility shows that you yourself aren’t open to people actually questioning the fundamentals of Christianity. You set up a false scenario with a predetermined outcome. In your set-up, the only legitimate testing of the faith is that which leads to affirming it in the end.

    I’m from a conservative Christian background, and I’m getting a Phd from an Ivy. Yes, to a certain extent there is bias against religion in academic circles (though in my anecdotal experience, few people in the academic circles I run in care about my religious beliefs). And yes, to a certain extent conservative Christians do not encourage intellectual engagement with the tenets of the faith. Though again, I’ve seen many Christians show patience with those like me who have questioned the tenets of the faith.

    But neither academic bias nor Christian disapproval had much impact on my journey out of Christianity. I find both pretty annoying, but much more to the point is the fact that I spent years wrestling with the central truth claims of Christianity, and in the end, I simply can’t believe them. I have no interest in nitpicking any particular part of the Bible. I think it’s an amazing book. I have deep respect for people of faith and admiration for many aspects of Christianity and other religious traditions (though I will argue against aspects of those traditions that I think are immoral or harmful). But I can’t say the Apostles’ Creed and intellectually assent to it.

    This is the case with many of the smart people I know who have left Christianity. You do us a disservice when you refuse to acknowledge the possibility that someone could wrestle sincerely and honestly with the fundamentals of Christianity, and in the end find they simply can’t believe them.You can engage in mental gymnastics if you want, attributing our disbelief to peer pressure in academic circles, or faults in the church, or bugaboos like “the skepticism that plagues our generation.” But until you acknowledge that smart people can rationally examine the claims of the faith and come to the conclusion that they aren’t true, you won’t come close to answering the question of why many intellectuals aren’t Christians.

  14. You left out 3) They examined the truth claims of Christianity and found them intellectually untenable. The fact that you leave out this third possibility shows that you yourself aren’t open to people actually questioning the fundamentals of Christianity. You set up a false scenario with a predetermined outcome. In your set-up, the only legitimate testing of the faith is that which leads to affirming it in the end.

    I’m from a conservative Christian background, and I’m getting a Phd from an Ivy. Yes, to a certain extent there is bias against religion in academic circles (though in my anecdotal experience, few people in the academic circles I run in care about my religious beliefs). And yes, to a certain extent conservative Christians do not encourage intellectual engagement with the tenets of the faith. Though again, I’ve seen many Christians show patience with those like me who have questioned the tenets of the faith.

    But neither academic bias nor Christian disapproval had much impact on my journey out of Christianity. I find both pretty annoying, but much more to the point is the fact that I spent years wrestling with the central truth claims of Christianity, and in the end, I simply can’t believe them. I have no interest in nitpicking any particular part of the Bible. I think it’s an amazing book. I have deep respect for people of faith and admiration for many aspects of Christianity and other religious traditions (though I will argue against aspects of those traditions that I think are immoral or harmful). But I can’t say the Apostles’ Creed and intellectually assent to it.

    This is the case with many of the smart people I know who have left Christianity. You do us a disservice when you refuse to acknowledge the possibility that someone could wrestle sincerely and honestly with the fundamentals of Christianity, and in the end find they simply can’t believe them.You can engage in mental gymnastics if you want, attributing our disbelief to peer pressure in academic circles, or faults in the church, or bugaboos like “the skepticism that plagues our generation.” But until you acknowledge that smart people can rationally examine the claims of the faith and come to the conclusion that they aren’t true, you won’t come close to answering the question of why many intellectuals aren’t Christians.

  15. You left out 3) They examined the truth claims of Christianity and found them intellectually untenable. The fact that you leave out this third possibility shows that you yourself aren’t open to people actually questioning the fundamentals of Christianity. You set up a false scenario with a predetermined outcome. In your set-up, the only legitimate testing of the faith is that which leads to affirming it in the end.

    I’m from a conservative Christian background, and I’m getting a Phd from an Ivy. Yes, to a certain extent there is bias against religion in academic circles (though in my anecdotal experience, few people in the academic circles I run in care about my religious beliefs). And yes, to a certain extent conservative Christians do not encourage intellectual engagement with the tenets of the faith. Though again, I’ve seen many Christians show patience with those like me who have questioned the tenets of the faith.

    But neither academic bias nor Christian disapproval had much impact on my journey out of Christianity. I find both pretty annoying, but much more to the point is the fact that I spent years wrestling with the central truth claims of Christianity, and in the end, I simply can’t believe them. I have no interest in nitpicking any particular part of the Bible. I think it’s an amazing book. I have deep respect for people of faith and admiration for many aspects of Christianity and other religious traditions (though I will argue against aspects of those traditions that I think are immoral or harmful). But I can’t say the Apostles’ Creed and intellectually assent to it.

    This is the case with many of the smart people I know who have left Christianity. You do us a disservice when you refuse to acknowledge the possibility that someone could wrestle sincerely and honestly with the fundamentals of Christianity, and in the end find they simply can’t believe them.You can engage in mental gymnastics if you want, attributing our disbelief to peer pressure in academic circles, or faults in the church, or bugaboos like “the skepticism that plagues our generation.” But until you acknowledge that smart people can rationally examine the claims of the faith and come to the conclusion that they aren’t true, you won’t come close to answering the question of why many intellectuals aren’t Christians.

  16. You left out 3) They examined the truth claims of Christianity and found them intellectually untenable. The fact that you leave out this third possibility shows that you yourself aren’t open to people actually questioning the fundamentals of Christianity. You set up a false scenario with a predetermined outcome. In your set-up, the only legitimate testing of the faith is that which leads to affirming it in the end.

    I’m from a conservative Christian background, and I’m getting a Phd from an Ivy. Yes, to a certain extent there is bias against religion in academic circles (though in my anecdotal experience, few people in the academic circles I run in care about my religious beliefs). And yes, to a certain extent conservative Christians do not encourage intellectual engagement with the tenets of the faith. Though again, I’ve seen many Christians show patience with those like me who have questioned the tenets of the faith.

    But neither academic bias nor Christian disapproval had much impact on my journey out of Christianity. I find both pretty annoying, but much more to the point is the fact that I spent years wrestling with the central truth claims of Christianity, and in the end, I simply can’t believe them. I have no interest in nitpicking any particular part of the Bible. I think it’s an amazing book. I have deep respect for people of faith and admiration for many aspects of Christianity and other religious traditions (though I will argue against aspects of those traditions that I think are immoral or harmful). But I can’t say the Apostles’ Creed and intellectually assent to it.

    This is the case with many of the smart people I know who have left Christianity. You do us a disservice when you refuse to acknowledge the possibility that someone could wrestle sincerely and honestly with the fundamentals of Christianity, and in the end find they simply can’t believe them.You can engage in mental gymnastics if you want, attributing our disbelief to peer pressure in academic circles, or faults in the church, or bugaboos like “the skepticism that plagues our generation.” But until you acknowledge that smart people can rationally examine the claims of the faith and come to the conclusion that they aren’t true, you won’t come close to answering the question of why many intellectuals aren’t Christians.

  17. You left out 3) They examined the truth claims of Christianity and found them intellectually untenable. The fact that you leave out this third possibility shows that you yourself aren’t open to people actually questioning the fundamentals of Christianity. You set up a false scenario with a predetermined outcome. In your set-up, the only legitimate testing of the faith is that which leads to affirming it in the end.

    I’m from a conservative Christian background, and I’m getting a Phd from an Ivy. Yes, to a certain extent there is bias against religion in academic circles (though in my anecdotal experience, few people in the academic circles I run in care about my religious beliefs). And yes, to a certain extent conservative Christians do not encourage intellectual engagement with the tenets of the faith. Though again, I’ve seen many Christians show patience with those like me who have questioned the tenets of the faith.

    But neither academic bias nor Christian disapproval had much impact on my journey out of Christianity. I find both pretty annoying, but much more to the point is the fact that I spent years wrestling with the central truth claims of Christianity, and in the end, I simply can’t believe them. I have no interest in nitpicking any particular part of the Bible. I think it’s an amazing book. I have deep respect for people of faith and admiration for many aspects of Christianity and other religious traditions (though I will argue against aspects of those traditions that I think are immoral or harmful). But I can’t say the Apostles’ Creed and intellectually assent to it.

    This is the case with many of the smart people I know who have left Christianity. You do us a disservice when you refuse to acknowledge the possibility that someone could wrestle sincerely and honestly with the fundamentals of Christianity, and in the end find they simply can’t believe them.You can engage in mental gymnastics if you want, attributing our disbelief to peer pressure in academic circles, or faults in the church, or bugaboos like “the skepticism that plagues our generation.” But until you acknowledge that smart people can rationally examine the claims of the faith and come to the conclusion that they aren’t true, you won’t come close to answering the question of why many intellectuals aren’t Christians.

  18. You left out 3) They examined the truth claims of Christianity and found them intellectually untenable. The fact that you leave out this third possibility shows that you yourself aren’t open to people actually questioning the fundamentals of Christianity. You set up a false scenario with a predetermined outcome. In your set-up, the only legitimate testing of the faith is that which leads to affirming it in the end.

    I’m from a conservative Christian background, and I’m getting a Phd from an Ivy. Yes, to a certain extent there is bias against religion in academic circles (though in my anecdotal experience, few people in the academic circles I run in care about my religious beliefs). And yes, to a certain extent conservative Christians do not encourage intellectual engagement with the tenets of the faith. Though again, I’ve seen many Christians show patience with those like me who have questioned the tenets of the faith.

    But neither academic bias nor Christian disapproval had much impact on my journey out of Christianity. I find both pretty annoying, but much more to the point is the fact that I spent years wrestling with the central truth claims of Christianity, and in the end, I simply can’t believe them. I have no interest in nitpicking any particular part of the Bible. I think it’s an amazing book. I have deep respect for people of faith and admiration for many aspects of Christianity and other religious traditions (though I will argue against aspects of those traditions that I think are immoral or harmful). But I can’t say the Apostles’ Creed and intellectually assent to it.

    This is the case with many of the smart people I know who have left Christianity. You do us a disservice when you refuse to acknowledge the possibility that someone could wrestle sincerely and honestly with the fundamentals of Christianity, and in the end find they simply can’t believe them.You can engage in mental gymnastics if you want, attributing our disbelief to peer pressure in academic circles, or faults in the church, or bugaboos like “the skepticism that plagues our generation.” But until you acknowledge that smart people can rationally examine the claims of the faith and come to the conclusion that they aren’t true, you won’t come close to answering the question of why many intellectuals aren’t Christians.

  19. Intellect is a tool and nothing more, just like a car or a phone. But sometimes people are so completely taken up by the external shape of the tool that they forget its true purpose.

    Many searching Christians these days have received abundant grace through a new expression of truth that sheds a new light on the narratives of the Bible and the life & mission of Jesus Christ: The Divine Principle. It acknowledges the complementary purposes of religion and science while unifying the essences of the Eastern and Western traditions centered on Christ.

    It is indeed a revelation for the modern mind – logical but not heady, spiritual but not esoteric. The Divine Principle clarifies in a clear and concise manner God’s original ideal of creation and illuminates the Heart of God throughout the course of human history until the present moment.

    The full text of the Divine Principle: http://www.unification.net/dp96/

    Intro to the Divine Principle: http://vimeo.com/57958935

    Causal Reality: http://vimeo.com/8746765

  20. Jim van Ommen commented…

    Why Aren’t More Intellectuals Believers?
    I think that intellectuals or any other person for that matter do not become believers by his or her intelligence, but by responding to God’s love, reading His word and become His followers.
    As followers only are we exposed to the ultimate wisdom of God which is not terminal like ours and which is not Earth bound.
    Letting pride come between us and God is probably one of the main reasons why not more intellectuals are believers. The pride that tells them they have the capacity to know and understand all there is to be known, that there is no purpose in life and have no need of the Creator and Sustainer of this universe if there is one.
    Some intellectuals may well have done what the Bible suggests and that is to first of all count the cost of following Christ, and so far have not had the courage to make that commitment.

    If intelligence or wisdom is so important to us lets heed the words of the man who not only asked God for wisdom, but who was also granted great wisdom, King Solomon:

    Proverbs 3: 5-7
    5. Trust in the LORD with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
    6. in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.[a]
    7. Do not be wise in your own eyes;
    fear the LORD and shun evil.

  21. When I am by myself and it’s just me and God, whether it be while I’m in bed, on a bus, hanging out in a field playing with my dog, that is when I feel God’s presence the most,I feel free to talk to Him about anything, and certainly I feel the most peaceful. I have been contemplating going to University for some time and I am honestly afraid of what will happen to my faith.It’s not because I think it will go away, I am afraid that with everyone arguing back and forth and with so, so many ideas and statements of what the truth is, somehow the little times I spend with God where I feel that everything is right will disappear. Sometimes it’s okay to not know all the answers and I fully understand that some people have a desire to know everything (my boyfriend is atheist and has a large appetite for knowledge). He has a university degree in Engineering and I was a hairdresser, so we come from very different walks of life! I pray that God will help work through his mind and heart. and even though I can’t always have the most intellectually stimulating conversations with him about God and it tends to get me frustrated more than him at the end, I know that when I’m by myself and I really get time to think, as much as I love my boyfriend and respect himfor all his intelligence, I have always felt that God is just right and here for us, and it transcends all words sometimes.

  22. When I am by myself and it’s just me and God, whether it be while I’m in bed, on a bus, hanging out in a field playing with my dog, that is when I feel God’s presence the most,I feel free to talk to Him about anything, and certainly I feel the most peaceful. I have been contemplating going to University for some time and I am honestly afraid of what will happen to my faith.It’s not because I think it will go away, I am afraid that with everyone arguing back and forth and with so, so many ideas and statements of what the truth is, somehow the little times I spend with God where I feel that everything is right will disappear. Sometimes it’s okay to not know all the answers and I fully understand that some people have a desire to know everything (my boyfriend is atheist and has a large appetite for knowledge). He has a university degree in Engineering and I was a hairdresser, so we come from very different walks of life! I pray that God will help work through his mind and heart. and even though I can’t always have the most intellectually stimulating conversations with him about God and it tends to get me frustrated more than him at the end, I know that when I’m by myself and I really get time to think, as much as I love my boyfriend and respect himfor all his intelligence, I have always felt that God is just right and here for us, and it transcends all words sometimes.

  23. When I am by myself and it’s just me and God, whether it be while I’m in bed, on a bus, hanging out in a field playing with my dog, that is when I feel God’s presence the most,I feel free to talk to Him about anything, and certainly I feel the most peaceful. I have been contemplating going to University for some time and I am honestly afraid of what will happen to my faith.It’s not because I think it will go away, I am afraid that with everyone arguing back and forth and with so, so many ideas and statements of what the truth is, somehow the little times I spend with God where I feel that everything is right will disappear. Sometimes it’s okay to not know all the answers and I fully understand that some people have a desire to know everything (my boyfriend is atheist and has a large appetite for knowledge). He has a university degree in Engineering and I was a hairdresser, so we come from very different walks of life! I pray that God will help work through his mind and heart. and even though I can’t always have the most intellectually stimulating conversations with him about God and it tends to get me frustrated more than him at the end, I know that when I’m by myself and I really get time to think, as much as I love my boyfriend and respect himfor all his intelligence, I have always felt that God is just right and here for us, and it transcends all words sometimes.

  24. Can’t believe some of these comments the Bible is the living word of GOD and has been proved to be true. I bet these people who don’t want to believe its Gods word have not read it.

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