I don’t think the devoutly religious are dumb or stupid or, well, anything. It’s a large group composed of myriad sorts.
What I do think is that, if you rank Americans on intelligence, the brightest among us (and I’m definitely not including myself on this list) are not regular church/synagogue/mosque attendees. Why? Because the intellectuals don’t want to be told, “Just have faith, and everything will be OK.” They want to think things through; they want to work problems out; they want to dig beneath the surface. Just because an old man in a robe says, “God is mighty” doesn’t necessarily mean God is mighty. Or God is great. Or God, ahem, even exists. And just because an ancient book tells us how to behave doesn’t mean we should actually listen to it. At least that’s how it seems to go.
I bring this up because Science magazine recently obtained the (hidden) details of the most recent National Science Foundation report, Science and Engineering Indicators, which comes out every other year. This link is a great source for the thickest details of the report and its meaning, but here’s what struck me: When presented with the statement “human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals,” a mere 45 percent of polled Americans indicated “true.” Compare that to Japan (78), Europe (70), China (69) and South Korea (64)—and we are really, really, really naive/dumb/in denial. Hell, only 33 percent of our citizens believe “the universe began with a big explosion.”
As Lawrence M. Krauss wrote: “I don’t know which is more dangerous, that religious beliefs force some people to choose between knowledge and myth or that pointing out how religion can purvey ignorance is taboo. To do so risks being branded as intolerant of religion.”
The thing that bothers me is it’s the 67 percent of Americans who think we’re the offspring of angels who are calling many of the shots. They’re the ones creating the text books in Texas; the ones leaning toward demolition of the 14th amendment; the ones wanting to shove God down our throats in all public means.
Again—faith, fine. Organized religion—sorta scary.