Friday, July 28, 2017

"Knowledge Shall Be Increased"...Not if we can help it!

"Openness to Experience"
Forbidden Fruit in the Church of God

Proverbs 25:2
"It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings."

Remember: Ignore-ance is not just what you don't know but also what you won't know.

More Knowledge, Less Belief in Religion?

Religious belief is associated with less knowledge as well as lower intelligence

A recent review of studies found that religious belief is inversely associated with intelligence.  That is, more intelligent people are generally less likely to be religious. The reasons for this are not fully understood, although some of the main theories were discussed in Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic’s article. Dr Chamorro-Premuzic also made the intriguing suggestion that the relationship between religiosity and intelligence might be mediated by the personality trait known as openness to experience. A related possibility is that greater knowledge about religion and the world in general might play some role in explaining why more intelligent people tend to be less religious.

To summarise briefly, a recent review of 63 studies showed that there is a moderate negative relationship between intelligence and religiosity (Zuckerman, Silberman, & Hall, 2013). The review found that religious beliefs, such as belief in God, are somewhat more strongly related to lower intelligence than religious behavior, such as church attendance. The authors estimated that the average difference in IQ points between believers and nonbelievers ranged from 6.2 for non-college samples to 7.8 for college samples. This difference is roughly half a standard deviation in size, so this represents a reasonably substantial effect rather than something trivial.
Studies like this are correlational in nature, so it is not possible to decide for sure what is causing the relationship. That is, we do not know whether intelligence causes people to be less religious, whether religion dampens a person’s intelligence, or whether there is some third variable underlying both. Dr Chamorro-Premuzic proposed that an underlying factor that might link intelligence and religiosity could be the personality trait openness to experience. This trait refers to the breadth and complexity of a person’s mental life. Openness to experience is positively correlated with general intelligence. Additionally, studies have found that non-religious people tend to be higher in openness to experience than the religious (Galen & Kloet, 2011), and that greater openness to experience is associated with more disbelief in God (Shenhav, Rand, & Greene, 2011). (I have written about this in a previous post here.)

Openness to experience, along with intelligence, is also associated with greater general knowledge of the world. This may be because people who are high in openness to experience are intellectually curious and therefore motivated to learn new things about the world. I think this is interesting because a Pew Forum survey on the religious knowledge of Americans found that atheists and agnostics[1] had substantially more knowledge of religion than Christians on average. (A summary of the survey results can be viewed here, while the full report is here. You can take the quiz yourself here.) In fact, atheists and agnostics scored higher on religious knowledge than any other group surveyed, including those who were “nothing in particular”[2], although Jews and Mormons also scored higher than the remaining groups interestingly enough. A breakdown of the results showed that Mormons had the most knowledge about Christianity, although atheists/agnostics and Jews knew more about Christianity than mainstream Christians on average. Atheists/agnostics, closely followed by Jews, had the most knowledge of world religions, such as Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism. Atheists/agnostics and Jews tend to be more educated than the other groups, and more education is associated with greater religious knowledge. However, even after taking education into account, atheists/agnostics and Jews still maintained their knowledge advantage over Christians generally. The Pew survey also included a short test of general knowledge for comparative purposes. Atheists and agnostics also scored higher on this test than any other group, although Jews were again a close second, Mormons did somewhat less well, and other Christians were even further behind. Additionally, those who did well on the test of religious knowledge also tended to score well on general knowledge too, suggesting that those who know a lot about religion tend to be more knowledgeable in general.
The Pew survey report did not offer an explanation of why atheists/agnostics showed greater religious knowledge than most religious people. A number of possible explanations come to mind. As noted previously, people who are not religious tend to be more intelligent than the religious, and there is a positive association between intelligence and knowledge. An additional consideration is that atheists/agnostics, being higher in openness to experience, may have more intern acquiring knowledge in general than the religious. This raises a question about the direction of causality. Does rejection of religion motivate people to gain more knowledge or does gaining knowledge lead to rejection of religion? Arguments can be made for each of these, although the actual answer might involve a combination of both, or even some third factor. 
Dave Silverman, president of the American Atheists, interpreted the results of the Pew survey to mean that the more someone learns about religion the more likely they are to reject it as mythology. This may well be true for some people, but the results of the survey suggest more nuanced possibilities. For example, the survey showed that higher religious commitment (referring to personal importance of religion and frequency of attendance of religious services) was associated with greater knowledge of the Bible but not of non-Christian religions. As noted earlier, Mormons actually showed the most knowledge of Christianity, but also were not particularly knowledgeable about world religions. This suggests that being knowledgeable about one’s own religion at least does not necessarily lead a person to reject it. On the other hand, the survey also found that people with greater religious commitment scored less well on the general knowledge questions than those who were less committed. It might be that people who are religiously committed mainly seek out information that confirms their existing views, and are less interested in information about alternative belief systems or about secular matters. Atheists/agnostics were more knowledgeable about world religions, so perhaps being aware of alternative belief systems might facilitate the realization that they are all basically arbitrary. On the other hand, atheists/agnostics also scored higher on general knowledge, so it might be that a person’s desire to gain knowledge about a wide range of subjects increases the likelihood of their becoming an unbeliever. Alternatively, it may be that people who have a particular thirst for knowledge find religious belief incompatible with their natural curiosity. Recently, Pope Francis actually stated that “the spirit of curiosity distances one from God.” Many atheists and agnostics may well agree.     
Furthermore, some scholars have argued that conservative and fundamentalist religious beliefs can discourage learning (Sherkat, 2010). The Pew survey found that respondents who believed that the Bible was the literal word of God tended to have less religious knowledge than those who endorsed a less literal interpretation, particularly those who said it was a collection of fables. Other studies have found that conservative Christians and fundamentalists tend to have poorer knowledge of science (Sherkat, 2011) and to have a poorer vocabulary (Sherkat, 2010) compared to other religious groups and the religiously unaffiliated. Sherkat (2010) has argued that conservative Christians actually shun information from external sources and scorn the search for knowledge as sinful in that it is equated with pridefulness and self-love. Additionally, they try to “purify” information sources they attend to, e.g. only viewing media sources that are loyal to Christian doctrine. Such close-minded attitudes may then prove a barrier to learning, resulting in less knowledge.
It could be that religious fundamentalism inhibits a person ability to acquire knowledge, or it may be that people who lack interest in expanding their worldview have a preference for narrow minded belief systems. Orthodox religious beliefs generally seem to discourage people from questioning core tenets which are supposed to be accepted on faith. However, it is possible that some religions are more supportive of learning than others. The studies in the review by Zuckerman et al. mainly looked at Christian denominations rather than other religions, such as Jewish. As noted earlier, Jews scored very highly not only on religious questions but on general knowledge as well. Jewish culture traditionally places a high value on intellectual activities, such as reading, that facilitate acquiring knowledge (Fejgin, 1995). Perhaps Jews generally do not share the Pope’s view that curiosity distances people from God?
As noted earlier, Mormons did somewhat less well on general knowledge than atheists/agnostics and Jews, but somewhat better than other Christians. Additionally, they were more knowledgeable about Christianity than other Christians. Unfortunately, I currently have no idea why this might be the case. Future research studies might examine whether there is something special about Mormons that would account for this.
Based on the foregoing I am inclined to think that one of the reasons that higher intelligence is associated with less religious belief might have something to do with the desire that intelligent people have to acquire knowledge. Intelligence tends to be associated with openness to experience, and one of the core features of openness to experience is intellectual curiosity. People with high levels of intellectual curiosity might access more information that helps them to question religious beliefs. Alternatively, such people might find religious beliefs unappealing insofar as they discourage intellectual activity. However, it should be noted that the relationship between intelligence and religiosity in non-Christian traditions has not yet been examined. Perhaps this relationship applies more to people from Christian rather than say Jewish backgrounds, because of the more intellectual nature of the Jewish religion.[3] Longitudinal studies, which follow up respondents over extended periods of time, would be needed to determine what role the desire for knowledge might play in shaping a person’s religious identity, and whether this mediates the relationship between intelligence and religious belief.
Finally, I know that this is a sensitive subject, and I want to point out that the statistical trends discussed in the studies cited should not be interpreted as absolute generalizations and that exceptions apply. Some religious people are highly intelligent, some unbelievers are the opposite, and the general findings may not apply to specific individuals. 


Gordon Feil said...

I think Paul agreed unless he was being facetious when he asserted that God calls the foolish of the world.

Anonymous said...

Being a non-believer hasn't helped my life since leaving WCG in 1994. I still go to work at 6:30 every morning and get back home at 7:30 every night. Get my pathetic excuse for a check every 2 weeks. Pay my bills, buy my food that uselly doesn't last from paycheck to paycheck. So, all I can say is you atheists and Christians can all kiss my ass!

All I Have Ever Wanted In Life Is To Be Happy And To Be Loved By Both Family And Friends said...

I actually understand your point of view. I am an otr truck driver and have been doing this line of work since the 1970's. I have had a failed marriage because of my job. A job that I love and one that pays damn good but I am only home for 1 and sometimes 2 days a week but with my job I don't have enough time for hardly anything. I don't see any reason to study the pros and cons of religion or atheism. I spent two years attending the worldwide church back in the 70's and I was just as unhappy in the church as I was before I even started attending with them. So, yeah bro, I know where you are coming from. Hope life gets better for you.

Anonymous said...

3:33, what does your economic situation have to do with it? I lived comparatively well when I was a self-employed entrepreneur, but it took me years of struggle to get there. It gets harder now year by year just because I'm on fixed income in a rigged system that is mainly being foisted on me by believers who are damn hypocrites. This economic system is being ruled by people with very strong religious beliefs. Just ask millionaire McConnell and his ilk.

Allen C. Dexter

Anonymous said...

Well a lot of people on this blog are just as bullheaded as the COGs, it just depends on the topic.

Byker Bob said...

Yea, 8:54, I've maintained for years now that you can switch doctrines and cultures, but much of the same methodology and many of the personal traits which were part of the brainwashing can and do persist for years! Real recovery requires constant diligence, and there are most likely negatives which will remain with us for life. Our lives become like a "days of unleavened bread" in which we attempt to rid ourselves of the leaven of Armstrongism, the modern day Pharisees.


Anonymous said...

It is VERY CLEAR by your shallow comment that you are unable to comprehend my comment at 3:33. I work my goddamn ass off and IF there is a God or not HASN'T helped my situation. Also, I don't hang around religious people, although you apparently like to be surrounded by them. By religious I mean Christian and atheist. Furthermore, if you dwell on religious bull shit that makes you just as religious as a Christian!

Google Account said...

3:33 & 7:08, I sympathize with you both.

You Don't Know Me! No One From The ACOG Does! said...

Religion is boring! Atheism is boring! Life is boring! My IQ is 142! I'm bored with this website!

Ed said...

The free flow of information is the life blood of liberty and freedom. I left the WCG back in 1995 because the door was open to me to information that revealed to me, and many others, that I was a member of an abusive mind control religious system. Since then I have learned to question everything pertaining to religion. I now consider myself to be an agnostic. I believe that knowledge certainly opens the door to freedom.

6622873437 said...

Most people on this blog suffer from short term memory loss.

Anonymous said...

Probably the reason Mormons, Jews score higher would be, well, their ethnicity? Mormons being mainly WASPs without the P lol, WASs?

Anonymous said...

Banned is unfair to the xCOG ministers. After all, they are just following Christs instructions:

John 21:15 So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, DOMINATE my lambs.
John 21:16 He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, DONINATE my sheep.
John 21:17 He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, DOMINATE my sheep.

Byker Bob said...

OK. So, what do you see as possible solutions? I hope you are still able to see some positives.


Anonymous said...

Depressed person from 3:33. I agree with what you say about atheists being religious too because they are concerned with god just like a religious person and god is the center of what they believe.
You sound depressed. I would suggest you change your job or ......? I don't like the idea of anti-depressants but some tell me they work. At least take a little holiday for a change of scene.
Another suggestion is read the book of Ecclesiastes, written by a depressoid but poetic.
Good wishes. I am neither a believer or an atheist, so I really don't know why I hang out at this blog. I was in the WCG like 40 years ago.....and for some reason I find it both amusing and relaxing to read of their latter day antics.

RSK said...

"Just how does what you term to be an invisible, intangible, eternally elusive gardener differ from an imaginary gardener or no gardener at all??"

Ronco said...

"Religious belief is associated with less knowledge as well as lower intelligence"

Well, I guess that means these people were lowbrow idiots-

Anonymous said...

This post mentions Psychology Today. James Malm has more than once on his blog sneered at 'Psychology Today' as a type of material members should avoid.
First, if you are going to relate to others from a top dog position, such knowledge in unnecessary.
Second, if you are going to relate to others from top dog position, you do not want your victims to be aware of their rights, such as the right to 'life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.'
Third, relating to others from top dog position is NOT the NARROW gate. Rather it means treating a person as ones private property. One human does not own another. It is murder, and it is theft.
Proof of Malm relating to others from a top dog position was his beating down people with his incessant accusations of pride, arrogance and similar. These verbal attacks have tapered in recent times, but his attitudes are unchanged. Try getting him to post a comment on his site that he disagrees with.

Steve D said...

Reason is not an enemy of faith. We are told to be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks the REASON for our hope. Paul went to the synagogue on the Sabbath to REASON with them. Our belief should be reasonable.

Anonymous said...

Talking of Malm, he has a new article on his blog about the 144,000. He thinks that there are two groups of 144000. One is the 12 tribes from Israel, and the other based on merit that rules from Jerusalem. I'm still pondering this, but so far, it makes sense. Truth is where ever you find it.

Anonymous said...

After studying Christian Origins extensively, Prof. James Tabor rejected Christianity!

Anonymous said...

Yes, he is a pretend Jew now.

Anonymous said...

You can't say he isn't well read on the subject :-)

Anonymous said...

"Anonymous said, "After studying Christian Origins extensively, Prof. James Tabor rejected Christianity!"

Yikes! Is this true?

Inquiring x-COG minds want to know!

Byker Bob said...

This is what happens to some people who continuously try to get back to original faith from some period of time in the distant past. How many times did we hear "I preach a gospel that has not been preached in 2,000 years!"

So this has been verified? I wonder what may happen if he now studies Jewish origins?

Others sometimes speak of "development of the theology", meaning that over thousands of years, the best scholars wrestling over it, the most accurate translations of the Bible being available today, and the increasing intelligence of humankind may mean that we have the best version of Christianity available today in our own times. There were vast periods of time throughout history that no Bible was available to the masses. This has not been true since the time of King James.


Anonymous said...

Yes, ex AC/WCG prof. Tabor now sees Judaism as "the gospel" suitable for all mankind and sees Jesus as a historical non-divine teacher exhorting the nation to return to the blessed way of life outlined in the sacred text of the Law & Prophets (the gospels and epistles of the "New Testament" being heretical distortion of Jesus' teaching.)

nck said...

Even if 3% of humanity would have access to a bible today, that would be a higher number than the entire populationn of the roman empire in jesus' day.

Makes me wonder if we need to extrapolate the 144000. That would be millions today. More like current sda numbers. Or perhaps its math and not open to nckianism.


Anonymous said...

So while Judaism and Islam see the historical Jesus as upholding the Abrahamic/Mosaic faith, they then view Paul as hijacking the primitive Jesus Movement, creating a new religion.

nck said...


Within the walls of the Vatican you will encounter Michelangelo's statue of Moses the lawgiver. I think christianity has rediscovered its Abrahamic/Mosaic roots after 2000 years of atrocities versus the other peoples of the book.

The entire episode of what expired around the year zero is far more complex.

There were Essenes largely anticipating "christian" doctrines way before the new testament was put on paper. There was Greek philosophy all pervasive throughout the Hellenenistic world like the Roman province of Palestine. Along the trade routes from Asia Buddhist and Zoroastic philosophy entered and mixed with existing religions.

So from a philosophical viewpoint these were interesting times.
The local fishnet maker or craftsman would of course just have been bothered with his children's education, food and clothing for his wife and perhaps an extra pair of slippers for himself if time would allow.