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Average Intelligence Predicts Atheism Rates across 137 Nations - page 4 / 15





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(4) Decline of religious belief during the course of the twentieth century as the intelligence of the population has increased.

There is evidence for a decline of religious belief during the course of the last 150 or so years, while at the same time the intelligence of the population has increased. The increase in intelligence is a well-documented phenomenon that has become known as the Flynn effect. The decline of religious belief has been shown by statistics for church attendance and for belief in God recorded in opinion polls. For instance, in England self reported weekly attendance at church services in census returns (these numbers may be exaggerated) declined from 40 per cent of the population in 1850, to 35 per cent in 1900, to 20 per cent in 1950, to 10 per cent in 1990 (Giddens, 1997, p.460); Church of England Easter week communicants declined from 9 per cent of the population in 1900 to 5 per cent in 1970 (Argyle and Beit-Hallahmi, 1975); the attendance of children at Sunday schools declined from 30 per cent of the child population in 1900 to 13 per cent in 1960 (Goldman, 1965). In Gallup Polls 72 per cent of the population stated in 1950 that they believed in God (Argyle, 1958), but by 2004 this had fallen to 58.5 per cent (Zuckerman, 2006).

There has also been some decline of religious belief during the course of the last century in the United States. Hoge (1974) has reviewed several surveys that have found a decline of religious belief in college students. For instance, students at Bryn Mawr were asked whether they believed in a God who answered prayers. Positive responses were given by 42 per cent of students in 1894, 31 per cent in 1933, and 19 per cent in 1968. Students enrolling at the University of Michigan were invited to provide a “religious preference”. In 1896, 86 per cent of students did so; in 1930 this had dropped to 70 per cent, and in 1968 it had dropped to 44 per cent. At Harvard, Radcliffe, Williams and Los Angles City College the percentages of students who believed in God, prayed daily or fairly frequently, and attended church about once a week all declined from 1946 to 1966. Heath (1969) has also reported a decline in belief in God among college students from 79 per cent in 1948 to 58 per cent in 1968 Among the general population, Gallup Polls have found that 95.5 per cent stated that they believed in God in 1948 (Argyle, 1958), but by 2004 this had fallen to 89.5 per cent (Zuckerman, 2006).

3. Religious Belief and Psychometric g

  To determine whether there is negative relation between religious belief and Psychometric g (the general factor in intelligence), the data from the National Longitudinal Study of Youth (NLSY97) have been analysed. The NLSY97 is a national sample selected to represent approximately 15 million American adolescents in the age range of 12-17 years in 1997. The subjects (N= 6,825) were asked about current religious preferences in addition and took the Computer Adaptive form of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (CAT-ASVAB97). This test consists of twelve scales (10 power and 2 speeded). These were analysed in terms of Raschian probabilistic modelling and the resulting one-dimensional scale correlated .992 (Psychometric R) with general intelligence, g, (Principal Axis Factor Analysis (t(N-2) = 662.62; p < .000). Atheists scored 6 g-IQ equivalent points higher than the combined group of subjects professing to one or another of a large number of different religions. The difference in general intelligence among atheists and believers was significant even without using weighted data (t(1, 6.893) = 2.87; p = .004).

4. Intelligence and Religious Belief between Nations

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