Monday, July 25, 2011

Does religion rot your intelligence?

The article below makes some useful observations but I believe that the case for the "No" answer can be put even more simply:

There are two large and important nations with high levels of Christian belief where about 40% of the population are regular churchgoers: Russia and the USA. Lying geographically in between them, however, is another large group of important nations where religious observance is very low: England and Western Europe. Yet from the USA to Russia and in between IQ levels are virtually the same: About 100. That sounds like a zero correlation between belief and IQ to me.

And given the very different histories of the two countries, attempts to explain why America is different collapse into absurdity if one attempts to apply such explanations to Russia.

Another rather obvious point that often seems to be overlooked is that religion and church affiliation are not at all the same thing. I did many random surveys of various populations in my 20 year research career and religion was often one thing I asked about in my surveys. And, being a psychometrician, I exercised great care about how I asked the religion question. I always provided a considerable list from which people could choose in order to specify what their religious views were. And an option often chosen (by up to 20% of the respondents) was: "Belief in God only".

And that is a very reasonable choice. One hardly needs to refer to the sexual misconduct scandals that have engulfed the Catholic and Anglican churches to understand why many people would feel that the churches know no more about God than anybody else. The very multiplicity of denominations and faiths also suggests that conclusion. So questions about church affiliation could yield very different correlations from questions about religious belief. And there seems to be very little data on the latter.

A more cogent explanation for national differences in religious committment is that the key ingredient is not IQ but rather the presence or absence of a welfare State. Where the State provides you with cradle-to-grave security, you have less need for God. And that indeed is a stronger correlation. England and Western Europe do have much more pervasive welfare provisions than do the USA and Russia.

From a Christian viewpoint, however, welfare States could be seen as delusions of the Devil. As one writer says:

"Charles Murray, among others, has shown that welfare programs often end up being a remedy more deadly than the malady by creating the very situations they profess to cure. The simple reason for this was identified by the insightful economist Walter Williams, who said, “What you subsidize (poverty) you get more of; what you penalize (prosperity), you get less of.” Nor has the welfare state reduced crime, because crime is not primarily rooted in economic causes. It is rooted in moral causes."

So while the Devil may have deluded people into thinking that they have no need for God, that delusion will have the harmful results that one would expect from the Devil.

But from both a social science and a Christian viewpoint the idea that people most turn to God when they are most in need of him is quite uncontroversial I would think. It says nothing about God but much about people.

There are some not wholly convincing dismissals of the welfare/belief correlation here

Disclosure: (for those who are not already aware of it) I am myself an utter atheist -- JR
"Why should fewer academics believe in God than the general population? I believe it is simply a matter of the IQ. Academics have higher IQs than the general population," says Ulster University academic Richard Lynn. "Several Gallup poll studies of the general population have shown that those with higher IQs tend not to believe in God."

Hmmm. What are we to make of this? Professor Lynn and colleagues wrote a paper in 2008 in the journal Intelligence which has been widely discussed. Here is a summary of its claims:

"Evidence is reviewed pointing to a negative relationship between intelligence and religious belief in the United States and Europe. It is shown that intelligence measured as psychometric g is negatively related to religious belief. We also examine whether this negative relationship between intelligence and religious belief is present between nations. We find that in a sample of 137 countries the correlation between national IQ and disbelief in God is 0.60 [a high correlation]."

The highlight of the paper is the chart of 137 nations. And it looks pretty convincing until you study it carefully. Then, picturing the data is a cart for the theory, wheels start wobbling.

I first became suspicious when Lynn et al. tried to explain why the United States is anomalous “in having an unusually low percentage of its population disbelieving in God (10.5 percent) for a high IQ country [98].”

"One factor that could provide a possible explanation for this is that many Americans are Catholics, and the percentage of believers in Catholic countries in Europe is generally much higher than in Protestant countries (e.g. Italy, 6 percent; Ireland, 5 percent; Poland, 3 percent; Portugal, 4 percent; Spain, 15 percent). Another possible contribution to this has been continued high immigration of those holding religious beliefs. A further possible factor might be that a number of emigrants from Europe went to the United States because of their strong religious beliefs, so it may be that these beliefs have been transmitted as a cultural and even genetic legacy to subsequent generations. Parent–child correlations for religious belief are quite high at 0.64 (fathers–sons) and 0.69 (mothers–daughters) (Newcomb & Svehla, 1937). It has been found that religious belief has a significant heritability of around 0.40–0.50 (Koenig, McGrue, Krueger & Bouchard, 2005), so it could be that a number of religious emigrants from Europe had the genetic disposition for religious belief and this has been transmitted to much of the present population."

Good thing it’s easy to test that one. Canada has a similar history, and features average IQ 99, with 22 percent not believing in God. So twice as many Canadians don’t believe in God but exhibit no statistically significant reward in IQ. That’s one wheel off - but it’s still a tricycle.

Looking at the chart closely, I noticed another anomaly: The Czech Republic and Slovakia split on January 1, 1993. In 2008, the Czech republic clocked IQ 98, 61 percent disbelieving in God, and Slovakia at IQ 96, with only 17 percent disbelieving in God. The difference is obviously cultural. Second wheel gone. We now have a bicycle.

The third wobbly wheel was the fact that Israel and Portugal -with very different culture and histories - both feature IQ 95. But in Israel 15 percent disbelieve and in Portugal 4 percent. So tripling or quadrupling the number of atheists did nothing for IQ when culture and history are different.



A Liberal Is a Liberal Is a Liberal

Michael Youssef

For a long time, I have resisted using the terms “liberal” or “conservative” when it comes to both theology and politics. My experience has proven that those who identify themselves as theological liberals tend to also identify themselves as politically liberal and vice versa. My reasoning for skepticism in using the term “liberal” with theology is a deep conviction that either you are a true believer in the central doctrine that defines the Christian faith, or you are not.

I have now lived long enough to observe two generations of so-called “theological liberals”.

In the 1950s & 60s, those in mainline denominations who claimed to be theological liberals began preaching liberally from certain biblical texts. They used Jesus' words to support their departure from the fundamental foundations of biblical Christianity.

"Love your enemies"(Matthew 5:44) is one of their favorite hobby-horses. They use it to water-down the clear exclusivity of salvation for those who acknowledge Jesus alone as their Savior. This wrenching of Jesus’ words out of their context led to full-blown universalism—the inevitable outcome of the misuse of these words of Jesus.

Today, the successors of the mainline liberals of the 50s and 60s are the liberal evangelicals. You would think that they would try an original attempt at departing from biblical truth, but alas, they have not. Modern day liberal evangelical preachers continue to pull Jesus’ words like “love your enemies” out of context, to justify turning their pulpits over to Socialists, Muslim Imams, and all sorts of non-Christians under the guise of "loving [their] enemies."

When Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” He was speaking to and exhorting persecuted Christians. He was urging them to love rather than resent their persecutors, even pitying them for the blindness that led them to persecute people who believe that Jesus is the only way to salvation.

Jesus never intimated to the persecuted Christians that they should give their persecutors platforms in Christian pulpits to mislead the flock of God. Never did He mean that Christian leaders should exploit their positions to encourage followers of Christ to water-down or hide the truth, all for the sake of making the enemies of the Cross happy. Never did He intend for us to find common ground with the enemies of Christ so that we would be liked or accepted by them.

The opposite is true! Loving them can only be genuine when the truth is not compromised and the invitation is given to them to come and receive full and free salvation, thereby assuring them that they, too, can become our brothers and sisters in Christ. Far from hating them, we invite them to be transformed by the same power that transformed us.

Christians know, by virtue of their faith, they are admitting that they are no better than anyone else. Indeed, we saw ourselves as wretches, and that is precisely what drove us to Christ as the only One who can forgive and transform us. It is the knowledge that there is nothing in us that we can hold up to others and say, "See what wonderful people we are. You need to be as good as we are.” Rather, we say, "We love you enough to share with you the greatest gift we have ever received."

I deeply long for these liberal evangelicals to admit that deep down they want to please those who hate the truth. I want them to admit that they want to make people feel good about their falsehoods because they want to be accepted so badly and that is why they have abandoned the truth themselves. I want them to repent of their desire to please man rather than be a servant of Christ and so be restored to the true joy and freedom of their salvation.



People of principle are needed within the GOP, not outside it

In 2005, I ran for my local party’s nomination for the State Senate. I was resoundingly defeated by a reliable conservative with far better credentials. The vote turned out the way that I believe it was supposed to turn out. Immediately after the primary, I endorsed my fellow Republican who has served honorably as my State Senator ever since.

I have been a traditional conservative since my teen years. But as an unworldly candidate in my early fifties, I found myself naive to the antibiotic practices of the ruling establishment. Some of the activists in my party did not merely vote against me at the GOP assembly in 2005. They also strong-armed my volunteers, tore down our campaign kiosk, uprooted every campaign sign and shattered a window on my son’s car.

It is easy to become disillusioned when the people with whom you have loyally associated turn this ugly. As my wife and I stood in disbelief over the vandalized car in the parking lot, my son made a statement that I will never forget, “This is not our church.” Indeed.

I am reminded of that low moment in my life every time that I hear about a conservative who leaves the GOP in protest or calls for the formation of a third political party. I appeal to conservatives who are disappointed in Republican leadership to get even more involved with the GOP and to recruit your like-minded friends to join you in the struggle.

Republicans are at a natural disadvantage because we are motivated by open philosophical principles, whereas Democrats are motivated to defeat those damned, judgmental Republicans. As a result, Democrats tend to reliably vote for their candidates no matter how they behave. And Republicans will withdraw their support from impure GOP leaders, handing an unwarranted number of elections to the Democrats.

My son’s astute observation caused me to reassess my involvement in the Republican Party. I arrived at these two perspectives: 1. The church is a reflection of the Creator, with the mission of effecting the character of its members. 2. The party is a reflection of the members, asserting their principles on the character of its leadership.

A few years after that distressing experience as a candidate, I found myself in the unlikely position of Chairman for the local Republican party. Along with my fellow officers, I instituted the following three standards that seem to have cleaned up the town considerably:

* Operate a sound nomination process with fairness and integrity. Confront bullies and keep them out of leadership. Treat candidates with honor and respect.

* Be willing to debate internally, using the GOP Party Platform as the touchstone. Understand that GOP membership sometimes serves to mask a patriotic heretic like abstract art can be a cover for an untalented painter. We need to challenge bad actors, hold elected officials to account, and not be afraid of losing their membership.

* Once the party’s nominee is selected, close ranks and stand together against the enemies of freedom. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good when it comes to the party nominee. Remain involved. We cannot afford to lose a single conservative member in this unending struggle for our heritage.

The rallying cry of “principle before party” is a surrendering folly. Buck up and integrate yourself. Principle within party.

And the standard is the Republican Party Platform ( Conservatives should read it and hold elected officials to it.

Tea Party activists, the Republican Party needs your direct involvement. Maintain your independent voice, but register and participate as Republicans. Elected officials won’t hear an outside voice nearly as clearly as they will hear an inside voice.

There is no home for you in the Democrat Party, except perhaps as a part of work-release.
Just before signing the Declaration of Independence that began our shared journey of freedom, Benjamin Franklin said prophetically, “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.” Believe it.



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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


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