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Atheist Men: Smarter, and more Faithful

I spent some time browsing through OKCupid as randomly as I could, looking at profiles of women who had answered the question about whether or not they would date an atheist. As you would expect from a largely Christian society, “No” is the usual response. This kind of thinking might be misguided.

Satoshi Kanazawa, at the London School of Economics and Political Science, has released a study indicating that for males, atheism correlates significantly to IQ and sexual exclusivity.  In other words, an atheist boyfriend or husband is less likely to cheat on you.

Interesting, eh?

The reasoning goes something like this:  For most of human history, exclusivity hasn’t made much sense to men.  In fact, the opposite is true.  The men who impregnated the most women, either openly or covertly, won the genetic lottery.  In fact, the same is true today, but we are in a rather unique position as humans.  This is the first era in which scientific knowledge of human behavior is widespread, detailed, and easily accessible.  The smarter the man, the more likely he is to understand why he wants to cheat, and to decide that it’s not in his best interests in the long term.  The article didn’t mention it, but presumably, the smarter the man, the more likely he is to have figured out how women think, which means he is better able to keep a wife happy, which in turn will make the wife more likely to keep him happy.

With regard to religion, it works like this:  Religion in itself isn’t especially helpful to human society, but it does encourage paranoia, which is helpful for survival.  Humans who see ghosts in the wind and the hand of god in the clouds are afraid, and fear is a great way to stay alive.  It’s not especially good for enlightened self-actualization, but through most of human history, that was the last thing that most men had to worry about.

In today’s society, very intelligent men have the opportunity to do push the envelope in lots of ways.  They can think outside the box and approach life without having to be a beefed up bruiser who gets by with his fists.  They can approach life without the need for dogma and religious fear, since they are presumably smart enough to make informed, intelligent decisions about risk and reward.

I think we’ve all seen this by now, right?

It’s no secret that the GOP might as well be called The Jesus Party.  It’s awfully telling that not a single state with an average IQ above 100 went red.  It really is too bad that atheists are so vilified, and that so many people think we’re morally bankrupt.  It seems like every new study on moral behavior that comes out demonstrates the opposite.  Atheists really are more moral.

It’s interesting to me that this correlation only applied to men.  Why aren’t smarter women more likely to be atheists?  Why aren’t they more faithful?  I’m honestly not sure about atheism, but the reason they’re not more faithful as they get more intelligent is that for women, it’s always been advantageous to try to get one man.  The consequences of discovered infidelity have always been there, and they’ve always been high.  (They are admittedly lower today than they have probably ever been, but there hasn’t been nearly enough evolutionary time for this to change the hardwiring.)

What it boils down to is that for men, fidelity is a counter-intuitive and counter-biological behavior.  It takes a certain amount of intellectual power to realize this and then work out the complex social equation that it will be in their best long-term interest to go against their drives.

So in an interesting twist, intelligence tends to cause both fidelity and atheism.  Just to be pedantic, let me make this very clear.  Atheism doesn’t lead to fidelity.  Intelligence does, and it also happens to lead to atheism, once again proving that we don’t need God to be moral, and that belief in God doesn’t particularly help the faithful be any more moral than atheists.

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8 thoughts on “Atheist Men: Smarter, and more Faithful

  1. Although I am not an American citizen I do remember seeing that chart on the CNN website last election. It is funny and shocking at the same time to see the evidence straight out on the table about which political ideal is clearly best. (Id be interested to see one about IQ and universal healthcare.)

    The article wasn’t as surprising as it was reassuring, I am surprised however that CNN is so daring to publish articles such as this one.

    Anyway, good write up.

    Posted by Ben Steenkamer | February 27, 2010, 10:26 pm
  2. Incidentally… as a proud Connecticut resident, I find it interesting that we have both the highest average IQ plus the lowest divorce rate in the nation.

    Posted by Athol Kay: Married Man Sex Life | February 28, 2010, 11:43 am
  3. It should be noted that that the “average iq by state” graphic is an old hoax. There’s no such compilation of IQ data. Based on standardized test scores that can be broken down state to state, there would never be that much variety among average IQ’s from state to state. Good blog otherwise though. 🙂

    Posted by Michael Joseph | March 3, 2010, 11:52 am
  4. Hamby have you seen PZ Myer’s post about this?

    Not that I necessarily agree with him or you.

    [I do think you’re correct that it’s the IQ that makes people atheist]

    And Micheal where have you heard that map is a hoax? I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a hoax, or surprised if it wasn’t.

    Posted by Alison | March 4, 2010, 1:50 am
  5. I was born and raised in California, and i recently moved to Utah. It makes sense. I find people here in Utah to be very backwards. I almost feel like shaking some sense into them… but there is too many Mormons! hahaha

    Posted by Donna | March 24, 2010, 1:44 pm
  6. Is the map from 2004? There was considerably more blue in 2008. As a former psychologist there are a lot of questions I have about the IQ such as: What test did they use to get the “average IQ?” Did they get a random sample?

    And I bet that the women on OKCupid who wouldn’t date an atheist aren’t thinking “I’m not going to date an atheist because he’ll sleep around.” They are thinking “I want someone with similar values to mine.”

    My question for the faithful atheist man is: Would you want to date a fundamental Christian? Wouldn’t you rather date someone with similar values? The first thing that a woman thinks about when she begins dating someone isn’t “will he sleep around?” It is “will we be compatible?”

    Personally I wouldn’t want to date a radical atheist who would want to try to prove to me that God doesn’t exist any more than I would want to date a radical Christian who wanted to “save me.” I’m comfortable in my own middle of the road beliefs.

    Posted by Lori | March 31, 2010, 11:10 am
  7. Lori, I think you’re spot on in a couple of ways. Most women who don’t want to date a man on religious grounds (one way or the other) are thinking about compatibility issues, not fidelity issues. My point was simply that the “immoral atheist” stereotype doesn’t hold up, and if a Christian woman thinks she stands a better chance of having a faithful husband because he’s a Christian, she’s just wrong. At least on a macro level. (Individual results may vary.)

    I can’t date a Christian woman. I’ve tried. It just doesn’t work, even if I don’t bring it up on purpose. There are just too many differences in the way Christians and naturalists like me look at the world, and too many times when one or the other of us just has to bite our lip and withhold comment. That’s not the kind of relationship I want to be in.

    But as an aside, I’ve dated agnostic or atheist women who, several months into a relationship, were shocked to learn that I’m an atheist activist. I simply don’t care to discuss religion outside of my blog and other atheist activities. I prefer to just live my life, and I’d bet you that if you asked fifty people who just know me casually, forty of them would say, “I dunno. I think he doesn’t believe in God.”

    So fervency of belief doesn’t always have to translate into relationship drama. That’s all I’m saying, I guess.

    Posted by hambydammit | March 31, 2010, 5:08 pm
  8. This is a surprisingly dim piece of cod-evolutionary psychology which isn’t bourne out by the facts – it’s in womens interest biologically to have babies by as many different men as poss. Ask any zooologist. Sane in animal kingdom.
    Locker room wishful thinking? macho Fail?
    Hey ho – love and peace anyway 😉
    and btw female atheists fewer because huge cultural pressures not to admit it – men left to leave without persecution

    Posted by Sara | August 2, 2010, 5:09 pm

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