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Intelligence And Christianity


fatherman
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This is not intended to be an attack or a judgement, just an honest discussion worth having.

 

I've been around progressive Christians who have a bias with intelligence and education. I've held that bias at times. I've gotten the impression that some believe that the dumber you are, the less progressive you are. Perhaps we believe that conservatives are getting it wrong and we are getting it right.

 

So this begs the question:

 

1.) if you believe that the smarter you are the more progressive you are apt to be

2.) If you believe that Progressive Christianity is a better path than other Christian paths

 

Then how smart do you have to be to be a good Christian?

 

Perhaps you think that's a loaded question. So I'll ask it differently:

 

Does Intelligence make you a better Christian?

 

If the answer is yes, then what would you tell someone with a low IQ?

 

I realize that I've made an assumption that there is a way to determine what a "good Christian" is. We all have our definitions. For me, the fundamental quality of a good Christian is loving. If you get that wrong, then you get everything else wrong. Like when I go to a new Italian restaurant, I always get the spaghetti and meatballs, because if they can't make that, then how are they going to make any Italian dish worth eating?

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I don't want to overthink this question but my answer is simple. First to be a good Christian you have to be both Christian and good. Intelligence has nothing to do with either. I could argue that the more intelligent you are the less likely you are to deny science and the more likely you are (in the absence of Christian cultural upbringing) to become an atheist.

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If, for you, the fundamental quality of being a good Christian is being loving (a definition I think many would agree with) then the question of intelligence is a bit of a red herring. I've met many people with "high IQ" who are well educated and well versed in scientific knowledge, but who are lacking in empathy and in emotional percipience. I've also met people with "high IQ" who are well educated and well versed in science, but who are deeply compassionate and genuinely interested in the needs of others. Same pattern for everyone else, too, when I think about it. In my experience, there's no causal link between IQ (cognitive skills) and loving kindness (non-cognitive heart skills). I do think, though, that daily practice of heart skills (e.g. empathy, forgiveness, love, trust) with commitment and faith can improve the overall functioning of the whole biological brain (including memory and cognition), no matter what level of education a person has been exposed to.

Best,

Jen

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I feel it doesn't matter if you are intelligent or not and my explanation follows. Good question.................

 

Everywhere energy is found, built up in layers one inside another with the subtlest energy in the innermost stratum accessed by the soul and the slowest frequency in the external material realm. As our knowledge of life increases we gain access to the inner consciousness of the soul and grow in the understanding of life’s energies. Knowledge of the finer layers of consciousness makes the world more comprehensive and our minds more creative, peaceful and loving so we become better Christians. The higher levels of awareness encompass all the other frequencies below it so awareness of every degree of God’s manifestation is possible. Every plane of awareness is consistent with an experience of consciousness not to be feared as the Holy Spirit sustains life on all levels of existence. We see, hear, taste, smell and feel gross energy, but at the same time we can experience subtle energy. There is a limit to our senses and this boundary marks the experience of gross life because the subtle energy fields are out of our ordinary range of involvement. Technology has shown us that there are subtle levels in our world, which we are not aware of because our senses are limited to the gross strata only. In order to experience the finer energies of life, it is necessary to improve the sense of being by aligning with the soul in order to witness what is beyond what we see with the intellect. Our body is attracted to the material realm because that is where it obtains its energy, but the soul is attracted to an advanced, subtle energy that is all powerful called love.

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It might be easier to believe the dud bits of the bible if one has a lower IQ, but there's plenty of high IQ people that believe in the dud bits too, so I don't think intelligence is necessarily reflective of reasons for belief. I think it's got a lot more to do with one's culture, upbringing, societal experience, and life experiences in general that contribute to how we think and what we do or do not believe.

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Well not being a Christian here is my take on the question.

 

It does not answer the question directly.

 

Atheists are on average more 'intelligent' than theists. This is reflected in the better education one has received, the more likely there is a lack of belief. But teasing apart education and intelligence is tricky.

 

Of course there are incredibly stupid atheists (should we end up judging this way) and very smart theists. Now personally I have not seen any studies on the intelligence of traditional Christians versus progressive Christians; but I would hold off pronouncing a conclusion until I have seen some data.

 

Speaking from personal observation, I have taken on cultural values and beliefs of my peers at least to some degree. The two universities I have inhabited were relatively godless places. Though the church I attended in my youth, I think I could say the same thing.

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It might be easier to believe the dud bits of the bible if one has a lower IQ, but there's plenty of high IQ people that believe in the dud bits too, so I don't think intelligence is necessarily reflective of reasons for belief. I think it's got a lot more to do with one's culture, upbringing, societal experience, and life experiences in general that contribute to how we think and what we do or do not believe

Talk more about "dud bits" and the relationship between "one's culture, upbringing, societal experience, and life experiences" and Christianity. Not disagreeing with you, but I just want to know a little more about what you mean.

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Well not being a Christian here is my take on the question.

 

It does not answer the question directly.

 

Atheists are on average more 'intelligent' than theists. This is reflected in the better education one has received, the more likely there is a lack of belief. But teasing apart education and intelligence is tricky.

 

Of course there are incredibly stupid atheists (should we end up judging this way) and very smart theists. Now personally I have not seen any studies on the intelligence of traditional Christians versus progressive Christians; but I would hold off pronouncing a conclusion until I have seen some data.

 

Speaking from personal observation, I have taken on cultural values and beliefs of my peers at least to some degree. The two universities I have inhabited were relatively godless places. Though the church I attended in my youth, I think I could say the same thing.

Personal question. Why have you posted more than I have on a Christian site even though I'm a Christian and you are not? I don't think you're a troll. Just curious.

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I could give you a reason, but it would be a confabulation.

 

If I were a troll I would have been sent packing a long time ago.

 

Like Paul I am an agnostic and he is a moderator here!

 

I don't particularly believe in free will, so the answer has to be ... the universe unfolded this way.

Edited by romansh
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Talk more about "dud bits" and the relationship between "one's culture, upbringing, societal experience, and life experiences" and Christianity. Not disagreeing with you, but I just want to know a little more about what you mean.

I guess simply put, there are highly intelligent people that believe the Bible as a whole is the inspired word of God, even where that God is represented as committing or facilitating acts of murder, genocide and other savagery. To me those 'dud bits' are so clearly a human interpretation of events and their use of 'God' to justify such actions.

 

I think that due to their culture and upbringing even intelligent people are convinced this 'truth' is really of God and don't question it. It is often accepted as 'just needing to have faith' as though somehow such brutality is justified in a way we can't understand.

 

Does that make sense?

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Just as an administrative note/clarification ..... (not that it is required at this time)

 

Member Romansh (Juris), in whatever label he chooses to identify himself with, is most definitely not a troll here as correctly thought by fatherman . Juris's comments have over time always proved thought provoking and contributory to discussions even when not in agreement with others. Also this inclusive community strives to invite and make welcome ALL people to participate without any insistence of beliefs.

 

JosephM (as administrator)

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I sense from the general drift of this conversation that the terms "intelligence" and "high IQ" are being equated with high levels of pure cognitive function: abilities such as organizational skills, application of logic, ability to set aside emotional considerations, methodical and rigorous approaches to tasks, and Platonic ideals such as Mind.

 

I'd just like to point out that, although our culture has, since the time of the Scholastic thinkers and later the Enlightenment thinkers, deeply infused these beliefs about the superiority of the Mind into our pedagogical system, what they've actually infused into our system is a preference for System 2 thought processing at the expense of the brain's much older System 1 thought processing systems. I know a lot of psychologists don't accept Dual Process Theory, but there's a growing body of scientific research for it. A really readable article about Dual Process Theory and its links to the religious impulse is this one from the BBC: http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20141219-will-religion-ever-disappear.

 

Another factor complicating the discussion about "intelligence" vis-a-vis the religious impulse is status addiction. Status addiction so deeply pervades our culture that it's become nigh on invisible to our ever-so-clever-and-ever-so-well-educated Minds. Status addiction strikes anyone who's not paying attention to the way this insidious addiction shapes the reward centres of the brain and remoulds the brain to place preference for status points ahead of all other considerations. This is no different than other forms of addiction (eg. addiction to alcohol or addiction to pornography) but the costs of it in our society are extremely high.

 

Unfortunately, status addiction regularly creeps into all major world religious systems and can become "carved in stone" in the form of the "dud bits" that PaulS refers to.

 

The choice is always there for us to not accept the "dud bits" based on status addiction and to instead choose the parts that guide us towards redemption (aka the Bible's version of the Twelve Step Program).

 

God bless,

Jen

Edited by Realspiritik
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(snip)

I've been around progressive Christians who have a bias with intelligence and education. I've held that bias at times. I've gotten the impression that some believe that the dumber you are, the less progressive you are. Perhaps we believe that conservatives are getting it wrong and we are getting it right.

 

So this begs the question:

 

(snip)

Does Intelligence make you a better Christian?

 

(snip)

 

While it appears reasonable to me on the surface that the more intelligence and education one has that one would be more prone to be more progressive in their religion or be agnostic, i find as in most things that making such a discernment or judgment is prone to error when applied on an individual basis.

 

As far as making a better Christian, because of the subjective nature of the term "better" and my unwillingness to judge such an issue with my limited knowledge and understanding, i find no correlation to speak of.

 

Joseph

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Another factor complicating the discussion about "intelligence" vis-a-vis the religious impulse is status addiction. Status addiction so deeply pervades our culture that it's become nigh on invisible to our ever-so-clever-and-ever-so-well-educated Minds. Status addiction strikes anyone who's not paying attention to the way this insidious addiction shapes the reward centres of the brain and remoulds the brain to place preference for status points ahead of all other considerations. This is no different than other forms of addiction (eg. addiction to alcohol or addiction to pornography) but the costs of it in our society are extremely high.

Jen

 

Status addiction relates to what I refer to as prestige arguments when convincing others you are right becomes more important than being right simply because you score points with your use of the language. I never considered it addictive, but it is clear that it can be. Thanks for posting that idea. Being right is no big deal but doing right is.

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Status addiction relates to what I refer to as prestige arguments when convincing others you are right becomes more important than being right simply because you score points with your use of the language. I never considered it addictive, but it is clear that it can be. Thanks for posting that idea. Being right is no big deal but doing right is.

 

Couldn't agree more.

 

It's amazing (and also kind of scary) how many examples you can find of status addiction in everyday life. On my way home from church just now, I stopped at the drugstore to pick up a few things. A middle-aged woman decided she wasn't happy with the wait time at the cash, so she started yelling at the cashier. Another customer stepped in to the defend the cashier. Rather than back down and apologize, the first woman upped the ante, saying incredibly rude things to the Good Samaritan because she couldn't admit she'd been wrong in the first place.

 

Status addiction does that to a person. A status addict can't admit he/she has made a mistake because it's viewed by the brain as a loss of status points. It's like taking away a bottle of scotch from an alcoholic. Not pretty.

 

The status addict will do anything to recover the lost status points -- anything at all. So in the case of the rude customer at the drugstore, she tried to reclaim her lost status points by demeaning the Good Samaritan. (Status points are all about hierarchies and pecking orders, so anything an addict can do to try to raise herself above others serves the purpose as far as the brain's reward centres are concerned.) Not pretty at all. But it happens all the time.

 

When I was growing up, children on the playground used to say, "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me." Whoever coined that phrase didn't know anything about status addiction. Nasty words fired at others as part of the status addiction cycle hurt like stink!

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As I've said, I do not believe Romansh is a troll! Though many atheists troll Christian sites. We've had our trolls in the 10 or more years I've been a participant here, but they were not atheists. They were conservatives. The atheists troll the conservatives!

 

So many wonderful responses to the question! Thanks. I'll weigh in. I'll confess that I've seen a lot of elitist bs from PCs on this issue. I may be one of the few here who has actually been a member of a 100% progressive congregation. Seriously, like they had the 8 points posted outside of the sanctuary! I'm no longer a member because I took a music ministry job at another church, it's a moderate congregation; conservatives and liberals. I have found that I am more free to explore my honest questions and emerging beliefs without the dogma of the left or the dogma of the right. It's interesting to see that the conservatives at my church are adamantly anti-intellectual. I've also seen the PC church bad mouth the less intellectual more faith-based Christians. I'm not accusing any of you here of that kind of behavior, but I don't like it when I see it.

 

My personal view is that intellect can actually be a blockade for my faith, but that I can't really help who I am. I grew up in a highly intellectual family. My father has a PHD in physics and became a Presby minister. My mom has a master's in education and taught civics for 20 years. So, my natural tendency is to approach matters of faith with intellect. But it never made me a more faithful Christian. I had to become less dependent on logic and reason to experience the mystery of God. Now that's what worked for me. Doesn't mean that works for everyone. Not everyone even wants to experience the mystery of God.

 

Let me give you a practical example for the question of intellect. I'm a voice teacher. Some teachers teach the science of singing. To achieve good singing you have to make this muscle to do this and this organ to do that. I may understand all that, but that's not how I actually sing or teach. I know how it should sound and feel. I know the signs of good singing. Also, ultimately, singing is worthless without expression. That's harder to teach. There's no science for that. You can make all of the muscles do the right thing, sing all of the notes correctly and yet it's still not music. I'd rather listen to a bad singer with expression than an amazing singer with no expression. Just as I am moved more by the faith of the intellectually handicapped woman in my choir who prays for me when I'm struggling. What does she know? What of Spong or which letters Paul actually wrote does she know? She knows how to express faith and love.

 

It's hard to get out of my head. It's hard to let go all of my conundrums, christologies, theologies, and ideas, and just be a Christian.

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I feel religion is like food, we acquire a certain diet to achieve a particular effect may it be physical or mental. People join or separate from a religion because they obtain something ranging anywhere from love to hate with a physical mental our spiritual effect. The problem is we get comfortable where we are at and stop moving, which is ok because we aren't going anywhere anyway so may we enjoy the buffet of life especially since I am in Vegas for 3 weeks.

 

People who may be attracted to the the people at their level where ever that gathering might be or not to feel superior like others stated.

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Let me give you a practical example for the question of intellect. I'm a voice teacher. Some teachers teach the science of singing. To achieve good singing you have to make this muscle to do this and this organ to do that. I may understand all that, but that's not how I actually sing or teach. I know how it should sound and feel. I know the signs of good singing. Also, ultimately, singing is worthless without expression. That's harder to teach. There's no science for that. You can make all of the muscles do the right thing, sing all of the notes correctly and yet it's still not music. I'd rather listen to a bad singer with expression than an amazing singer with no expression. Just as I am moved more by the faith of the intellectually handicapped woman in my choir who prays for me when I'm struggling. What does she know? What of Spong or which letters Paul actually wrote does she know? She knows how to express faith and love.

 

It's hard to get out of my head. It's hard to let go all of my conundrums, christologies, theologies, and ideas, and just be a Christian.

 

Beautiful post, David. You already know that faith and love are what matter most. So don't give yourself a hard time because you're a philosopher at heart. You are who you are, and there's nothing wrong with that as far as God is concerned. Jesus was a mystic/scholar/physician (a dyed-in-the-wool philosophy geek) and to this day he STILL can't let go of all his questions and conundrums and ideas. Ideas are never incompatible with faith and love. As Harry said above, it's what you do with the ideas that matters.

 

God bless, Jen ;)

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Thanks for the encouragement, but I'm more trying to make a point than express a concern for myself. I'm comfortable with where I am. I'm just curious about the consensus of this forum on the subject. I'm upset with the views expressed by some specific progressive Christians in my former faith community.I want to know if they are in the minority.

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Thanks for the encouragement, but I'm more trying to make a point than express a concern for myself. I'm comfortable with where I am. I'm just curious about the consensus of this forum on the subject. I'm upset with the views expressed by some specific progressive Christians in my former faith community.I want to know if they are in the minority.

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...

 

My personal view is that intellect can actually be a blockade for my faith, but that I can't really help who I am.

 

Yes this par for the course, at least somewhat often.

 

But when you come to the conclusion that knowledge of how certain muscles must be used to sing is an inappropriate tool to teach, that is using intellect. I have been taught useful tools for teaching basic squash strokes. This is using my intellect appropriately or at least efficiently.

 

Now if I have to believe certain things as a tool to be "nice", like a literal belief in Christ, then that for me is an inappropriate tool.

Edited by romansh
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You won't learn how to he nice from a literal or symbolic Jesus. Jesus was a nuisance to many. People be like Jesus! Did you seriously invite him? Last time he came he invited a bunch of lepers and hookers to eat all the caviar! I did appreciate the wine thing, though.

 

The difference between learning to sing and learning squash is that with squash you can see and actively engage athletic muscles. The vocal chords can't be directly seen or manipulated. That's the correlation between faith and voice. It's something whose product is felt and seen in action.

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The difference between learning to sing and learning squash is that with squash you can see and actively engage athletic muscles. The vocal chords can't be directly seen or manipulated. That's the correlation between faith and voice. It's something whose product is felt and seen in action.

 

Interesting that you say that, Fatherman. One of the reasons I've head difficulty making headway in communication with neuroscientists is that the phenomenology of my mystical experience is not what they're expecting. They're expecting me to describe a state of loss of personal identity, diminished sense of time and space, and transcendent union with the Divine. This set of phenomenological experiences occurs with apophatic mysticism. But I'm not an apophatic. I'm a cataphatic mystic. (And I"m still waiting for neuroscientists to notice there's a difference!)

 

When I open up my communication channels to make the quantum jump, I rely heavily on my vocal chords as part of the process. It's subvocalization, so you wouldn't hear me talking out loud. But I definitely can't communicate as effectively without using my vocal chords. (This relates to use of the basal ganglia, as you know, and also, I now think, the somatosensory pathway.)

 

Sometimes they say something so funny I start laughing. If there's anyone else in the room, this can be quite awkward, so I do most of my communication work when I'm by myself.

 

Singing is one of the most powerful ways to connect with the soul, which is one of the reasons I think church can be an important part of our lives as souls-in-human-form and as Christians.

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I feel we are physical, mental and spiritual and that we are not one of these, but all of them in combination. I think it is wise to separate them to analyze their purpose and function so we can utilize them to the max. As a Christian I don't think Jesus came to remove us from the physical plane, but to show how to live in harmony on this planet.

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I think that you are correct. My struggle may be that I get focused on one to the exclusion of the others. For many years I relied exclusively on intellect. Followed by many years of mystical spirituality. Right now, I'm focusing on kindness and faithfulness and surrender.

 

Learning to integrate, to become a whole person perhaps is a form of enlightenment. Not something to be achieved. Perhaps more like getting out of the way of yourself.

 

I do not know if i've ever actually experienced this. Perhaps I never will. Maybe im just over thinking it. :-)

 

Thanks, soma. These are ideas to ponder.

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