Studies indicate that, overall, when comparing religious people to atheists, religious people will – on average – be less intelligent. Things like GPA and IQ scores are strong predictors of atheism vs. religion. While a child’s current religiousity is not a strong predictor of their religiousity as an adult, a child’s intelligence is a strong predictor.
This, by no means, means all intelligent people will grow up to be atheists (the number of people who self-identify as “atheist” – versus “no religion” – is about 4% of the national population), it just means that those who do self-identify as atheists will typically be more successful academically than the average Christian.
Another fact brought forth by studies is that the more intuitive a person’s thought style is, the more likely they are to be religious. On the other hand, the more analytic a person’s thought style is, the more likely they are to be irreligious.
One of the factors related to the above studies is that the education system has been tailored to promote certain learning styles – primarily analytic learning – and to de-promote other learning styles, especially intuitive learning styles. This is a fact recognized in modern education theory, and one that modern teaching practices are attempting to correct by diversifying lessons to appeal to the maximum number of learning styles in a classroom. This has been far from fully realized, but it is something in the wind. However, a decade or so of trying to implement new learning practices is offset by centuries of promoting a single learning style, while failing others.
On the other hand, the Church has been slipping away from being one of the more intellectually appealing institutions – as it was pre-enlightenment – and becoming focused on the more emotional and spiritual side of things. This has been tremendously successful in attracting people who do operate intuitively: meeting certain emotional needs and bringing about peace-of-mind and ecstatic worship experiences. This might actually be a solution to something that the church was somewhat lacking pre-enlightenment. But, balancing the scales against the university, while it promotes an intuitive thought-style, it brings a general lack of success to the analytical thought style. People who need to see reasons, and are exalted by looking into the analytical side of things may show up on a Sunday and find less appeal to the worship experience because, while it succeeds in feeding the heart, it fails in feeding the mind.
In the modern day, as irreligion quickly rises to push religion out of the public sphere, the Church has tapped back into an ancient theological practice, one that goes back to the first and second century with geniuses like Tertullian battling the secular culture around him. This is the practice of Apologetics. Much like an antibody laying at the ready to fight a virus, this dormant theological practice has risen and flourished in reaction to radical secularism.
As a consequence, those who found success in the university, and boredom with the church, suddenly find an entirely new success in the reasons and evidence – the deeply analytical nature – of Christian Apologetics.
What we are discussing here are different 'modes of intelligence,' or learning styles.
A person's learning style is largely a function of brain structure, and therefore, genetic.
A person's interests and pursuits are going to be affected by those activities they find success in - a reward function.
Religion tends to appeal to an intuitive thinker because of its spirituality - which is largely intuitive - and its emotive tendencies.
Analytical thinkers are going to find less reward in the modern religious landscape because churches largely discourage analytical thinking, as focus has begun to drift away from doctrine and exegesis, and toward emotive fulfillment.
Analytical thinkers receive rewards within the education system in the form of grades and academic advancement, while academia has historically failed to diversify instruction in order to promote learning in intuitive thinkers.
Academia is not particularly friendly toward religious views, especially as one rises through the system.
Because analytic thinkers rarely experience success in the increasingly emotive church, but do experience success in academia, they tend to drift away from church. The opposite is true for intuitive thinkers.
This highlights the need for Apologetics, with its focus on analysis and intellect.
This is something the church ought not to have ever abandoned. While academia scrambles to correct its perennial error of teaching primarily for the benefit of a singular kind of person, the Church ought to strike the balance and follow Christ's command to love the Lord your God with all of your heart, all of your soul and all of your mind.