Are Religious Folks More Irrational?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

Not according to an article published last year by the Wall Street Journal.  The columnist cites research which indicates that people who never worship at a traditional house of worship are more likely to be superstitious.  Below is an excerpt:

The Gallup Organization, under contract to Baylor’s Institute for Studies of Religion, asked American adults a series of questions to gauge credulity. Do dreams foretell the future? Did ancient advanced civilizations such as Atlantis exist? Can places be haunted? Is it possible to communicate with the dead? Will creatures like Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster someday be discovered by science?

The answers were added up to create an index of belief in occult and the paranormal. While 31% of people who never worship expressed strong belief in these things, only 8% of people who attend a house of worship more than once a week did.

It seems that the modern, secular myth that traditional religious folks, especially Christians, are generally more irrational and prone to believing things without evidence, is clearly false.  It turns out that everyone, and especially the non-religious, believes some things without evidence.

No group of any size has the market cornered on cold, hard, rational thinking.  In my life, I have met irrational Christians, atheists, Muslims, and Mormons, to name a few.  Each group has its share of irrational followers.

Instead of poking fun at the irrational followers of a movement, why don’t we seek out the rational and reasonable members, and speak to them?  I think it’s because those people might actually make us think, and reconsider some of our cherished beliefs.  That wouldn’t be as fun, would it?

  • Boz

    “It seems that the modern, secular myth that traditional religious folks, especially Christians, are generally more irrational and prone to believing things without evidence, is clearly false. ”

    You didn’t notice the huge gaping flaw in the conclusions drawn from this survey? The survey failed to ask about religiously themed paranormal/superstitious/supernatural ideas that have no evidence. For example, the existence of angels, demons, souls, heaven, hell, gods, the effect of intercessory prayer, did jesus walk on water, the factuality of modern miracle stories, the power of religious relics, etc..

    Take for example this survey: Scripps Howard and Ohio University conducted a survey of 1,127 adult residents of the United States. 77% of adults in the poll answered “Yes” to the question, “Do you believe angels, that is, some kind of heavenly beings who visit Earth, in fact exist?” Another 73 percent believe angels still “come into the world even in these modern” times.

    The more correct conclusion is that religious people are less irrational and prone to believing non-religious paranormal claims without evidence than the non-religious; and non-religious people are less irrational and prone to believing religious paranormal claims without evidence than the religious.

    This conclusion could probably be made religion-specific.

    “No group of any size has the market cornered on cold, hard, rational thinking. In my life, I have met irrational Christians, atheists, Muslims, and Mormons, to name a few. ”

    I agree that everyone holds many rational/true/factual and many irrational/false beliefs. I think we agree that everyone should continually strive to hold more of the former than the latter.

    “Instead of poking fun at the irrational followers of a movement, why don’t we seek out the rational and reasonable members, and speak to them? I think it’s because those people might actually make us think, and reconsider some of our cherished beliefs. That wouldn’t be as fun, would it?”

    We should do both, imo. Laughing at obtuse YEC’s acts as a vaccine against their empty arguments, for those that don’t want to look at the issues in depth (most people).

    I come to sites like this because I want my wrong opinions/beliefs changed. If you think I am wrong on an issue, please persuade me!

  • Boz

    Some more information debunking your claim that religous people are less irrational than the non-religous.

    A poll was recently conducted in australia

    http://blogs.crikey.com.au/pollytics/2009/12/23/politics-and-faith-a-nielsen-poll/

    If a person believes in God or some Universal Spirit, they are more likely to also believe in astrology, UFOs, miracles etc than atheists or agnostics.

  • MJ

    Of course, people who deny an intelligent creator are definitely not rational… forget about all other things.