A common tactic among believers defending their faith is to cite examples of famous believers. Some have memorized rolls of famous scientists who credited God with their discoveries. Others point to famous authors such as C.S. Lewis or Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Those aware of contemporary apologetics may reference Francis Collins, Alister McGrath, or Ravi Zacharias.
Unfortunately, those on the other side do the same thing, and with greater force. Militant atheists point to Richard Dawkins, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, or Bill Nye as examples of brilliant unbelievers. Not only do they point to accomplished atheists, they go father and argue that the highly intelligent are prone to unbelief just as the unintelligent are more likely to be believers. By promoting this unproven assertion as fact, and by milking some of the absurdities of mythology and overplaying—or fabricating—connections between the Bible and ancient religious beliefs, militant atheists usually get the upper hand in debates very quickly, although very unfairly.
If we were to take a quick trip to RichardDawkins.net, SamHarris.org, or project-reason.org we would find online forums and comments filled with vitriol aimed at people of all religious persuasions. Most of the criticisms, however, seem to center around several foci, one of which is the IQ of the religious.
Critics of Christianity usually allege that believers are uncritical and unthinking, and therefore less intelligent. In his book Letter to a Christian Nation, author Sam Harris says, “Tell a devout Christian that his wife is cheating on him, or that frozen yogurt can make a man invisible, and he is likely to require as much evidence as anyone else, and to be persuaded only to the extent that you give it. Tell him that the book he keeps by his bed was written by an invisible deity who will punish him with fire for eternity if he fails to accept its every incredible claim about the universe, and he seems to require no evidence whatsoever” (p. 19).
Harris’ quote seems powerful enough. After all, the stereotype of many believers is that we do not critically examine our faith. But is Harris being descriptive, or merely dismissive? If we wanted to summarize Harris’ position with equal condescension, we might say something like, “Tell a committed atheist that God exists, and he likely to require as much evidence as any scientist, and to be persuaded only to the extent that he can be provided with an unreasonable degree of empirical proof and testable results. But tell him that his science textbook contains a scientific cosmology and an origin of life story that are impossible to prove and violate numerous scientific laws, and he seems to require no evidence other than the word of a random scientist.”
There is no doubt that both believers and unbelievers may be highly intelligent. But intellect alone does not determine truth. On this point militant atheists have been far too dismissive of believers. When discussing the subject of God’s existence, a frequent tactic employed by unbelievers is to simply refer to the Big Bang Theory or the theory of evolution as proven fact with no need for further discussion. The usual mantra usually goes something like, “all educated people know this is true, and that it disproves the existence of your god”
Dawkins and others are quite practiced at citing examples of well-known intellectuals who share their unbelief. The intellectual capability of the individual has little bearing on truth, however. Reality is not determined by popular opinion. It cannot be altered by scientific consensus. It cannot be defined to suit the tastes of the individual.
Are the existence of other intelligent believers a bad reason to believe the Bible? Absolutely. But the existence of intelligent unbelievers is an equally poor reason to dismiss it.