Who’s the smart one then?


Sean Thomas, a novelist, journalist and travel writer who also publishes thrillers under the name Tom Knox, has now entered the fray of the intelligence-and-atheism debate. He concludes, on the basis of a “vast” range of research, that whatever about intelligence, they seem to have serious mental health problems. No wonder they’re happy, he says. Well, are they? Richard Dawkins never looked very happy to me.

I am a former subscriber to Prospect magazine. I’m not any more and although it is admirable in many ways, the last straw was when its readers chose Dawkins, the world’s leading public atheist as the world’s leading public intellectual as well. To be a subscriber to club in which that was the dominant view was more than I could take. What were they thinking? Maybe it was a joke.

Thomas asked on his Daily Telegraph blog last week, not who is more intelligent, the atheist or the believer, but “who is living more intelligently?”

And guess what, he told us, with his tongue only slightly to one side: “it’s the believers. A vast body of research, amassed over recent decades, shows that religious belief is physically and psychologically beneficial – to a remarkable degree.”

After citing all the research – which you can read for yourself here – he then asks: So which is the smart party, here? Is it the atheists, who live short, selfish, stunted little lives – often childless – before they approach hopeless death in despair, and their worthless corpses are chucked in a trench (or, if they are wrong, they go to Hell)? Or is it the believers, who live longer, happier, healthier, more generous lives, and who have more kids, and who go to their quietus with ritual dignity, expecting to be greeted by a smiling and benevolent God?
Obviously, it’s the believers who are smarter. Anyone who thinks otherwise is mentally ill.
And I mean that literally: the evidence today implies that atheism is a form of mental illness. And this is because science is showing that the human mind is hard-wired for faith: we have, as a species, evolved to believe, which is one crucial reason why believers are happier – religious people have all their faculties intact, they are fully functioning humans.
Therefore, being an atheist – lacking the vital faculty of faith – should be seen as an affliction, and a tragic deficiency: something akin to blindness. Which makes Richard Dawkins the intellectual equivalent of an amputee, furiously waving his stumps in the air, boasting that he has no hands.

Thomas says he is currently writing a memoir of his extremely misspent youth, and similarly misspent adulthood, and tweets under the name @thomasknox.

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