Believe It or Not: Mensa’s Religious Quotient

by Joyce Arthur

copyright, 1990

Previously published in MC2, magazine of Mensa Canada, Vol 23, #3, March, 1990

Have you ever wondered whether IQ was the only factor separating us from the rest of the population? Many of us feel more comfortable around people with the same level of intellect, but are similar smarts the only reason? Perhaps Mensans have more in common than that. For instance, I’ve heard rumours that Mensans tend to be more talkative, more stubborn, less humble, more independent, less religious, and more left-handed than people with lower IQ’s. Perhaps we can dig up some hard data comparing Mensans to the average to see if any of these rumours withstand the statistical test.

One of the easier claims to quantify, perhaps, is the religious question. I was very intrigued when confronted recently with statistics from the 1981 Census in Canada, the latest one to ask about religious preferences. A staggering ninety percent of Canadians list themselves as Christians, of one flavour or another. I suspect a flaw in the census, since it does not discriminate at all between the devout and the nominally religious; in fact, according to Reginald W. Bibby, in his book, Fragmented Gods, only 30% of Canadians are regular church-goers. Nevertheless, the majority of people pay at least lip service to Christianity. So how do Mensans stack up? Are we really less religious in comparison?

Out came the Mensa Register, and I methodically began a “spiritual” quest, carefully noting and listing the responses to question number eight: Religion. It was not as simple as I expected, but I guess I should have known better. For every ordinary response, such as Catholic, agnostic, and so on, there was another that was either weird, funny or positively unquantifiable. How do you categorize someone who claims Monty Pythonism as worthy of worship, or someone who asserts his status as a United Druid Eclectic? What exactly is an Arican, and what on earth is Psychosolipsism? Where do you pigeonhole someone who calls himself a Buddhist/Christian or an Einstein-Lennonian? Not to mention the smorgasbord of esoteric religious alternatives that abounded, such as “Cults-r-us”, “Wicksism”, the “Toncasian fund”, and something called “Beauty Truth The Good”. Some people used the religion question as a chance to sharpen their wit. How about “J’ai déjà donné” (I already gave), “I worship chocolate”, “devout Capitalist”, “just say NO to drugs”, and “idle worshipper”. For others, like the “frisbeeterian” and a few assorted hedonists, religion seems to be jolly good fun. Should one take seriously though, the moniker “adorateur du soleil” (sun worshipper)? Is this person a true pagan of some sort or does he just like to spend Sundays at the beach?

It was a challenge to break everything down into tidy and meaningful categories, but I did my damndest (oops!) Below is a listing of my results, and following that, a look at the 1981 Canadian Census results. The differences are striking, to say the least!

Speculations might be somewhat hazardous, but at first glance, it is very tempting to infer that the brainier we are, the less likely we are to rely on conventional religious answers, or any religion at all. But it could be just a strong indicator that we tend to be more independent, rejecting the authority of God and Church in order to adopt some form of personalized spirituality instead. But considering the strong Christian tradition in Canadian society, it is curious that so many of us have obviously rejected our childhood faith in favour of atheism, agnosticism, apathy or just plain indecision.

Depending on your point of view, being a Mensan is either very progressive or very dangerous. On the one hand, our brains may be liberating us from the yokes of superstition and oppression, thereby affording us the privilege to fully control our own lives. On the other hand, our brains are causing us to question religion, and so we’re at greater risk for eternal damnation and hellfire if it all turns out to be true in the end! Then again, maybe Mensans have a greater tendency to like the thrill of danger!

Mensa Survey

Christian

Catholic:                             21.4%
Protestant:                         17%
Anglican:                             9.6%
Unspecified Christian:     5.9%
TOTAL:                              53.9%

Religious – Non-Christian

Jewish:                                       2.3%
Islamic, Buddhist, Hindu:        .6%
Unconventional:                     6.1%
TOTAL:                                     9.0%

Other

Agnostic:                                                 6.2%
Atheist:                                                    5.5%
Skeptic, misc. against:                          5.7%
None, unaffiliated, lapsed:                  5.1%
Undecided, searching, sometimes:    4.7%
Humanist, individualist, life,
nature, hedonist, eclectic, etc:      5.4%
Ambiguous, unclassifiable:                 4.5%
TOTAL:                                                   37.1%

1981 Canadian Census

Christian

Catholic:           47.3%
Protestant:       41.2%
Orthodox:          1.5%
TOTAL:              90%

Other

Jewish:                                     1.2%
Islamic, Buddhist, Hindu:      .9%
Sikh:                                           .3%
No Religious Preference:     7.3%