Are ‘Smart’ and ‘Spiritual’ Mutually Exclusive?

Sometimes it is believed that smart people aren’t spiritual and spiritual people aren’t smart because they are fooled into believing; there are four reasons why this is a problem. One- believing that smart people aren’t spiritual is a problem is because it isn’t possible that everyone that is spiritual isn’t smart, two- judging people in their spirituality isn’t really that smart either, three- putting spirituality with un-intelligence means that we also categorize non-spiritual with intelligent and that really isn’t the case either, and four- thinking that smart people don’t lead spiritual lives cuts us off from that possibility. You can start seeing the difference for between intelligence and spirituality by thinking of the three smartest people you know and considering what are their spiritual beliefs, who do you know that is really spiritual and do you consider them really smart, and take a moment to define what makes a person smart and what makes a person spiritual.

There sometimes seems to be a backlash in our culture against people who value their spiritual lives and try to improve their spiritual state. In effect, the idea seems to be that smart people aren’t spiritual; that people who are spiritual are somehow stupid enough to be “gulled” into believing something that obviously can’t be true.


I really have a problem with this outlook for four reasons:

1. I have known a lot of really intelligent people who were also very involved in their churches or very active in spiritual endeavors. I still do know a lot of these people, and I think discounting their intelligence because of their beliefs does a great disservice to them, of course, but also to ourselves, because it robs us of the opportunity to learn from these people’s intelligence and achievements.

2. I don’t think judgments about another person’s spirituality really show us in our best light, either. I think it’s just another form of prejudice, and the only reason many people who advance this prejudice openly is because it has become acceptable to be prejudiced against people who are strong and outspoken in their faith. Like all prejudices, this one is insidious; we think we have a legitimate beef with these people, but what is our problem? How are they hurting us by having strong spiritual beliefs of their own?

3. I believe that when we lump “spiritual” with “unintelligent,” we also lump “non-spiritual” with “intelligent,” and that’s dangerous. We begin to think that someone who does not have an active, or outspoken, spiritual life must be smart because of that. It’s reverse prejudice, and it can lead us to believe and trust people who shouldn’t be trusted and who aren’t nearly as smart as we think they are.

4. I think by thinking that “smart” people don’t have spiritual lives, we cut ourselves off from that possibility, and I think that’s very sad. Yes, I realize some people don’t believe in a higher power or get involved in organized religion. I certainly respect your choice. But I believe it should be a choice made on examining yourself and learning what you really do believe, and not on automatically ruling out a spiritual aspect of your life because you think you have to choose between spiritual and smart.

I’m not by any means saying that I think you, personally, “have” to have a spiritual life in order to enjoy your life. That’s not true, and I wouldn’t try to push something like that on anyone.

What I am saying is that I hope you can start approaching spirituality – your own and other people’s – as something that is a deep and inherent part of that person, just like their intelligence is a deep and inherent, and completely separate, part of them. The two are not exclusive, or necessarily inclusive, either. They’re totally separate.

How can you start seeing the difference between intelligence and spirituality?

  • Think of the three smartest people you know. What are their spiritual beliefs?
  • Who do you know who is really spiritual? Do you consider him or her smart?
  • Take a moment to define what makes a person smart, and what makes a person spiritual.

NEWSFLASH: I’ve added another chapter to my life by joining C.A.S.T. Recovery, a Los Angeles based national outpatient drug rehab program which specializes in designing highly individualized recovery plans with appropriate professionals to support a client’s health, accountability, and success.

Thanks to The Next 45 Years for featuring this post in the Personal Development & Happiness Carnival, to Anja Merrett for including this in the Blog Carnival of Observations on Life, to Empowered Soul for inclusion in the Carnival of Truth, and to Pink Blocks for featuring this in the Blog Carnival on Personal Power.

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