Recently a number of studies have described addressing who, exactly,is going to church. And the results may surprise you.
One study shows that more educated white Americans are actually MORE likely to attend church regularly.
….with each additional year of education:
Of course, fundamentalists would probably rail at these more educated believers, who are able to grasp allegory, paradox, and mystery without wanting it all laid out in black and white. One might say, a more mature faith.
- •The likelihood of attending religious services increased 15%.
- •The likelihood of reading the Bible at least occasionally increased by 9%.
- •The likelihood of switching to a mainline Protestant denomination - Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian USA or United Methodist - increased by 13%.
“The more educated a person is in their faith, the more cosmopolitan they are in their religious outlook,” [D. Michael Lindsay] said. “They’re worldly in the very best sense of the term. They rub shoulders with people of different kinds of faiths every day and as a result they have different visions of what it means to express your faith in the public square.”
“They’re more open-minded, but here’s the thing: They’re no less faithful.”
And while we're at it, let's address the stereotype that people in my profession (science) are all Godless atheists. In fact, studies show a surprising number of my colleagues are amongst those in the pews. Elaine Ecklund of Rice University has examined religion in the science profession, looking specifically at faculty at major research universities--that means doctoral level scientists. Of 1700 surveys, she interviewed 275 closely. From a review of her recent book, Science v. Religion:
Fully half of these top scientists are religious. Only five of the 275 interviewees actively oppose religion. Even among the third who are atheists, many consider themselves "spiritual." One describes this spiritual atheism as being rooted in "wonder about the complexity and the majesty of existence," a sentiment many nonscientists -- religious or not -- would recognize. By not engaging with religion more fully and publicly, "the academy is really doing itself a big disservice," worries one scientist. ….I'm not interested in the "spiritual but not religious" identification which has been contentious on other blogs . Rather, I'd like you to focus on the fully half of the top scientists who consider themselves religious--including Francis Collins, the head of the NIH.
In an article in the WaPo, Ecklund expands on her findings:
It turns out that nearly 50 percent of scientists identify with a religious label, and nearly one in five is actively involved in a house of worship, attending services more than once a month.....Ya think? THose stereotypes will bite you every time.
Unfortunately...most religious scientists do not feel comfortable talking about their scientific lives within their faith communities. They think discussing science within their house of worship might offend fellow parishioners who are not scientists. So they do not bring it up. Instead, they practice what I call "secret science."...[A]nother poll shows that 25 percent of Americans think scientists are hostile to religion...
In any case, it is clear that the stereotype that religion is the pablum for the uneducated masses is not correct. THese studies show that highly educated people, including scientists, are active in their faith communities. I'm going to guess that those tend towards particular TYPES of faith communities, such as those represented here on this blog, not those of rigid fundamentalist bent.
(Incidentally, I don't consider myself spiritual in the least. Nor do I consider myself religious. On the other hand, I do go to church with my wife every week, though at times I admit to finding it rather tedious--particularly when the music program is on summer hiatus. But it's such an important part of BP's life that it's important to me to be with her and share what I can.)
So much for the educated. What's happening to those with less education? Why are they NOT attending church? My next post will look at that issue.