For some time, the prevailing view among secularists has been that religion is the result of anti-intellectualism, lack of education, or both. This has only been heightened in recent years with the publication of books such as The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, where religious belief is openly compared to a mental disorder. Religion, being the obvious result of ignorance, must be innoculated with proper education. Education is truth, and the truth will set you free.
Unless, of course, you actually look at the research.
According to a recent study presented by the American Sociological Association, the data simply doesn’t support the secular anti-religious bias. In fact, the data gathered from the General Social Survey – generally regarded as the “gold standard” of national sociological information, gathered biannually since 1972 – reports the opposite trend. The higher the achieved level of education, the more likely people are to be religious.
There are some caveats to this, however. Higher educated people are less likely to be Biblical literalists, or religious fundamentalists, for example. In other words, as I see it, the educationally elite are not merely more likely to be religious, they are more likely to be religiously healthy. They are better prepared to wrestle with deeper religious concepts, and capable of digging beneath surface-level Biblical readings to arrive at more meaningful (and more accurate, I would argue) Scriptural interpretations. Furthermore, higher education provides the research tools to look beyond simplistic explanations, allowing people the skills to better comprehend passages of Scripture which, at first, appear contradictory. This also explains why the tendency towards abandoning the faith occur with greater prevalence among the lesser educated – again, a trend revealed by the study which counters the long-standing bias presented by evangelists of atheism.
The study is scheduled to be published in an upcoming journal edition of Review of Religious Research. In the meantime, CNN’s belief blog does a great job at covering the research as it was presented in August.
Check out that blog here.
What do you think? Have you encountered the perspective that religion is a consequence of educational ignorance?
- Weird Science: Is Religion The Antithesis Of Reason? (ofdustandkings.com)
- Atheism and Universal Ethics (ofdustandkings.com)
- News In Bible Scholarship: The Oldest New Testament Manuscript Ever Found? (ofdustandkings.com)