Thursday, August 30, 2007

Are Educated People More Religious?

The Mormon prophet recently stated:
A study was made some years ago that indicated the higher the education, the greater the faith and participation in religious activity.
I was curious what study this might be because I'm pretty sure that this is not, in general, the case. It is also interesting that he mentions that it was made some time ago. Sort of like the quote that continues to circulate in the church curriculum about the dangers of caffeine as a justification for the church's prohibition of coffee and tea. Imagine my shock to learn that his reference is another church magazine:
5. From “Rise Up, O Men of God,” Ensign, Nov. 2006, 61.
Great, so he's quoting from another article in a church magazine. This just happens to reference his own talk in General Conference where he originally bemoaned the fact that the men of the church were falling behind the women in education. However, that article does not provide a reference so I guess we'll have to just take his word for it and trust that the study was from a credible source.

A quick Google yielded the following from Wikipedia:
In The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins [5] cites an article by Paul Bell in Mensa Magazine, containing a meta-analysis of studies relating to the connection between religiosity and intelligence. Analyzing 43 studies, Bell found that all but four reported such a connection, and he concluded that "the higher one's intelligence or education level, the less one is likely to be religious or hold 'beliefs' of any kind."[6]

Dawkins also discusses the very low percentage of notable scientists (Nobel prize winners, etc.) that are religious and that even those that are religious tend to be very unorthodox in their views and don't seem to take it very literally.

I think the more likely answer is that religion is more strongly linked with culture than education. Churches are full of people who are very religious and also very educated. So education certainly isn't orthogonal to religious belief and practice. But Western Europeans are as well educated (and perhaps more so) than their American counterparts and are very secular and not terribly religious. Education there doesn't seem to enhance religiousity.

I think my own experiences as a Mormon missionary are more typical. The wealthy and the well educated weren't interested in what I was selling. I taught almost exclusively to the poor and uneducated people of Bolivia and they were the only ones that I baptized. The church's greatest growth has been among the poor and uneducated in Latin America, not among the wealthy and educated. The church chalks this up to the pride of the wealthy and educated. They just lack the humility to accept the extraordinary claims. Either that or they have enough education, experience, and critical thinking ability to recognize a fraud when they see it.


Cynthia E. Bagley said...

I agree. Sorry I haven't been by recently. I was doing some writing (work, work, work) ;-)

Anonymous said...

I don't think that's it at all.

Generally, the poorer (monetarily or spiritually) someone is, the more likely they are to believe in something higher than themselves. If someone is already well-off, why would they need God? They already have everything they "need".

Bull said...

You may be right. I suspect that religion fills holes that people haven't found any other way to fill. Wealthier people have more options besides religion, although there are certainly some rich, religious people, too. But, I think that the better educated you are, the easier it is to realize that religion is really just begging the question and not really providing anything you couldn't provide for yourself. said...

Einstein recognized a higher power as the organizer of the known universe but was not ready to recognize organized religion. I have trouble believing in the biblical God who ordered the slaughter of innocents by Saul's army and then later, according to Joseph Smith, became flesh as Jesus Christ. said...

I am puzzled though by how many things my father who was just called as a patriarch says are going to happen that really do come true. He is a true believer no matter what scientific data or common sense may say. I chalk it up to the same higher power. I do believe in a higher power and pray to Him. I guess that makes me a deist.