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There’s a theory out there that higher education leads to a loss in faith in our youth. Are college professors disproportionately atheistic? The following study draws a different conclusion:

The research also describes the religious affiliation of professors in the United States: 37.9 percent can be classified as Protestant, 15.9 percent identify themselves as Roman Catholic, and 9 percent as “Other Christian.” Jewish professors make up about 5.4 percent of the sample, and 2.6 percent are Muslim. Overall, 18.6 percent stated that they were “born-again Christians.” Around 46 percent of professors who identified themselves as “traditionalist” were also born-again Christians. Although, as noted above, 51.5 percent of professors say they believe in God, 31.2 percent claim to have no religious affiliation. In other words, they don’t belong to any particular religion, but still believe in a higher power.

Professors in the United States also have a complex understanding of the Bible. According to Gross and Simmons, only 5.7 percent said that the Bible was the “actual word of God.” In contrast, 48.3 percent answered that the Good Book was an “ancient book of fables, legends, history, and moral precepts,” and 39.5 percent note that it is the “inspired word of God.”

What all of these data make clear, and future studies are sure to further complicate, is that the simplistic association of “intelligent” with “atheist” is not backed by the evidence. “Our findings call into question the long-standing idea among theorists and sociologists of knowledge that intellectuals, broadly construed, comprise an ideologically cohesive group in society and tend naturally to be antagonistic toward religion,” write Gross and Simmons. The idea that “the worldview of the intelligentsia is necessarily in tension with a religious worldview, is plainly wrong.” In contrast, the evidence seems to suggest that instead of leaving religion behind, the intelligentsia, like the rest of society, rationally wrestle with ideas, scientific and religious, and attempt to find answers to the big questions that plague us all.


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