Study shows how college major and religious faith affect each other

Jul 31, 2009
This graph shows the predicted change in religiosity six years out from high school for different college majors compared to the predicted change in religiosity if the student had not gone to college. Source: University of Michigan Institute for Social Research, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- College students who major in the social sciences and humanities are likely to become less religious, while those majoring in education are likely to become more religious.

But students majoring in biology and physical sciences remain just about as religious as they were when they started college.

Those are among key findings of a University of Michigan study on the connection between college attendance, college major and religiosity released this week (July 27) by the National Bureau of Economic Research. The study, funded by the John Templeton Foundation, is based on long-term data from the Monitoring the Future Study conducted by the U-M Institute for Social Research (ISR).

"Education majors are clearly safe havens for the religious," said U-M economist Miles Kimball, who co-authored the study. "Highly religious people seem to prefer education majors, tend to stay in that major, and tend to become more religious by the time they graduate."

For the study, Kimball and colleagues Colter Mitchell, Arland Thornton and Linda Young DeMarco analyzed data on approximately 26,200 individuals who graduated from high school between 1976 and 1996. They reviewed information on religious attitudes and college attendance and major for a period of six years.

Among the questions participants were asked: How often do you attend ? How important is religion in your life? How good or bad a job is being done for the country as a whole by churches and religious organizations?

Of those who did not attend college right away, those who were more religious were more likely to attend college eventually. One of the reasons for this might be a "nagging effect" of friends who ask repeatedly about college attendance plans, the researchers speculate.

For the analysis of impact of college major on religiosity, the researchers used business majors as a reference point. "We wanted a major that was culturally neutral and that attracted a large number of students," Kimball said. "The content of most business courses does not touch on values."

The authors theorize that three powerful streams of thought interact with choice of college majors to amplify the impact on religiosity. These are science, developmentalism (the belief in progress), and postmodernism (the belief that everything is relative).

"There are important differences among the majors in world views and overall philosophies of life," Kimball said. "At the same time, students recognize to some degree the differences among majors and chose a major based, at least in part, on religiosity.

"Our results suggest that it is Postmodernism, not Science, that is the bête noir of religiosity. One reason may be that the key ideas of Postmodernism are newer than the key scientific ideas that challenge religion. For example, religions have had 150 years to develop resistance or tolerance for the late 19th century idea of Evolution, but much less time to develop resistance or tolerance for the key ideas of Postmodernism, which gained great strength over the course of the 20th century."

Provided by University of Michigan (news : web)

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freethinking
1 / 5 (2) Jul 31, 2009
The reason is that the humanities is multi-fold, it is because the humanities is so disrepectful to religion, especially christians, also those that go into the humanities are trying to find themselfs and have rejected religion
GrayMouser
1 / 5 (2) Jul 31, 2009
So we should stop teaching Education?
Or is it just a case of GIGO?
Mandan
5 / 5 (3) Jul 31, 2009
"Highly religious people seem to prefer education majors, tend to stay in that major, and tend to become more religious by the time they graduate."

Religious proselytizers go into secular education so they can become teachers, and once they become teachers, they begin to teach the scriptures, rather than facts. Who is to stop them? They have tax-free buildings to use on Sundays, and tax-paid ones on Monday through Fricay. With such six day per week preparation of the minds of the children, who could be surprised that it is only when they reach the relative freedom to think and exposure to alternative ways of thinking-- in the arts and sciences departments-- that the move away from religious indoctrination can begin.

And still they cry persecution whenever anyone shines a light on their superstitions and myths.
spacester
not rated yet Jul 31, 2009
Huh? So if you don't go to college, there is zero chance of a change in your religiosity? Ivory Tower much?
Mandan
not rated yet Aug 01, 2009
No, I'm just saying that sneaky people who go through programs with the full knowledge that when they get their teaching certificates they are going to teach an entirely different curriculum than the one they have signed on to teach is duplicitous at best, and downright dishonest at worst. If atheists went to seminary and answered all the questions about whether they believed in god in the affirmative and discussed doctrines they did not believe in order to be ordained, then went out to churches and taught the exact opposite, I wager we'd hear some squealing from the pews. Children in public school, on the other hand, are at the mercy of these two-faced wolves in sheeps clothing, and soak up the propaganda like little sponges-- which is the whole plan behind such schemes in the first place.



As a person who fell for both the born-again/evangelical world view in my youth, and then the standard social science model later on at University, all I can say is that the standard social science model at least allows for greater room for intellectual exploration and development, as opposed to the two thousand year window from Abraham to Jesus possible for those who accept a literalist Biblical interpretation and teach it in public, tax-payer funded schools, in contravention of the first amendment separation of church and state.



The SSS Model is incorrect at its core, and the blank slate is as big a myth as Eve eating the fruit in explaining human nature, but it at least provides a spring board from which further analysis and expansion of thinking can occur, such as into comparative anthropology, archaeology, cognitive neuroscience, and evolutionary psychology. Just as Copernicus only had to change one thing to get the solar system model roughly correct-- placing the sun at the center-- so it is only necessary to discard Jean Jaques Rousseau and the blank slate foolishness for the social sciences to begin having a chance at accurately understanding history, philosophy, political science, sociology, psychology, and anthropology in a truly scientific context.
kasen
3 / 5 (2) Aug 01, 2009
I think this study is fantastically culturally biased. Leave it to social 'scientists' to consider Christian literalism as representative of all religions. Postmodernism, as described here, is nothing but thousand-years old wisdom in the East.
I find fundamentalists/literalists and fervent atheists equally narrow-minded. It makes sense that both come from backgrounds that have nothing to do with science, or plain practicality. Neither one bothers to look at their object of study in a lucid, selfless way. Alas, a wise man points at the moon and all the fools stare at his finger...
thales
not rated yet Aug 03, 2009
It makes sense that both come from backgrounds that have nothing to do with science

Do you really think that's true? A significant majority of the members of the National Academy of Sciences do not believe in a god. On the other hand, a striking minority of the general world population does not believe in a god. So in general it certainly appears that there is a strong direct correlation between scientific education and atheism.

Sources:
http://www.stephe...002.html
https://www.cia.g...122.html
kasen
1 / 5 (1) Aug 03, 2009
I was making a remark about social sciences being as narrow-minded of an approach to truth and human nature as religious fundamentalism by refering to the article, where the atheist extreme is represented by those who chose humanities and social studies for their major.
Also, there's a difference between not believing in a god and being a devout atheist, so to speak. Buddhism, for instance, has no gods whatsoever. See, most atheists simply reject religious teachings/principles solely on the basis of "hey, it says a guy rose from the dead, which is impossible, so there's nothing to learn from this book". For me, looking at a story, or any piece of information, and inferring nothing further than what common sense tells you implies a lack of imagination and desire to know more, qualities which are absolutely necessary(though not sufficient) in any scientific activity.
As for the Nature article you quote, it's exactly what I'm talking about. The survey was done by a psychologist and the questions are, again, profoundly biased, limiting religious experience to a monotheistic God and a vague concept of immortality, not to mention the fact that somehow America is made an etalon for the entire world.
As a closing statement, consider Einstein's views on spirituality and the religiousness of most great scientists before 1950.
thales
5 / 5 (1) Aug 03, 2009
I was making a remark about social sciences being as narrow-minded of an approach to truth and human nature as religious fundamentalism by refering to the article, where the atheist extreme is represented by those who chose humanities and social studies for their major.


You seem to be equating "narrow-minded" with "the atheist extreme." It's not at all clear to me why or how atheism would be narrow-minded. Is not believing in Zeus narrow-minded? What I extremely don't believe in Zeus? Careful with your response - it may reveal if you're a militant, narrow-minded, a-Zeusian heretic.

Also, there's a difference between not believing in a god and being a devout atheist, so to speak.


I think you misunderstand what atheism is. Or what devout means, for that matter.

Buddhism, for instance, has no gods whatsoever.


That's right, Buddhism is a non-theistic religion. So one can be a Buddhist and an athiest *at the same time*. Which is why your next sentence doesn't really make sense:

See, most atheists simply reject religious teachings/principles solely on the basis of "hey, it says a guy rose from the dead, which is impossible, so there's nothing to learn from this book".


I'm curious how you have come to know the attitude of "most athiests." It might be more productive for you to address specific ideas and positions rather than the imaginary attitudes of imaginary people. Also, as stated above, atheism isn't a rejection of religion; it's a disbelief in a god. As you noted, one can have religion without a god.

For me, looking at a story, or any piece of information, and inferring nothing further than what common sense tells you implies a lack of imagination and desire to know more, qualities which are absolutely necessary(though not sufficient) in any scientific activity.


I'm not sure what you're trying to get at here. If it's the Bible you're referring to, you should know that there exist agnostic and athiestic Biblical scholars who have extracted fascinating insights from that document. Bart Ehrman is a well-known example.

As for the Nature article you quote, it's exactly what I'm talking about. The survey was done by a psychologist and the questions are, again, profoundly biased, limiting religious experience to a monotheistic God and a vague concept of immortality, not to mention the fact that somehow America is made an etalon for the entire world.


So do you categorically reject psychology, or just psychologists who presume to do surveys? That smacks of Scientology. Hmm. Anyway, although one can be religious without believing in a god, the two are nevertheless highly correlated. According to the CIA factbook I linked to above, 54% of the world's population claims to be either Christian or Muslim. The 11.78% "other religions" is probably the hundreds or thousands of various tribal religions that believe in some kind of deity. So conflating religion with a belief in a god is a jump, but hardly a "profound bias".

As a closing statement, consider Einstein's views on spirituality and the religiousness of most great scientists before 1950.


Einstein was an agnostic, deist, or athiest:

"It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it." - from a letter Einstein wrote in English, dated 24 March 1954.

But what does that matter? Einstein was a smart guy, but even if he had loved Jesus and prayed to Mary, that wouldn't make Catholicism true. As a closing statement, consider the atheism of most scientists since the great advances in pretty much all areas of knowledge since 1950.
kasen
not rated yet Aug 03, 2009
The atheist extreme, or the "devout"(humour) atheists I'm speaking of are people who actively waste their time trying to convince other people that religions are not based on scientifically verifiable facts. Instead of letting the science speak for itself, not that it were infallible, they try to push it on people who either can't be reasoned with, or don't really care one way or another and just enjoy arguing or being part of something. Arguments between atheists and fundamentalists are essentially unsolvable and counter-productive for both parties and any rational person can see that. So, a fundamentalist can be excused by being more emotional rather than rational from the start, but what about outspoken atheist scientists?
Believing or not believing is beside the point, the problems arise when declaring one's (lack of) faith and making a big fuss out of it. And, ultimately, everybody believes in something, that is to say they are quite, yet never 100%, certain of some causal links. To be narrow-minded is to refuse to accept the possibility that you could be wrong and someone else might be right. I equate this with any extreme belief in anything.
In regards to Buddhism and belief in a God, I was again refering to how the questions of the NAS survey were inadequately formulated. The research tools of those who study society and large groups of humans are not only inaccurate, but due to results being widely broadcast, they also affect future measurement by artificially defining zeitgeist, stereotypes and common knowledge. The first NAS survey was done in 1914, another one in 1933 and the latest in 1998. The number of "smart people" who "say no to Jesus" have gone up each time. Incidentally, mass-media coverage went up as well. Oh, and people still like to be smart, always have.
In light of that argument, I reserve the right to use expressions such as "most", "some" etc. when discussing human behaviour. I prefer them to "highly correlated", "statistically significant" or exact numbers.
So, yes, most atheists I know of, obviously outspoken ones otherwise I wouldn't have known of them, target specific information in the Bible and not the overall idea. They do the whole "why God and not Zeus, or the Great Juju" routine, or go for the miracles or, if they're smart, for the fact that religious texts have been modified over time. They attack facts, not ideas. And any discussion on the ideas is doomed, like any philosophical debate, to aporia.
I'll try to sum up the points I've been trying to make: 1.social sciences are not yet sciences;
2.any form of belief can lead to zealotry and therefore narrow-mindedness;
3.great scientists from before 1950(arbitrary year here) have always sought knowledge both rational and spiritual, and adherence to a religion or plain spirituality never interfered destructively with reason;
louiswap
not rated yet Aug 03, 2009
I didn't become involved in religious cannon until after I started college. Once I got deep into the science fields, then those Judeo-Christian scriptures finally added up. Everyday science keeps moving toward the religious outline of the universe (not the other way around). Its such an awesome study, and its so cool to watch.
Hernan
not rated yet Aug 04, 2009
Evolution vs Creationism %u2013 my two cents.
About Six day creation -- Even before Jesus, Rabbis began writing comments about Moses books. They understood that there were other ways to understand Genesis. By the time Paul wrote Romans the notion the six day creation was an allegorical tale, or a prophetic vision was believed by many Jews and Christians, Paul been one of the most obvious defenders of the prophetic view. Read very carefully Romans (%u201Cthe letter kills...%u201D %u201Cfor the man in the flesh... madness%u201D ), Galatians (%u201Cshadow of the things to come...%u201D), Corinthians (quotes Leviticus, 'thou shall not put a muzzle in the ox%u2026' then asks: 'do you think God cares about oxen...'). If you think the Six day creation should be taken literally, take this test and discover something about yourself, answer the following questions:
Is there a tree somewhere in Iran, that if Hitler, Saddam or Bin Laden would eat its fruit, they would become eternal gods? Now read the story of Adam and Eve again.
What is an image or a resemblance? Is God plural and in the shape of a man and a woman? Read the sixth day again.
And last, are you telling me your god get tired and needs rest? Seventh day...
About the mix-up with Evolution and %u201CTheory of Natural Selection%u201D: Evolution is an observed fact, supported by the Himalayas and the Andes worth of fossils %u2013 literally! The Theory of Natural Selection is a theory about how this evolution came to be, and as any other scientific theory, it is continuously improved and revisited, and could even one day may be thought as obsolete. It is not meant to prove or disprove the existence of a higher being.
SMMAssociates
not rated yet Aug 09, 2009
Hernan:

The "God rested" thing is most likely a poke at the folks who worked their slaves 24/7 (well, at least "7").... Not so much he needed the rest, as "well, let's look at other things for a bit", perhaps?

I'm not going to say "All", but, IMHO, "Most" of this stuff was written to make a point in more real world terms. And, we probably read a good deal into it, too, because of our own views/beliefs, etc.

(Dozens of Christian "explainers" pored over the Old Testament looking for prophecy. "It's talking about 'sheep', so it's got to be a 'Lamb of God' reference, and...." Sure....)

I've got a BA in The Psychology of Religion. I consider myself religious, but rarely attend services, although a good chunk of my ill-spent youth taught me pretty much the entire content of the prayerbook.

Over the decades, I decided that it was largely a style show, and the Rabbi's sermons were almost as bad a joke as Reverend Lovejoy's on "The Simpsons".... We're on the second Rabbi who's capable of writing a sermon that only he and I understand, but that's an inside joke. What's wrong with this picture is the guy who, in a world where everything was coming apart at the seams, did a twenty minute talk on "Sin".... I almost walked out. (I'm still not sure why I was there....)

So, it's "supportive, but not particularly active"....

Works for me....

(I've got a minor in History, and one in Law Enforcement. Seriously eclectic, but way off the map for the study we're talking about. If nothing else, my education gave me a much better understanding. It also killed the idea of mindless repetition. That makes staying away easier....)

Regards