How you read the Bible is tied to fellow worshippers' education, researcher finds

August 11, 2011, Baylor University

Regardless of a person's educational background, he or she is less likely to approach the Bible in a literal word-for-word fashion when surrounded by a greater number of church members who went to college, according to a Baylor University sociology researcher.

"When you go to Sunday school and everyone is talking about the cultural and historical background of a passage and its literary genre — a way of reading often learned in college —it's likely to rub off on you," said Samuel Stroope, a Baylor University doctoral student, in an award-winning research paper.

Using national data from 387 congregations and more than 100,000 worshippers, he explored the interplay between church members' educational backgrounds. His paper will appear in an upcoming issue of the journal Social Science Research.

The Association for the Sociology of Religion selected Stroope for the Robert J. McNamara Award for Outstanding Student Paper for his article, titled " and Religion: Individual, Congregational, and Cross-Level Interaction Effects on Biblical Literalism."

Stroope said his research illustrates the power of the social influences inside congregations in shaping how people read Scripture. His motivation to explore the topic came from research literature showing a strong relationship between how much education people complete and how they view the . But no one had explored whether fellow worshippers' education might also play an important role, he said.

The data Stroope used came from the U.S. Congregational Life Survey, a large and uniquely structured survey of churches and their members fielded in 2001.

Stroope will present the paper on Aug. 20 at the Association for the Sociology of Religion's 73rd annual conference in Las Vegas.

The chair of the committee reviewing student research praised the "strong social structural component to the analysis." The paper "moves beyond description in an attempt to explain social phenomena," said Dr. Rachel Kraus, associate professor of sociology at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind.

Explore further: Education affects Americans' religiosity -- but not how you might think

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3.3 / 5 (3) Aug 11, 2011
Education in fairy tales is worthy of college credit?
4 / 5 (2) Aug 11, 2011
Absolutely! Many colleges have classes titled like "The Bible as Literature" and so forth. There are educations in religion and ancient texts as well. People even make their livings off the stuff. So, again, yes. You can earn college credit for reading and studying the Bible and other religious literature.
4.2 / 5 (5) Aug 12, 2011
So what do you do with an in-depth knowledge of the Bible in real life?

Might as well study the intricacies of PacMan.
1.5 / 5 (8) Aug 12, 2011
So what do you do without any knowledge of the bible in real life?
You are in danger of rioting the way the Londoners did. You are in danger of indulging in all manner of sexual immorality because you're an animal and not made in the image of God. You drink yourself stupid, take drugs and create babies without any concern as to how to bring them up on a non-existent salary. Then, since you don't want the babies you kill them before birth.

You throw away your only chance at an eternal life without sin, pain, suffering and death, especially if you have had a "good" college/university education because you get to see the bible as containing only myths, not truth.

The author of the article is simply pointing out how the higher education has twisted people's minds into believing they know better than the one who created them - because they give in to the fear of other people's ridicule or they get arrogantly knowledgeable. They get to believe the lie of chemicals-to-chemist evolution.
5 / 5 (6) Aug 12, 2011
indulging in all manner of sexual immorality

Well, if you don't buy into the Bible then the definition of what is 'immoral' and what is not pretty much becomes moot. So this is a very circular argument.
drink yourself stupid, take drugs

Drinking is allowed. If you want to forego drinking on religious grounds you'd better convert to islam
and create babies without any concern

Be fruitful and multiply...the lord will provide? (and not to forget the ban on contraceptives/abortions)
That sounds a lot like the Bible being a cause for too many babies without any concern for the consequences - not a measure against it.

you get to see the bible as containing only myths, not truth.

If it has truth then there should be some evidence. Do you have any evidence for that 'eternal pain' or 'immortality'?

simply pointing out how the higher education has twisted people's minds

So you are arguing people must be kept stupid to believe in the Bible? Bingo.
not rated yet Aug 12, 2011
Actually, you should look to game theory rather than the Bible --Whichever of the many versions you prefer-- as the former tells you *why* both you and society benefit from making nice, while most of the latter is pitched at minimally educated, superstitious tribes-folk...
( The 'Letters to Athenians' etc are a different kettle of fish ;- )
5 / 5 (1) Aug 16, 2011
So what do you do with an in-depth knowledge of the Bible in real life?

Might as well study the intricacies of PacMan.

Not necessarily. I know of a pastor of a church who is secretly an avowed atheist. He is well educated in the Bible and theology, and makes about $70,000 a year. His words to an acquaintance of mine were to the effect of, "I tell them what they want to hear; they pay me well. Everybody's happy."

He said that if anybody ever tried to reveal this to his congregation he would deny it, and that they would believe him over anyone on the outside. To my knowledge he never was exposed.

But, yeah, if you can do something 'unethical' like that you actually could make a bundle of money in the religion field. There are a lot of "suckers" willing to pay it. :)

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