Less-educated Americans are losing religion, study finds

♏*PHOENIX*♏ - posted on 08/25/2011 ( 33 moms have responded )

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(CNN) - If you don't have a college degree, you’re less likely to be up early on Sunday morning, singing church hymns.



That's the upshot of a new study that finds the decline in church attendance since the 1970s among white Americans without college degrees is twice as high as for those with college degrees.



“Our study suggests that the less-educated are dropping out of the American religious sector, similarly to the way in which they have dropped out of the American labor market,” said W. Bradford Wilcox, a professor of sociology at the University of Virginia, who was lead researcher on the project.



The research, presented this week at American Sociological Association's annual meeting, found that 37% of moderately educated whites - those with high school degrees but lacking degrees from four-year colleges - attend religious services at least monthly, down from 50% in the 1970s.



Among college-educated whites, the dropoff was less steep, with 46% regularly attending religious services in the 2000s, compared with 51% in the '70s.



The study focuses on white Americans because church attendance among blacks and Latinos is less divided by education and income.



Most religiously affiliated whites identify as Catholics, evangelical Protestants, mainline Protestants, Mormons or Jews.



Lower church attendance among the less-educated may stem from a disconnect between them and modern church values, the study theorizes.



Religious institutions tend to promote traditional middle-class family values like education, marriage and parenthood, but less-educated whites are less likely to get or stay married and may feel ostracized by their religious peers, the researchers said.



The researchers expressed concern about the falloff in church attendance among the less-educated.



“This development reinforces the social marginalization of less educated Americans who are also increasingly disconnected from the institutions of marriage and work,” said Andrew Cherlin, co-author of the study and a professor of sociology and public policy at Johns Hopkins University.



Wilcox said that those who do not attend church are missing out on potential benefits.



“Today, the market and the state provide less financial security to the less educated than they once did,” Wilcox said. “Religious congregations may be one of the few institutional sectors less-educated Americans can turn to for social, economic and emotional support in the face of today’s tough times, yet it appears that increasingly few of them are choosing to do so.”



(Agree, Disagree? what are your thoughts on this?)

MOST HELPFUL POSTS

Jodi - posted on 08/26/2011

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"Sounds like a highly biased study meant to prove a religious agenda."

I suspect you are right, Jennifer, which is why I went searching a bit. I didn't really find much, because I didn't have much time, but I did find another article, which stated that Wilcox was a conservative and affiliated with the Institute for American Values, etc.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/44192469/ns/...

Karla - posted on 08/26/2011

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I crossed my mind that the less educated may be working at Walmart or McDonald’s on any given Sunday morning. Just saying.

JuLeah - posted on 08/27/2011

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This study is flawed. You can't simply connection two factors and ignore others that might be of influence.

It's like the studies that say, "Violent TV makes kids violent"

That is stupid. Kids who watch hours of unsupervised TV; violent shows might have behaviors that are less socially aceptable, yes. BUT, they also have parents who are (for whatever reason) uninvolved, ignore them for hours on end, and don't provide positive social encounters. Odds are these kids don't eat well; a lot of junk food as they watch, odds are they don't sleep as much as they should ... see, ya can't say it is all TV and ignore all the other factors.

In this study, did they factor in the economy? How many jobs do people work to make ends meet? If you lack a college degree, are you more likely to be working Sunday morning or so tired from the three challegning jobs you work throughout the week? Maybe folsk want to go to church, but can't because they have to put food on the table.

I dislike flawed studies

Jenni - posted on 08/27/2011

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I don't know Megan. The more I learned about the world outside of church. The more educated I became on different religions, origins of religion, ancient civilizations, science, art history, sociology and psychology.... the further away from a belief in a god I travelled.



The more I questioned, the more answers I received that didn't make sense and seemed illogical.



Some people may still be able to hold onto a belief in a higher power. As it's infalsifiable. But belief in Christianity (for example) becomes far more difficult the more knowledge you attain.



And I'm curious, I've heard there is a difference between college and university in the US and here in Canada. Our colleges are to learn trades and career training and our universities are to inspire thought; for acedemic and professional programs. ;) So it would be understandable that college educations would not have a negative effect on faith.

Jenni - posted on 08/26/2011

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I found this interesting and... logical..



1.1. Bias When Searching for Truth



If you think you have the answers, you are less likely to search for the truth. If you are an engineer in ancient Greece who thinks that the microscope has proven that neurones work through hydraulic pressure, you are not likely to question this truth without very convincing evidence: your search has largely ended. Your background belief (as an engineer in this example) has primed you, and biased you towards accepting the hydraulic neurone theory. Those who believe that "God works in mysterious ways" and believe in miracles, magic (such as prayer), and that God makes the planets orbit the sun, are less likely to have enquiring minds about how such things work.





“Scientists had to suffer torture, silencing, imprisonment and death at the hands of Christians who didn't agree with newly discovered facts about the world. Christianity lost the first battle with astronomers who realized that, contrary to what Christians asserted, the Sun did not orbit the Earth, and that the Universe doesn't seem to be designed specifically for humankind. Copernicus (1473-1543), Kepler (1571-1630), Galileo (1564-1642), Newton (1643-1727) and Laplace (1749-1827) all fought battles against the Church when they published scientific papers challenging religious orthodoxy. Bible verses were all the theories Christians needed; and Joshua 10:12-13, 2 Kings 20:11, Isaiah 38:8 and Isaiah 30:26 all contradicted astronomers. [...Eventually] the Church retreated... only to go on to fight similar ignorant battles, and violently impose dogmatic errors, in the arenas of physics, biology and philosophy.”



"Christianity v. Astronomy: The Earth Orbits the Sun!" by Vexen Crabtree (2006)"



2.1. The More Religious the Parents, the Less Intelligent the Children



There is a reason why god-believing adults rarely become scientists, and almost never become top scientists. Not only does theology and dogmatic religious assertions interfere with correct scientific thought, but, children of religious parents have on average, lower intelligence. This common-sense finding is not a one-off statistic, but part of an entire trend. The stricter the religious beliefs of the parent, the less the average intelligence of the child.





“Sociologist Zena Blau of the University of Houston recently conducted a study of more than a thousand children in Chicago. [...] In 1981 Blau reported that IQs were lowest among children whose mothers have overly strict religious beliefs. Children whose mothers were from a non-denominational or non-religious background had the highest average IQs - 110 for whites, 109 for blacks. Children whose mothers belonged to "fundamentalist" religious groups tended to have IQs that were 7 to 10 points lower. According to Blau, these religion-IQ differences hold even when you take into account the mother's social class, current occupational status, and education.”



"Understanding Human Behavior" by James V. McConnel (1986)6



2.2. Religious People Have Lower IQ



It is apparent that there is a cycle. Religiosity, and belief in God, causes parents to have children with lower IQs. These children go on to be less interested in science, and hardly ever become top scientists. If this is true, then it must also be true that religious people in general, during their adult lives, remain less intelligent and less educated than those around them. Research has already shown that this is true.





“Several research studies have been published on the statistical relationship between religiosity and educational level, or religiosity and IQ. Michael Shermer, in How We Believe: The Search for God in an Age of Science, describes a large survey of randomly chosen Americans that he and his colleague Frank Sulloway carried out. [...] Religiosity is indeed negatively correlated with education (more highly educated people are less likely to be religious). Religiosity is also negatively correlated with interest in science. [...]



[Paul Bell in Mensa Magazine, 2002, reviewed all studies taken of religion and IQ. He concluded:]



"Of 43 studies carried out since 1927 on the relationship between religious belief and one's intelligence and/or educational level, all but four found an inverse connection. That is, the higher one's intelligence or education level, the less one is likely to be religious or hold "beliefs" of any kind."”



"The God Delusion" by Prof. Richard Dawkins (2006)7



2.3. Religious Countries Have a Lower Average IQ



All the studies so far have concentrated on individual measurements of IQ, and how they correlate with religiosity. In the West, this largely correlates with Christian religiosity. Because most of these studies are performed in the West, it is possible that secularism and atheism is correlated with higher intelligence simply because Christianity has a particularly negative effect on intelligence. To explore this further, we need to see if these trends exist in various cultures, where the background religion is no Christianity. Such studies have already been done, and have shown that across the globe, the more religious the people are, the less their average intelligence. It seems that the effects of belief on the Human search for truth are universal, and not religion-specific.



A study of data for belief in God and intelligence across 137 countries was undertaken by Lynn, Harvey & Nyborg (2009)8, with the latest comprehensive sets of data available, which were mostly from 2004. The data shows conclusively that countries with a higher average IQ have less belief in God - they state that "in only 17% of the countries (23 out of 137) does the proportion of the population who disbelieve in God rise above 20%. These are virtually all the higher IQ countries". Sociologists have found that in general, as a country gets more intelligence, the rate of belief in God begins to drop.



Bit long sorry but there's more:



http://www.humanreligions.info/intellige...



My conclusion, don't eat from the tree of knowledge.

33 Comments

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Jodi - posted on 08/29/2011

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LOL Megan, my husband asked me if the bible caught fire yesterday while I was flicking through pages to help my son with his RE assignment. I'm the ONLY one not Catholic in this house and I'm also the one most familiar with the Bible, so go figure. Seriously though, my kids get RE in their schools, and we do go to the school Mass sometimes, because the kids are involved in those in some form of performance. They are officiated by the Parish priest, but just a very different format than Sunday Mass. So just because we don't attend church, doesn't mean we ignore it entirely.

♥♪Megan♫♥ - posted on 08/29/2011

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I agree with Jodi. I don't really have time for organized religion in my life. I don't feel like taking 2 kids to church by myself (my hubby is convinced the church or himself will catch fire if he enters the building) And I don't even know if they have Catholic churches where I live because I haven't seen one. I do live next door to a Jehovah's Witness uh... temple? But I've had bad experiances with the followers of that religion from when I worked as a care aide. One guy asked that I be taken off his case because he couldn't convert me after saying my parents (who go to church) are sinners because they go to a casino night (put on by their church to raise money for repairs and such) It's like PTSD. I can't be around them

Anissa - posted on 08/28/2011

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Back in the day most businesses were closed on Sundays.. Now they stay open, many 24hours. And where do people with less education work... Walmart, McDs, Hy-Vee, etc.. places that are open and many require employees to be willing to work all weekend.

Jodi - posted on 08/28/2011

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Just because they don't attend church doesn't mean they are led away from religion, it only means they don't have time for organised religion. Doesn't make them any less religious.

Becky - posted on 08/27/2011

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Another thing I just thought of is that I wonder if less-educated people are more likely to have more children. (or to have children, period.) I know that since we have had children, our church attendance has declined drastically, simply because kids get sick, some days we're tired, some days we'd like to just have a family day with no other committments, etc. I don't know whether that is a factor or not, just speculation.

Becky - posted on 08/27/2011

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When I was in university, I rarely attended church, despite continuing to believe. For one, the church I attended was across town and I didn't have a car and for 2, I often worked Sundays. Plus, I didn't really like the church I was going to, it was snobby.
And I would have expected the opposite as well, most of the athiests I know are quite highly educated.

♥♪Megan♫♥ - posted on 08/27/2011

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So are we all just supposed to prove we're smart and go to church now?

Karina - posted on 08/27/2011

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i wonder what parameters the university used to come up with their conclusion. I have my masters degree, my husband has started his doctoral degree. Neither of us attend church. My husband is a self-proclaimed atheist. I grew up Methodist and Baptist with a Catholic grandmother, and as my knowledge of the church and the bible expanded, I became agnostic.
I agree with Jodi,Karla, Krista E.and Jennifer T. Is this study supposed to make the country even more polarized?

♥♪Megan♫♥ - posted on 08/27/2011

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Jennifer, I heard something like that from a friend of mine in QC. She had to have an extra year of some other school before university. My husband is an atheist to begin with and is in a school here in BC for 3D animation and game design. I don't know anyone personally who's gone to a different type of school here in Canada so my knowledge is quite limited (however I did find out BC charges non residents 8 grand or more to use their public schools- I'm exempt since the hubby was born here)

I believe the study may be flawed and doesn't take into account other factors that account for church attendance decline.

Jenni - posted on 08/27/2011

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Pretty much Juleah,

I think the main point here everyone is trying to make is correlation does not equal causation. I think we have a case of; "decreasing number of pirates = increase in global average temperatures."

Jenni - posted on 08/27/2011

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Actually Megan, I believe the US does have *better* universities an colleges than here in Canada. The point I was trying to make is colleges here in Canada are for learning trades and career training (such as graphic design, hairdressing, automotive trades, interior design, apprenticeships etc.) Whereas universities are for more academic pursuits and use to require an additional year of HS to be enrolled, now you just take advanced courses in HS (such as Law, Psychology, Engineering, Sciences, History, Doctoring, Criminal Science, Sociology, Teaching etc). University degrees are 3-4 undergraduate programs with addition 2-4 year graduate programs. Whereas college degrees are generally anywhere from 1-3 year diplomas. Colleges are for applied learning and Universities are for academic learning. I was just curious if universities and colleges are the same structure in the US as they are here.



I believe Canada has the same percentage of Christians as the US. I know I looked it up before and there are virtually the same percentage of followers in both countries.



According to the studies I pulled up (which are US based studies that appear to be far more thorough than these MSNBC studies) there is a direct link with higher education and decreasing belief in religion. These studies were done to encompass a worldwide persepective on higher education and decrease in religious views. Also socio-economics were taken into consideration as well. There are also additional studies done worldwide to confirm the US based studies.

♥♪Megan♫♥ - posted on 08/27/2011

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Jennifer, my family is from the States so I don't know much about the advanced education system in Canada. I only moved here 2 months ago. My parents and aunts and uncles are also in their late 50's and early 60's which is definitely another factor

It could also have something to do with age and personal beliefs and if you feel that having religion helps you in the first place.

There are other factors to take into consideration as well such as where a person lives because from what I saw when I lived Texas is EVERYONE went to church. Well maybe not everyone, but a lot of people. A lot can also hinge on your up bringing even if you do go for a higher education

[deleted account]

Questioning your faith makes it stronger?!! It might work like that for some, but for many including myself, questioning leads to enlightenment!

♥♪Megan♫♥ - posted on 08/26/2011

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Eh, both my parents have some college education. My mom's older sister and her husband are college educated (this sister also works as an accountent for the local diocese and her husband is a teacher at a Catholic school) They all go to church on Sunday or Saturday.

I was also taught that questioning faith and your beliefs makes them stronger. So wouldn't having some education and knowledge of things outside the faith you were raised in also strengthen some faith?

[deleted account]

Hmmm - yeah that's the opposite of what I would have expected. I would have thought that the more education you get, the less like you are to believe in a religion.

One of the main purposes of an education is to teach you to ask questions and analyse things rather believe whatever you are told - this is the opposite of having faith, which entails believing something without any proof.

♥♪Megan♫♥ - posted on 08/26/2011

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"Wilcox said that those who do not attend church are missing out on potential benefits."

Such as listening to priests talk to 7 year olds about why people who have abortions are bad. Yep, that's definitely a benefit I miss from Church.

Thanks for the link Jodi

Amanda - posted on 08/26/2011

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I also wonder if the stats of college educated people going to church is higher because more people now go to college. I wonder if they even put a curve in the study to account for that.

♥♪Megan♫♥ - posted on 08/26/2011

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Also even people who have college degrees may be working on weekends. Doctors and nurses are required by their professions to work on weekends because health care doesn't take a day off. Also it seems that organized religion is in decline whether or not you have a college degree. I have many college educated cousins who don't attend church, but some of them do still send their children to Catholic school.

Personally I believe it depends on the person not their college education or lack there of.

Karla - posted on 08/26/2011

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The article says:
“Today, the market and the state provide less financial security to the less educated than they once did,” Wilcox said. “Religious congregations may be one of the few institutional sectors less-educated Americans can turn to for social, economic and emotional support in the face of today’s tough times, yet it appears that increasingly few of them are choosing to do so.”

It also occurs to me that many young, less-educated people are getting their social and emotional support via lots of contact through cell phones and the Internet. Maybe their “congregation” is formed through their ability to get and maintain friendships using modern technology.

(If the study was only looking at the numbers, then they also did not consider any individual’s current support groups.)

Jenni - posted on 08/26/2011

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Also, just a theory but.... wasn't secondary education less important in the past? Less people were college educated. Like say in the 30s, 40s and 50s.
But I'm guessing church attendance was a lot higher back then than it is now.

Jenni - posted on 08/26/2011

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I was pretty much going to say what Jodi, Karla and Krista said. This study isn't showing *why* people without college degrees aren't attending. Just because people aren't attending church, doesn't mean they aren't religious.



A more accurate study, if it was meant to prove a link between higher education and religion, would have took the time to ask individuals what their beliefs actually were. Whether they be Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, other religion, Agnostic or Atheist. Then figure out the percentage of college educated vs. non college educated in each belief system.



Sounds like a highly biased study meant to prove a religious agenda. I think they already decided what would be proven from their study before conducting it and used a method that would prove their agenda. Something tells me if they had found different results, they never would have released this study. ;)

Mary - posted on 08/26/2011

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I did find that last quote a bit interesting - about religious institutions being a place ".... turn to for social, economic and emotional support in the face of today’s tough times..."

Regardless of your views on God, this is one of the biggest things that I find beneficial about organized religion. A friend of mine had triplets 9 months ago. She also has a toddler. Her immediate family was very limited in the amount of hands-on assistance they could provide, and they were not in a financial position to hire any type of live-in help. They did belong to church, but only attended rather sporadically. However, when the congregation found out that this couple was having triplets, they organized a mass effort to help provide around-the-clock help for those fist six months after the babies were born. It really was amazing. Sleep with one newborn is hard enough...but with three and a toddler? Even with both of them home at first, they needed at least one other adult just to survive. Most of their friends were limited by their own childcare responsibilities. (after all, I'm not working, but I would have had my own toddler with me, which isn't much help at all). That church came through with a whole bunch of willing volunteers who came out for 4-8 hr blocks to help out, including overnights.

I think, without that support, they really would have drowned.

Krista - posted on 08/26/2011

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I was thinking the same thing, Karla. More and more businesses in the service or retail industry are open on Sundays now. And if you only have your high school diploma, then you probably are more likely to be working on the front lines in those industries. So a lot of former church-goers probably have to work. People are busier.

And, I think that overall, a lot of people now realize that you can be very spiritual without having to go to church. (Plus, the internal politics of some congregations can really turn people off. A friend of mine is very, very spiritual, but he no longer attends church because of the backbiting and small-town politics found within its doors.)

[deleted account]

I know what everyone is saying but I'm just going to sit back and hope that it's true and people continue to leave religion behind.

Jodi - posted on 08/26/2011

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I don't think we should put too much credit on it being directly related to the college education. This study was not done in any sort of question and answer format so the researchers couldn't TRULY know that the reason is lack of religion. It was literally a study of already collected data, so it is showing a correlation of results. A correlation could point to various factors.



I am not certain what other variables they took into account, so I won't speculate on that, however, it could be that those without college education are more likely to have to work shift work, weekends and overtime, therefore not giving them the time to attend services. Maybe having a number of kids affects this ability - for instance, I know I have to attend weekend sports with the kids, and the games are often at times when others go to church. We rarely get to Mass. My children attend Catholic schools, and many parents NEVER get to Mass, simply because of other commitments. Many of them are actually quite devout Catholics, but can rarely, if ever (maybe once or twice a year) make it to Mass for various reasons. And we are lucky, our Parish offers more options than Sunday morning.....but life is often still far too busy.



So it's not that it has been spurned, necessarily, but our (*our* as in society's) lives have progressively become busier.



Inability to attend church, or choosing not to participate in organised religion does not make one any less religious that someone who does attend church.

♥♪Megan♫♥ - posted on 08/25/2011

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I don't know how much weight to put in that study. I have some college education and I only just stopped going. My husband is in college at the moment and has never believed in God a day in his life. I will admit that I felt awkward going to church after my divorce with my daughter. But I sent my daughter to Catholic school last year (mostly because the public schools where I lived were horrid and the Catholic school has full day kindergarten)

I believe it's just your own personal choice. A few of my friends are college educated and don't attend church or temple

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