Sunday, May 20, 2007

"Religious Beliefs & Behavior of College Faculty"
Gail Heriot

This is an interesting study by Gary A. Tobin and Aryeh K. Weinberg.  It surveys the faculty members at elite and nonelite colleges and universities across the country.

Some of the findings are hardly news:  Faculty members are less religious than the population at large.  But the differences are actually just a bit less striking than I would have guessed.  For example, "[a]mong faculty, 46% asserted that they have a personal relationship with God, 19% answered that they have no relationship but believe in God, 19% said they do not, and 17% preferred not to answer.  Within the public, 66% answered that they have a personal relationship with God, 27% answered that they have no personal relationship but believe in God, only 4% said they do not, and 3% chose not to answer." 

"While 80% of the public self-identify as Christian, only 56% of faculty self-identify in the same way."  The difference appears to be mainly a result of a dearth of Evangelical Christians, who account for 33% of the public and only 11% of college faculty.  Catholics were 18% of college faculty and 24% of the public; Jews were 5% of college faculty, but only 2% of the public.  Unitarians are 3% of college faculty, but (I believe) a miniscule part of the public.

The big surprise to me is how closely correlated religious belief is to seemingly unrelated foreign policy issues.  Respondants were asked whether they agreed or disagreed with the following statement:  "Supporting institutions like the International Court of Justice is the right policy."  The group that most agreed with the statement was ... (drumroll please) ... Atheists/No Religion (80% agreed/8% disagreed).  Next came Jews (73% agreed/9% disagreed), Non-Evangelical Christians (67% agreed/18% disagreed), and Catholics (59% agreed/22% disagreed.  The outlier was the Evangelical Christian category (bless them)(39% agreed/42% DISAGREED).

There were lots of questions like that.  When asked whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement "America has made a contribution to the world by expanding freedom to more and more people," only 54% of Atheists/No Religion faculty members agreed and as many as 34% disagreed.  Among Evangelical Christian faculty members, 87% agreed and 12% disagreed. 

Fully 42% of those in the Atheist/No Religion category agreed with the statement "The United States is one of the two countries posing the greatest threat to international stability."  Only 10% of those in the (underrepresented) Evangelical Christian category agreed.

It's not obvious to me why atheists should be as strongly critical of American foreign policy as they apparently are (although I can think of some possible explanations).  I'll leave the speculation to someone else for now.

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Gail Heriot


Uh, doctrine of original sin, maybe? Plus, those who don't put their faith in Creator, have 2 remaining choices: created, or nothing.

Posted by: caveat bettor | May 20, 2007 5:23:50 PM

Scary that the future of Western Civilization hangs on the willingness of American evangelical Christians to continue to shoulder the responsibility--morally, militarily--of the rest of the U.S. What if enough of them decide to follow the Jim Wallis heresy?

Posted by: Dr. T | May 21, 2007 4:55:10 PM

OK, this is gonna sound antisemetic, etc., but I just don't buy that only 5% of college faculties are Jewish. Maybe they don't self-identify religiously as "Jewish", but I would put the percentage at at least 20-25%, maybe more...

Posted by: jimbo | May 21, 2007 5:10:06 PM

Not obvious!?! Sure it is! Communism is organized Atheism. So, re-write the post with all occurances of Atheist replaced with Communist...

Posted by: Darin Morley | May 21, 2007 5:16:48 PM

thanks for the info!

i think that the reason so many atheists are anti-American is that most are postmodernists and believe that Judeo-Christian/Western Civilization is the apex of evil.

They blame J-C/WC for: most of history's genocide; AGW; and Third World poverty.

These are all demonstrably false.

In fact, leftism (Marxism, socialism, National Socialism - as practiced by Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Kim Jung Il/Kim il Sung et al - murdered more people in the 20th Century than did Christianity in the preceding 20 centuries.

In fact, there is no such thing as AGW; climate change is largely natural, and always has been.

In fact, Third World poverty wasn't caused by the West or colonialism. Poverty is the natural state of human affairs; affluence requires abundance and that requires capitalism, free enterprise, industrialization and globalization. The West became wealthy and our living standards and life spans improved most with the advent of industrialzation and trade etc. The Third World needs factories and trains and "sweatshops" and highway if they want to become affluent.

IN FACT... leftist policies have a;ways failed everywhere. China transformed itself into a food exporting nation by abandoning central planning of socialism - only when it became more like the USA and other FREE Western nations did living standards for tens if not a few hundred MILLION Chinese improve.

Despite these facts, postmodern leftists continue to attack the USA as if it was the root of all evil/poverty/racism, etc.

This intellectual left - the postmodern left - also feels that belief on God is (a) an opiate of the people, and (b) an indication that the believer is dumb.

In their postmodern world atheism ad leftism are the only acceptable belief systems.

Following a Gramscian strategy, they seek to weaken and ultimately destroy the J-C/WC by toppling the USA. Like al Qaeda they feel that once the USA is gone the rest of the West will collapse.

Hence their anti-American views.

And their affinity to jihadists. Jihadists and postmodernist leftists both hate the USA and modernity - and the J-C/West.

That's why Hugo Chavez and Ahmdainejad are allies.

And why the poll results look the way they do.


Posted by: reliapundit - the astute blogger | May 21, 2007 5:38:27 PM

As an atheist, I call partial BS. I suspect it has a lot more to do with the academic atheists (most often communists or post-modernists) than anything inherent in atheism. Any rational atheist would view the US with glee compared to the options of western Europe with its state-funded religions, or the Islamic world. This would be rather more informative if it showed corresponding religious affiliations with the general populace answers to the same questions. I do not think that Presbyterians as a group, for example, fall into the same percentile as academic Presybterians, for example.

Posted by: fallous | May 21, 2007 6:04:06 PM

I think the first answer is the closest, at least to explain the opinions of evangelicals.

Original sin.

After that... the tearing of the veil.

And after that... what the word evanglelical means.

If one is looking at the world from the standpoint that assumes an inherent sinful nature, one believes in "bad guys." No multi-culturalist insistance that all things are equally right and good. If one is looking at the world from the standpoint that the veil was torn (taking out the middle-man between even the lowest person and G-d) one assumes an inherent personal efficacy. Evangelical means people have the ability to make choices for fundamental change in their own lives and are not bound to the circumstance of their birth.

I agree that it's most likely that the opinions on the Atheist side of things is more to do with the sort of Atheists likely to be drawn to teaching at Universities.

Posted by: Synova | May 21, 2007 6:31:34 PM

fallus is on the right track. I think faculty atheists are the epitome of trendy college "contrarianism". I put that in quotes because it's a pose--in truth, within their world they are totally mainstream, unimaginative and predictable.

In any case, the faculty atheists are going to be the most stereotypical of the campus "contrarians". And that means hating all things American except that which works to their personal advantage (which, publicly, they will still oppose).

Posted by: tim maguire | May 21, 2007 7:39:00 PM

fallous: "Any rational atheist would view the US with glee compared to [just about anywhere else]"

You are assuming that the rational atheists are comparing the US with other nations. They claim to be, but most rational atheists are smart enough to know that they are lying. Rational atheists are actually comparing the US hinterlands against the transnational progressive elite culture to which they aspire.

I'd argue that it is a rational choice for these atheists to turn their backs on America.

To whit, the above comments. One twit has informed us that you have to believe in Roman-era "doctrine of original sin" in order to be moral and patriotic. An even sillier twit has claimed that "communism is organised atheism".

IQ correlates strongly with atheism; and negatively with a criminal record. (There are an awful lot of Believers in our jails, as is well known.) IQ also happens to correlate with the sort of marketable skills which are in demand in elite circles around the world. Atheists are simply smarter than the rest of you.

e.g. There won't be many Intelligent Designtards in a genetics lab and there won't be many creationists drilling for Palaeozoic-era fossil fuels.

Therefore, if atheists perceive that the religioids in the US despise them, they don't have to pretend to like the yokels. They can - and will - support whatever policies come to mind to piss off the yokels. Those will correlate with the agenda of the transnational elite: dictators and oligarchies, big business, NGOs etc. Why should they stay in Lubbock and vote Republican if they can move to Milan and dine out on stories about the Third Redeemed Church of the Holy Spigot?

If middle Americans want their elite, their atheists, and (especially) their scientists to support them, they should quit flaunting their Bronze Age mythology. The blunt truth of the matter is that middle Americans need their disbelievers and not the other way around.

Posted by: Zimri | May 21, 2007 7:48:48 PM

How... revealing.

Posted by: Synova | May 21, 2007 8:16:17 PM

Given that politics and religion are as intertwined as they are in this day and age, and especially given the success of the politicization by the right of the Evangelical community since the late 70s, I don't see how this would be surprising at all.

Posted by: ponyboy | May 21, 2007 8:36:05 PM

Zimri - lots of false choices there, and lots of assumptions about what religious people believe. It's not that what you say has no merit - it's certainly worthy of discussion - but you are very sure about some things that just aint so. With such overbroad generalizations, I don't get the impression we could have a discussion.

As a past president of an ultra-high IQ society (some years ago BTW), I will assure that IQ only correlates with marketability up to a point.

Posted by: Assistant Village Idiot | May 21, 2007 8:41:17 PM

tim, yes, many of the intelligensia are atheists. but not necessarily because that is the highest order of thought, as you might think, but rather because many intelligent peoples, and scientists particularly, only admit into evidence that which can be recorded by their sensitive instruments, i.e. physical phenomenon. The realm of the transcedent cannot exist to them, based upon the criteria self-imposed on their search, unless perhaps by Grace a new "vision" is bestowed upon them. But, if they're not seeking, then they won't find, anything beyond their contraints.
Finally, since the Created world seems quite orderly, then their clever explanations of it is seen as causation. They do not need a God to explain the logic of the created physical world and so therefore, assume that surely must be "evidence" that there is no purposeful guidance behind Creation.
(I, for one, cannot imagine that this is all totally accidentally random. The gravitational constants after the Big Bang just happened to be perfect for coalescing matter, for example. And I am convinced that quantum-level DNA mutations, small and large genome shifts, perhaps in promoter regions and for transcription factor proteins, for example, are certainly well within the power of the Lord of Creation to guide evolutionary changes ....)
The scientists I know and have worked with are often truly brilliant and great folks, but by definition of their work, are fixated on understanding the workings within the physical realm. Being in relationship with God just is beyond their modus operandi.

Posted by: Deb | May 21, 2007 9:00:29 PM

The things I listed earlier, which Zimri decided were claims of exclusivity, simply aren't. Natural law can get a person to the same places without a deity involved. But it seems to me that atheists who believe a no-God version of those things are probably libertarians or objectivists rather than liberals and the big numbers on the no-God side of the study are probably made up of atheists who fit the liberal-atheist-academic mold.

Original sin is a very out-of-favor concept. It's not popular to believe that human nature, in the absence of teaching otherwise, defaults to evil. That even babies are not innocent. Despite any objective observations of the reality in the world around us, the preferred belief is that people are only *made* bad by their circumstances. A natural law approach would recognize that survival demands an inherent selfishness and brutality as the default state. Libertarian or objectivist (as I understand it) accept self-interest as the natural state and strive only for an enlightened view of how what we'd consider "good" behaviors ultimately serve self-interest.

Some claim that atheists are smarter than everyone else and thus entitled to rudeness doesn't explain the religion-political belief correlations in the study.

Posted by: Synova | May 21, 2007 9:23:44 PM

Zimri: IQ correlates strongly with atheism...

If the academy is hostile to religion, the students will learn to be hostile to religion. Odds are, if there is any such correlation, it is due to indoctrination rather than raw intelligence. Historically, the most intelligent and educated members of many cultures have often been the religious class (priests, clerics, etc.). Were they religious because they were intelligent, or because their education favored religion?

Of course, I don't mind being grouped with devout Believers like Kepler, Newton, Faraday, Volta, Ampere, Descartes, Kant, etc., etc., etc. Even Einstein was a theist. Just simply as a matter of historical fact, modern science owes its very existence to the work of theists.

Posted by: a guy in pajamas | May 21, 2007 10:01:59 PM

AVI: "As a past president of an ultra-high IQ society (some years ago BTW), I will assure that IQ only correlates with marketability up to a point."

And beyond that point, to level of psychiatric care?


Posted by: a guy in pajamas | May 21, 2007 10:06:33 PM

Only 9% of Jews disagree with supporting the International Court of Suppressing Israel?

That is not believable.

Maybe we should take another look at their methodology.

Posted by: Joseph Hertzlinger | May 22, 2007 9:31:24 AM

It looks like atheism is positively correlated with self congratulation.

Posted by: Joseph Hertzlinger | May 22, 2007 9:43:15 AM

An elite University is one where elderly Jews teach young Chinese. Have I got that joke right?

Posted by: dearieme | May 22, 2007 11:38:11 AM

Symova, you are invoking "it must be right because it is popular"--i.e. a doctrine that is out of favor? How the intelligentsia require the mass vote! How wrong Einstein's relativity or Schrodinger's quantum, given how the scientismists first responded (Thomas Kuhn is saying "I told you so" all the time, from his grave).

I believe in God, and my secular IQ is pretty high. big whoop, the latter. BIG WHOOP, the Former.

Posted by: caveat bettor | May 22, 2007 11:39:57 AM

No dearieme, that describes my alma mater. I am a stupid theist, so there is no way Cornell could be an elite University. In fact, Cornell is a pluralversity ("university" derived from "universe" means One Word, to us dumb theists who also claim the superstition know as "Latin etymology").

I was waitlisted by Princeton. Which was coincidentally founded by folks who loved Jesus. Much like the founders of Harvard. And Yale. Dumb theists. Dumb, dumb, dumb are we. The Bible says "foolish". And of course the Bible is right, isn't it?

No, I had to go to the most atheistic Ivy school--all the smart theist-founded institutions found better quality than me.

Posted by: caveat bettor | May 22, 2007 11:45:51 AM

"Even Einstein was a theist."

This isn't quite correct, at least not according to the current usage of theism. It would be more accurate to say that Einstein was a deist. His famous quote "God does not play dice with the universe", viewed in the broader context of his views of religion, might be extended to say "God does not play at all with the universe." The God in which he (rather loosely) believed was an impersonal god, the watchmaker who starts the universe and then leaves it alone. Not at all theistic.

"The scientists I know and have worked with are often truly brilliant and great folks, but by definition of their work, are fixated on understanding the workings within the physical realm. Being in relationship with God just is beyond their modus operandi."

The religious folks I know and have worked with are often kind and decent, but by definition of their beliefs, are fixated on the invisible and interpretation of ancient writings. The understanding of natural processes just is beyond their modus operandi.

Though it may seem that I am being snarky there, to a large extent, I have found this to be an actual tendency of religious people that I know. As I have seen it, the more devout the person, the less thoughtful or interested in the world around them they tend to be. Although, I will qualify this statement in a way that you didn't yours: not all of my religious acquaintances are unthoughtful or uninterested in learning. Just most.

If you'll look into the philosophy of science, your view of scientists is certainly incorrect. The people who espouse the view you claim for scientists, "Science is all there is to the universe," were called the logical postivists. Their movement died a rather ugly death when it was discovered that their founding principles were self-contradictory. There are plenty of things that science cannot uncover, and though not all scientists are interested in them, most have thought about them. The fact that the parts of "the realm of the transcendent" that we are interested in are not the same as those that you are interested in (and the fact that often we think that the things that you call transcendent are not meaningless but rather false) should not be mistaken for a lack of understanding of the existence of transcendent things.

Posted by: The Real Don Steele | May 22, 2007 1:41:17 PM

I'm unsure of the wisdom of alluding to Einstein in a discussion like this: the man discarded his first child, fate unknown. Perhaps we atheists should be glad if religious types incline to claim him as one of theirs. As for Newton: OK, he was probably the cleverest man who ever was, and he believed in the Christian God. But also in alchemy, did he not? Do you want to advance arguments for alchemy?

Posted by: dearieme | May 22, 2007 2:02:03 PM


I'm not claiming anyone, really, just setting the record straight. Depending on how strict an atheist you are, perhaps Einstein's deism is reason enough to not claim him.

For me though, on the subject of claiming people: no people are mine. If they belong to anyone, it's to themselves.

Posted by: The Real Don Steele | May 22, 2007 2:45:25 PM

Fair enough, Don. Come to think of it, discussing Newton and Einstein in the same breath as ordinary Faculty members is pretty risible anyway.

Posted by: dearieme | May 22, 2007 3:22:50 PM