Thursday, August 04, 2011

Does education or indoctrination make your religious beliefs more liberal?

According to a new USA Today study, the more educated Americans are, the more liberal their religious beliefs become. But why?
Each year of education ups the odds by 15% that people will say there's "truth in more than one religion," says University of Nebraska-Lincoln professor Philip Schwadel in an article for the Review of Religious Research. 
For each additional year of education beyond seventh grade, Americans are:
•15% more likely to have attended religious services in the past week.
•14% more likely to say they believe in a "higher power" than in a personal God. "More than 90% believe in some sort of divinity," Schwadel says.
•13% more likely to switch to a mainline Protestant denomination that is "less strict, less likely to impose rules of behavior on your daily life" than their childhood religion.
•13% less likely to say the Bible is the "actual word of God." The educated, like most folks in general, tend to say the Bible is the "inspired word" of God, Schwadel says.
Of course, the more secular you are, the more you will interpret this data to mean that the more developed a person's intellect becomes the less it will tolerate conservative religious beliefs. This assumes that American education actually develops your intellect, which, of course, is slightly suspect.

But the larger question is how much the change in views about religion are really due to the amount of education they have received and how much is due to the amount of secular indoctrination to which they have been subjected.

Most people "catch their opinions," said Samuel Johnson, "by contagion."

12 comments:

Singring said...

'But the larger question is how much the change in views about religion are really due to the amount of education they have received and how much is due to the amount of secular indoctrination to which they have been subjected.

Most people "catch their opinions," said Samuel Johnson, "by contagion."'

So you agree that the vast majority of religious belief is due to indoctrination?

Also, I am at aloss as to what you think is going on in education. The adjective 'secular', according to Miriam Webster, means 'not overtly or specifically religious'. So the term '[not overtly or specifically religious] indoctrination' makes no sense whatsoever. How is someone supposed to be indoctrinated by an education that is 'not specifically or overtly' religious? What is the logical connection between a secular education and students being 'indoctrinated' into losing their faith or becoming more liberal believers?

'Of course, the more secular you are, the more you will interpret this data to mean that the more developed a person's intellect becomes the less it will tolerate conservative religious beliefs. This assumes that American education actually develops your intellect, which, of course, is slightly suspect.'

This would be a valid point if religious belief didn't tend to decrease with greater education in other countries as well - as reviewed here:

http://www.pitzer.edu/academics/faculty/zuckerman/Zuckerman_on_Atheism.pdf

Thus - irrespective of the merits of any particular education system - more education seems to go along with less religious belief. This is best illustrated by those with the highest level of education, for example members of academic societies, which usually skew dramatically atheist (50 % or more) when compared to the general population.

For example, among 'top' scientists, atheism is 'almost total' to quote this survey from Nature:

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v394/n6691/full/394313a0.html

Are you now going to tell us that the top scientists in the world are all indoctrinated or uneducated - moreso than the general population, which according to your logic apparently is more educated and less indoctrinated than those esteemed ladies and gentlemen?

Or how about this study from the US:

http://www.buffalo.edu/news/8732

One of the points raised here is that (I quote):

'Among scientists, as in the general population, being raised in a home in which religion and religious practice were valued is the most important predictor of present religiosity among the subjects.'

So rather than bolstering your allegation that it is indoctrination rather than education that leads scientists away from religion, the exact opposite seems to be true: The more scientists have been indoctrinated in theri childhood, the more likely they will be to cling to those beliefs despite the education they receive.

The authors go on:

'Ecklund says, "It appears that those from non-religious backgrounds disproportionately self-select into scientific professions. This may reflect the fact that there is tension between the religious tenets of some groups and the theories and methods of particular sciences and it contributes to the large number of non-religious scientists."'

Again, this does not provide any evidence that your suspicion of 'indoctrination' via education is true, but rather supports another explanation.

Maybe you have different data to support your assertion?

May I suggest you include such supportive evidence in posts in which you attempt to discredit scientific findings and make allegations about 'indoctrination' going on in education so that these assertions at least have a vague sheen of credibility to them?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this Martin.

It reminds me of a Rorty quote:
http://www.whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2009/03/the_low_man_is_so_very_low.html

" The fundamentalist parents of our fundamentalist students think that the entire “American liberal establishment” is engaged in a conspiracy. Had they read Habermas, these people would say that the typical communication situation in American college classrooms is no more herrschaftsfrei [domination free] than that in the Hitler Youth camps.

These parents have a point. Their point is that we liberal teachers no more feel in a symmetrical communication situation when we talk with bigots than do kindergarten teachers talking with their students....When we American college teachers encounter religious fundamentalists, we do not consider the possibility of reformulating our own practices of justification so as to give more weight to the authority of the Christian scriptures. Instead, we do our best to convince these students of the benefits of secularization. We assign first-person accounts of growing up homosexual to our homophobic students for the same reasons that German schoolteachers in the postwar period assigned The Diary of Anne Frank.

It seems to me that I am just as provincial and contextualist as the Nazi teachers who made their students read Der Stürmer; the only difference is that I serve a better cause. I come from a better province."


-Martin Snigg

Anonymous said...

http://www.whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2009/03/the_low_man_is_so_very_low.html

One Brow said...

Going tyo a Catholic high school (Bishop DuBourg, St. Louis) and a Catholic (University of Dayton) certianly helped me with the critical thinking skils that led to my atheism.

Anonymous said...

Dr Cothran,

Here is John Medaille on 'vital remnants' in a speech to the Roman Forum.

http://www.frontporchrepublic.com/2011/07/will-there-be-zombies/

Singring said...

Ananonymous:

The article you cite opens with this paragraph:

'As we all know, the end of the world is coming soon. No, I don’t mean the eschaton, the final event in which the Son returns all things to the Father. That will be, by all accounts, a very cinematic event, full of all sorts of special effects. It will be, no doubt, very entertaining for those fortunate enough to be raptured in time to get a ring-side seat to the festivities to enjoy the spectacle of suffering for all those left behind. '

Apparently, the self-confessed monarchist John Medaille will take great pleasure in the eternal suffering and torture of those who do not believe in teh same thing he does.

Will you also be entertained by the 'spectacle of suffering' those 'left behind' will experience?

Is that the type of person you are?

Anonymous said...

Dear Singring,

I'm not Anonymous, apologies, my name is Martin Snigg.

Your comment: are you serious? And the title of his essay, do I really believe he means literal zombies?

Moving on. Dr. Cothran I won't clog up your comment section anymore but I meant to add "John Medaille wrote that this essay ought to be required reading in all politics departments: http://www.frontporchrepublic.com/2011/07/community-and-liberty-or-individualism-and-statism/ the concepts of course are all old-hat to your personally but Mr Medaille must believe it an elegant construction.

Singring said...

Dear Martin, sorry, I didn't know your name.

'Your comment: are you serious? And the title of his essay, do I really believe he means literal zombies? '

You didn't answer the my question. Would you or would you not be entertained by the suffering of thsoe left behind come jusgement day?

Its a very simple question and can be answered in one word.

Martin S. said...

Singring: tell me what it means when Jesus says while being slowly tortured to death on a trumped up charge "Father forgive them for they know not what they do?" and "I come that they might have life, and have it abundance" and "The Son of Man came not be served but to serve, and give his life as a ransom for many" and "I tell you love one another as I have loved you."

Singring: it is a simple question. Tell me, from a sane reading of the Gospels, what conclusions can you draw about Jesus' character? And who does Jesus say that he is?

-Martin Snigg

Singring said...

You still didn't answer the question, Martin. What's the problem?

Let me answer your question though, since unlike you, apparently, I have very little compunction to actually answer when someone asks me something.

First of all, I have no reason at all to believe that anything written in any of the four gospels about Jesus is actually true. Just like I have no reason to believe that the Qu'ran is true or the Bahavadgita is true.

However, if we assume for a moment that it is true, I read the following: that Jesus probably thought of himself as the son of god. That he was either insane, self-diluded and mistaken, evil or - and this strikes me as the least likely option - actually the son of god.

As to his moral teachings: some of them were good advice under some circumstances (for example, 'love theigh neighbor as thyself' is not very good advice when you are being attacked by a killer and have to engage in self-defense). Others, like the doctrine of hell, which he introduced, are so evil they defy comprehension. He also said that he would bring 'not peace, but sword' to 'set families against each other, fathers against sons...' etc. So on balance - even if everything I read about Jesus in the Bible were true (which I highly doubt) I would condemn him as a moral monster for the doctrine of hell alone, never mind some of his other dubious proclamations.

So that's what I think I can say of Jesus' character.

Now, if you had the courtesy to answer the very simple question I posed to you (one word will do) I will be very grateful.

Anonymous said...

Singring. I think you have to eat your peas.

God bless,

-M

Singring said...

I'm sorry you can't answer a simple question, Martin.

But you silence speaks more than words...