(USA Today) Study: Education liberalizes religious views

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. Schwadel, an associate professor of sociology, looked at 1,800 U.S. adults’ reported religious beliefs and practices and their education.

People change their perspective because, as people move through high school and college, they acquire an ever-wider range of friendships, including people with different beliefs than their own, Schwadel says. “People don’t want to say their friends are going to hell,” he says.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Education, Religion & Culture

9 comments on “(USA Today) Study: Education liberalizes religious views

  1. Mark Baddeley says:

    Or possibly that a student, when fully taught, will become like his or her teacher. And the higher up the education ladder you go, the more likely you are to be taught by people who are liberal in their beliefs and outlook.

    What perhaps is surprising here is that, despite how completely over-represented atheism is among university professors, it is not fully reflected among their alumni – they believe less, and take on more accommodating practices (at least I assume that’s what this article was implying), but don’t move over into atheism. I think that reinforces for me what I’ve been increasingly thinking, that atheism is a fairly unnatural position for humans to take up, and it takes a lot of work to get it to catch on among more than a small percentage of the population.

  2. Robert Lundy says:

    This verse came to mind: “Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a “fool” so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: ‘He catches the wise in their craftiness’.” 1 Cor 3:18-19

  3. NoVA Scout says:

    In engaging with my teen-age and young adult children on this, I have told them that Christianity is the most demanding of religions intellectually and that a shallow knowledge leads to easy dismissal or equivalency tendencies vis-a-vis other world religions whereas deeper scholarship and study breaks through that shallow appreciation to an understanding of the unique blessings of a Christian life. I have offered this in response to the fairly common phenomenon of people falling away in their early adulthood. Ultimately, I think a quality higher education helps this progression toward faith rather than hindering it.

  4. Jon Edwards says:

    Odd. I have a few years of education behind me, I am definitely not liberal religiously, but I will say “there is some truth in all religions”, since I believe all evil to be a corruption of good. Not having faith in Jesus Christ means you die in your own sin, and so must bear the punishment for your sin. … perhaps not a good series of questions?

  5. tired says:

    “People change their perspective because, as people move through high school and college, they acquire an ever-wider range of friendships, including people with different beliefs than their own, Schwadel says. “People don’t want to say their friends are going to hell,” he says.”

    My, what an educated reason for embracing universalism. Is the same outcome achieved with facebook?


    Of course, the chestnut question of “truth in more than one religion” is simply an introductory straw man. The truth is Christ. John 14:6. As noted above, it is possible for other religions to seize portions of the truth, while rejecting the full truth of Christ.

  6. Ian+ says:

    Great comments. I think Mark in #1 is onto something, i.e. that atheism is an unnatural position. St Augustine & C.S. Lewis both said that we’re hard-wired to seek out God (St A= “You have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until we rest in you”; Lewis= Every heart has a God-sized hole in it which nothing else will fit.). And #3- “Christianity is the most demanding of religions intellectually”. All attempts to write it off or bring it down to the level of other religions amounts to sophistry.

  7. clarin says:

    #1: University teachers hve never been representative of society at large, any more than politician or journalists. In fact, given that 93% of college teachers are Democrats, we should conclude they are a sect. It’s called groupthink or sociology of knowledge.

  8. NoVA Scout says:

    I would certainly hope that university faculties would not be representative of society at large. One wants these people to be experts in their fields, not chosen because they mirror the average Joe. By the way, I question the “93%” figure. I’ve spent a fair amount of time on college campuses and my unofficial, unscientific sense of things and that a lot of faculty (i.e., well more than 7%) didn’t buy into US party politics one way or another) Oh, one more thing: what does being a “Democrat” have to do with theology or religious views?

  9. Todd Granger says:

    The reading that I did in my undergraduate days liberalized my own Christian beliefs, and the reading that I did following on (and in part, enabled by) my undergraduate education led me to more traditional and catholic beliefs, as I came grips with deeper scholarship and responded to the positions to which I was earlier exposed.