A study released this week by the Pew Research Center on the relation in the United States between religiosity and educational attainment (one component of modernization, along with technological change and others) at first glance appears to support the secularization thesis: The more education people have, the less religious they are.
“College graduates are less likely to say they believe in God with absolute certainty,” noted the lead Pew researcher, Gregory Smith. “They are less likely to say that religion is very important in their lives. They are less likely to say they pray regularly, and college graduates are more likely than others to identify themselves as atheists and agnostics.”
A closer look at the data, however, offers a more nuanced picture. While highly educated Jews tend to be less observant than less educated Jews, the relation between education and religiosity is weaker among those Americans with a strong Christian identity.
“Highly educated [Christian] adherents are just as religious, in some cases more religious, than their fellow members who have might have less education,” Smith said. Among mainline Protestants, for example, college graduates were actually found to be more likely than noncollege graduates to report weekly church attendance. Regardless of their educational attainment, these Christians find meaning in their church experience.