Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Post-Grad Degrees Not Harming Belief in God

Apparently, belief in God remains high even among the most highly educated in the US.

Somewhat surprising to me, I admit. I'm not that impressed either way, since I have a pretty negative view of higher education in general (at least in the sense of pursuing a degree, not the actual process of learning, particularly autodidactism.) But, there you go.

I'm sure more interesting observations could be wrung out of this data, such as it is, but for now I'll just let it speak for itself.


Steve said...

Education is not a big factor, however, as they acknowledge briefly there is one demographic issue which skews this analyis:

Only 9% of the educational elite is in the 18-29 bucket vs. 21% in the total survey. We know from other parts of the survey that as the younger group moves up the educational ladder, it will be more secular.

Crude said...

I'm not sure where you're getting the 'as it moves up the educational ladder, it will be more secular' part from. The closest they get is on the 'evolution' question. Are you thinking of another survey?

For me, the most telling page is #9 - ARIS 2008 showing that the 'elite' have a 85% belief in God or a higher power, with 1% at no such thing. It seems clear to me that there are changes happening, but education is hardly having much of an effect as opposed to general cultural forces.

Steve said...

I didn't make my point clear. If you would divide both elites and the total into age brackets, and then re-weight them so the age distribution matches up (remove the age-related skewing), then you would see somewhat larger differences (elite vs. total) than you do in the regular data set.

They don't show this, but it can be inferred from their full survey data.

Crude said...

Alright, but how are you making this inference? I looked over the papers themselves, and I just don't see where you're getting this conclusion from even as an inference.

Steve said...

I guess I was thinking of the Pew reports which for some questions gives the age breakdown.

Percentage of non-affiliated
18-29 25%
30-39 19%
40-49 15%
50-59 14%
60-69% 10%

For the percentage "absolutely" certain of personal God:
18-29 45%
30-49 51%
50-64 54%
65+ 57%

Religious sentiment and belief in God increase monotonically with age. So if you are comparing two populations with different age compositions, the older group will be skewed somewhat more religious all else equal. (Sorry for torturing a minor point).

IlĂ­on said...

And when those young "educated" "elites" get into the real world and begin to have the same sorts of real-world concerns that humans have always had -- with a focus on or concern for the lives and well-being of their own children, rather than the hedonistic self-centered focus they presently have -- they will begin to back off from their present secularist posturing.

People who genuinely care the life/soul of another person have a very difficult time maintaining the God-denial pretense.

Steve said...

There's a subtlety here:

Each age cohort gets more religious as it ages. But..

Each successive cohort in recent decades has been significantly less religious then previous cohorts were at the same age.

Crude said...

That's an extrapolation I'm less sure of. And from what I read, the 'non-religious' tends to bleed vastly more members most of the 'religious' groups. Plus, there was a large movement into the unaffiliated category from, say.. the 80s to the 90s. Since then, it's leveled off.

But that aside, I think it's a mistake to mix up 'unaffiliated' with 'non-religious' or even 'less religious'. Unless we're taking 'religious' to simply mean "explicit and active member of an organized church", which is pretty damn narrow.