"Wealth will increasingly be defined by our ability to go offline whenever we want." - Fernando Gros
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Blog // Thoughts
June 16, 2007

Does Education Destroy Faith?

There’s a fairly popular conspiracy theory amongst some Christians that universities and colleges are part of a giant liberal agenda to destroy faith and as a consequence, that following a path of higher education is a form of spiritual suicide. But, the facts don’t seem to bare this out. Recently, there has been a growing […]

There’s a fairly popular conspiracy theory amongst some Christians that universities and colleges are part of a giant liberal agenda to destroy faith and as a consequence, that following a path of higher education is a form of spiritual suicide.

But, the facts don’t seem to bare this out. Recently, there has been a growing number of stories about the rise in Christian activity on campuses around the world and particularly in the US. Add to this recent study (via Brad Boydston), those who attain a higher education are less likely to lose their faith than those who don’t.

On each of three issues, (Decline in Attending Services, Decline in Importance of Religion, Disaffiliation From Religion) those who did not attend college scored significantly higher than those who obtained a college degree. The summary of the article approaches my experience of seeing young adults struggle with faith in both church and chaplaincy work and the insights I hear from others with front-line experience (as opposed to the hot-air from pundits and pontificators).

Behavioral factors, he said, are a better way than college status to predict whether young adults will become less religious. Those who don’t have sex before marriage are also those who don’t experience as much of a drop in religious connection. Those who have smoked pot experience more of a drop. Those who increase alcohol consumption during their young adulthood experience more of a drop in religious connection.

Those who blame college for declining religious activity by students don’t understand that it is these factors, among others, that are the influence, Regnerus said. “This is about this period of the life course where freedom and choice become paramount,” he said. “What diminishes religiosity is freedom and choice, not intellectual engagement.

[tags] Faith [/tags]

Responses
Dan Morehead 15 years ago

Interesting…thanks for sharing this.

Nameless Faceless Love 15 years ago

Yes, I second Dan’s thanks for this post, Fernando. This information flies in the face of much of what’s been shared as of late on this topic. Encouraging. Thanks.

Chris Burleson 15 years ago

probably 50% of christian college students lose their religion by the time they graduate, and highly educated pastors are usually more liberal than their uneducated counterparst. It was a brilliant trick of the devil to require pastors to have college degrees. That’s why churches are ordaining gay marriages, because they are controlled by a minority of intellectual elites.

Fernando Gros 15 years ago

Chris do you have any research to back that up?

I’m not disputing those as anecdotally accepted myths, but the study I’ve quoted here is trying to interrogate them.

My experience in young adults ministry and chaplaincy certainly tells me that lots of folks loose their faith during tertiary education, but it also tells me that an aweful lot of those folks had very little substance to their faith to begin with – put simply, their churches (and youth ministries) had often done a terrible job of preparing them for “the real world.”

I used to believe the notion that educated clergy tended to be more liberal, but not anymore. About the only thing that seems true is that liberal churches tend to encourage and finance more higher degree qualification. But the fact is there are an aweful lot of masters and phd educated folks in the conservative end of the church. In the Baptist church (my background), the Southern Baptists are both highly conservative and highly committed to further education, PhDs and the like.

Churches fall from “Biblical Morality” first and foremost because of issues related to faith, not education. We can trace right back to the Early Church and the writings of Paul and John.

Faith 15 years ago

Hello…I Googled for faith, but found your page about o’s Desk ¬ª Does Education Destroy Faith?…and have to say thanks. nice read.

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