Thursday, February 17, 2011

smart people keep going to church

According to this study. Again this defies the eager hopes of those who believe Western Enlightenment must necessarily lead us on a Hegelian progressive march toward atheism.

The 2008 ARIS study shows that the educated elite (those with postgraduate degrees) church at near the same rate as the rest of the country, though there are interesting differences. For example, 19% of the elite are mainline Christian (Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, etc.) whereas only 13% of the American population are. (In other news, mainline Protestantism continues to lose members.) In the category of "other Christian," which is probably too broad to be interesting, educated elites identify at 25%, the American population 38%. (I assume this last difference can be explained by the smaller percentage of the elite who identify as fundamentalist evangelical.) The elite identify as "nones"---i.e., no religious affiliation---only 2% more (17%) than the population at large (15%).

Interestingly enough, according to this study, educated elites have religious marriages (86%) more often than the rest of the population (72%). And yet, not surprisingly, they accept human evolution at a higher rate (48%) than the rest of America (38%).


  1. That study also shows a significant drop in the percentage of "elites" going to church EVERY week: down from 28% to 18% I think.

    I read that as a sign that our consumer culture, fueled by new ways of making demands on time, keeps gaining ground on the Sabbath, a traditional God-over-Mammon day.

  2. James, interesting observation! Every-week attendance has never been a widespread U.S. practice. Attendance in the Puritan era, according to Rodney Stark, hovered around 35-40%, even in Congregational strongholds like Massachusetts. I don't know whether your take on consumer culture is true, since it seems widespread mass consumer culture has been competing with church attendance for well over 100 years.

    Wouldn't it be great if everyone could just take a day to loaf with the fam & take a drive or go on a walk? RE Kenneth Burke's logology (i.e., the secular appropriation of religious language), I've been hearing more about "Internet sabbaths" these days. William Powers, author of _Hamlet's Blackberry_, coined the phrase. Take a day off from the Internet and get yer head out of what Adam Gopnik calls "the wraparound presence."