Princeton Review ranks most and least religious schools
A survey listing the nation's most religious colleges revealed some surprises.
August 19th, 2011
11:53 AM ET

Princeton Review ranks most and least religious schools

By John Blake, CNN

(CNN) - Bennington College students recently learned that their Vermont school had received an honor that some might consider dubious: They attend the least religious college in America, according to an annual educational survey.

Bennington’s selection was part of an intriguing national survey listing the Top 5 colleges in the U.S. for most and least religious students.

The survey is part of a larger study conducted by the Princeton Review, a Massachusetts-based educational services company, for its new book, “The Best 376 Colleges: 2012 edition.”

Princeton Review interviewed 122,000 students at 376 top colleges to rate their schools and describe their campus experiences. Some of the categories included: Top colleges for “Most Conservative/Most Liberal Students,” “Best Professors,” and “Great Financial Aid.”

The survey’s questions about religion, though, caught our attention.

The 5 colleges with "most religious students” were: Brigham Young University, which is Mormon, in Utah; Hillsdale College in Michigan; Thomas Aquinas College, a Catholic school in California; Wheaton College, an evangelical school in Illinois; and Grove City College, an evangelical school in Pennsylvania.

The 5 colleges with “least religious students” were: Bennington College; Reed College in Oregon; Bard College in New York; Vassar College and Sarah Lawrence College, both in New York.

Robert Franek, author of "Best 376 Colleges," says the survey’s method for determining a college’s religiosity was simple: The Princeton Review just talked to students.

“We wanted to hear from whom we consider the college experts - current college students,” he says. “Those are the folks who are the real experts.”

Franek says students were asked if they strongly agreed or strongly disagreed that other students on campus were religious. Students were asked to give their answers on a five-point scale. The results were used to tally the book’s ranking lists of the top 5 finishers in each religious category.

- CNN Writer

Filed under: Christianity • Culture wars • Education

soundoff (1,058 Responses)
  1. kbeek

    I don't understand why people keep complaining about how horrible religion and religious people are on the comment sections of articles. It's hypocritical to complain about intolerance by those who are religious and not tolerate those that are religious and their beliefs.

    August 22, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
    • mfx3

      No it's not. Identifying and marginalizing intolerance is not, in itself, a form of intolerance. You're using circular logic.

      August 22, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
    • Andrew

      It is not intolerant to point out other people's intolerance. The reason lots of people complain about religion is that some of the major religions, such as most brands of Christianity and Islam, state that nonbelievers (not to mention gays) should and will be tortured for eternity after their death, and that this is good and just. Surely you can understand why I'd take issue with that.

      August 22, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
    • unknown11

      You have stumbled upon the achiles heel of the left. They are so convinced that they are smarter, wiser, and more moral that they often don't take the time to think, reflect and be tolerant. To them freedom of speech only applies if you espouse their message. To them freedom of religion means the government should crush religion. To them compromise means that everyone defers to their opinions. They see only through their narrow minded filter. To them, anyone whose opinion differs from their own must be shouted down, accused of stupidity or worse, and marginalized. If you choose to state the obvious, be prepared for their rath.

      August 22, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
    • SCAtheist

      We're complaining about how intolerant you are – we are forced to be tolerant of you.

      August 22, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
    • notacultist

      Progressive people don't like religion because they see the inherent fallacy in it. Just because something is thousands of years old doesn't make it correct.... in fact usually it makes that thing outmoded and archaic...... like religion. For me personally, I love wearing my super-soft poly/cotton blend T-shirts and since Christianity explicitly forbids me from wearing garments of two types of fabric..... well this just doesn't mesh well with me. OMG I am going to hell for wearing a shirt with two types of fabric.......... you expect me to take something like this seriously in the 21st century?

      August 22, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
    • unknown11

      It seems to me that athiesm has become nothing more than another religion. It is a belief system based on faith that they know what cannot be known. Its strong suporters will argue that their beliefs are superior to all others. They seek to be the only religion that is backed by the government. They believe that they alone hold the moral high ground. They are intollerant of the beliefs of others. To me, they seem like as dangerous a cult as many others.

      August 22, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
    • Stevie7

      @unknown – do you have a belief in a lack of belief in the toothfairy? Are you an avid non-stamp collector?

      August 22, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
    • SCAtheist

      unknown11 I know this is very hard for you to grasp but not believing in something is not the same as believing in something else. Can you manage to follow that?

      August 22, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
    • notacultist

      Atheism is as dumb as religion, agnosticism is a much more intelligent route for the time being. BTW calling atheists "dangerous" is a joke when compared with the crimes that Christianity (among other religions) has "bestowed" upon their fellow man. How many people's lives have been cut short in the name of Christianity vs. Atheism.

      August 22, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • unknown11

      It seems that the followers of the athiest religion are making my point for me. Thanks.

      August 22, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
    • unknown11

      notacultist, nobody can argue that terrible things have been done in the name of various religions. But, terrible things have been done, not in the name of religion, also. Religion is used as a tool by those who want to maintain political power. This also applies to athiesm, which is being used by the left to maintain power.

      August 22, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
    • notacultist

      Your calling people dumb and you can't even spell atheist? Let me guess – the highest level of education you reached was public high school in Texas.

      August 22, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
    • notacultist

      The left has power in this country? I'm pretty sure the Republicans just bent them over on debt ceiling negotiations......

      August 22, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
    • unknown11

      Does anyone find it interresting that the atheists here have branded me as religious, though I have not supported religion in my comments. I simply pointed out that I view atheism as no better than religions. That, however, was considered an attack upon the their belief system that must be defended.

      August 22, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
    • unknown11

      Bachelor of Science. 3.89 gpa. I rely too heavily on spell checker. Admitted.

      August 22, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
  2. ReasonOverFaith

    Why do Americans and Middle Easterners love religion so much? Makes no sense. College = secular learning. Church = religion. Neither JC nor Mohammed nor Buddha nor Zoraster went to college, so keep religion out of there.

    August 22, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
    • SPA Knight

      Which secular college should one attend if they want to obtain a degree in theology? Theology and religion are not at odds with each other. Some of the best colleges and universities were founded by the religious orders because of their commitment to learning. What is always amazing is that those that claim to be tolerant and open are the first to dismiss opposing ponints of view. Seeking the truth should be about exploring possibilities outside of your comfort zone.

      August 22, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
    • SCAtheist

      Yeah but the theology departments don't matter any more in those scholls. They got over it.

      August 22, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
  3. mfx3

    Interesting that none of the top 5 most religious were in the deep South. I guess it's true...rednecks aren't really all that religious, they just claim to be so because it's the expected social norm down there. And if nothing else, rednecks are definitely partial to their social norms.

    August 22, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
    • TNENG

      I bet $1,000 that my IQ is higher than yours.

      August 22, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
  4. Truth

    This just goes to show you that being extreme on either side of the coin isn't good. I've only heard of two schools from the combined lists of Top 5 most conservative and Top 5 most liberal (BYU and Wheaton).

    The others can't be good schools if they're as small and obscure as they are.

    August 22, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
    • mfx3

      These were most and least religious, not conservative vs. liberal. Buy a dictionary.

      August 22, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
  5. JamesW

    Sadly those that condemn religion are just as guilty as those that blindly push their religion. It is true, choose to deny it or not that the world has both benefited greatly from the religious community and it has cause the most harm. Religion is not the problem, never has been. The people and only the people are to blame. They hide behind their religion to push their own agenda, just as those we call terrorist. But please, the ever increasing hostility toward one another because we do not all believe the same thing is getting out of hand. We CAN all live together and be happy. It is called respect, I respect your beliefs, you respect mine. The trouble comes when 1 of us wants to force our beliefs on the other, in either direction.

    August 22, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
    • Devin J Gray MD

      I strongly respect the religious beliefs of all others. I simply believe that there should be a line between church and state that is impenetrable.

      August 22, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
    • Tim

      You make a good point about the importance of respecting each other's religion. This is why it is crucial to implement and maintain a secular society. The problem lies with religions criticizing secular societies and viewing them as a threat to their cultural dominance. I agree with you that people are responsible for nonsensical acts of violence and bigotry, however, where I disagree with you is that the source of those actions is rooted firmly with the religious beliefs themselves–as many religions preach intolerance directly from the pulpit.

      Each religion has its own way of interpreting its respective holy text, each has its own set of moral codes, and each has its own creation mythology and apocalyptic eschatology. Until religions are able to modify their central tenets and core beliefs to coexist and mingle with other religions, then the fighting will always continue.

      August 22, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
    • Magic

      Devin J Gray MD,
      "I strongly respect the religious beliefs of all others."

      Are you sure about that? I think that you mean that you respect their *right* to have their beliefs, but these beliefs must be within the bounds of civil law. Do you 'respect' human sacrifice as a religious right (and rite)? Do you really 'respect' burying a statue of St. Joseph in the front yard to facilitate the sale of the house (Catholic)? Do you 'respect' being admonished to only step into the bathroom left foot first (Islam)?

      August 22, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
  6. Devin J Gray MD

    Religious schools should not receive federal funds. There is a separation of church and state in this country. It is extremely important that this line be maintained.

    August 22, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
    • TNENG

      So glad that you aren't my doctor

      August 22, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
    • Tom

      Why should his convictions regarding church and state have anything to do with his compitancy as a doctor? religous twit.

      August 22, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
    • TNENG

      Hey Tom, Let your Dad defend himself.

      August 22, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
    • Alice W.


      "Let your Dad defend himself."

      It appears as if you don't you let your purported "heavenly father" defend himself and his 'chosen' religion?

      August 22, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
    • SPA Knight

      Devin J Gray MD
      Where did you get your education and advanced degrees? Where does the seperation of church and state come from in this country? According to what I've learned from my secular education I might add, is that the seperation was to protect religion from the government and not the other way around. The premise I believe was to protect our freedoms rather than using the state's power to force their will onto their citizens. I think the right to bear arms was in the same spirit!

      August 22, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • Charles

      Federal funding should be for everyone. If you pay taxes you should be able to get federal funding. Religion is protected under freedom of speech. It is illegal to prosecute someone based on their religion. Do you really want to prosecute people based on religion?

      August 22, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
  7. Sussay

    I don't consider being "least religious" at all dubious. It's a classification that gives parents and students an opportunity to consider all options available to them.

    August 22, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
  8. Daniel

    God Bless You All!

    August 22, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
  9. Sir Craig

    "Bennington College students recently learned that their Vermont school had received an honor that some might consider dubious: They attend the least religious college in America, according to an annual educational survey."

    What is incredibly annoying about this statement is that the writer seems to think he needs to point out being one of the "least religious" colleges is somehow "dubious". It is not an exaggeration to say there is no way the writer would say something like, "Such-and-such college has the dubious distinction of being the MOST religious campus etc. etc." The author is fueling the notion that somehow being less religious is somehow a bad thing when each day and throughout history it has been shown time and again being more religious is more of a liability. (9/11 wasn't perpetrated by atheists. Agnostics aren't going around bombing clinics.)

    The writer should have checked his biases at the door, or at the very least found a better way to word Bennington's status. Personally I find Bennington's irreligious leanings to be something in their favor, along with their education program.

    August 22, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
    • JJC

      Good points. But haven't you noticed that atheists are one of the last groups in this country that it is acceptable to bad mouth? After all, we tend to be free thinkers who do not band together easily because we are sceptical of authority and blanket statements. So we are easy to ignore. Look at your money after all. Mine says "in god we trust". Doesn't yours?

      August 22, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
    • Jamerson`

      Relax. It's a fluff piece about what appears to be a not particularly scientific study. I think the statement was made with tongue in cheek.

      August 22, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
  10. John Smith

    To all those who judge people who follow religious texts – would you judge people who follow other forms of poetry? As long as one's "beliefs" aren't being pushed onto others, what's the problem?

    August 22, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
    • JJC

      Thats the issue. Religion by its very nature claims to be the only correct view, and you will be punished if you do not follow it to the letter. Religion by its very nature promotes pushing it on to people.

      August 22, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
  11. us1776

    Time to end all this "Invisible Being" nonsense !!!


    August 22, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
    • S1N

      The politically correct term is "Magic Hippy Man in the Sky".

      August 22, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
    • Fanatic

      I refuse to let go of my belief in the Flying Spagetti Monster. We will be in schools one day!

      August 22, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
    • SPA Knight

      Read the Declaration of Independence and review where your rights come from. I believe it may be from that "Invisible Being".

      August 22, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
  12. mouse

    when someone believes fully in a delusion we call that individual 'insane' when a whole lot of people believe fully in a delusion we call it 'religion'

    August 22, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
    • jack

      I love this quote!!

      August 22, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
  13. gupsphoo

    All the top universities in the world are non-religious. I wonder why.

    August 22, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
  14. demetri

    Read the article again Mei. It's the opinion of others. For example is Mei religious? Well it would depend on who to talk to. Now do you get it?

    August 22, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
  15. soysauce

    believe in whatever fairytales you want, just don't barf down my throat and get your panties in a knot when I tell you I'm perfectly happy without religion...keep it to yourself thanks.

    August 22, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
  16. Freethinker

    "an honor that some might consider dubious" It's definitely a badge of honor.

    August 22, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
    • Mei

      Badge of honor? Nope. It's shameful. Even historians say that religion is very important to the welfare of society and individuals. Look at this studies in the medical field where those who received spiritual counseling while suffering illness or in hospital, were much more likely to recover from their illness. That is but one example but there are many other good points that religion can play. A huge one is morals. MOST religious people (and we are not talking about extremists here who twist their religion to fit their evil purposes), follow a set of morals and try to practice virtue. That is a big PLUS for any college where they wish to keep order, community and overall happy, healthy students.

      August 22, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Really? I have never found those that profess to be religious to be any more moral than those that do not. Frankly, they tend to be hypocrites of the worst kind. Thus the common saying the " the last Christian died on a cross 2000 years ago".

      August 22, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
    • Vesstair

      Mei- 1. Pretty sure historians would say religion PLAYED a very important role in PAST societies. Because that's their area of expertise. HISTORY.

      2. Ever heard of the Placebo effect? Mental state plays a LARGE part in healing. Having someone to talk to frequently helps one's mental state. Can you cite studies which show RELIGIOUS counseling has a greater effect, normalizing for the religion of the patient, than non-religious counseling?

      3. Who are you to say that non-religious people do not follow a moral code and/or try to be virtuous? How many non-religious people do you know?

      August 22, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
    • JJC

      mei, by your definition our prisons should be filled with atheists. Prison populations tend to reflect societies breakdown of religious beliefs, leaning slightly more toward religious. So if anything religion either makes no difference on a persons likelihood for criminal activity and it may even make it slightly more likely.

      August 22, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
  17. mort

    That would help me make my decision – 5 least religious school, here I come.

    August 22, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Well, let's see. I started doubting my religious upbringing at about age 11 and became quite certain it was pointless during high school. Now another 30 years later I am happily married with two children and quite content with my life, my family and my work. I'm not quite sure what I'm supposed to get from believing in fairy tales. The real world is quite astounding enough without adding ghost tales.

      August 22, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
    • Vesstair

      Oh look. Someone so confident in their beliefs that not only are they right for you, but you are obligated to judge and condemn someone who your entire knowledge base of consists of two written sentences. That is so very "love your neighbor".

      August 22, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
    • Shadow

      Well said, MarkinFL. I have a similar situation. I have a fullfilling life, I'm a good person towards others, and I have a great family. I've never had the need for fantasy to help me along. I'm a big boy. I think for myself. I have no need for religion or any of its dogma. And look, I turned out fine. When someone says that you are lost and empty without religion, I feel very sad for that person. It tells me that they can't function on their own. They've never learned the life skills to be self-supporting, mentally. Please try to think for yourself, people.

      August 22, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
    • Steve

      @"Mort will fail in life" – you're so used to being an amoral sheep, even your screen name is based on what other people are doing.

      August 22, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
  18. TM

    Quidditch anyone? What's the connection of the unattributed Quidditch photo at an anonymous college to the story???

    August 22, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
    • Timmay

      Haha, as someone who went to Vassar, I guess I'm qualified to answer this. Vassar and Middlebury hosted the first collegiate Quidditch game a few years back, so I guess that's the connection–Quidditch playing students are heathens!

      August 22, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
  19. John



    August 22, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
    • Mei

      According to your logic, non-religious persons = hate (because you are trying to be hateful now on the board to those who believe in God). Actually historians say that religion is very good for society and people in general. It motivates people to do good, help their neighbor and look outside of self. Our current society in America has become non-religious and it has only brought a huge amount of selfishness, materialism and lack of charity. Without religion in the world, we would have very little charity organizations helping others. It is a fact that charities that help the poor, sick, etc. were started by religious organizations. Everyone learns this in history class.

      August 22, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
    • ThsIsNotReal22

      wow you sound like an informed individual. So anyone who has ever started a orphanage or gave food to needy people in the name of their religion was driven by hate? I'm glad you cleared that up for me...

      August 22, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
    • Devin J Gray MD

      @Mei Religious organizations help the downtrodden because it gives them an opening to spread the message. Please don't pretend (or try to make others think) that this behavior is purely for the sake of giving. Clearly their has always been an ulterior motive at hand.

      August 22, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
    • TNENG


      double period

      August 22, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
    • SPA Knight

      Devin J Gray MD
      Are you a medical doctor or does the MD stand for something else? If religious organizations have an ulterior motive other than to help the downtrodden, poor and needy, then want is the motive of a medical doctor in your opinion? Is it to do everything in their ability to save and preserve life as stated in the Hippocratic Oath?

      August 22, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
  20. John

    This study should be required reading for high school students....

    That way they can delete the religion/hate of the mentioned religious schools. And
    apply to the least religion/hate schools.

    Have we forgotten why Romans burned christians ? Do we need another history lesson to remind us ?

    Is it not assumed by all religion is pure evil?

    August 22, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.