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. Haime52

    " By their fruits ye shall know them..." I would think that that would be a better measure of religosity of a school. However, many schools have on campus security and are very protective of those records, which would be very enlightening in a study of this kind.

    August 20, 2011 at 9:28 am |
  2. Saltydogg

    Fruit Looops abound

    August 20, 2011 at 9:14 am |
    • madcow11

      It is so very sad, isn't it, SaltyDog? If only people would open their minds!

      August 20, 2011 at 9:18 am |
  3. madcow11

    WRONG WRONG WRONG! All of you people are SO WRONG! Why can't you understand the TRUE FAITH? Here is a recent posting I discovered here some time ago that everyone should take to their heart:

    I believe that the Leprechaun King loves me and hears my prayers. He intervenes in my life periodically by saving me from various ills. All I have to do is think to myself and he reads my mind and answers my prayers. He loves me and when I die, provided I have lived a good life, I will go to Leprechaun Heaven, where I will live happily ever after with all other humans who have ever led good lives.

    I know there is not a lot of evidence to support my beliefs, but that is just the point. The Leprechaun King wants us to have “faith,” so he never reveals himself. To make an unambiguous appearance and settle once and for all the question of his existence would deprive us of free will and, even though he is all knowing, he would not know who his true believers were. In fact, I believe that the Leprechaun King is “beyond understanding”. He is “outside the Universe” and any time I am faced with something about my Leprechaun belief that makes no sense, I don’t dare question it, I just close my mind and tell myself that "the Leprechaun King moves in mysterious ways" or that my mind is too small to understand the greatness of the Leprechaun King. These are satisfying answers to me.

    Some people, called “atheists,” are skeptical of my belief in the Leprechaun King. They point out many inherent contradictions and unsupported assumptions that underwrite my belief in Leprechauns. But, they can’t prove he doesn’t exist, so he must exist. They also can't definitively explain where the Universe came from or how life on Earth first started, so it must be the Leprechaun King.

    And so what! Even if I am wrong, and go my whole life believing in nonexistent Leprechauns, I have lost nothing. However, if they are wrong, the Leprechaun King will send them to hell to burn forever in the presence of the Evil Ground Troll.
    Am I convincing you to believe in Leprechauns yet?

    Written by Colin

    August 20, 2011 at 8:49 am |
    • madcow11

      I hope that all of you here have taken a moment to read what I posted above. Can you see how much more sensible it is to believe in the Leprechaun King than in Christianity or the other religions? Can you see the HUGE differences?

      August 20, 2011 at 8:59 am |
    • NewRecruit

      Dude,you just converted me.Well done.

      August 20, 2011 at 9:31 am |
  4. Rich in NJ

    It might be interesting to compare the so-called "religiosity" with numbers of students who get pregnant or arrested for DUI. I suspect there might be an inverse correlation where the most "religious" schools don't necessarily have students who exhibit the most "religious" behavior.

    August 20, 2011 at 8:41 am |
  5. Faith

    America, your intelligence without the Christian goodness is a complete garbage. When will you wake up? The pre-war Germans were far better than you. Why were they defeated? Because they were not good. You are on their track. No one respects you or misses you anymore because you have become immoral. Your stupid cleverness will bring your own downfall. God made Christians meek and humble so that what you really are will be revealed completely. You can never outsmart God. Admit your own evil and say sorry to Christians, evil America.

    August 20, 2011 at 8:32 am |
    • The Lambly Winged Lion of The Gods Does Roar

      America Of Faithless wonder, America has no intelligent nature nor can America parlor to the whims of people who feel as if She can hear you. She is a land mass, nothing more and even less. 🙁

      August 20, 2011 at 8:44 am |
    • madcow11

      Your criticism of others because they don't share your religious fantasies accomplishes nothing, Faith. Keep your nonsense to yourself, ok?

      August 20, 2011 at 8:45 am |
  6. Faith

    Princeton was created as a Christian school where students would study the Bible like all other finest schools in the land. Godless people hijacked the schools over time so what smart Americans do now is polluting the planet. Nothing is improving other than the number of electric toys that toxicate the planet.

    August 20, 2011 at 7:56 am |
    • beelzebubba

      I studied the old testament and world religions at the same college. On the one had, the old testament class covered pre-christianity prophecies; on the other hand, the world religions class covered, gulp, ISLAM. So, how would you rate this college... godless or not?
      Your mental leap equating pollution with godlessness is nonsensical because you don't tie the two together. It's as illogical as saying: in the good old days (when the earth was still flat) people were't Vegans. Now many have abandoned their meat eating ways. Along came pollution problems. Therefore vegetarians caused global warming.

      August 20, 2011 at 8:45 am |
  7. AnnieM

    If God is truly love, and Jesus truly said "treat others as you would have them treat you", that the "religionists" are the ones who hate and condemn the most and those who are not religious preach brotherhood and consideration for all people?

    August 20, 2011 at 7:56 am |
    • Haime52

      True Christianity is to "do justice and walk humbly before your God...", to "love onanother, as I have loved you..." If some is showing you love you'll know it, and if they're not you'll know that too. That said, some people feel condemned by others lives of uprightness. If they say something is a sin, then some will say that they hate, when in reality, they love the sinner, but hate the sin. There is a difference! That difference is in how they relate to the sinner. And yes, many who claim Christ are not known to Him. I am sorry, if your experiences have been with the latter kind.

      August 20, 2011 at 9:25 am |
  8. Faith

    America is surviving now because they still have a Christian framework from their intelligent Christian ancestors. When that frame is gone, they'll be more behind than the American Indians they've subdued. Average Americans are too addicted and lazy beyond hope even now than former Americans.

    August 20, 2011 at 7:53 am |
    • beelzebubba

      Do you think Deists were Christians? Many of our 'founding fathers' were Deists. Essentially they thought of god as a clockmaker who put the universe in motion and then left the scene... hardly a loving god that watches over us and protects us. Someone has been misleading you.

      August 20, 2011 at 8:52 am |
    • Faith

      They were Christian deists. Without the Bible, Europe's wellness and America itself did not exist. You don't read the Bible so you have no idea how much the Founding Fathers got everything from the Bible and the Christian Britain. Unlike Jews, Americans are not good at tracing things back to their origins. A fatal weakness of a young nation. American cleverness is coming to its limit. Might is nothing without Christian goodness.

      August 20, 2011 at 10:52 am |
    • tallulah13

      Oh Faith, you poor thing. Ignorance isn't an excuse for telling flat out lies, especially when people have made the effort to educate you (many, many times). You are bearing false witness, and many times you have spoken to others as if you are a religious authority. Those are sins, as is your sin of pride. I'm afraid you are going to burn for eternity with all of us horrible American atheists if you don't repent and change your ways.

      August 20, 2011 at 8:10 pm |
  9. Bill Fitzgerald

    Reality has given us the philosophy of men. Now I will give you a testimony of God, that he lives, Jesus is the Christ, Joseph Smith is the Prophet of the restoration of the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The holy Priesthood is fully operative in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and the Book of Mormon is the Word of God. And I know all of this by the power of the Holy Ghost.

    August 20, 2011 at 7:43 am |
  10. Reality

    The opening prayer at all State universities e.g. Penn State, Michigan State, Florida State:

    The Apostles' Creed 2011: (updated based on the studies of historians and theologians during the past 200 years)

    Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
    and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
    human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven.

    I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
    preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
    named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
    girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

    Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
    the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

    He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
    a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of

    Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
    many semi-fiction writers. A bodily resurrection and
    ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
    Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
    grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
    and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
    called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.


    August 20, 2011 at 7:26 am |
  11. Terry T

    What are the other colleges that focus on reality? You only listed five. And what are the other "religious" colleges to avoid? I want my kid to have good choices of schools to get an education, not get brainwashed.

    August 20, 2011 at 6:44 am |
  12. David

    >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.

    Of course what "some might find dubious," some others might find laudable. So why does CNN insist on injecting editorial slant into what pretends to be objective news?

    A Jew or Muslim might rightly read antisemitism or Islamophobia into that catty "some might find dubious" phrase if the article was specifically reporting about the least Christian campuses in America - and my point is that the sensitive editors at CNN would catch this and avoid giving offense to those readers. So why not accord atheists the same level of respect?

    And who are the "some" in "some might find dubious"? If you have a story, find a person to quote. Don't rely on grammatical fictions to introduce bogus agency. Shame on your unprofessionalism CNN.

    And note well, this post concerns simply my disappointment with CNN's sloppy journalistic practices, namely the failure to separate opinion from fact. I mean to to address here at all questions of faith versus skepticism.

    August 20, 2011 at 5:00 am |
    • d Diva


      "why not accord atheists the same level of respect?"

      If you are (tremendously) offended or hurt by the phrase "some MIGHT find it dubious" I think you were demanding for a higher level (if not the highest) level of respect, that's very typical of an atheists. That's why a simple word would easily bruise their egos.

      "Shame on your unprofessionalism CNN."

      How very respectful of you...NOT! And don't you know that respect should be mutual?

      "And who are the "some" in "some might find dubious"?

      Kindly consider me as one.

      August 20, 2011 at 5:53 am |
  13. John Kiernan

    I don't hate god. I can't hate someone who does not exist.

    August 20, 2011 at 4:29 am |
    • Joker hannin

      What an absolute claim! Can you provide any proof?

      August 20, 2011 at 6:01 am |
    • beelzebubba

      RE: "What an absolute claim! Can you provide any proof?"
      Assume god is loving, all-knowing and all-powerful. Assume not everyone who dies in a catastrophe (an earthquake) desreved to die horribly or to be maimed for life (Billy Graham likes to skirt around this with his ludicrous we're paying for the sins of our ancestors... even though Jesus for our sins). So, if a new-born infant is crushed in that earthquake, you either have to believe he 'had it coming' (or, as ludicrous, that in gods great plan, his death is nothing) or that if god could prevent it all just by lifting his finger, but doesn't... then that god is a sociopath.

      August 20, 2011 at 9:02 am |
    • tallulah13

      Joker, in all of history, there is not one single shred of evidence of any god. Don't you think that after thousands of years you can just let it go and realize that gods were mostly created out of ignorance about natural processes and wishful thinking?

      August 20, 2011 at 8:12 pm |
    • Fret

      Play nice. So what God should be some cosmic santa clause and no one dies no one feels any pain. Go back to the drawing board and see what happens when humans win the lottery every day. Now think about doing that for all eternity and just what kind of people they are.
      The Bible you hate still has truth in it just pretend there is no God and you are the Mr know it all. So the frst people had just the perfect world you want and what did they do? They missed it up because they could not keep their thought off the tree of knowledge

      August 20, 2011 at 8:52 pm |
  14. Chris

    Why do you phrase it as if going to religious ceremonies is good. As a proper atheist I know (not believe, know) that religious folks are deluded. Don't drink the koolaid.

    August 20, 2011 at 3:20 am |
  15. yannaes

    Many of the first Colleges in the U.S. were centered around the Christian ethic. The concept was eroded and Harvard, Yale, Princeton, changed directions as more immigrated into the States thus bringing in ideas and concepts that were contrary to the founding father's of said colleges, thusly eroding the premise on which they were founded. This is what we have left, so not sure much can be done, I ain't that smart!

    August 20, 2011 at 2:13 am |
  16. Andy

    Ahh... freedom from religion. One of the human rights the US has yet to achieve.

    August 20, 2011 at 2:09 am |
    • dAny


      FYi...it's AKA fredom of choice, you must not have been born, should you don't have it yet. And in case you don't realise it, you need to grow some brain still.

      August 20, 2011 at 5:34 am |
  17. Boodaboy

    Interesting how the "least religious" are some of the higher ranked colleges and require higher grades and intellectual capability to get in to.

    August 20, 2011 at 1:05 am |
    • Faith

      And they pollute the Planet Earth most effectively and thoroughly. Eat your own fruits.

      August 20, 2011 at 1:17 am |
    • Justina

      You are a false Christian, Faith. I know the real truth. You are a fraud.

      August 20, 2011 at 1:31 am |
    • vega

      no they dont

      August 20, 2011 at 1:32 am |
    • Frederica FairGarden

      No, I am the true Christian! The others are fakes, atheists in sheep's clothing, future residents in the Lake of Fire!

      August 20, 2011 at 1:32 am |
    • HK

      Actually, BYU, the most religious school, is more highly ranked than most of the less religious colleges. It's also cheaper, unlike Sarah Lawrence, most expensive college in the US.

      August 20, 2011 at 1:57 am |
    • Abe

      I beg your pardon? Grove City, BYU, and even Wheaton College are academically notable. Hillsdale is downright renowned, #7 in the Midwest, and doesn't actually have a religious affiliation; the students are just open-minded enough to be incredibly smart and still maintain a faith. Hillsdale's students and especially its faculty can stand toe-to-toe with the very sharpest from Bennington, Reed, the Sisters, the Ivies, the Little Ivies...Pick your champion.

      August 20, 2011 at 2:42 am |
    • John Richardson

      If you research college ranking in some depth, you'll see that these are all good colleges, but the secular ones are indeed a notch or two above the religious ones.

      August 20, 2011 at 3:56 am |
    • Miko

      Amazing how many of our elected officials and people in high power who are screwing the general population over in this country are graduates or attendies from some of those major, least religious colleges and universities. Interesing....

      August 20, 2011 at 6:29 am |
    • Abe

      "Require higher grades and intellectual capability"? Ah yes, Bennington College, with its admissions rate of 65%! TRULY the greatest minds are gathered hither!

      August 22, 2011 at 12:01 am |
  18. Faith

    American colleges are so filthy and immoral. America has no hope.

    August 20, 2011 at 12:52 am |
    • CoreyL78

      Better to just let the country split. Those that are filthy liberals can have the north and west coast and the Godly can have the south and mid west.

      August 20, 2011 at 1:06 am |
    • Marlye

      How judgmentally christian of you.

      August 20, 2011 at 1:09 am |
    • Faith

      It's nohing to do with being judgmental. Facts are facts. Americans were much better 200 years ago. You guys are such a shame now.

      August 20, 2011 at 1:15 am |
    • Adelina

      Faith is right! It was much better in America when they hung witches and firemen would not put out a house hit by lightning because it was God's will! That is the America founded on Christianity! Look what a mess it has become, with their equal right s for women and even negroes, their tolerance of non-Christians, their prosperity and their god-hating Hawaiian shirts and bikinis! What a mess!

      August 20, 2011 at 1:36 am |
    • yannaes

      Well, Faith I have a wonderful idea! You seem to be "righteous" and know so much about the colleges of America, what are you going to do to help clean up these colleges. You seem to know the problem, go in and become the higher conscience of all American colleges and they can become just like you.

      August 20, 2011 at 1:45 am |
    • I_get_it

      Ah yes, the peace and tranquility and honor of 200 years ago:

      – 1811 -Native Americans defeated in Battle of Tippecanoe in Indiana Territory
      – 1811 Jan 10, An uprising of over 400 slaves was put down in New Orleans. Sixty-six blacks were killed and their heads were strung up along the roads of the city.
      – 1814 – Andrew Jackson crushes Creek Indian Resistance in South
      – 1817 – 1818 -First Seminole War

      August 20, 2011 at 1:46 am |
    • Abe

      "Adelina"'s rhetoric, though I hate to have to play this card, reeks of the paranoia levied against Jews during a particularly dreadful period of German history. But yes, I suppose if it makes things simpler for you, Christians are responsible for everything bad. Everything. Even if atheists weren't perfect angels and would not have steered American history flawlessly on their own, it's not like the Catholic church is actively atoning for the crimes amongst its ranks, and CERTAINLY not like Christians founded the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, WorldVision, Samaritan's Purse, Habitat for Humanity...zzz
      "i_get_it," same goes for you, minus the sarcasm; you have uttered an obvious logical fallacy and should zip thy lip. You don't think the "elephant in the room" of OUR time is the fact that we awkwardly pretend affirmative action isn't racist; abortion isn't murder; people compare the gay marriage debate to 300+ years of black slavery, oppression, and/or murder; and the major political parties act like Ron Paul doesn't exist? (Okay, the last one was for laughs) TSK!

      August 20, 2011 at 3:02 am |
  19. Faith

    ? I heard all American public schools and colleges are godless to the core. The liberals hate God and Christianity. Americans are good at corrupting everything that Christians created as excellent. Princeton started as a Christian school as all other European and American schools were. Puritans started the public education for all on Planet Earth so everyone could read the Bible.

    August 20, 2011 at 12:51 am |
    • Pixburgh Pixie

      Neither public schools nor liberals hate any god, they have just accepted that as there are many peopleon this planet, so to are there many religions. As such, no one has a "correct" or "right" faith; instead, people are free to choose to be taught classes without interference of the lens of faith unless they choose a religious studies or history of religion course. Ask yourself who was allowed to study in ancient religious universities–that should give you some pause about supporting bringing back the exclusivity of religious schools.

      August 20, 2011 at 1:16 am |
    • Faith

      You don't know much about the West. Westerners love the filthy Eastern religions but bash Christianity like hell. The Christian majority is in the non-West now the whites have no right to bash Christianity.

      August 20, 2011 at 1:25 am |
    • Adelina

      Funny how Faith, who is not American and does not live there, knows more about America than the American she is berating. She has her magic Jesus knowledge that does not require any actual inforrmation at all! Jesus does that for her.

      August 20, 2011 at 1:39 am |
    • J.W

      Faith and Adelina are obviously the same person

      August 20, 2011 at 1:58 am |
    • Cody

      Faith, your argument would almost make sense if tons of Americans didn't label every Muslim as a terrorist.

      August 20, 2011 at 2:01 am |
    • BonnieAdelinaJustinaFaithSoundsOfForest et' al.


      You're exactly right. They used to be one until some (apparently atheists) individuals desperately use her handles with the hope to ridicule her. But have just proved her point instead.

      August 20, 2011 at 6:19 am |
  20. B Reed

    The results seem logical. The least religious colleges are the most liberal colleges. Has nothing whatsoever to do with the quality of education; it only addresses the backgrounds of the enrolled students. Much ado about nothing. Perhaps we can find other aspects of college culture to address.

    August 20, 2011 at 12:35 am |
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