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. missing the point

    people are fighting if God is really or not but your missing the point it does not matter if God is real or not. If someone believes in God and it makes them a kinder person then who cares. if I believe in a magic mushroom that tells me to give to the poor and be part of the community then who cares if it is real or not. If I believe only in myself and no higher being and I decide to help the poor am I wrong? What someone believes does not matter is it what they do with that believe is what is really important

    August 21, 2011 at 1:14 am |

      Dude, you need to stop eating those mushrooms!

      August 21, 2011 at 1:26 am |
    • jimtanker

      If you believe in something that does not exist then you are delusional. You are sick and need help. Just because you say that it's a dude that lives in the sky should be no excuse. When you will believe anything, you will do anything for those beliefs. This is why we have so many problems in the world. It will be a better place when religion is gone.

      August 21, 2011 at 2:28 am |
  2. really come on guys

    If I believe in God is it hurting anyone? I dont think so. If I dont believe in God am I hurting someone? I think not. Unless you go to the extreme but both sides have done that before. Point is if someone believes something and it does not hurt others but makes them a better person should you tell them they are wrong? I dont think so.

    August 21, 2011 at 12:58 am |
  3. SSGTricky

    What I find absolutely disturbing is that both sides on this particular debate (here on CNN of all places) are lumping entire sections of society into categories without a second thought. Those of you who blast the religious cite ignorance and hypocrisy and the abominations committed by individuals in the name of religion as a basis for denegrating the entire section of society. For the religous faithful, how, regardless of which religion you subscribe to, lambast those who go against your beliefs? Having studied each of the "big 3" (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam) I'm at a loss where any of those religions tell you to belittle those who harbor a different opinion than yours. If there is such a passage in any of the religious texts, please enlighten me. Otherwise, follow the tenets of your respective faith. For Christians, you should be living Mark 12:31 (Love thy neighbor as you love yourself). For the Muslims Surah 24, v. 22 (The Light), and for the Jewish readers Leviticus 19:18 (Love your neighbor as yourself). I can futher give other religious teachings that say that we are not judges (ok, Judge Judy is), but we stand as imperfect creatures who do not have the right to judge nor condem our fellow man (and woman) if their beliefs do not align themselves with ours. So, to each and every one who resorts to the name calling, mud slinging, slanderous speech, you are not doing your "side" any favors. Let the flaming begin.

    August 20, 2011 at 9:35 pm |
    • jellyj

      how about the commandment to exterminate all the Amalekites?

      August 20, 2011 at 11:39 pm |
    • really come on guys

      @jellyj what exactly are you trying to prove? If anything you are doing more harm then good. You are just strengthening the gap between beliefs. You are just making the problem worst. You are the problem. Please stop posting your comments intended to trap people. It does no one any good.

      August 21, 2011 at 1:01 am |
    • jellyj

      Maybe the facts?

      August 26, 2011 at 12:18 am |
  4. tony

    Students don't speak for "the college." Notre Dame certainly is Catholic, but I doubt that even 25 per cent of its football team go to confession and take communion. So it's not the school that is religious or non-religious, it's the student body. And with over 370 schools includes, I doubt that they talked to more than five students on any campus.

    August 20, 2011 at 9:04 pm |
    • Spiffy

      "Princeton Review interviewed 122,000 students at 376 top colleges"

      You do the math.

      August 20, 2011 at 11:11 pm |
  5. Truth2BKnown

    So Called religion, has no place in schools. The principle of the basic reality of living in our society is what a student should learn – to succeed in life is the fundamental issue.

    August 20, 2011 at 7:48 pm |
    • tallulah13

      First Amendment, guest.

      August 20, 2011 at 7:58 pm |
    • Gumby

      Guest = typical hate-filled Christian.

      August 20, 2011 at 8:00 pm |
    • Fundie

      Well, you're free to disagree, but some people believe that there are things more important than succeeding in this life...

      August 20, 2011 at 9:03 pm |
    • Jay

      Yeah, right... we should ban religion at al colleges and universities... including schools of theology. Moron!

      August 20, 2011 at 11:14 pm |
    • really come on guys

      the problem with what you said is people have the right to have higher education where ever they want. If they want religion with their education who are you to tell them no?

      August 21, 2011 at 1:02 am |
    • Bibletruth

      "..to succeed in life is the fundamental issue"...Wow, thats a neat idea. Lets see...what did that mean in Nazi Germany...What did it mean in Soviet Russia...What does it mean in working in the executive levels of an oil company...a tobacco company....a slaughterhouse...what does it mean in being captain of a nuclear attack sub with armed with live nuclear missles....what does that mean in managing an "Apple" store in China...what does it mean in congress...how about being a member of Assad's team?...Quadafi's team...Obama's team...Bush's team......just what in the worl d does succeeding in life really mean...this is what it means and can only mean if your into evolution, etc-every man and his interests for himself, period. And in order to soften that so there is not absolute constant anarchy and warlordism , there must be some type of organization (dictatorshipp or republican form of government, it matters not) that rules through the power of (when all said and done) the gun.

      August 21, 2011 at 11:30 pm |
  6. Bergen County resident


    August 20, 2011 at 7:21 pm |
    • tallulah13

      all others must pay cash.

      August 20, 2011 at 7:58 pm |
    • Gumby

      Which god are you referring to?

      August 20, 2011 at 8:00 pm |
  7. Daniel

    If the data were acquired by asking students about their own college, then especially at schools with strong denominational ties there are almost certainly social pressure on individual students to maintain the appearance of piety. So really, all this shows is which universities' students most wish to appear to be religious, which is something different altogether.

    August 20, 2011 at 7:08 pm |
    • missadr

      That doesn't make logical sense. If the school has strong denominational ties, then an atheist wouldn't go there. The only people who would go there would be people who like the denominational ties.

      August 20, 2011 at 7:18 pm |
  8. Antje

    CNN is the fingerpointer? These colleges ought to pride themselves in not to contaminate their students with US religious nonsense. Religion is for at home or in private and not for the public space and certainly not for president or governors to publicly practice and hail. The was why jezu disliked the people at the temple so much. Because they were bothering other people.

    August 20, 2011 at 6:28 pm |
    • missadr

      What gives you the ridiculous idea that religion is ever private? Most every decision a person makes throughout their daily lives – at the office, the grocery store, the baseball park, the beach, the shopping mall, wherever – is guided by their religious principles. Religious belief is quite public and affects everyone around you. Why should I hide the purpose for my choices? Why would you want me to?

      August 20, 2011 at 7:22 pm |
    • Gumby

      RAmen to that!

      August 20, 2011 at 7:59 pm |
    • really come on guys

      so people that are gay should not be allowed to be gay out in public? If I was president and gay I have to change who I am just because I was out in public? That is the same logic you just used. It is silly. No one should have to change their beliefs whether in private or out in public. I dont think anyone should change their views just to make someone comfortable

      August 21, 2011 at 1:05 am |
  9. Madchen

    Anyone else perplexed by the irrelevant picture of the Quidditch team?

    August 20, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Yeah. I am.

      August 20, 2011 at 5:29 pm |
    • RightTurnClyde

      The entire post is misleading and false. It is not what they Princeton study was about and is an entirely different matter. (It would be like saying the Stat of the Union address is about unions)

      August 20, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
  10. larry

    Why do I need God's help to do my class assignments? There are enough separate God businesses that can take care of those that need a God fix.

    August 20, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
    • peick

      Did someone tell you you needed this, or are you just sharing?

      August 20, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
    • missadr

      Since the majority of atheist kids I know are too disrespectful and foolish to finish their assignments, or even study, I'd say God is quite necessary.

      August 20, 2011 at 7:24 pm |
    • i wonder


      Yep, the *idea* of a god (bogeyman) is quite effective in controlling folks... that doesn't mean that it is real.

      August 20, 2011 at 7:29 pm |
    • ty one

      i wonder: yes religion controls, but you know the internet athiests are trying their dam#dest to control people with their ideology. Kinda hypocritical- don't you think?

      August 20, 2011 at 7:47 pm |
    • i wonder

      ty one,

      The only thing that I would want in control is realism. Cause and effect... natural consequences... civil law... nurturing care of humankind (yeah, animals too) and of the Earth and its resources (and of the universe as we venture out there).

      Fantasy and daydreams are enjoyable, and are even helpful while brainstorming for solutions to problems, but we can't live there. If you find verified evidence of a spirit world, and that it has one whit of effect on us, provide that proof. Until then, ghosts, fairies, angels, gods, demons, voodoo curses and such will remain mere wishful, magical thinking and superst.ition.

      August 20, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
  11. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    Now that's scientific. Ask the students. Oh, well. I guess opinions do matter.

    August 20, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
    • JohnR

      It's actually a standard survey method. The classic case is some recycling surveys done back in the day. When people were asked if they would comply with recycling, the percentage in the affirmative was sky high. When asked what percentage of their neighbors likely would, the percentage was a lot lower. The lower number was far more predictive.

      August 20, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
  12. Naomi

    I think the American problem is their determination to find facts but preserve people's inclination as it is and the refusal to give any moral directions. It's loss of purpose and values but just enjoyment of here-and-now. Giving any moral advice is seen as evil. Something is foundationally wrong.

    August 20, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
    • Shawn

      Have you been to a college? Most of it is life lessons, however morallity and values are ever changing it's better that colleges equip students with critical thinking skills. Religious dogma only enforces a narrow-minded view of the world

      August 20, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
    • Bob

      Why are you confusing morality and religion? As the other comment starts, "Have you been to a college?"

      August 20, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
    • NHNetzin

      Who says there's a problem?

      August 20, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
    • OneOfTheSheep

      It is "foundationally wrong" to associating the presence or absence of an ethical sense of right and wrong with ANY organized religion. A morally motivated population that does "right" because it is "right" and not because they are personally intimidated by the short-tempered and vindictive being otherwise described as the omnipotent God of Abraham, or Mohammed, etc. is the worst nightmare of those who would exploit mankind in the name of such.

      If their collective efforts over the last 2,000 years had been directed in the bettering of man's existence on this earth maybe man would, by now, know how to get along and what passes for "society" in Africa and the middle east would not be living in fuedal conditions...oh, I forgot, in a democratic election there today, that is what they would vote to continue. Silly me!

      August 20, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
    • peick

      Naomi is correct. For those who argue against her, what value system are you using to judge her position? Does that value system have any authority outside yourselves so that it applies to all of us equally? If not, then it is irrelevant what you think. If so, then who gives that system authority? Hmmmmm.....

      August 20, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
    • eldono

      Naomi, you are correct. Those responses that are negative are part of the problem. I went to college, and fortunately it was Berkeley in the 60's. Berkeley was a place where the Free Speech Movement took place in December of 1964. That was a life lesson. But, what about the people who went to colleges where nothing happened? Pervasive ignorance of life's lessons. One doesn't learn anything sitting down. The problem, of course, goes far deeper than this.

      August 20, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
    • Pablo

      Shawn Who asks "Have you been to a college? " should realize many posters have been at college.

      I have seen religious, and secular students there. The difference in the religious and secular students was MANY of the secular students learned life lessons by making many bad choices and considering the outcomes and effects on their life.

      I had a fellow teaching assistent who tried selling drugs, using them and breaking nearly every rule. The college finnally kicked him out after a grade fixing scandal. NOT after he was caught hacking phone system for service, selling drugs to staff and students (which was ignored by campus authorities) and involved in helping a teenager stay on campus away from her family. The University finnally kicked him out for fixing grades.

      The religious students I knew learned life lessons by experience, but they learned by socializing their religious beliefs and interacting with religious and non-religous students. They used the lessons of how to live and how not to live handed down from their faith, parents and religious leaders to make choices. SOME good some bad but usually they were wiser because they were forewarned of negative outcomes.

      Frankly, this was true of Jewish, Christian and Hindu students. (I didn't see any islamic students on campus.)

      Being religious doesn't make you narrow minded. Plenty of liberals are narrow minded, they can't see out of their bigotry and stereotypes of others.

      See ya...

      August 20, 2011 at 7:14 pm |
  13. alsmeer1

    add to that Prescott College in AZ its like the 60's again there.

    August 20, 2011 at 11:37 am |
    • tct

      Evidently you're a student, alumnus or employee there. This is among the top 376 colleges, not those where many barely have the intellectual capacity to drool on themselves.

      August 20, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
  14. Enigma-X

    Curious if they talked to Covenant College Students? Its an awesome christian college!!!

    August 20, 2011 at 11:07 am |
    • Adelina

      Gosh, I wonder if the students of a religious college consider their college religious? They really should have talked to them to find out, just like they should have talked to the students of BYU to see if there might be any Mormon persence there.

      August 20, 2011 at 11:32 am |
    • Enigma-X

      Adelina... the point I was trying to make is Wheaton made it in the top 5. Covenant College has at times considered them a little lax there. And the academic standard is so high at Covenant that the Citadel in SC loves to receive their students.

      August 20, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
    • @Fred

      The entire test that Covenant College uses to determine if you meet its academic standards:

      "Are you a sheltered, Jesus-obsessed, home-schooled twerp who has no knowledge of evolution or any kind of science?"

      If Yes, then you meet the standards.

      August 20, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
    • The Origin

      Above Adelina and @Fred are fakes. The atheistic scientists oppress other scientists against evidences.

      August 20, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
    • HappyMeal

      So you are now claiming that you are a scientist? Really?

      August 20, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
  15. Faith

    I wonder how much these students cheat... Non-christian Americans are not trustworthy as their conscience and moral standards are as shaky as their filthy self. Secular America no longer honors God and only glories their own shame.

    August 20, 2011 at 10:57 am |
    • RAWoD

      Have you noticed how many "men of god" cheat?

      August 20, 2011 at 11:05 am |
    • Faith

      They don't really cheat. They are God-guided to share their perfect love.

      August 20, 2011 at 11:29 am |
    • Mick

      Whether or not a person cheats has nothing to do with whether or not he believes in an invisible magician in the sky.

      August 20, 2011 at 11:34 am |
    • Irene

      Ain't you up to your ears in several mortal sins at once – intolerance, pre-judgment, hate for thy neighbor, defamation, my good Christian?

      August 20, 2011 at 11:37 am |
    • Faith

      The second Faith is a fake. Americans' character quality went down visibly after they gave up the Christian heritage. What can one expect from those immoral party drunkards?

      August 20, 2011 at 11:38 am |
    • Faith

      The second Faith is a fake. The first Faith is flatulent, the third Faith just had electric shock therapy again, and the fourth Faith really should be doing something better with her Sunday.

      Wait a minute!

      August 20, 2011 at 11:41 am |
    • fred

      For all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God. We are all in the same boat, a bunch of sinners that throughout all recorded biblical history cannot get it right. That is our lot. So we rely only on Christ and what he has done on the cross. That is the best we can do. Please do not forget that Jesus said we are not to judge others but pray for them and have mercy because to the measure we judge so will we be judged and to the measure we show mercy so will we receive mercy

      August 20, 2011 at 11:47 am |
    • @Fred

      Fred, I got it. My name "Faith" is being hijacked again. Redeemed humans are not in the same boat with natural humans. I'm not judging anyone but telling some objective facts. Unbelieving Americans are disgusting in moral matters and lifestyles. Face the reality, please.

      August 20, 2011 at 11:52 am |
    • I_get_it

      Faith: "I'm not judging anyone but telling some objective facts. Unbelieving Americans are disgusting in moral matters and lifestyles."

      Where on Earth are you getting this news? What are you reading/watching - tabloid news and sensationalistic reports?

      Of course there are problems with some people in the U.S. - and that's what makes the news. Of course there are occasional scandals and corruption and crime - always have been, even in your imaginary halcyon days of early settlers. Come to any average neighborhood here and you will see people getting along very well. You will never see a news story saying, "Nothing unusual happened on Oak Street last week."

      Please, Madam, quit poking your bitter, uninformed/misinformed nose into our lives.

      August 20, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
    • Sweetenedtea

      Christian Americans are scarier than any Islamic fundamentalist bent on terrorism because Christians try to operate under the radar, planting their own brand of hate, repression and destruction right in the midst of our haven of freedom and democracy.

      When the world goes to hell, you can be certain that the Christian fundamentalists will be the ones who pushed us over the brink.

      August 20, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
    • Antje

      filthy self??? Where did the samaritan go? Little idiot.

      August 20, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
  16. John


    August 20, 2011 at 10:38 am |
  17. BlackYowe

    Asking students is far from scientific. It's pretty silly and not everyone is going to say when put on the spot either.

    August 20, 2011 at 10:37 am |
  18. Aaron L.

    I hate how religion is crammed down the throats of kids at a young age. There is no tangible evidence in any religion of some fairy super being playing with his ant farm. University is a place of "higher" learning. Facts people.

    August 20, 2011 at 10:30 am |
    • Dwayne

      Saying there is no higher being is in fact, not a fact. It's so ironic that you would think it is a fact. Heaven or whatever you want to call it hasnt been disproved either. And hey, just a little fact for you... religion has been around nearly as long as people

      August 20, 2011 at 10:46 am |
    • RAWoD

      @ Dwayne Fiction has been around as long as people have. And that is a fact.

      August 20, 2011 at 11:07 am |
    • GizzyN

      Dwayne – do you believe in dragons? Unicorns? Gryphons? They are as likely to exist as a supreme being. You can't disprove their existence, so they must be as real... right? How about Allah? Buddha? Vishnu? You haven't disproved their existence... so you must be acknowledging that they exist as well, yes?

      August 20, 2011 at 11:19 am |
    • The Revenge of the Mildly Angry Kittens From Beyond Hell

      Here we go again. The existence of leprechauns has not been disproven either., so that must mean they exist too.

      Religion has been around almost as long as people? So has rape and murder.

      August 20, 2011 at 11:28 am |
    • Irene

      Of course it does – since the dawn of times there were a few smart bullies who ruled and the rest who drooled. Religion is a perfect tool to keep the herd in its place.

      August 20, 2011 at 11:50 am |
    • really come on guys

      well it is up for the kids to decide what they want and who are you to tell them they are wrong?

      August 21, 2011 at 1:09 am |
  19. Meat Puppet

    seems that there is direct correlation between mega tuition and religious behavior
    looks like the rich don't need any divine intervention – or do they ?

    August 20, 2011 at 9:57 am |
  20. George

    God wants spiritual fruits not religious nuts!

    August 20, 2011 at 9:40 am |
    • BlackYowe

      "God wants spiritual fruits not religious nuts!" I love that!

      August 20, 2011 at 10:36 am |
    • Anon

      Both are equally delusional.

      August 20, 2011 at 10:53 am |
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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.