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. mjg01

    Why would the distinction of 'least religious college' be considered dubious? A college preparation should help students hone their logical and analytical reasoning, and expand their factual database. These are the exact opposites of faith.

    August 22, 2011 at 7:34 am |
    • TAK

      Right. That line reveals the author's bias. I guarantee that the students at Bennington certainly don't consider it dubious and neither do I.

      August 22, 2011 at 10:09 am |
    • Nonimus

      Wouldn't it rank right up there with the least athletic, least artistic, least studious, least scenic, etc. as just one more factor to consider in picking a college? Doesn't it depend on what's important to the student?

      August 22, 2011 at 11:09 am |
    • Fred

      It is dubious in that it's not something to brag about. Being the least religious school is a real black mark on their

      August 22, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
    • Naomi

      Immoral American kids can't analyze or read data. They party too much. Anyone graduating?

      August 22, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
  2. Naomi

    Atheists are fools – the Bible

    August 21, 2011 at 11:19 pm |
    • Sid

      Naomi is a fool – The Book of Sid

      August 22, 2011 at 1:20 am |
    • adam

      Imagine there is a pharmacy in which there are hundreds of jars and phials filled with quite different substances. A living potion and a living remedy are required from those medicaments. So we go to the pharmacy and see that they are to be found there in abundance, yet in great variety. We examine each of the potions and see that the ingredients have been taken in varying but precise amounts from each of the jars and phials, one ounce from this, three from that, seven from the next, and so on. If one ounce too much or too little had been taken, the potion would not have been living and would not have displayed its special quality. Next, we study the living remedy. Again, the ingredients have been taken from the jars in a particular measure so that if even the most minute amount too much or too little had been taken, the remedy would have lost its special property.
      (to be continued)

      August 22, 2011 at 2:49 am |
    • adam

      Similarly, each living being may be likened to the living potion in the comparison, and each plant to a living remedy. For they are composed of matter that has been taken in most precise measure from truly numerous and truly various substances. If these are attributed to causes and the elements and it is claimed, “Causes created these,” it is unreasonable, impossible and absurd a hundred times over, just as it was to claim that the potion in the pharmacy came into existence through the phials being knocked over; by accident.

      I n S h o r t : The vital substances in this vast pharmacy of the universe, which are measured on the scales of Divine Determining and Decree of the All-Wise and Pre-Eternal One, can only come into existence through a boundless wisdom, infinite knowledge and all-encompassing will. The unfortunate person who declares that they are the work of blind, deaf and innumerable elements and causes and natures, which stream like floods; and the foolish, delirious person who claims that that wondrous remedy poured itself out when the phials were knocked over and formed itself, are certainly unreasonable and nonsensical. Indeed, such denial and unbelief is a senseless absurdity.

      August 22, 2011 at 2:57 am |
    • jimtanker

      Adam, you’re an idiot.

      We have ideas on how abiogenisis came about and are learning more and more every year. The difference between a religious person and one who lives in the real world is that a scientist is not afraid to say “I don’t know.” This makes us look for answers instead of thinking that a 4000 year old book written by goat herders has all of the answers.

      Or is a better explanation that “god did it”? Your answer is much less reasonable than any scientific answer that has been given so far. There is NO evidence for your god and there never will be. Want to know why? Because it doesn’t exist.

      August 22, 2011 at 8:27 am |
  3. Andy

    "All thinking men are atheists" – Ernest Hemmingway

    August 21, 2011 at 10:46 pm |
    • adam

      are you sure?

      August 22, 2011 at 2:45 am |
  4. havefaithinnofaith

    It is it no different to argue that a higher power doesn't exist than arguing that one does. You can neither prove nor disprove that a Deity exists. The burden of that proof lies with neither side but with the individual. If I wanted to argue that God exists then I need only have faith. And for those of you that argue He doesn't exist you have only your faith in that belief. The lack of proof is in no way proof. And as there is a dramatic lack of proof that God exists I cannot prove to you that he does. But the fact is that you have just as little proof of His non-existance. It does not bother me that you might not believe, but it seems strange to me when someone throws insults at me for my having faith in God when your atheism is just you having faith that there is no god of any kind. So perhaps you should come to terms with the one fact that is truly undeniable, infallible and that links all together as one people: regardless of what any of us believes, the thing that gives us the certainty to argue for our beliefs is simply faith. So please, I am implore you to let those who choose to have faith in God do so without your insults, just as I am willing to let you have your faith in God being nothing but a construct of man. Just try to always remember that as much as we might differ, in the end we are all simply people of faith.

    August 21, 2011 at 9:48 pm |
    • beth

      When one is trying to convince others of an invisible sky fairy, the burden of proof is on you. To not believe in an invisible sky fairy is natural. It takes indoctrination to believe.

      August 21, 2011 at 10:00 pm |
    • havefaithinnofaith

      I'm not trying to convince you that a sky fairy exists. You, however, are arguing that sky fairies don't exist. Have you searched the entire sky? Can I see the evidence of your search? Or do you expect that we all just believe that you've made this search?

      August 21, 2011 at 10:31 pm |
    • awesomeman

      By this logic we should still be looking for WMDs in Iraq.

      August 21, 2011 at 11:01 pm |
    • Bibletruth

      I would love to have 8 hours with you and a packed auditorium of interested honest atheist people who actually care for truth. I will take the side that God exists and present the evidence. And you may take the side that God does not exist and present the evidence. No name calling, no snide remarks, no belittling, etc. Just a clear presentation. I would hope there were historians, biologists, astronomers, all manner of scientists, educators, etc. present. Wow, what a nice time .

      August 21, 2011 at 11:07 pm |
    • Bizarre

      Bibletruth, "I would love to have 8 hours with you and a packed auditorium ..."

      No, thank you. I'll wait for "God" to set up an appearance in that auditorium and prove himself.

      August 21, 2011 at 11:18 pm |
    • Bizarre

      p.s. That's quite an ego you have there, Bibletruth... to claim that *you* can do what the best of 'em over thousands of years of trying have not done. Have you read about Walter Mitty?

      August 21, 2011 at 11:22 pm |
    • havefaithinnofaith

      Only if you have faith that they are there. Both you and Beth are arguing that my faith is invalid solely on the fact that it differs from yours. I have not argued that either of you, or anyone else, should believe what I believe. But both of you think that I'm wrong, you're right, and therefore I should convert to your beliefs. Does that not make you guilty of the very offense you accuse religions of? You want to make anyone not an atheist into an atheist to free them from indoctrination. In truth you would have us trade the chains we have chosen for ones chosen for us. I have chosen to believe in God, and you want to take that choice away from me? I don't want you to live in a world where my choice is the only choice available, but that is what you want for all the people in this vast world who do not believe as you do. Why are you so unwilling to give me the same freedoms I would give you?

      August 21, 2011 at 11:29 pm |
    • havenofaith

      having faith is the problem. thinking you have the right to fill in the blanks with whatever you want leads to non-sense.

      faith is the root of all evil

      August 22, 2011 at 1:00 am |
    • Hawkeye1012

      There is indeed an all-powerful being who lives in the heavens: Superman.

      August 22, 2011 at 1:16 am |
    • Cj

      Try telling that to quantum physicists. The common consensus among the highest echelon is that there must have been some greater form of power that initiated the 'Big Bang.' All you have to do to prove that there must be a god is keep asking "And where did that come from?" You eventually reach a point where science has no answers, but where there is still more. That's when you must turn to religion. The fact that we are here proves there must be something supreme, or above us, for lack of a better term, or a 'God.' This is why Atheists are one of the least intelligent demographic groups that the BLS takes statistics for.

      August 22, 2011 at 1:47 am |
    • mehmet

      Since the universe and beings exist, and within them are acts and creation; and since an orderly act cannot occur without an author, a meaningful book cannot be without a scribe, and a skilful embroidery be without an embroiderer, for sure, the purposeful acts which fill the universe have an author and the meaningful letters and amazing embroideries which cover the face of the earth and are renewed from season to season have a scribe and an embroiderer.

      And since when two governors direct the same matter it results in the order in that matter being spoilt; and since from a fly's wing to the lamps in the heavens there is perfect order in the universe, there is, then, only one governor, one ruler. For the art and wisdom in everything is so wonderful that it necessitates that the Maker of each thing is absolutely powerful to a degree that He knows every matter, and that everything is within His power. Since this is so, if He was not One, there would have to be gods to the number of beings. These would be both opposed to and similar to one another, and so it would be a hundred thousand times impossible for this wonderful order not to be broken.

      Furthermore, since, as is self-evidently apparent, the classes of beings are, at a command, in motion in a fashion a thousand times more well-ordered than that of an army, each group, from the stars, sun and moon and their motions to the flowers of the almond, displaying the decorations and uniforms the Pre-Eternal All-Powerful One has conferred on it, and the motion He has determined, in a way a thousand times more regular and perfect than that of an army – since this is so, the universe has an Absolute Ruler behind the veil of the Unseen, and its beings look to and conform to His command.

      August 22, 2011 at 2:24 am |
  5. beth

    Glad I sent my daughter to Vassar.

    August 21, 2011 at 9:44 pm |
  6. mudkip

    That is Battell dorms at Middlebury College in the picture.

    August 21, 2011 at 9:33 pm |
  7. Josh

    yeah but Bennington College boasts the best co-ed Witch-Volleyball team

    August 21, 2011 at 8:09 pm |
  8. thegadfly

    What I'd like to know is, at which schools are students best able to believe how they see fit, and best trained to ponder such things?

    August 21, 2011 at 7:54 pm |
    • thegadfly

      I didn't want to bias anyone by stating my own beliefs, but let me clarify that, unlike some, I consider atheism to be a belief in an absence, not an absence of belief.

      August 21, 2011 at 8:00 pm |
    • robert

      @thegadfly, "I consider atheism to be a belief in an absence" well fortunately you don't write dictionaries. Atheism is a position taken on the claim that there is a god(s). The position is derived from a simple fact, there is no evidence to support the claim. The onus of proof is on those that state the affirmative or the existence of. Therefore without evidence it is safe for one to proceed as though there is no god, the same way it is safe to proceed as though there are no dragons, elves and goblins.Your attempt to cast atheism as a faith is a straw man fallacy and only goes to show that you are fundamentally irrational. Enjoy your delusion.

      August 21, 2011 at 8:36 pm |
    • Bibletruth

      Does that question pertain to politics, morals, life style, speaking, etc. or just to religion?

      August 21, 2011 at 11:09 pm |
  9. John Gabriel

    Religion is a scourge. People think dictators like Hitler and Ghaddafi are bad. But what about the clergy (Pope, Ayatollah, etc) – they have been parasites off the masses for thousands of years. Hitler was not even half the threat of the clergy. Yet the clergy survive and prosper. They feed off the masses, abuse their children and enslave them with their consent...

    August 21, 2011 at 7:49 pm |
    • PLM

      I was wondering when someone was going to trot out the old " The Pope is worse than Hitler" vomitus. I guess what escapes the modern intelligentsia (like "John Gabriel") is that they are also perpetuating hate. Then again, they don't understand that either.

      August 21, 2011 at 9:21 pm |
  10. erin

    That is the most unscientific methodology I've ever heard of. Nothing can be concluded from the results of a poll like this.

    August 21, 2011 at 7:44 pm |
  11. Kammers

    I'm surprised Bob Jones wasn't on here.

    August 21, 2011 at 7:26 pm |
  12. Bill

    I just graduated college and let me tell you, our generation is NOT religious. Many of us are beginning to break out of that shell and realize that religion makes no sense and is just a man-made system to control the masses. College educated students learn critical thinking skills which are held back from the religious. I'm glad our generation will be mostly secular.

    August 21, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
    • BK

      Well it's hard to ignore the fact that the more educated someone is, the less likely they are to be religious.

      August 21, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
    • Ben

      That depends on the field. At my school liberal arts majors are more densely populated by athiests while math, medical, and engineering are more religious... So, at least at my school i'd argue that the religious are better educated than the athiests.

      August 21, 2011 at 8:37 pm |
    • Eric

      Bill-Your comment indicates that religious people don't go to college and thus don't learn critical thinking skills. Lots of colleges have religious people at them and religious people do attend church. In fact as my link will show the "educated" have higher rates of church attendance than the less educated.


      From your comments you seem to think religious people don't think. What you're missing is that religious and spiritual experiences have nothing to do with thinking and everything to do with feeling. Even if you taught the world to be as smart as you are, I doubt it would empty the churches. People who are religious or spiritual are so because it feels good not because it makes sense. It's emotional not intellectual.

      August 21, 2011 at 8:55 pm |
    • Mike Houston

      What is your basis for concluding that people in the fields of math, medicine, and engineering are "better educated" than those
      who pursue liberal arts? Is it because they become more adept at the sciences? It could just as well be argued that those in
      the liberal arts become more adept at literature, music, or philosophy and are, therefore, "better educated". To conclude that those in one or the other fields are more religious than the other is, also, questionable. I don't doubt, though, that the
      better educated one becomes the more likely it is that he/she would ask questions about the validity of the proposition that
      "God" exists.

      August 21, 2011 at 10:39 pm |
  13. joe

    that's a pic of Middlebury College! not Bennington.

    August 21, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
  14. John

    Hard to believe Oral Roberts University isn't on the list.

    August 21, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
    • Sid

      It isn't a university, despite its own claims.

      August 22, 2011 at 1:24 am |
  15. 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 21, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
  16. dkm

    NOT EVERYONE believes in this man-made fiction so quit trying to promote it through your brainwashing of the young.

    August 21, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
  17. nononsense

    missing the point wrote: people are fighting if God is really or not but your missing the point it does not matter if God is real or not... ...What someone believes does not matter is it what they do with that believe is what is really important
    This brings me to one of my top reasons why I won't believe in god. The christians would argue in response to your point that god essentially commands them to convert as many souls as possible so that those people (you!) can end up in heaven "praising" god for eternity. Every time I try to picture that (and the h@ll it sounds like to be sequestered with such a vanilla group of yes-men), i want to run screaming in the opposite direction. Why would anyone in their right mind "praise" or "worship" anyone? let alone the god they present, one who could have created any kind of world he wanted, like an author who has complete control over what shows up in a fictional work; why would god then giddily create/allow so much pain and evil? and do't give me "oh, that's all the devil's doing" because that's not what you say when you claim that god sends bad times to test your faith, etc. no way am i going to fawn at the feet of, as the beiber would call him, that "d0ucheb@g". chat with him maybe, try to se if he's ready for re-hab, but worship him?!? not going to happen.

    August 21, 2011 at 10:13 am |
    • Lynn

      God gave us free will. Without free will we'd simply be robots. In order to have free will there must be the opportunity to make choices. Hence you cannot have white without black or good without evil.

      It is arrogant to believe something doesn't exist because we cannot see it or understand it. Many don't see or fully comprehend how the internet works, electricity, a t.v. remote or the phone. Yet to deny these things exist is silly.

      Someone who created the zebra and giraffe and the morning glory must have a great sense of humor and beauty. My prayers are answered. I know God exists.

      August 21, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
    • Guitar

      Hey Lynn, said God must have also then created 'the Mosquito' as well. Not sure I care for that sense of humor! 🙂

      August 21, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
    • sigmundfreud

      Hey, Lynn: God also created smallpox, appendicitis, cancer, gangrene, tetanus ... the list goes on. He also created a species of wasp that finds a host insect, inserts its eggs into that host, and that has the little baby wasps eat their way out of their host. A real nice creator.

      August 21, 2011 at 8:24 pm |
    • Hawkeye1012

      Lynn, the Devil created zebras, baby ducks and rainbows. Prove to me he didn't.

      August 22, 2011 at 1:19 am |
  18. Dave

    I went to a religious college and had a very bad learning experience. Graduate school at the University of Kentucky was much better

    August 21, 2011 at 8:20 am |
  19. SecularTruther

    What I want to know (especially since I'm a non-believer) which school makes the best grades. Also I would like to see if the least religious have higher marks in religious studies, I'm willing to bet they do. Why is it that the most intelligent people on this earth are usually atheist? Maybe they figured out the truth a long time ago. All religions are the equivalent of uneducated people in the past who thought the world was flat.

    August 21, 2011 at 7:47 am |
    • lillerbean

      Being agnostic (or even if I wasn't), I hold your inquiries to be worthwhile. I would like to know how students scored comparitively. I would also like to know how these humans compare in a global workplace. Unfortunately, your bold-blanket statements make you sound somewhat ignorant and thus is contrary to what you claim . . . less is more sometimes.

      August 21, 2011 at 9:05 am |
    • Jon

      Can't be too intelligent, as you seem to misunderstand that atheism, like any form of theism, is strictly a belief, and what a person believes has ZERO BEARING on how intelligent they can BECOME. Knowledge is acquired, so anyone with the ethic/drive and desire that believes in God could make a lot of us feel just as stupid as some atheist.

      August 21, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
    • DNADEB

      You should check out the percentages. A reasonable number of Physicists believe in God 30 or more %. Similarly with Philosophers. I guess you are too smarter than them.

      August 21, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
  20. Naomi

    American college students need moral cleansing.
    Secular colleges and universities in the West = the factories for destruction of character and the homes of polluters of Planet Earth

    August 21, 2011 at 3:00 am |
    • Karloff

      Let's put all those godless children on the rack and torture them until they know the kindness and beneficence of god. Amen.

      August 21, 2011 at 6:53 am |
    • Kristttian

      The only people destroying the moral fiber of this country are all the religious people who judge others without knowing them. I don't particularly care if you are a person of faith. That is your right. But don't you dare go making sweeping generalizations of secular people who are kind, peace loving and law abiding...unlike some people of faith who harbor child abusers within their own confines. It would be utterly disgusting of me to generalize all people of faith as liars, corrupt theocrats and child abusers, so I won't...but I will not remain silent as the children of God pass judgment against others the way jesus told them not to.

      August 21, 2011 at 7:43 am |
    • Jason

      The only one that needs to be cleansed and whooped are the zealots who constantly want to shove their beliefs down other people's throats.

      August 21, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
    • beth


      On behalf of all professors who teach in secular universities, I thank you. As long as we're ticking off people like you, we're doing a great job.

      August 21, 2011 at 9:56 pm |
    • Naomi

      Beth, you teach in a secular college? Stop persecuting Christians, you filthy liberals! America is going down because you brainwash the kids to be bad and immoral.

      August 21, 2011 at 11:17 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.