Less-educated Americans are losing religion, study finds
The decline in church attendance among whites without college degrees is twice as high as for those with college degrees.
August 24th, 2011
03:17 PM ET

Less-educated Americans are losing religion, study finds

By Liane Membis, CNN

(CNN) - If you don't have a college degree, you’re less likely to be up early on Sunday morning, singing church hymns.

That's the upshot of a new study that finds the decline in church attendance since the 1970s among white Americans without college degrees is twice as high as for those with college degrees.

Study: More educated tend to be more religious

“Our study suggests that the less-educated are dropping out of the American religious sector, similarly to the way in which they have dropped out of the American labor market,” said W. Bradford Wilcox, a professor of sociology at the University of Virginia, who was lead researcher on the project.

The research, presented this week at American Sociological Association's annual meeting, found that 37% of moderately educated whites - those with high school degrees but lacking degrees from four-year colleges - attend religious services at least monthly, down from 50% in the 1970s.

Among college-educated whites, the dropoff was less steep, with 46% regularly attending religious services in the 2000s, compared with 51% in the '70s.

The study focuses on white Americans because church attendance among blacks and Latinos is less divided by education and income.

Most religiously affiliated whites identify as Catholics, evangelical Protestants, mainline Protestants, Mormons or Jews.

Lower church attendance among the less-educated may stem from a disconnect between them and modern church values, the study theorizes.

Religious institutions tend to promote traditional middle-class family values like education, marriage and parenthood, but less-educated whites are less likely to get or stay married and may feel ostracized by their religious peers, the researchers said.

The researchers expressed concern about the falloff in church attendance among the less-educated.

“This development reinforces the social marginalization of less educated Americans who are also increasingly disconnected from the institutions of marriage and work,” said Andrew Cherlin, co-author of the study and a professor of sociology and public policy at Johns Hopkins University.

Wilcox said that those who do not attend church are missing out on potential benefits.

“Today, the market and the state provide less financial security to the less educated than they once did,” Wilcox said. “Religious congregations may be one of the few institutional sectors less-educated Americans can turn to for social, economic and emotional support in the face of today’s tough times, yet it appears that increasingly few of them are choosing to do so.”

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Church • Polls

soundoff (1,621 Responses)
  1. James F.

    I am a member of a Southern Baptist Church and our Church Supports many missions in the US and abroad. They do charitable things for the poor on a regular basis especially around the holidays. The church is not a welfare center and can't afford to take care of everyone. Most do what they can but are limited by the giving ability of their congregations. There are some mega churches that have very strong financial positions but the majority of community churches aren't like what some of you describe or have an opinion about. Whether you are in church or not most people are superficial or are hypocritical. Some people bounce around church's just to see how much money they can mooch and then leave shortly. They just come to take advantage of the generosity of the church members. The Bible encourages giving and most of the poor feel that burden and stay away.

    August 25, 2011 at 8:42 pm |
    • Carrie

      Well James, every church has its own reality and it's own mix of personalities so I woudn't pain w/too broad a brush. Here's what I saw at the last church I attended. They had the money to build a million dollar building the likes of which this area had never seen before. So with that money they took care of .....themselves. They enjoyed going to Poland which just happened to be where one of the ministers families was from and (converting–ha ha) Catholics and then going to Africa and helping w/medicine and water systems which are wonderful causes.

      But I couldn't help but notice that there were no programs to go into our local inner city. Nobody wanted to help the local kids from broken families read. No one wanted the go down to soup kitchens and help make sure the unemployed found nourishment. And then I figured it out. It didn't look as impressive on the resume. Also I know for at tleast some of them they really didn't want to form any relationships with those they felt were below their station. Now that's not very Godlike is it? Let's face it . Some people attend church socio-economic benefits.

      August 26, 2011 at 8:49 am |
  2. Barry Watts

    They should do a study that compares the average IQ of the "less educated" heathens to that of the God-fearing elite who went to college on daddy's dime. None of the people I know with college degrees are very bright.

    August 25, 2011 at 8:40 pm |
  3. KAScofield

    This article, because it frames and treats the topics so poorly, begs an array of tropes old and new to come of of the woodwork so that people can hit each other over the head with them. Ugh.

    August 25, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
  4. Tony Misita

    .truth be known...most of these middle class-wealthy white hetero elites have never attended church for spiritual edification in the first place...but instead as a means to boast their status in society and to validate each other...to receive some, unspoken affirmation from each other...pathetic....it is more of a social gathering to boast than it is a place to commune/focus on educating, sheltering, clothing, feeding the poor...so it is no surprise that the poor, uneducated, and less fortunate are no longer interested; and are in lower attendance...likely they are made to feel, in many ways, as if they are "out of place" or probably feel like they don't "fit in" ...church people are some of the meanest, most backward... most unmerciful.... two-faced, backbiting hypocrites I've ever been subject to...most of them are nothing like the Jesus you read about in the Bible...

    August 25, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
    • J.W

      You are possibly over-generalizing.

      August 25, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
    • Sylvia

      You said it. So very true.

      August 25, 2011 at 8:52 pm |
  5. Bruce

    “Religious co.ngr.eg.ati.ons may be one of the few insti.tutional sectors less-educated Americans can turn to for social, economic and emotional support in the face of today’s tough times, yet it appears that increasingly few of them are choosing to do so.”

    My guess is that they don't feel welcome in "Christian" churches, and that the co.ngre.ga.nts in those churches believe that (or if they don't believe it, they seem to believe it) the economic poverty of these people is either a righteous pu.ni.shm.ent from God for some sinful thing they did, or a moral failure in and of itself, or something that only happens to people who lack faith in some way.

    I've seen some "theologians" get out there and say that ti.thing 10% of your gross income when you are poor is a bigger act of faith than ti.thing 20% of your gross income when you are well-off BECAUSE you can't afford it, and you are counting on "God" to bail you out when times are tough. While I understand the intuition of this message, it seems to me that it could chase poorer people away from church more than richer people.

    There's also the misuse of the story of Job, where they pretend that anybody going through hard times of any sort now will–IF they maintain their faith–get "double for the trouble" after the test is complete. In this scenario, extended poverty is viewed as evidence of some failure of faith, some failure of the test you were blessed to be given.

    Also, the conservative disdain for government welfare is a prejudgment that hangs over the heads of these kinds of people. Perhaps when they had a good paying job they adopted this disdain for themselves, and now that they are on the dole they feel so ashamed and can't look their fellow "Christian" brothers and sisters in the face without blanching.

    Seriously, "Christians." You reap what you sow. This story isn't about the "more-educated" and their not-as-bad church attendance. This is more about the exodus of the "less-educated" people from your ranks. This isn't a success story for you religious people to pat yourselves on the back because the "educated" are smarter and you can keep them (you're not even keeping them, actually). This is a story of moral failure of the church that doesn't seem to be able to attract the people when they most need the church.

    August 25, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
    • hippypoet

      why would anyone need the church? this is where people lose me... the church does what exactly? i mean besides lie, steal, cheat, AND touch kids... what is their pupose in life? if its only to further the teachings of CHRESTUS then now that we have the internet, thats a wash huh... so what do they do that others can't do for themselves???

      August 25, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
    • Stevie7

      Well, for one, you can eat flesh or drink blood of your god outside of church. If you're a catholic cannibal, its the only place you can go and be accepted (I'm assuming there's no sort of, say, cannibal meetup groups).

      August 25, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
    • Bruce

      The Church is supposed to support people emotionally, spiritually, and financially when they are going through tough times. That is why people would need the Church–if the Church was doing its job rather than judging the poor for their poverty.

      August 25, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
    • hippypoet

      you are speaking about a church that doesn't exist anymore... that was the middle ages and some of the post modern times... when people cared about the town and the betterment of there fellow man... now it seems people only care about themselves!

      makes me sick!

      August 25, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
    • Laughing


      There are but when we advertise having people over for dinner no one shows up.....I wonder why?

      August 25, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
    • Stevie7

      @Laughing – maybe you're being too obvious. Maybe if you called yourselves the Soylent Green Society you'd have better luck.

      August 25, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
    • Bruce

      hippypoet, I'm speaking of a church that (arguably) existed in the 1970's, at least relatively speaking compared to today, if the numbers of this study are saying what I think they are saying.

      That is, this conservative disdain for welfare and the poor wasn't as bad in the 70's as it is now. The economy back then, actually, was worse than it is now.

      August 25, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
    • Laughing


      You're probably right, Soylent Green could work. Maybe calling our meetups Donner (sp?) Parties would throw them off our scent. I remember one time, in the good ole days where we told people to come over for dinner and make sure they brought butter and maybe ran over (you know, so they would be tired when they got there). *sigh* whatever happened to the good ole days?

      August 25, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
    • Bruce

      You can even see it in a post below by Silly Me, who says: "the less educated tend to be most reliant on welfare programs, and as such, have turned to the government as the Almighty provider." See what they did there? They turned welfare into a failure of faith. They turned someone who seeks government help when times are tough as someone who is worshiping a false god.

      August 25, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
    • J.W

      Churches give a decent amount of money to charitable organizations, as well as organize food drives. My friend had financial difficulty and got hundreds of dollars from the church.

      August 25, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
    • gerald

      Ya right hippyo, that's all we do is sit around and lie and steal and wait for a kid to come by. What a bigot.

      August 25, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
    • hippypoet

      lets all be honest, the only TRUE god is money.. in all forms... and our god rules over everyone, everything, and has a price tag on stuff even before its out to be sold... ever heard of pre-order! our god is evil!

      August 25, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
    • Bruce

      J.W. that may be true, but it doesn't change anything I've said.

      Someone who hands out "charity" can easily take on a paternalistic atti.tude about it, like they are the Savior and the beneficiary is their saved one. Conservatives who judge welfare recipients, and then find themselves without a job and on the dole–they suffer the worst (albeit just) fate of self-judgment and shame, and their pride prevents them from asking for help from their "brothers and sisters" in Christ.

      August 25, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
    • J.W

      Bruce that may depend also if the denomination is more conservative or more liberal. Liberal denominations would probably have a different atti.tude about that.

      August 25, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
    • Bruce

      J.W., you may be right about that. I'm not sure.

      It also may be an affect of our current culture, which is swinging to the right (even those who are allegedly "progressive" are farther to the right than they were a few decades ago). I think that, even though I consider myself a progressive, I would feel shame if I lost my job–it would feel like a moral failure to me. I would probably turn inward and try to ride it out myself, to pull myself up "by my own bootstraps" as the saying goes, rather than ask for help from charitable organizations.

      It's friggin' pervasive.

      August 25, 2011 at 5:10 pm |
    • J.W

      I think it is somewhat of a political tug of war. In my teenage years, I thought that gays were bad, abortion should be illegal, and I was even somewhat of a racist. My views now are completely different. But to be honest I think I would feel about the same as you if I lost my job. Id rather try to just get by somehow than to ever ask for help. I dont feel like people would judge me, and I dont think I would judge anyone else in that situation, but I would judge myself.

      August 25, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
    • Spydyee

      I agree with you completely. I do want to defend my church on the statistics however. One reason the Mormon church may very well boast such a situation is that we are encouraged to get our educations and the church will financially help families while they get that education. If a person has to reduce their income by reducing their working hours so they can go to school then the church will help them pay utility bills and provide food in the home from our storehouse program. It isn't that we run the uneducated away it is that we help educate them in order to promote self sufficiency.

      I can't speak for other churches but in the Mormon church financially helping families where one or both of the parents are seeking higher education is to a certain degree a major part of our religion. We promote self sufficiency and if that means you need to go to school then you go to school. That is the main reason most of our members have at least some college. Our church counsels with the members to see how to get them off of welfare and helps them make a plan to get to self sufficiency and also provides a means for them to feel better about asking for help by requiring them to work for any church welfare they receive. We do not like the Dole system and we do not promote the dole system by using in our church. We are asked to help members who are disabled to do things they cannot do and if you are on church welfare and physically able then you are expected to participate in all planned service projects as well as going and working in the storehouse and/or the cannery that services your area. If you do not have the finances to travel to the storehouse the local leaders can help you with that but you are expected to work for your church welfare.

      In response to hippypoet
      who said:
      you are speaking about a church that doesn't exist anymore... that was the middle ages and some of the post modern times... when people cared about the town and the betterment of there fellow man... now it seems people only care about themselves!

      makes me sick!

      Not all churches are like that. The Mormon church has an expansive farm program, canneries, storehouses of food, and local leaders who are authorized to distribute that food and certain church funds to help members in need. The funds are called fast offerings and come from the fact that every member fasts for two meals on the first Sunday of every month and donates the value of those two meals or any amount larger than that to the fast offering fund which is then used to help pay utility bills and other expenses of the poor within that one church unit. Food is grown on the farms the church owns, canned in our canneries and distributed through our storehouse system to those families in need. Even with all of the complaining about our theology that you find out in the media what you find inside our churches are people working to actually feed the Lord, clothe the Lord, house the Lord by doing it unto the least of these his brethren, his children, just like he describes in Matthew 25:31-46. We are his sheep and we are also the shepherds of his sheep. We literally are our brother's keeper and we do not desire to have the blood of Abel crying unto the Lord because we do wrong to our brothers and to the little children. We are morally obligated to take care of each other if we desire to be numbered among the righteous. Not all churches are bad, only those who are ruled by the love of money for one cannot serve two masters. You cannot serve God and Mammon. You cannot love money and love God for the love of money corrupts the soul and God will not dwell in any corrupt place.

      August 25, 2011 at 6:23 pm |
    • i wonder


      The Mormons have some lovely ideas for cooperation and for looking out for one another. No god is necessary to implement those helpful, practical habits.

      August 25, 2011 at 7:18 pm |
  6. hippypoet

    good, lets all stop going to church...gas is too high to waste on a place to go where you give money away anyway! nothing is free, thats a saying, well the churches money is free, they didn't work for it, nor do they pay taxes on it... our country is going down the drain, if you are to keep going to church then i say we tax those child touchin paper pushers... that would be a HUGE increase in currency flow per state... we could be out of debt sooner then never, and never sounds really really bad!

    August 25, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
  7. Answer

    The only answer to any study that supports a view for/pro religion is:

    "I teach my kids to reject religion." That should be your quest in this lifetime.

    August 25, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
    • hippypoet

      thats a very closed minded approach to religion. I myself can't stand the brainwashing of religion but it does have its uses... it brings people together, it gives people hope in dark times... it is a all-day sitter for your kids!

      August 25, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
  8. nicoled

    One would have to read the exact study to fully understand what the constraints and variables were. It's highly probable that the majority of "uneducated," non-church goers are likely to have a job that prevents them from going. Age, current survey data used, older data set source - all of these things can create very different results.

    A study isn't nessecarily "right" or "wrong," but merely has to follow standard guidelines on how they perform their work. You can do a study with an agenda in mind.

    August 25, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
  9. Mark

    Not in Islam. They like them stupid there. "Don't even look at a woman here, so that you can have 72 virgins in heaven." Sounds logical.

    August 25, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
    • Spydyee

      Please do not embarrass yourself any further.
      The Qur'an promises men voluptuous virgins but does not specify their exact number
      Hadiths specify the exact number as 72
      Islam does not specify these virgins are for terrorists or martyrs but rather for any Muslim male

      Great rewards are promised to those who die in the way of Allah which merely means that they are Muslim.

      There is no direct Hadith or verse in the Qur'an that promises suicide bombers 72 virgins.

      August 25, 2011 at 6:52 pm |
  10. Bob

    I shakra on your Chakra. There's no more "energy" to it than for any of the other mystic "energy" foofiness coming out of slimy eastern foof salesmen.

    August 25, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
  11. Muneef

    The World needs more as such people;

    Who is Anna Hazare?

    The story goes that one day at the New Delhi Railway Station, he chanced upon a book on Swami Vivekananda. Drawn by Vivekananda's photograph, he is quoted as saying that he read the book and found his answer – that the motive of his life lay in service to his fellow humans.

    Today, Anna Hazare is the face of India's fight against corruption. He has taken that fight to the corridors of power and challenged the government at the highest level. People, the common man and well-known personalities alike, are supporting him in the hundreds swelling to the thousands.


    August 25, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
  12. gotroot

    The results seem to imply that American schools are places of religious indoctrination. Anyone want to guess why the US education system ranks low compared to numerous other countries?

    August 25, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
    • JOL

      EXACTLY. You think the South Koreans are sitting in some bible "school"? Of course not. They are learning math and science in a real school.

      August 25, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
    • A Theist

      How so? Those who likely only received a public education (high school, mostly public) are attending church *less* than those who go on to university–of which I can say there is very little Christian indoctrination except for the schools that make it their goal.

      August 25, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
    • Silly Me

      There are obviously several interpretations of the results Maybe one of the most credible is that the less educated tend to be most reliant on welfare programs, and as such, have turned to the government as the Almighty provider. Welfare should not be a function of government, but of churches and NGO's instead. You might then find alot more of the less educated "finding God".

      August 25, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
    • Bruce

      Or, Silly Me, it may be that these people don't feel welcome in church. Maybe they feel judged by the congregants, who treat their unemployed status as a moral failure rather than as an opportunity to be supportive and charitable.

      Some modern hete.ro.dox theologies actually claim that wealth is a sign from God that He favors you and that poverty is judgment visited upon you for something you've done wrong, or that the rich have faith and the poor are lacking in that same faith. "Name it and claim it!" comes to mind.

      August 25, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
  13. Paul

    To DK:
    One of the most common mistakes people make when talking about atheism is to believe it's mutually exclusive from agnosticism. "Agnostic" actually isn't a believe or lack thereof, it's actually how you view that belief. Agnosticism to simply to be unsure, and by labeling yourself that way, is to admit you're not sure. I've met agnostic theists and gnostic atheists. To me, only an idiot would claim they are "absolutely entirely sure" about something like that, one way or the other.

    August 25, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
    • Star

      Atheism isn't a religion or a belief system, it's merely the absence of belief in a god. The world has many religions, and each one believes their god is the one true god (or gods). So who is right? None of them. There is no need to disprove something that has not been actually proven.

      August 25, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
    • A Theist

      @Star I would say that's somewhat of a semantic beat-around. A system of beliefs merely means an accepted notion of reality. Atheists and Theists alike have some sort of interpretation on their perceived reality, whether it includes a God or not. As opposed to saying that "none of them" are correct, I would say that none of them can be known to be correct or incorrect. Atheists have simply chosen not to accept something that has not and cannot be proven to be true.

      August 25, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
    • Paul

      A Theist, you missed out one important fact, though: a person's reality is based on components, not a set whole.

      Meaning one person may believe the yeti is real. Just because that is another "reality", that doesn't give any more credence to the yeti. Components have to be proven, and a deity is one of them.

      August 25, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
    • A Theist

      @ Colin My point is more pivoted on the concept of subjective reality. That is, we are all confined within ourselves and can only perceive the world through our own lens. I would agree–from my world view–that belief in a Yeti is completely unsubstantiated, mostly because I am a firm believer in data and observational reality with a hint of uncertainty about what can be completely known. My point is more that every day we all make basic assumptions about our universe: that you and I exist, that the scientific method is a valid source for interpreting the universe, that logic is actually well grounded. These assumptions seem rudimentary, but they are assumptions nonetheless. Atheists take the assumption that if something cannot be proven, then it should not be believed or even considered. I stand more in the camp of evidence supporting an idea, and then making decisions about things that cannot be proven absolutely.

      August 25, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
    • Colin

      A Theist – I was generally with you until the last two sentences – "Atheists take the assumption that if something cannot be proven, then it should not be believed or even considered. I stand more in the camp of evidence supporting an idea, and then making decisions about things that cannot be proven absolutely."

      I can only speak for myself, but not being able to prove something does not cause me not to consider it. Take life on other planets. We have not yet proved it, but I certainly consider it a possibility.

      August 25, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
    • A Theist

      @Colin. Ah I should have qualified that last bit. I meant that they "tend to" refuse to believe in something that is not or cannot be proven–especially in regards to scientists who study the physical world. It was more a point about assumptions Naturalists make about the world.

      But yes, I agree, some Atheists choose atheism simply because they do not believe in a God and do not deal in absolutes. I have much more respect for an atheist who is willing to think about things that cannot be proven yet still decides to believe that there is no God than one who says, "I'll believe it when I see it, and not a second before." I would hope theists would take the same approach and really analyze what assumptions they make on a daily basis before blindly walking onward.

      August 25, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
    • Bob

      A Theist is unsemantically beating himself around.

      August 25, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
    • Tom

      A religion is not the same thing as a belief system. A religion requires an affirmative belief. Otherwise, one could say "your belief that Santa Claus doesn't exist is a religion."

      August 25, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
    • I'm The Best!

      I tend to go with if someone says something cannot be proven then it probably doesn't exist. But life on other planets can be proven even if it hasn't yet. So that's the difference I see in them. It's the cannot be proven vs. the can be proven. If someone tells me that an invisible alien race is studying us be we can't see or hear or interact with them at all in our physical world. I'm not going to believe them.

      August 25, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
  14. herbert juarez

    I believe you are mistaken,I know a little about Genesis and nowhere in the book does it reference a 6000 year old earth.Help me out and quote the post referenced, or at least show where it is.

    August 25, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
    • Paul

      It's been done by scholars through timeline.

      And somehow because of that, even in opposition to basic second-grade level geology some radical Christians try to claim the world is, in fact, just 6,000 years old when we have found human civilizations older than that.

      August 25, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
    • Bruce

      Exactly. Anybody who reads Genesis, no matter how dim they might be, can agree that it was most-certainly NOT written by some poor schmoe looking at the fossil record and asking themselves, "hmmm.... now how do I explain THIS?"

      That is, Genesis does not compete with the theory of evolution by natural selection (and its more-modern versions that have a lot more evidence to support them) when it comes to explaining the fossil record. Because of this, there is never any reason to think that the truth of Genesis is in any way mutually-exclusive to the truth of theories of evolution by something like natural selection.

      August 25, 2011 at 2:02 pm |
    • herbert juarez

      yeah ?well i didn't !
      gotta run , catch ya all on the flipside
      not all herbert posts are mine.

      August 25, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
    • Colin

      Herbie, add up the "begats" like Bishop Usher did.

      August 25, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
    • Colin

      Bruce, please point me to, or explain another theory that has more support nowdays than evolution by natural selection. You just made the claim that there are some, so please back it up.

      August 25, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
    • A Theist

      @ Colin, I think you misread Bruce's post. He did not say that there is more evidence to support a claim as opposed to evolution, but that there is more evidence to suggest a blend of Old-World theory and Creationism than New-World Theory and Creationism.

      August 25, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
    • Bruce

      Colin, I only referred to the more-modern theories of evolution that are different from the Darwinian theory in important ways, however they tend to bear the same name as their Darwinian antecedent.

      One big difference is the acknowledgment that "survival of the fittest" doesn't describe the totality of diversity in the fossil record, and that many genomes/phenomes persist despite offering no statistical advantage for survival.

      Please try to stop reading stuff into my comments, trying to get a "gotcha" moment to expose me as a young-earth creationist. I'm an atheist. Seriously.

      August 25, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
    • Colin

      Bruce – odd, most atheists know what a fossil is, but ok, I'll take your word for it.

      August 25, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
    • Bruce

      Colin, by your expanded definition, YOU are a fossil.

      August 25, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
  15. Reality

    As noted on p. 18:

    Just more credence for the following:

    Recognizing the flaws, follies and frauds in the foundations of Islam, Judaism and Christianity, the "bowers", kneelers" and "pew peasants" are converging these religions into some simple rules of life. (e.g. "Do No Harm") No koran, bible, clerics, nuns, monks, imams, evangelicals, ayatollahs, rabbis, professors of religion or priests needed or desired.

    Ditto for houses of "worthless worship" aka mosques, churches, basilicas, cathedrals, temples and synagogues.

    August 25, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
  16. Sussay

    Surprising result - other studies have indicated just the opposite - the more educated a person is the less likely they are to be religious.

    August 25, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
    • Star

      I agree. All the studies etc. I have seen show just the opposite. The less educated, the more likely people fall for the absurdities religious belief brings. If the educated are going to church, I think it's more about looking good and setting up networks of friends/clients.
      It makes no sense that educated people believe that the "God" they worship would need to sacrifice himself to himself to allow himself to change a rule...that he mad. If we continue to believe in absurdities, we shall continue to commit attrocities.
      Thomas Paine: "Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and torturous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness, with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we called it the word of a demon than the word of God. It is a history of wickedness that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind; and for my own part, I sincerely detest it, as I detest everything that is cruel" The Bible is NOT "The Good Book"!!!!

      August 25, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
    • 500 Questions

      Maybe they're all working Sundays.

      August 25, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
    • Bruce

      Really? There is a study out there that says people with a 4-year degree are not only less-likely now to attend weekly church services than they were in the 1970's, but that the decline in attendance between the 70's and today was greater than the decline seen in people without a 4-year degree?

      Please do share with a link to the study or a summary of the study.

      August 25, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
    • Paul

      To Bruce:
      This article pertains only to how often people attend church, nothing more.
      How this has gone over your head again and again is beyond me.
      Oh, and the most significant study to prove that the less religious are actually more intelligent was conducted by the London School of Political science, and the difference was about ten points.

      August 25, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
    • Bruce

      Paul, if that's all the article is about, then how does the study you speak of state the opposite?

      What you mean is that study defines "religious" differently than the study in this article, not that it comes up with contradictory findings.

      Scientists are allowed to define their terms pragmatically as long as they are clear and it enables quantifiable results. This does not mean that "religious" must mean the exact same thing in every study that talks about the effect of education on religiosity.

      August 25, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
    • JOL

      I don't think those two sets of results necessarily conflict. It all depends on WHO is still sitting in those churches on sunday. The smart people left 200 years ago. The people who are still going have various motivations that may not be obvious. for instance. A politician MUST go to church, regardless of actual belief, in order to gain the support and votes of the peasant class. So in that case particular case, there is political motivation. Or let's say you are an Avon lady. Maybe you go to church in order to get more customers for your Avon business. Or you go because you want to make your mother-in-law happy. Or anything really.

      August 25, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
  17. IslandAtheist

    Most all the worlds leading scientists are non-believers

    August 25, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
    • herbert juarez

      Pulling your facts from the nether regions, again ,are we?

      August 25, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
    • A Theist

      I think Island is probably correct, actually. Not that it means anything, once you get to know some of the world's leading scientists you'll see that we're all (mankind) much more uncertain about the universe than we lead on. Scientists simply tend to focus on the well-established ideas of the universe over the unknown or uncertain–it's a life choice more than an intellectual one.

      August 25, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
    • herbert juarez

      @ a theist
      You think therefore,it is just your opinion, therefore, you got no proof ,therefore you also are pulling info from an undisclosed location.

      August 25, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
    • someone

      herbert juarez
      "Pulling your facts from the nether regions, again ,are we?"

      Unlike you, who pulls your facts from the nether regions of supersti.tious primitive Middle Eastern tribal chiefs...

      August 25, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
    • Colin

      Hey Herbert – a friend of mine who works for Schlumberger (a large oilfield services company) told me how he got a bonus for helping find a large deposit of oil in Texas recently. He said he knew where to look becuse they know how oil formed from the deposited fossils of billions of tine marine creatures that lived during the Cretaceous Period, which ran from 145 million years ago to 65 million years ago.

      I told him he must be mistaken, because the bible story of Adam and Eve is true and there was no such thing as the Cretaceous Period, or anything else more than 6,000 years old. Thanks for correcting us. We were silly to think that oil, natural gas, coal, and all other fossil fuels came from, well, fossils....

      August 25, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
    • Stevie7

      According to a 1998 study in the journal nature, only 7% of the members of the National Academy of Science believe in a personal god.

      August 25, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
    • Bruce

      Pssst, Colin. Fossil fuel doesn't come from fossils. The whole dinosaur-to-oil theory was disproven long ago.

      Also, fossils are not usually carbon-rich things because carbon tends to degrade over time. They tend to be calcified structures that assume the shape of the previously-existing carbon-thingy, to use a technical term.

      In fact, there are some theories out there, still viable, that point to adiabatic processes that didn't start with life (vegetable or animal) but involve geological processes.

      August 25, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
    • Colin

      Psst, Bruce, there never was a "dinosour to fossil fuel theory. Oil formed from prehistoric plankton, coal from pre-historic forests and marshes. But to get a gauge of just how inane the belief in Adam and Eve is in the 21st Century, here are some areas you simpleton, Bible-cuddling fundamentalists must ignore, any one of which proves beyond rational argument that, not surprisingly, the World did not start about 6,000 years ago at the behest of the Judeo-Christian god, with one man, one woman and a talking snake.

      First and most obviously is the fossil record. The fossil record is much, much more than just dinosaurs. Indeed, dinosaurs only get the press because of their size, but they make up less than 1% of the entire fossil record. Life had been evolving on Earth for over 3 thousand million years before dinosaurs evolved and has gone on evolving for 65 million years after the Chicxulub meteor wiped them out.

      The fossil record includes the Stromatolites, colonies of prokaryotic bacteria, that range in age going back to about 3 billion years, the Ediacara fossils from South Australia, widely regarded as among the earliest multi-celled organisms, the Cambrian species of the Burgess shale in Canada (circa – 450 million years) the giant scorpions of the Silurian Period, the giant, wingless insects of the Devonian period, the insects, amphibians, reptiles; fishes, clams, crustaceans of the Carboniferous Period, the many precursors to the dinosaurs, the dinosaurs themselves, the subsequent dominant mammals, including the saber tooth tiger, the mammoths of North America and Asia, the fossils of early man in Africa and the Neanderthals of Europe.

      The fossil record shows a consistent and worldwide evolution of life on Earth dating back to about 3,500,000,000 years ago. There are literally millions of fossils that have been recovered, of thousands of different species and they are all located where they would be in the geological record if life evolved slowly over billions of years. None of them can be explained by a 6,000 year old Earth and Noah’s flood. Were they all on the ark? What happened to them when it docked?

      A Tyrannosaurus Rex ate a lot of food – meat- which means its food would itself have to have been fed, like the food of every other carnivore on the ark. A bit of “back of the envelope” math quickly shows that “Noah’s Ark” would actually have to have been an armada of ships bigger than the D Day invasion force, manned by thousands and thousands of people – and this is without including the World’s 300,000 current species of plants, none of which could walk merrily in twos onto the Ark.

      Secondly, there are those little things we call oil, natural gas and other fossil fuels. Their mere existence is another, independent and fatal blow to the creationists. Speak to any geologist who works for Exxon Mobil, Shell or any of the thousands of mining, oil or natural gas related companies that make a living finding fossil fuels. They will tell you these fossil fuels take millions of years to develop from the remains of large forests (in the case of coal) or tiny marine creatures (in the case of oil). That’s why they are called fossil fuels. Have a close look at coal, you can often see the fossilized leaves in it. The geologists know exactly what rocks to look for fossil fuels in, because they know how to date the rocks to millions of years ago. Creationists have no credible explanation for this (nor for why most of it was “given to the Muslims”).

      Thirdly, most of astronomy and cosmology would be wrong if the creationists were right. In short, as Einstein showed, light travels at a set speed. Space is so large that light from distant stars takes many years to reach the Earth. In some cases, this is millions or billions of years. The fact that we can see light from such far away stars means it began its journey billions of years ago. The Universe must be billions of years old. We can currently see galaxies whose light left home 13.7 billion years ago. Indeed, on a clear night, one can see many stars more than 6,000 light years away with the naked eye, shining down like tiny silent witnesses against the nonsense of creationism.

      Fourthly, we have not just carbon dating, but also all other methods used by scientists to date wood, rocks, fossils, and other artifacts. These comprehensively disprove the Bible’s claims. They include uranium-lead dating, potassium-argon dating as well as other non-radioactive methods such as pollen dating, dendrochronology and ice core dating. In order for any particular rock, fossil or other artifact to be aged, generally two or more samples are dated independently by two or more laboratories in order to ensure an accurate result. If results were random, as creationists claim, the two independent results would rarely agree. They generally do. They regularly reveal ages much older than Genesis. Indeed, the Earth is about 750,000 times older than the Bible claims.

      Fifthly, the relatively new field of DNA mapping not only convicts criminals, it shows in undeniable, full detail how we differ from other life forms on the planet. For example, about 98.4% of human DNA is identical to that of chimpanzees, about 97% of human DNA is identical to that of gorillas, and slightly less again of human DNA is identical to the DNA of monkeys. This gradual divergence in DNA can only be rationally explained by the two species diverging from a common ancestor, and coincides perfectly with the fossil record. Indeed, scientists can use the percentage of DNA that two animal share (such as humans and bears, or domestic dogs and wolves) to get an idea of how long ago the last common ancestor of both species lived. It perfectly corroborates the fossil record and is completely independently developed. It acts as yet another fatal blow to the “talking snake” theory.

      Sixthly, the entire field of historical linguistics would have to be rewritten to accommodate the Bible. This discipline studies how languages develop and diverge over time. For example, Spanish and Italian are very similar and have a recent common “ancestor” language, Latin, as most people know. However, Russian is quite different and therefore either did not share a common root, or branched off much earlier in time. No respected linguist anywhere in the World traces languages back to the Tower of Babel, the creationists’ explanation for different languages. Indeed, American Indians, Australian Aboriginals, “true” Indians, Chinese, Mongols, Ja.panese, Sub-Saharan Africans and the Celts and other tribes of ancient Europe were speaking thousands of different languages thousands of years before the date creationist say the Tower of Babel occurred – and even well before the date they claim for the Garden of Eden.

      Seventhly, lactose intolerance is also a clear vestige of human evolution. Most mammals only consume milk as infants. After infancy, they no longer produce the enzyme “lactase” that digests the lactose in milk and so become lactose intolerant. Humans are an exception and can drink milk as adults – but not all humans – some humans remain lactose intolerant. So which humans are no longer lactose intolerant? The answer is those who evolved over the past few thousand years raising cows. They evolved slightly to keep producing lactase as adults so as to allow the consumption of milk as adults. This includes most Europeans and some Africans, notably the Tutsi of Rwanda. On the other hand, most Chinese, native Americans and Aboriginal Australians, whose ancestors did not raise cattle, remain lactose intolerant.

      I could go on and elaborate on a number of other disciplines or facts that creationists have to pretend into oblivion to retain their faith, including the Ice Ages, cavemen and early hominids, much of microbiology, paleontology and archeology, continental drift and plate tectonics, even large parts of medical research (medical research on monkeys and mice only works because they share a common ancestor with us and therefore our fundamental cell biology and basic body architecture is identical to theirs).

      In short, and not surprisingly, the World’s most gifted evolutionary biologists, astronomers, cosmologists, geologists, archeologists, paleontologists, historians, modern medical researchers and linguists (and about 2,000 years of accu.mulated knowledge) are right and a handful of Iron Age Middle Eastern goat herders were wrong.

      Sorry Bruce, your sky-fairy and his talking snake don't exist.

      August 25, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
    • herbert juarez

      There is nowhere in the Holy Bible , that gives a 6000 year old date for the earth ,and I have not personally advanced that theory,so why don't you give me a break on your "wisdom"?

      August 25, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
    • Colin

      Herbert, I've seen numerous posts from you rejecting evolution and stating that Genesis is literally true.

      August 25, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
    • Bruce

      Colin, that was a wall of text. What gives you the idea that I believe in God, let alone young-earth creationism?

      All I said is that fossil fuel does not come from the calcified structures that form around previously-existing carbon-based dead/decaying things (i.e. fossils). I did not say that it came from processes that took less than 10,000 years to make oil.

      In fact, the adiabatic processes that work in geological frames take much much longer than tens of millions of years, if I recall correctly.

      August 25, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
    • A Theist

      @ herbert I was saying "I think" 1) because I do think (and you should too, my dear Herbert. Thinking is a very important activity!) and 2) because I was trying to gently inform you that the statistic has been well established across multiple studies, as Stevie7 has pointed out from one of them.

      All the same, my point was largely focused on the implications the OP was making about this study. Scientists are trained in observing the natural world. The fact that most of them are atheist sheds light more onto how they view the world and less on the nature of a God, or what have you. Having studied science and engineering thoroughly I can say that my peers make the choice not to believe anything that cannot be proven or demonstrated empirically. The nature of faith on the other hand, implies at least to some degree a lack of empiricism. That isn't to say there is evidence to suggest that there is a God, but simply that it cannot be *proven.* Scientists for the most part apparently decide that because of this "dichotomy" of observable nature and faith (I would argue that they are not so dichotomous as only unique in particular arenas), there is no reason to believe in a God. Others, such as myself, take the philosophical standpoint that some things can never be known with absolute certainty, but despite this premise see no reason to take a step of faith and believe in a God.

      Atheism has less to do with intellect and more to do with world-view.

      August 25, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
    • A Theist

      *isn't or is a God. Both sides have arguable perspectives.

      August 25, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
    • Colin

      All I said is that fossil fuel does not come from the calcified structures that form around previously-existing carbon-based dead/decaying things (i.e. fossils)."

      Dear god man, "fossil" does not just include that. It includes any evidence of life, including body fossils and trace fossils. Dead plankton and dead forests are as much fossils as dead dinosours.

      August 25, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
    • herbert juarez

      please reference the post or posts mentioned.I am somewhat familiar with Genesis ,and know that nowhere does the book reference a 6000 year old earth,so i wouldn't have made that claim.

      August 25, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
    • Bruce

      Well, Colin, if you want to open up the term, "fossil" that widely, then fossil fuel does not come from fossils, it IS a fossil.

      However, there is another term, "fossilized," that you might want to check out before you open up "fossil" so widely.

      August 25, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
    • TruthPrevails

      Actually the stats are quite varied depending on the area of science they are studying. I've seen one where it stated 8% were theist, while other studies claim it is more like 20%. I do believe that as time goes on and people learn that they no longer have to fear persecution for not believing in a deity, the number of believers will drop.

      August 25, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
  18. Rainer Braendlein

    Indeed, there are two divine mandates (insti-tutions): work and marriage. God requires man to produce children and goods.

    I praise everybody, who works and who is married. Fine! That is the basis of human life.

    However, I see a small danger.

    One could assume, working and being married would be all about Christianity. Such one is in danger to make an idol out of work and marriage. One, making an idol out of work and marriage, is a Philistine or square. Work and marriage are good in itself, but nobody likes Philistines, because of their idolatry.

    The problem of today is that the secular (profane, godless) authorities try to breed human robots (people with a certain secular behaviour pattern). The authorities want human beings, which are totally focused on work and to a less extent on marriage. Thus, they want to breed Philistines. Philistines are easy to handle and produce a big tax revenue.

    Well educated or not, at Church people want to meet Christian brothers and sisters, but they don’t want to meet nasty Philistines there. A Church, consisting of Philistines will lose their members in the course of time, because only a few people want to stay in a nasty wormhole.

    What makes a Christian?

    Of course, a Christian also works and marries, but he makes no idol out of these things. A Christian doesn’t adore an idol, but Jesus Christ.

    Churches were always inclined to adopt themselves to the world and worldly values like these: He has a good workplace, he has a beautiful wife, thus he is good (blessed). Blessed are the Philistines! Of course, such Churches are no real Churches, but temples of idolatry.

    In the real Church there should be the following people: People, having (or developing) a Jesus-like character. Everybody, adoring Jesus, will get changed into a human being, which is totally opposed to a Philistine.

    The character of a loveable man, adoring Jesus, we can find in the start of the Sermon of the Mount (Matthew 5: 1-12):

    And seeing the multi-tudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him:

    2 And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,

    3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

    4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

    5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

    6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

    7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

    8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

    9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

    10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

    11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

    12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

    We need pastors and bishops, being model Christians. A pastor should keep connection to reality (outside the Church-world) by doing an ordinary job beside his ministry (carpenter, nurse, tailor, teacher, gardener or anything else). Pastors, living according to the Sermon of the Mount within the real world (of work), would be very credible. They could preach with authority.

    The big proplem of the Churches today is it that the Church leaders live in a kind of subculture (they meet solely people, having something to do with the Church), having lost touch to the real world. At Sunday they preach, how to behave in everyday life, but they live in a world, where they themselves are not challenged by any brutal workmates or bosses or customers or pupils or so.

    Pastors and bishops, depending too much on the donations of their church members, are in danger to preach a Philistine gospel. They may calculate like this: the richer my congregation, the richer I am.

    Hence, it is high time to establish a new system. Pastors should never fully retire from a worldly job. They may do an somewhat easier job with limited effort of time, in order to spare time for their divine ministry.

    Note: Pastors, preaching the Philistine gospel make a big mistake. They cause a contest between their church members: who has the best job, who has the most beautiful wife? This leads to selfishness and isolation of the single church member. This is the opposite of the real Church, which Jesus founded.

    Furthermore, true Christians in a true Church, having no idotic contest, could found cooperations (they could found small companies or schools, etc.). In this way they would become independent from the godless rulers of this world, which want to make them slaves or human robots.

    Now things have come full circle: When you preach the true gospel, you help your church members even materially.

    How can we get the power to live the Christian life?

    Answer: Mark 16: 16: He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

    Believe in Christ and get born by water and Spirit, then your life will improve.

    August 25, 2011 at 12:39 pm |
    • bob

      are you on prescription medication? Did you take it today? Maybe up the dose.

      August 25, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
    • Star

      Seriously, you need to get on some psych meds.

      August 25, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
    • jdhuegel1

      You believe in Christ, I do not. The only thing that separates us is opinion. In MY opinion my life couldn't be better. I'm absolutely happy and would rather it stay like that. You be happy your way, I'll be happy mine.

      August 25, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
    • Star

      Hey, CRAZY MAN religious nut: If your god is so awesome, then why would He need to sacrifice Himself to Himself to allow Him to change a rule...He made?????? Come on! What is he saving us from? Himself? Sounds more like your Satan than God. Your God sounds incredibly evil and filled with hate, revenge, jealousy, anger, wrath, greed, selfishness, and all the other undesirable qualities mankind has himself. So why love and follow a God created in man's image. Seems counterproductive if you ask me.

      August 25, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
    • Kindness

      Hey Star, the Trinity is not a Bible based fact. That is man made. Jesus always said the Father is Greater than I.

      August 25, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
    • Bruce

      Kindness: Trinitarian theology was made by the same men who made the bible. You seem to either forget or minimize what happened in the 4th century and beyond where the Christian "bible" was canonized, arranged, edited, and the important discussions that occurred as a part of that process.

      The Church didn't come from the bible, the bible came from the Church. "Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."

      August 25, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
  19. Zhao

    This is a BS study. And the funny thing is that this is posted in CNN front page.

    August 25, 2011 at 12:35 pm |
    • Bruce

      FYI, cnn.com is not a newspaper, it's a website, so editorial decisions on font size and link placement are not describable in "front page" terms here.

      August 25, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
  20. 11:11 awakenings

    I dropped Christianity and learned about the Chakra System / Kundalini Energy along with Archetypal Patterns in the human consciousness/experience. Far more informative without the shame or the brainwashing-control factors of Christianity.

    August 25, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      I dropped the Chakra System / Kundalini Energy to follow the tastier Pastafarian practices as mandated by the great FSM! rAMEN

      August 25, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
    • Hippie? Hippie.

      I believe in the Chakra System because of my sincere communication with lysergic acid diethylamide. All hail the Chakra bro!

      August 25, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
    • Bruce

      Do you mean "archetype" in the Jungian sense of the term?

      August 25, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
    • Bob

      I shakra shakra on your Chakra. There's no more "energy" to it than for any of the other mystic "energy" foofiness coming out of slimy eastern foof salesmen.

      August 25, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
    • A Theist

      @Bob Foofiness? Or some good old fashioned LSD?

      August 25, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
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About this blog

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.