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Belief in God Across Academic Disciplines

Most academics reject the existence of God

Of the 260 articles that I have thus far authored on my Psychology Today blog, a sizable proportion has tackled various facets of religion, a subset of which has dealt with the nexus of religion and science. I list below the titles of some of the relevant articles for readers interested in this particular theme:

Inoculations Against Religiosity: Intelligence and Education

Morality Exists Despite Religion

Rabbi "Informs" Me That Evolution Has Been Disproven!

Obama Appoints Man of God to Head the National Institutes of Health

Should Evolution and Religion Coexist?

Two Paths to Immortality, Neither of Which Requires Religion

In today’s post, I wish to briefly discuss one key finding from a 2007 paper authored by Elaine Howard Ecklund and Christopher P. Scheitle and published in Social Problems. Academics (n = 2,198) stemming from 21 leading American research universities and covering seven disciplines across the natural and social sciences (physics, chemistry, biology, sociology, economics, political science, and psychology) were surveyed about various aspects of religious belief and practice. The question that I am honing in for this post is the following:

“Which one of the following statements comes closest to expressing what you believe about God?”

The six possible responses to this question were:

“I do not believe in God.”

“I do not know if there is a God and there is no way to find out.”

“I believe in a higher power, but it is not God.”

“I believe in God sometimes.”

“I have some doubts, but I believe in God.”

“I have no doubts about God’s existence.”

The researchers reported the percentage of academics that chose each of the six possible responses (Table 3, p. 296) across each of the seven fields. For the purposes of this article, I wish to focus on the two end points, namely, the absolute certainty that God does not exist versus the absolute certainty that He does. The percentages for non-belief are reported first followed by those of full belief.

Physics Chemistry Biology Sociology Economics Pol. Science Psychology

40.8 26.6 41.0 34.0 31.7 27.0 33.0

Physics Chemistry Biology Sociology Economics Pol. Science Psychology

6.2 10.9 7.4 9.0 10.4 8.5 10.8

I calculated the ratio of non-belief to full belief across the seven fields. They are:

Physics Chemistry Biology Sociology Economics Pol. Science Psychology

6.58 2.44 5.54 3.78 3.05 3.18 3.06

While the ratios vary across disciplines, what is unequivocally clear is that academics of all ilks are extraordinarily more likely to not believe in God than to believe in His existence. Ah those professors, nothing more than a bunch of evil and immoral atheists.

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