It is common knowledge that educated people are less likely to say they believe in God. They are also less likely to say religion is important in their lives. What is not well know is that educated people are more likely to say they attended religious services in the last seven days. Education is negatively correlated with expressions of religious belief, but maybe positively correlated with religious activity.
I found the statistics in a collection of Gallop polls. In a 1988 survey people were asked, "Did you yourself, happen to attend church in the last seven days." 47% of the college graduates, 43% of the college incomplete, 41% of the high school graduates, and 39% of the those that had not graduated from high school said they had gone to church. There were several later studies which confirmed the general pattern, education is positively correlated with attendance at religious services.
On the other hand the same Gallop polls show that educated people are less likely to say they believe in God or a Universal Spirit, and less likely to say that God is very important in their lives.
It is a common saying, actions speak louder than words. People normally think that this is a very good rule of thumb, and by this rule of thumb the more educated people become the more religious they become. This is of course directly opposed to the common perception.
One of the common arguments against faith is that educated people are not religious, but these statistics suggest just the opposite. If actions are more important than words and the people are telling the truth then more education means more religion, not less.
Furthermore, this might be an important point to bring up to encourage education. Many religious parents may fear that education will lead their children away from faith. The evidence suggests that education may lead children to atheism, but it also leads to an active, practiced faith.
Why The Educated Might Attend More
Some people might wonder why the educated would go to church while they claim they do not believe and that religion is not important in their lives. That is not necessarily what is happening.
Even Though They Are More Likely To Say They Do Not Believe
The number of educated people who say they believe does not exceed or at least greatly exceed the number who say they went to religious services. One reasonable interpretation of the data would be that if an educated person says they believe, and that religion is important to them, they are more likely to act on that by attending religious services.
This may provide us with a clue as to why educated people are less likely to believe. Educated people may feel a greater need to match their actions to their beliefs, while the less educated are more comfortable saying they believe and then ignoring the requirements of their faith. So for the educated religion is much more expensive because they treat the commandments as commandments not suggestions.
It has recently been commented that the 9-11 suicide bombers were a fairly educated group, and the suicide bombers in general are fairly educated. This is a surprise to people who think that educated people are less likely to be religious, but if educated people are less likely to be marginally religious, but more likely to be very dedicated to their faith then the education of suicide bombers becomes understandable. It could be argued that educated people realize their tendency to religious fanaticism and their atheism is a defense against that religious fanaticism.
It should be said that this is not the whole story, it is only part of the story. For other parts of the story you might want to check out some of the other web pages on this site.
People Do Not Tell Poll Takers the Truth
It should also be noted that people do not always tell poll takers the truth. A study conducted by C. Kirk Hadaway, P.L. Marler, and I believe one other researcher claimed that about half of the people who tell Gallop they went to Chruch are lying. This has created a huge controversy.
I do not know how that would change these statistics. Perhaps the educated people answer more honestly. If that is so then the figures might underestimate the difference in church attendance between the more and less educated. I think this is quite likely the case.
On the other hand, perhaps people who are not really educated claim to be, and furthermore those who lie about being educated also lie about attending religious services. This also seems quite plausible.
Not knowing how to adjust the figures, I have somewhat arbitrarily taken them at face value.
Other Pages on Religious Membership Statisics
A brief summary of of world relgious statistics
A brief summary of membership statistics for Christian groups
Links to major sites for religious statistics
Pages on the growth prospects of Christianity, Islam, and atheism
Pages on Religion and Science
These pages may interest you if you liked the above.
Science, Religion, and Methodological Materialism.
Science and Miracles
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