Skip to comments.Why atheist scientists bring their children to church
Posted on 12/20/2012 8:30:07 PM PST by SeekAndFind
The formula seems simple: parents pass down what they believe to their children. Atheist parents dont believe in God or go to church, therefore . Yet, a surprisingly large number of atheist scientists from elite universities raise their children in a religious community such as a church. Sociologists Elaine Ecklund (Rice University) and Kristen Lee (University of Buffalo, SUNY) found that these atheist scientists do so because they want to give their children religious choice, have a religious spouse, or think that religious communities will give their children moral bearings and community.
Unfortunately, very little research has been done concerning how atheists (and agnostics) treat religion when raising their children. Consequently, the researchers used data ready at handEcklunds Religion among Academic Scientists study (RAAS). This study surveyed over 2,000 randomly-selected scientists from the top universities in the United States. It then followed up the survey with over 500 personal interviews (also randomly selected). While the main intent of the survey had nothing to do raising children, it still collected that data and enables, arguably for the first time, an in-depth look at how atheists negotiate religion for the sake of their children.
For example, interview questions included: In what ways was religion a part of your life as a child? How was religion talked about in your family setting? If you have a family now, are there ways in which religion/spirituality come up, if they do at all? What religious or spiritual beliefs do you hold? For example, to what extent is believing in God or a god important to you?
The researchers found that agnostics attend religious services (e.g., church) at about the same rate regardless of whether they have any children. By contrast, the attendance rate of atheists with children jumps 70% compared to those without. Children constitute a statistically significant factor in atheists attending religious services and joining religious communities. It should be noted that the atheists and agnostics in this study are all top-tier scientists, so these findings may not hold for atheists in general.
Looked at another way, contrary to popular expectation, atheist scientists show a proclivity to join a religious community when raising children. Unlike many atheists who feel isolated in a region of heavy religiosity, scientists have ready access to a community of fellow, morally minded atheists, and yet choose to raise their children in a religious community. Several reasons account for this.
First, scientists feel that having a scientific mindset means being able to make choices for oneself. Even if the scientist parent does not believe in God, this does not mean that the parent should impose that decision on his or her childrenthe children should think for themselves. Many scientists interviewed explicitly stated that they did not want to indoctrinate their children into atheism and so exposed their children to a diversity of religious communities.
Second the most dominant reason many of the scientists had a religious spouse who had a strong influence on how to raise their children. While this naturally required some negotiation, most of the scientists came from religious upbringings themselves and did not oppose a religious upbringing for their children. In many circumstances they favored a religious upbringing because, third, they believed it would provide children with moral orientation. One scientist, who does not have children, said he would raise his children in the Catholic Church because he was raised Catholic and believes Catholicism teaches children important values.
Finally, atheist scientists raise their children in a religious setting because of the community it provides. Religious communities have a strong moral outlook and allow for intimate relationships.
Perhaps surprisingly, very few scientists listed spirituality as a reason for having their children go to church. One couple stressed that they sought a religious community that practiced their own personal form of spirituality, but for the most part, the scientists interviewed did not stress spirituality or giving their children spiritual community as a reason for joining religious communities.
Some may view these scientists in a negative light, seeing them as free-loaders who take advantage of the resources of a religious community without giving anything back or genuinely holding to that communitys beliefs. While they certainly do not believe the religious doctrines, the study did not go into detail as to whether the scientists gave back to the religious community in terms of time or money. In short, it is not known either way, but one would hope that those seeking a moral community for their children would lead by example.
Covering their bets?
Living godless lives while siphoning the benefits of a spiritual community.
It seems that the author of this article assumes that all scientists are atheists. It’s a huge assumption for which there is little evidence. I guess it never occurred to him that scientists might actually choose to go to church because they’re religious.
This story has been around about a year. Long enough for attempts at debunking the researchers’ assumptions.
Given the background of “natural and social scientists at elite American universities,” I’d guess a large percent of these ‘atheists’ would be Jews, for whom ethnicity is intermixed with religion.
And would a scientist taking family to a Unitarian church even count? Not exactly the image some might have of traditional Catholicism or Evangelical Protestantism.
Nice notes from one of the researchers:
The researchers quizzed 1700 scientists. “[H]alf expressed some form of religious identity, whereas the other half did not.”
uh, They take their children to church because they are terrified they are wrong about the non existence of God Almighty.
Moral upbringing without true authority is meaningless, and ends up becoming diluted with moral relativity. Eventually, without natural truth and the Savior to tie it to, it devolves into humanism.
Marx, Mao, Che Guevara and Dawkins do not lead to Morality..
Neither does a boatload of liberal christian teachers..
Granting “license” to your children will do nothing but ruin them..
And being Jewish does not require you to believe anything..
You are a Jew because your mother was a Jew..
I have worked with scientists whose names you might recognize if you were interested in their fields. This research does not surprise me; seeing the phenomenon live was what surprised me. The research matches my experience. The reasons mentioned in the research match the conversations I have had with them.
And they do choose traditional denominations as well.
The scientists recognize the reality about people
Elaine Howard Ecklund is a sociologist at Rice University; we cited her work on the topic of science and religion in Unscientific America. Now, she is out with a book that is going to seriously undercut some widespread assumptions out there concerning the science religion relationship.
The book, soon to be out from Oxford University press, is entitled Science vs. Religion: What Scientists Really Think. And let me give you just a taste of her answers, from the book jacket (I haven’t dug in yet):
In the course of her research, Ecklund surveyed nearly 1,700 scientists and interviewed 275 of them. She finds that most of what we believe about the faith lives of elite scientists is wrong. Nearly 50 percent of them are religious. Many others are what she calls “spiritual entrepreneurs,” seeking creative ways to work with the tensions between science and faith outside the constraints of traditional religion…..only a small minority are actively hostile to religion. Ecklund reveals how scientists–believers and skeptics alike–are struggling to engage the increasing number of religious students in their classrooms and argues that many scientists are searching for “boundary pioneers” to cross the picket lines separating science and religion.
Incidentally, the universities whose scientists were surveyed for the book are: Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, MIT, Princeton, Stanford, Penn, U.C. Berkeley, UCLA, U. of Chicago, University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign, U. Michigan, U. Minnesota, UNC Chapel Hill, U. Washington-Seattle, U. Wisconsin-Madison, U.S.C., Washington University, and Yale.
I have clients who are Jewish by Heritage, Buddhist by Beliefs, and send their children to a Hebrew Orthodox private school.
(At home, they burn incense and candles to statues of the Buddha, as their children learn Torah at school.)
Of course, they also voted for Obama, even as their beautiful children are being taught Israeli songs and dances and learning Hebrew for their Bat/Bar Mitzvahs.
And they think I’M (Evangelical/Charismatic/Conservative/Zionist/FReeper/Biker/Musician) the “mixed-up” one! LOL
The world is upside-down.
The 850 scientists who claim no ‘religious affiliation’ does not mean they are atheists.
Do the researchers mean to indicate that all 275 scientists they interviewed were atheists? That would mean only one out of six scientists are atheists, not a much higher percentage than the general population.
Why no breakdown between religions for the ‘services’ attended? Did they exclude non-Christian places of worship as the term ‘church’ would indicate?