Why do students turn away from Christianity in college? It might have something to do with what they choose to study.
Rice University reports on a new study conducted by sociologist Elaine Howard Ecklund.
The public’s view that science and religion can’t work in collaboration is a misconception that stunts progress, according to a new survey of more than 10,000 Americans, scientists and evangelical Protestants. The study by Rice University also found that scientists and the general public are surprisingly similar in their religious practices.
The study, “Religious Understandings of Science (RUS),” was conducted by sociologist Elaine Howard Ecklund and presented today in Chicago during the annual American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) conference. Ecklund is the Autrey Professor of Sociology and director of Rice’s Religion and Public Life Program.
“We found that nearly 50 percent of evangelicals believe that science and religion can work together and support one another,” Ecklund said. “That’s in contrast to the fact that only 38 percent of Americans feel that science and religion can work in collaboration.”
The study also found that 18 percent of scientists attended weekly religious services, compared with 20 percent of the general U.S. population; 15 percent consider themselves very religious (versus 19 percent of the general U.S. population); 13.5 percent read religious texts weekly (compared with 17 percent of the U.S. population); and 19 percent pray several times a day (versus 26 percent of the U.S. population).
[…]RUS is the largest study of American views on religion and science.
Meanwhile, Reasonable Faith has a podcast about the study, and what they discuss is how students who go into non-STEM university programs lose their interest in religion at a much higher rate than people who study STEM.
And the relevant portion of the transcript:
DR. CRAIG: Right. If you look at their chart they give, where it shows the changes in religiosity by college major, it shows that in biology, engineering, and physical science and math they were mixed. The overall effect was neither negative nor positive. For some it was positive, some negative. But those majors did not seem to have a very significant effect upon the person’s religious behavior. The majors that had a very positive impact on religiosity were education, vocational or clerical education, business, and what is classified as “other.” All of those majors – whatever those are – have an overall positive impact upon students’ religiosity.
KEVIN HARRIS: And attendance as well – attendance to church services.
DR. CRAIG: Yes.
KEVIN HARRIS: The big fly in the ointment here is that “both the Humanities and the Social Sciences see dramatic declines in attendance and even more in religious beliefs.” It lowers church attendance, synagogue attendance, and even more in religious beliefs. What do we mean by the humanities and the social sciences?
DR. CRAIG: Humanities would include your non-scientific areas; for example, literature (hence the title of the article), politics. I don’t know if they would include economics in this or not. Religious studies. In the social sciences are things like anthropology and sociology would be included there.
KEVIN HARRIS: The study of art?
DR. CRAIG: Yes, I suppose the arts would be in the humanities – that would be music and graphic arts. It is a big, big catch-all category.
And why does Dr. Craig think this is happening?
DR. CRAIG: […]It could well be that it is because it is in the humanities that the radicals of the 1960s were able to find a place in the university and become ensconced as professors with the relativism that they were championing. In areas like anthropology and sociology you find tremendous relativism where you simply study these cultures and societies without making any sort of judgment as to truth with regard to what they believe. This leads to the belief that it is all relative; there isn’t anything that is objectively true. John Searle is a very prominent philosopher at the University of California, Berkeley. Searle says that he believes that because of the commitment to the objectivity of truth and logic and the scientific method the hard sciences were barred to these radicals of the 1960s – getting into them and influencing them. But where they found an opening was in things like the Women’s Studies Department, Religious Studies, Anthropology, Sociology. These soft sciences. He says the professors in these disciplines are the children of the 1960s that have carried into it their relativistic views of truth. I noticed here the conclusion by the researchers of the University of Michigan (apparently who did this study), “Our results suggest that it is Postmodernism, not Science, that is the bête noir [the black beast or the hated thing] of religiosity.” The enemy of religiosity is postmodernism, not science.
KEVIN HARRIS: Postmodernism, as you’ve pointed out, was mainly a thing confined to literature and the soft sciences.
DR. CRAIG: Right. Women’s Studies, Religious Studies is rampant with Postmodernist perspectives. That has a real ring of truth to it, and could be the reason behind these statistics.
And this is why I recommend that people not drop math in high school, and pick a STEM field to study in college (or a trade in trade school). You are wasting your money when you let people in non-STEM areas indoctrinate you in fact-free irrationality. By the way, I love business administration as a major, for those who do not want to do the lab work. It attracts a lot of conservatives and entrepreneurs.
If you’re not worried about your faith, then you should at least be worried about your wallet:
It’s much easier to have an influence as a Christian if you get your financial house in order. Having a degree that leads to a good paying job is certainly a good way to fund your life plan. Money also helps you to not worry too much about what the secular left can do to you. It’s good for offense and defense, in short.
8 thoughts on “Study: non-STEM college programs make students less religious”
I got my bachelors in history and my masters in psych, history (and my father) taught me about the evils of communism and psychology taught me the value of scientific investigation. Paged like yours drew me back into the faith!
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Thank you so much!
You’re welcome….at first I thought you were too hardcore, now I agree with you in almost everything!
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Rather than abandon STEM totally, I would dearly love to see the literature side of things restored and revamped to study the great books of the Western World and the world’s great literature. There is plenty of it that points a reader to Christ and truth. As a Christian I set out on a task a few years ago to begin a 10 year reading program to work my way through the great books – alongside my already hefty reading in apologetics, theology etc, and my Christian faith has been so enriched by it all – things like Anna Karenina, The Brothers Karamazov, Crime and Punishment, Shakespeare etc. And there is also much to learn in good classical music – like maths, it is a language from the mind of God, that some people have used to create pieces of objective beauty. Painting also falls into this category – artists who have learned to communicate the mind of God through their understanding of His rules of colour and line and perspective.
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I watched “Little Shop Around the Corner” last night where Anna Karenina plays a big part in the movie. I know all the classical literature and movies. And refer to them.
My concern is taking out student loans in non STEM where you just get indoctrinated then can’t find a job. I want people to learn these things after they get a job coding or being an electrician.
I work in an academic environment, and I encourage all students to get a well-paying job in a tech field (such as nursing) or a trade job like plumbing if they dislike mathematics and don’t want to be an engineer or physicist, THEN get a lit degree once they have a good career established.
I was taken aback when bureaucracy and politics ran me away from teaching, and dismayed to find out that aside from giving me great insight into historical trends my history degree did me little good.
Thank God it all worked out for me and I have a secure retirement in a few more years, plus a burgeoning second career in a profession I love!
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It’s all very important to learn. And in a non-political learning environment, it’s worth the money. But now that the universities have become leftist seminaries, it’s not worth the money.
I hate to to agree, but it’s mostly true….unless you can find a Christian school that has decent programs….I wouldn’t even want my kids in public school, if I had any!