A recent study found that about one in five scientists who say they are atheists or agnostics actually attend church or some other religious institution, and the main reason may be because of their children.
About 1,700 "natural and social scientists at elite American universities" participated in the survey, about half of which identified themselves as religiously affiliated.1 Of the half that did not express a religious identity, 275 were "scientifically selected" to answer interview questions. One of the researchers conducting the survey, Rice University sociologist Elaine Howard Ecklund, wrote about the study for the Huffington Post:
Our research challenges the assumption that parents who engage in religious socialization always hold religious beliefs themselves. The atheist scientists interviewed cited personal and social reasons for introducing and integrating religious traditions and institutions into their children's lives.1
Those reasons included the desire "to expose their children to all sources of knowledge (including religion) and allow them to make their own, informed choices about a religious identity," influence from a spouse or partner, and the desire for a sense of community.1
"We expected these individuals to be less inclined to introduce their children to religious traditions than they are. But it turns out they want their children to know about different religious traditions because it is more consistent with their identity as a scientist to expose their children to all sources of knowledge," Dr. Ecklund wrote.
She provided an example of one scientist's reasoning:
One study participant, a chemist raised in a strongly Catholic home, said he came to believe later in life that science and religion are not compatible, but what he wants to pass on to his daughter—more than this belief—is the ability to make her own decisions in a thoughtful, intellectual way.1
But this practice seems counterintuitive to the aim and philosophies of many atheist and agnostic organizations, which seek to bar all forms of religious dialogue from the public arena under the guise of protecting civil liberties. The Huffington Post report—whether intentional or otherwise—coincides with the Christmas season, when new anti-God advertisements launch and atheist groups attempt to have nativity scenes removed from public areas.2, 3
However, the aspect of exploring all sources of knowledge is consistent with scientific inquiry. Why can't that same courtesy be extended to actual scientific inquiry, such as for those scientists who question Darwinian evolution?
- Ecklund, E. H. Some Atheist Scientists With Children Embrace Religious Traditions. The Huffington Post. Posted on huffingtonpost.com December 7, 2011, accessed December 19, 2011.
- Santarelli, C. Atheist Group to Sponsor Anti-Christmas Billboards Featuring Jesus, Santa & Satan. The Blaze. Posted on theblaze.com November 15, 2011, accessed December 20, 2011.
- Murashko, A. War on Christmas: Atheists Neutralizing Christianity? The Christian Post. Posted on christianpost.com December 20, 2011, accessed December 20, 2011.
* Ms. Dao is Assistant Editor at the Institute for Creation Research.
Article posted on December 22, 2011.