Does education affect the practice of faith in later life?

It is often said by some in church today that education and particularly science education is a threat to the faith of our high school seniors who are soon to go off to college-or not. Do you find this true personally or in your experience? Here is an article that lends some light: Education Levels and Church Attendance in America - The Atlantic

Education is a threat to those who stand on a soft bottom - education tends to undermine the basement of false beliefs. If you fear that your beliefs do not stand a test of truth or that changing interpretations undermine your authority, then education is a threat.

It is a bitter experience to learn that an interpretation you have believed and defended for decades is not true.


I believe that education only threatens tradition and inherited faith. The kind of faith that has not been tested or challenged as the holder lives in a bubble. The kind of faith that has not been fought to attain. A lazy faith held by those who seek only comfort, not truth.


A personal example of the consequences of education:
I have studied the basics of theology now for more than a year. Despite my background (40 years as confessing, Bible-reading Christian), I have learned surprisingly much during the education and my attitudes have changed, at least a bit - I recommend for everybody, even retired people.

I want to use my increased understanding to build, not to tear down. Yet, with the improved understanding, I would probably be a challenge, possibly even a mental threat, to a person preaching interpretations and opinions that do not have good justification. I assume that such persons would not be happy about education, even when it would be theology. It is no wonder that some believers have suspicious attitudes against theological education in academic-type institutions.

Science education might be an even greater threat to those believing and preaching opinions that are in conflict with scientific facts. I have noted that my interpretations related to evolution and the history of humanity have been hard to swallow even for some of my believing friends. Luckily, the atmosphere in the church I attend is fairly open and individual thinking is encouraged, so having differing interpretations about topics that are not the very core of Christian faith is ok, as long as we remember to have the attitude of mutual love and respect. In a more strict congregation, I guess my science-based opinions would not be tolerated as well.


Thankfully, I would not characterize my experience that way – I have received way more grace than I have deserved (but of course that is redundant, isn’t it ; - ). God was gentle with me.

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In my experience with friends and with people I’ve met or read their stories , it seems that those who were raised up in a faith filtered through conservative values and plain text reading , as they go through college and learn more about science and history and their social network broadens they tend to realize the faith they have just makes nonsense and begin to deconstruct it. Some then reconstruct it and some never do.

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I thought this article was informative.

But what happens when we zoom in from generic “college education” to “science education.”


These images are from 2009 I believe.

It seems scientists are half as likely as the general public to believe in God. I wonder what happens if we narrow in further and analyze say just those with doctorates.

Then of course, since America is not the center of the world it might be helpful to look at global data.


I’ve learned that as long as the person believes in Christ, it’s best to let them go with everything else. I have never experienced a fruitful debate/conversation/attempt-at-explanation with someone who holds a different view of the Bible, in person. Passion and indoctrination are too strong. You cannot convince a made-up mind to change. I cannot convince anyone of anything, so I stopped trying. I learn and struggle with the hard questions so my children don’t have to struggle with their faith in the same ways I have.

I only joined this forum to learn. I have, unfortunately entered into “debates” if you will here already. I get bored and bite :slight_smile: Or my own passion gets lit up. It’s a habit I need to break.

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As you tell, USA is not the whole world. Much depends on the background of the scientists. I live in a country where the proportion of people believing in the God of Christianity is lower than that among scientists in your statistics. I have worked in biology departments where many have negative attitudes against Christians, partly because of anti-evolution preaching among some Christian groups. Quite many among the older and now mostly retired staff had a red (left-wing) background, with associated negative attitudes against religions, especially Christianity. Yet, there has always been some persons who are believers, both among the staff and students.

In early 1980’s, when there was some kind of revival in Finland, there were many active believers, especially among students. After the revival ended, there have been less active believers, both in the society and in the universities. A good tip to getting more believers to universities is to get a revival. Unfortunately, that is beyond our abilities to start.

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It definitely seems life-stage appropriate. You are preaching to the choir in my case though I haven’t chosen to seek the sacred by becoming a Christian. I have in my time on this site developed steadily more respect for the particular characteristic of Christian faith, at least as practiced by open, educated and reflective Christians like yourself and many others here. I’m in the USA where dogmatism and polemics present a very different face than you can find if you are open to it, patient and humble enough to hold your own perspective lightly.

You are very fortunate indeed. Here belief seems expected in a very authoritarian way and disbelief resented personally by those who believe. This place, though not free of that sort, is a real breath of fresh air for someone interested and generally supportive who nonetheless is not shopping to change their way of being.

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Good topic to bring up JPM. My latest book The Battle We Must Not Lose addresses this problem head on. Science is not the problem. The problem is that the Church 1) Often shuns or criticizes science and the kids have this one figured out, 2) the Church needs to bring science out of the closet and supplement what the kids learn in school with evidence from science related to creation and how God did it. Lastly Science is the most tangible evidence for God. It is the church that makes science a threat when it could be a positive asset.
Those interested can access my web site and see the book plus a second one To Know with Certainty about evidence including science that students should know before graduating high school. The web site has a downloadable course with a power point and script that addresses this very subject you raised.
Finally, and I will shut up. It is in the book that if changes are not made in the very topic you mentioned, we will continue to lose 60% of entering christan sixth graders before they graduate high school. We are hollowing out Christianity at such a rate the Christianity will be a minority religion in America by 2039. If you think our country is in trouble now the worse is yet to come. The church is in a position to lead on this but it continues business as usual. God help us!

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Good observation. Check my response to JPM.

knor, sorry you have it wrong. The bottom can be hardened. See my reaponse to JPM.

When you mention that science is the best evidence for God I’m not sure exactly what you mean. Intelligent Design? Gaps around cosmic origins?

Looks like an interesting book, coming from your background in youth ministry and science.

Thank you for the comment. To me intelligent design, if you choose to accept it, is a good reason. There are just too many information based complex mechanisms in nature and particularly in biology that occur by chance.
Also the creation process and the preciseness of the physical constants in the universe that make the earth a habitable planet. If you look at the Cosmological Constant, which governs the expnsion rate of the universe it is precise to 10 to the 120th power. That is a decimal plus 120 zeroes. I do not know of any physicist today who doew not declare that the level of preciseness is beyon chance and strongly suggest some intelligent source behind it. Well this is where faith comes in and those with faith believe that source is God. So for me, and I cannot speak for others, all of the information seems to speak to a creator and as I say we call the source God. Even, as I pont out in my coming new book, if you align the sequence of events in Genesis 1 with the evidence from Archeology, Geology and Paleontology the sequence matches well. I am sure the writers of Genesis were unaware of the scientific support given to the creation story so again sounds like a creator to me and an intelligent one itself.

I believe in lowercase ‘id’ and know who is sovereign over chance. A significant statement in my progression from OEC/ID to accepting the science of evolution was from a molecular biologist:

…the most common mutations, transitions, are not really ‘copying errors,’ because the keto-enol transition of the base is driving them and the polymerase is working correctly. So if you’d like, that can be seen as providence more than chance.

I came across a youtube channel called “Useful Charts” which includes some great discussions on The Bible and world religions. It takes a strongly academic approach (i.e. “liberal”) approach to the topics, but I think the youtuber (Matt Baker) does a great job of being both frank and respectful. He is also a practicing Jew, if that is important for anyone.

In two of his videos he discusses the possibility that there is an atheist “personality”. In other words, is our personality one of the driving forces that pushes us towards or away from religion.

Wouldn’t you know it, I fall into the personality type most associated with atheists. It is also a personality type that is associated with technical fields like science. I am very skeptical of his findings, partly because they seem attractive to me. I also think Baker himself doesn’t think he has found some magic bullet that explains everything. However, it is intriguing.

This makes me wonder if the title of the thread is confusing cause and effect. It could be that the type of people attracted to higher education, especially in technical fields, are the type of people that tend to leave the faith. Of course, this is not a 1:1 correlation. There will be many people who buck the trends. And yet . . . I can’t help but feel that there is something deeper connecting education and views on religion.


Of course the unbeliever will cite the self-selection effect, but I like this response to that argument:

I believe in God , specifically Yahweh and his son Jesus Christ , but I don’t personally believe in a fine tuned universe or intelligent design. I feel the argument could be made for everything such as what are the chances that hydrogen and oxygen both just happen to develop and then be in the same spot at the same time to make water and so on. But I don’t think that the existence of water is a good argument for intelligent design just like I don’t see it as a good argument for anything personally in science. But I still agree it’s by faith that I believe in our creator and I believe he had some kind of role in cosmology but I think it won’t be evident just like a chance encounter at a book store where you run into someone whose car broke down and so they are there waiting for it to be fixed and that encounter turns out to be the first time you’ve met your significant other. Could God have played a role? Sure. Did God override free will or make y’all both get interested in books at a young age and blow up an engine ot something? I doubt it.

I also don’t think genesis 1 aligns very well.

Light before the sun? No.
Angiosperms before fish? No.
Birds before crawling and walking tetrapods? No.
It’s actually not lining up at all really.