Does more education lead to less religion?

I have heard the statement “as education rises, religion will continue to decline” fairly often and have wondered as to how true this is and is it because people have some sort of internal conflict between science and religion or maybe the idea that religion has become irrelevant, perhaps both?

Here’s the Guardian link, more accessibly:

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Don’t worry, the masses can never be sufficiently educated, and we’re inevitably getting dumber as a species.

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Time to start researching this claim, and also considering what exactly is meant (and that you mean) by “religion” and even “education” for that matter.
For many of us here, our anecdotes would show that our secular educations helped strengthen our faith and adherance to Christianity, but the question you quoted is broader.
You may also need to consider other factors that may be involved in the result, but that are not considered in the question. Dale’s article about religion lessons is related and would also require further research. My gut reaction to the headline is “I doubt it. THat decline has been going on for over 100 years.”
Pew Research does work with questions like yours. You may want to start there. Your local public librarian may also be able to help you find reliable sources.

Klax, I do hope you’re wrong. Sigh.


There is probably some bias in that dumb, obnoxious people can be louder and more easily heard today than in the past. That’s not to say that loud, well-known (or would notorious be better?) obnoxious crazies haven’t existed in the past. Past figures that come fairly close to that description would probably include Servetus and Bruno, among others.

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This is just a small blurb, but:

Elaine Howard Ecklund is a friend of BioLogos. She studies religion and scientists.

One conclusion that can be drawn here is that Christians are not as encouraged to pursue the upper sciences. BioLogos seeks to help bridge the gap and show professing scientists as role models to younger kids who might be curious in STEM fields.

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I don’t think it’s directly related. Their may be multiple things tied into it that leads to this. Such as more education about science from an atheistic worldview without more education in healthier biblical interpretations.

Also the current podcast episode touches on this.


That’s what I suspect as well. Pursuing higher degrees may be an effect of an underlying socioeconomic factor. Religious couples tend to start families much earlier than non-religious couples, so that may play a factor as well.

My gut feeling is that America is just lagging behind much of Europe which has seen a precipitous drop in religiosity. I don’t think education changed that much in Europe over that time period, so I don’t think education is a prime factor in what we are seeing.

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After looking that article over I snooped around and found this one based on Lewis’ writing.

It makes an interesting contrast to the one you posted which answers the question can Christian retain their faith and also study the sciences. Can atheists retain their confidence in their rationality in the absence of an omniscient, omnipotent creator? I was tempted to start a separate thread but does anyone really think that natural processes would be insufficient to account for rational thought? To my mind the often low level and uneven distribution of rational thought in our species argues against a top down design by a perfect creator. Outside of apologetics courses does anyone really think this idea of Lewis is sound or persuasive?

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I think that it leads to less belief in a Goddess who has human attributes. This is naturally going to decrease belief in things related to Goddess being “angry” or “disappointed” with Her creation. It leads to less belief that Our Goddess in heaven actually lives in the skies and less belief that Hades is down below. Ironically, it leads to less belief in a Goddess who has actual XX features like developed breasts and long flowing hair or for those who prefer the term “god”, less belief that “he” has a long thick beard with white swept-back hair.

In terms of whether study decreases interest in the Mystery, then I would say no; it likely increases it. People who seek to understand the Mystery, in my opinion are open to where science leads without reservations and without holy cows.

Does it lead to a decrease in fundamentalist Christian beliefs? It depends on the person but usually. Some people compartmentalize Christianity in a way that might not be affected, similar to non-believing Jews who believe in the validity of the moral experience.

One thing that won’t withhold the tide, which is also an issue in Mormonism, is to pretend these issues don’t exist. There’s no written evidence of any history denoted in the Book of Mormon and there’s no contemporaneous evidence of any written history in the Old Testament. Everything in the OT seems to have been written far, far later than formally and commonly ascribed.

That takes us into the apocryphal epoch and that of the mystery religions. There are some fairly early texts for the N.T. but with the possible exception of Paul, we don’t have knowledge as to who even wrote the N.T. and there were no contemporaneous writings that have survived. Indeed, the dating of much of the Canon has been pushed back which should be concerning to any literalist.

I do not believe that a reasonably intelligent person who actually openly addresses issues like Noah or Jericho or the Exodus will be able to maintain such beliefs after rigorous study. I also find it apparent that the Council of Nicaea was the fundamental beginning of Christianity as we continue to find it and it was that which consolidated the various types that were similar and those that were more way out there.

The thing that all the Abrahamic religions seemed to bear compared to other Mediterranean religions is an obsession against sex outside of marriage. To the extent that Christianity derives from Mystery religion components, this seems to be what made it different, together with the aversion to any sort of religious tolerance as formerly practiced by many Mediterranean peoples.

Without the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches, the doctrines related to Christ, his God state and the trinity would be incoherent because the Bible seems to be all over the place related to such doctrines. There wasn’t anything unscriptural about Arianism that I can find and this was the preferred version by the early Germanic converts who, shock, decided that Arianism wasn’t worth the trouble of clinging to when they wanted to invade and conquer the Latin south. These Gothic Arians did even care about their own tongues and all adopted Latin and Catholicism in the name of conquest. Indeed, some times the conquered defeat the invader in terms of history.

So it’s not just science that it the issue with educating Christians. It’s history. Anyone reading about the various councils has to have pause. For fundamentalists and evangelicals who distrust the Catholic Church, it should always be remembered that there’s no way any longer to get behind the Church to “true Christianity” because the Church created Christianity, not Paul and not Jesus. It’s the interpreters in history who win the battles and since neither Paul nor Christ was available at Nicaea, neither had a vote.

I don’t find it persuasive. It seems to start from the assumption that a rational mind can’t emerge naturally, but I don’t see how that is supportable.

On top of that, we often can’t trust our brains to be rational. For example, optical illusions show us how wrong our brains can be. We invented the scientific method because of how fallible human intuition and rationale can be. The reason that we can trust many of our conclusions is that we can objectively test them against reality.

I would say that both the premises and conclusions of Lewis’ argument are suspect. Moreover, atheists like myself are more than happy to admit that our lack of belief in deities could be wrong. I am just as skeptical of my own conclusions as those of the theist. This is why I look for objective evidence where I can.

The multiverse might offer logical support in that if there is a multiverse, then some of them should contain a Goddess. The problem here is whether Goddess would actually exist inside a universe as opposed to being somehow outside looking in.

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