Sunday, August 07, 2011

Religion By The Numbers

According to a study by University of Nebraska-Lincoln professor Philip Schwadel the higher one’s level of education the broader and more liberal one’s religious beliefs become.

I would like to take credit for this. I would like to think that as students are exposed to my World Religions class or my Religion in America class they become more open in their thinking about religion in general and their religion in particular. But, according to Schwadel this trend begins when people enter the eighth grade, so I really can’t take credit at all. It is cool, though.

The study shows that “for each additional year of education past grade seven” Americans are

1. 15% more likely to attend a worship service in the past week
2. 13% more likely to do that worship in a less strict mainline church
3. 14% more likely to believe in a Higher Power than a personal god
4. 13% less likely to think one religion us true and the others false

I am confused as to how I am to read these numbers. Am I to multiply these percentages by the number of years of schooling one has past the seventh grade? Does this mean that if you make it through high school you are 75% more likely to attend a church? Or that if, like me, you have 13 years of post-seventh grade education you are 169% more likely to think truth is present of more than one religion? How can you be 169% anything?

So what does this study show? It shows that some of us (that would be me) haven’t got a clue how to read sociological studies that include numbers. If you can help me out with this, please do.

In the meantime, I am gearing up for my fall classes and the off-chance that I will get a group of students who 1) have made it through the seventh grade; 2) did so on actual merit and not because their teachers cheated on their No Child Left Behind tests, and 3) are 196% more likely to believe in an impersonal god.

1 comment:

Mike Smoot said...

Blessed are those who have the opportunity to attend your classes. I'm sure it would be a blast to sit in on one.