Scientists are more religious than you may think

A NEW US survey has found that scientists and the general public are surprisingly similar in their religious practices.

The study, “Religious Understandings of Science,” was conducted by sociologist Elaine Howard Ecklund and presented in Chicago during the annual American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) conference. It is the largest study of American views on religion and science to be conducted, according to the authors. It involved a nationally representative sample of more than 10,000 Americans

The study found that 18 percent of scientists attended weekly religious services, compared with 20 percent of the general U.S. population. Of them, 15 percent consider themselves very religious, compared to 19 percent of the general U.S. population. Meanwhile, 13.5 percent of them read religious texts weekly, compared to 17 percent of the U.S. population. And 19 percent pray several times a day, compared to 26 percent of the U.S. population. Nearly 36 percent of scientists surveyed have no doubt about God’s existence.

Ecklund told a conference that religious scientists rarely went public about their faith. At work, they feared a negative reaction from their colleagues. A church, they feared a negative reaction from fellow believers.


28 thoughts on “Scientists are more religious than you may think

  1. I really can’t see why one should be expected to negate the other. You could perhaps say that God created the laws of physics and used them to create the universe.

    People who see science and religion as being oppositional are just reflecting their own narrow beliefs. Imho.


      • Then I’d question the quality of any dictionary you use

        sci·ence [sahy-uhns] Show IPA
        1. a branch of knowledge or study dealing with a body of facts or truths systematically arranged and showing the operation of general laws: the mathematical sciences.
        2. systematic knowledge of the physical or material world gained through observation and experimentation.
        3. any of the branches of natural or physical science.
        4. systematized knowledge in general.
        5. knowledge, as of facts or principles; knowledge gained by systematic stud

        re·li·gion [ri-lij-uhn] Show IPA
        1.a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
        2. a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion.
        3. the body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices: a world council of religions.
        4.the life or state of a monk, nun, etc.: to enter religion.
        5.the practice of religious beliefs; ritual observance of faith.

        Surely seems that by definition they are at opposite ends of the spectrum.


      • How, Bubba? It’s a conclusion you’ve drawn, an opinion. We’re all entitled to an opinion.


      • Yeah we’re all entitled to our own opinion. We’re not entitled to our own facts.

        I’d add that unless you’re Zamenhof or Tolkien then you don’t get your own language either 😉

        Look what’s the big deal science and religion are the opposite ends of the spectrum. One the study of the natural the other the ritualised beliefs in the supernatural. They are different things but why is that an issue?


      • Pastor Peter LaRuffa , “If somewhere within the Bible, I were to find a passage that said two plus two equals five, I wouldn’t question what I’m reading in the Bible. I would believe it, accept it as true, and then do my best to work it out and understand it.”


      • Well somebody missed the point that’s for sure. You might want to give that “listening” thing a go and see how it works out for you 🙂

        Or we could consider the recent debate between scientist Nye and Christian Ham when asked what would it take for them to change their minds,.

        Nye – one piece of evidence

        Ham – nothing will change his mind


      • Bubba, I’m not trying to argue with you. I value many comments of yours I’ve read. I’d just like to explain my thinking, if not for your sake, then for the sake of others who may be reading.

        If one scientist was looking for the still unknown facts about magnetism in the universe, and another was studying the reproduction mechanism in snails, they might seem to have nothing to do with each other, be irrelevant to each other, of no mutual interest to the scientists – but they are not opposites. One certainly does not negate the other.

        Oh well, maybe not a good example!

        Let there be peace Bubba, and looking forward to more of your thoughts.


      • Um I was the one making the point.. It’s my point. Kinda impossible for me to be missing it.

        You really don’t do that “listening” stuff do ya ?


      • Hey strewth,

        The two scientists would still be both following the scientific method or some variant thereof. Their methodology would be the key rather than the specific areas of study.

        That’s the point behind the 2+2=5 quote. It’s the process that’s the issue. The pastor is advocating a belief in blind faith based solely on what’s read in the bible. Pure acceptance, no questioning. Questioning explicitly ruled out.

        Which may well be in line with religious thinking but I can’t imagine anything less scientific.

        If one scientist was using the process of observation, hypothesis experimentation etc and the other was using nordic rune stones and regularly casting them and the reading the results. Then they would be following different processes and definitely would be at opposite ends.

        Science and religion are different. But what’s the big deal ? Is it that religion is a little insecure and needs to try and ride on science’s coat tails ?


      • Belief, by definition, is an accepted opinion; the mental act, condition or habit of placing trust in another, or in an idea.
        Faith is something else. Magical and mystical, it does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.
        It is sometimes the assertion of possibility over all probabilities; the evidence of things unseen.
        “What is faith for unless it is to believe what you do not see,” asked Augustine of Hippo.
        It is an instinctive, natural faith that sustains a family witnessing the dying and death of a child. Faith that brings someone back from the brink of physical, moral or spiritual death.
        It is faith that enables even the battered and beaten on the greyest days to see life as a love story.
        Unfortunately, it is also faith that convinced the Nazis they were right in exterminating Jews.
        That is clearly misguided or negative faith.
        Positive faith is, according to writer William Temple, “something nobler in its own kind than certainty”.
        Faith in God is a mysterious assurance, but it doesn’t mean not having doubts. You have to keep taking risks with faith.
        Faith sometimes gets harder as you get older, I find. But I believe it is as necessary to me as breathing. I have to practise it to live.


      • Quote right Bubba, I used a poor analogy.

        As science investigates more of the brain’s as yet unknown functions, you might yet see links with spirituality.


      • Hey Strewth,

        We might see a lot of things but unless we see that dictionary change science and religion will still be oppositional.

        Bryan has written a moving and elegant definition of faith . I’ll quote him in part “Faith is something else. Magical and mystical, it does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.”

        That’s about as opposite to science as you can get. And I still don’t get what’s wrong with that. I don’t understand why opposites just can be opposite.


  2. Why wouldn’t a scientist believe in God? Why wouldn’t a school teacher? Why wouldn’t anyone in any profession? Why single out scientists? It’s the corporations that divide us and argue with almost everything that affects us as human beings.

    Spiritual belief is individual.

    No one seems to think there is anything wrong with corporations arguing with dietitians about our sugar levels and our diets.

    Corporations arguing with scientists about our science.

    Corporations arguing with spiritual leaders about our religion.

    Corporations arguing with our educators about our education.

    Corporations arguing with our health experts about our health.

    In layman terms…we are being ‘educated’ by the corporation….

    It’s really manipulation, but when the coin drops you begin to see things for how they really are…

    Even the Pope can see it.



  3. If you’d asked my what I though I probably would have said that some scientists are religious but overall they are less religious than the general population.


    • All very well, but I can never quite understand why Christians get so chuffed when they find out that particular scientists) believe in or pray to a god. Most of the time, the god involved is either Pantheistic or Deistic. And acccording to traditional Christian teaching, that does not contribute to their salvation. (or does it?)


      • Not just pantheists and deists might be saved, but our lovely atheists too.

        Pope Francis rocked some religious and atheist minds today when he declared that everyone was redeemed through Jesus, including atheists.


  4. People develop religious faith from an emotional (it feels right) acceptance of propositions they have usually been exposed to in various ways since birth. It feels right because it fits in with the tenor of earlier influences. If it’s a conversion it is also likely to have been accepted during a highly emotional time of life, frequently in adolescence or after a bereavement of some sort..

    A family that has made a feature of Father Christmas every year will eventually tell a child that Father Christmas is imaginary. But a believing family will not suddenly tell a child that God is imaginary.So a belief that God exists will tend to persist, since nobody seems to require any evidence of such an existence anyway.

    Once a belief is established people then use reason to try to justify it when it is challenged. If they are very intelligent they can be very adept at co-opting reason to support their particular faith, whether it be Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Mormon or whatever. The very number of different and opposing faiths points up the irrelevance of reason in their justification, and therefore the inherent irrationality of them all. At best, only one faith will be correct, and as people of every faith adhere to their own and reject every other faith, the strong likelihood is that they are all wrong.

    So while people may appear (to themselves at least) to have a belief based on reason, never-the-less that reason is predicated on core beliefs being non-negotiable and non-arguable, and therefore quarantined from the rest of the reasoning process, whilst never-the-less still being used covertly to distort the logical processes. And we see that time and time again in debates on the topic.
    A chain of logic is only as strong as its weakest link, and that’s where the weakness is.

    Scientists are as vulnerable as anyone else to influences in their formative years, and they deal with their Science vs religion conundrum by separating and compartmentalizing the two. When they are being religious they are not being rational and when they are being scientific they are not using magical thinking.

    But, as has been said, “if someone has not reasoned their way into a belief then they are not going to be reasoned out of it.”


    • ‘At best, only one faith will be correct.’ That would be sad if true. Perhaps all faiths are partly correct, or all are correct (or incorrect) in a subjective fashion?

      Some conclusios on near-death experiences suggest we will enter whatever state we believe in – Christians will meet Jesus, other faiths will meet their great figures, atheists will meet persons they have admired and respected, and all will meet their loved ones again. In essence we each make our own heaven. Conversely, if we enter a hellish state, it is one we’ve made.

      Not saying these suppositions give true facts. I wouldn’t know.


      • Since faith can mean belief in absolutely anything, however unlikely or ridiculous (just look at everyone else’s religion and the thousands of extinct ones) I think it would be sad if any of them were true.

        Certainly Christians will imagine Christian things and Hindus will imagine Hindu things. SO what? People will imagine whatever they are trained to. It’s got nothing to do with being true.

        Yes, we do make our own heaven or hell, and we make it here on earth. And if we think we deserve one or the other but we don’t get it here, then toughers! That’s life. You can only feel or enjoy or suffer things with your mind and body, so being alive is the only way you can ever do that.

        But death you will never know, because you can’t know anything if your organ of knowing, your brain, no longer functions. It won’t even be Sweet Dreams. But you won’t miss anything. You won’t know anything. You won’t be you any more. You won’t be. Your life will have gone out like a candle flame, never to return. But you won’t worry. If you could know anything at that stage, which you won’t be able to, you would know only eternal peace.

        But you will live in the minds of those who cared about you, those you touched, those you influenced, especially your family. If you’ve left a legacy of creative endeavours you may have a degree more immortality than the rest, but eventually all that will go too.

        In a million years’ time, even Jesus will be lost in the mists of time. Language will have changed so much that even his name will be unrecognizable, and the idea of salvation lost in the aeons. So,if you feel the need, enjoy what you can of his legacy now, while you live. If you live a better life for it then I suppose it may be worth the sacrifice. If not, then no.


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