Why does education tend to make people less religious?

scientists survey

We can certainly agree that there are genuinely thoughtful and brilliant people on every side of this debate, and we are all just trying to figure out the answers together.

Yet, studies have shown that every year of education “reduces the propensity to attend religious services at least once a month by about 14 percentage points.” (1)

So *why* does education tend to make more people less religious?

Is that not counter intuitive? If we can be certain this world was created by God, should not those who study the natural world, or logic/reason, be even more inclined to believe? Yet we see the opposite.




  1. I’m thinking that educated people might be aware that the stars could not possibly have been created four days after the earth, since the earth is made of elements that needed to be cooked up trans-helium in, you guessed it, stars.


  2. ” If we can be certain this world was created by God, should not those who study the natural world, or logic/reason, be even more inclined to believe? ”

    That is precisely what happens to me. The more I learn about how the natural world works, the more impressed I am by the God who created it, even assuming that the galaxies, planets and life itself evolved through natural processes.

    By the way, according to this Gallup poll:


    the difference between “high school or less” and “postgraduate” people who believe in God is only 9% (97% vs. 88%). There could be many reasons for the difference between your chart and the Gallup results, but the thing that jumps out at me is that yours is very specific about which fields the degree-holders have their degrees in, whereas the Gallup poll apparently includes all persons with postgraduate degrees.


  3. The Gallup poll includes everyone with a degree in theology, music, russian literature, sports medicine, and photography.

    The polls i listed refer to scientists who study the natural world and philosophers.


    1. Limiting it to natural and physical science majors, I suspect part of the reason would be bad catechesis. In other words, for example, for people raised to believe that the Bible forbids belief in evolution, when they find out that there’s good evidence for evolution, the rest of what they were taught becomes suspect.

      Whereas religious people who understand that God’s being the creator does not exclude the possibility of evolution, might not be affected in the same way.

      It could also be a matter of natural temperament, i.e. that people who are inclined to study “hard” sciences tend to be less inclined to be religious, and so the more religious are weeded out as people move on to more and more advanced degrees.


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