Yet another study purports to demonstrate that Professors aren’t scabrous Atheists, but instead persons of surprising faith. As Gary Shapiro writes in yesterday’s New York Sun, ”Contrary to popular opinion, the majority of professors — even at elite schools — are religious believers, a new study shows.” Or does it? The Study, by Neil Gross and Solon Simmons, finds that a majority of professors cite some sort of belief in God, whether certain, or with occasional doubts. So they’re just like the rest of Americans, right? Louis Bolce and Gerald DeMaio take a closer look in “Professors And God: Any Connection?” at Minding The Campus.
Another issue is this: what type of religion are the believers affirming? For the Christians in the sample, how many affirm the resurrection and atonement of sins by Jesus’ crucifixion, the virgin birth, etc? Liberal Christianity lends itself to a variety of meanings. For example, it emphasizes the here and now (social gospel tradition) and is less concerned about traditional tenets of Christianity, particularly the concept of personal sin. Only 6.1 percent of respondents in the survey said the Bible is “the actual word of God,” with 51.6 percent describing it as “an ancient book of fables, legends, history and moral precents.”
The reader might wonder about the policy implications of these beliefs. Do these “religious” professors favor religious accommodation such as support for faith-base charities, affirmation of religious symbols in the public square, and school prayer? Do their religious beliefs lead them to oppose to gay marriage and abortion? Is it not religious-based divisions over contentious issues such as these that are the driving forces in the contemporary culture wars?
The version of the Gross and Simmon study reported in the Sun raises many questions. Being religious, not irreligious, or “post secular” in today’s America, particularly on elite college campuses, tells us about as much about the nature or sincerity of religiosity as Senator Clinton’s attendance at prayer breakfasts reveals about her own faith…