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College Major Linked to Intensity of Religious Faith

by Rajashri on August 4, 2009 at 8:20 PM
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 College Major Linked to Intensity of Religious Faith

A study from the University of Michigan Institute says that college students who major in the social sciences and humanities are likely to get less inclined towards religion while those majoring in education are likely to become more religious.

However, the study found that students majoring in biology and physical sciences remain just about as religious as they were when they started college.


The study was determined to find a connection between college attendance, college major and religiosity.

It is based on long-term data from the Monitoring the Future Study conducted by the U-M Institute for Social Research (ISR).

"Education majors are clearly safe havens for the religious. Highly religious people seem to prefer education majors, tend to stay in that major, and tend to become more religious by the time they graduate," said U-M economist Miles Kimball, who co-authored the study.

For the study, the researchers analysed data on approximately 26,200 individuals who graduated from high school between 1976 and 1996.

They reviewed information on religious attitudes and college attendance and major for a period of six years.

The participants were asked questions like- How often do you attend religious services? How important is religion in your life? How good or bad a job is being done for the country as a whole by churches and religious organizations?

Of those who did not attend college right away, those who were more religious were more likely to attend college eventually.

One of the reasons for this might be a "nagging effect" of church friends who ask repeatedly about college attendance plans, the researchers speculate.

For the analysis of impact of college major on religiosity, the researchers used business majors as a reference point.

"We wanted a major that was culturally neutral and that attracted a large number of students. The content of most business courses does not touch on values," said Kimball.

The authors theorized that three powerful streams of thought interact with choice of college majors to amplify the impact on religiosity, and these are-science, developmentalism (the belief in progress), and postmodernism (the belief that everything is relative).

"There are important differences among the college majors in world views and overall philosophies of life. At the same time, students recognize to some degree the differences among majors and chose a major based, at least in part, on religiosity," said Kimball.

"Our results suggest that it is Postmodernism, not Science, that is the b?te noir of religiosity. One reason may be that the key ideas of Postmodernism are newer than the key scientific ideas that challenge religion. For example, religions have had 150 years to develop resistance or tolerance for the late 19th century idea of Evolution, but much less time to develop resistance or tolerance for the key ideas of Postmodernism, which gained great strength over the course of the 20th century," added Kimball.

Source: ANI

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