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Religion, Empirical Article


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Religion, Empirical Article

  1. 1. Sociology of Religion 2009, 70:2 101-129 doi:10.1093/socrel/srpO26 Advance Access Publication 29 May 2009 The Religiosity of American College and University Professors* Neil Gross University of British Columbia Solon Simmons George Mason University For more than a century most U.S. colleges and universities have functioned as secular institutions. But how religious are American college and university faculty in their personal lives? We answer this question by analyzing data from a new, nationally representative survey of the American pro- fessoriate. Contrary to the view that religous skepticism predominates in the academy, we find that the majority of professors, even at elite research institutions, are religious believers. We go on to examine the distribution of faculty religiosity across institutions, fields, and other variables, and identify a number of issues that future research-sensitive to the fact that religious faith and aca- demic life, at least in the American context, are by no means mutually exclusive-should take up. Key words: religion, professors, secularization, atheism, agnosticism Few topics have attracted as much attention from sociologists of religion in recent years as the fate of secularization theory, the paradigm that dominated thinking in the subfield in the 1960s and 1970s (Tschannen 1991; Sherkat and Ellison 1999). Inherited from Comte, Durkheim, Marx, and Weber, seculariza- tion theory, as formulated by Berger (1969), Luckmann (1967), Martin (1978), and others, posited an association between modernization and the withering away of religious institutions and belief. Although research shows that nation- states with advanced capitalist economies do tend to evidence lower levels of religious belief and participation than agrarian societies (Norris and Inglehart 2004; Crockett and Voas 2006), recognition over the last two decades of *Direct correspondence to Neil Gross, Department of Sociology, University of British Columbia, 6303 NW Marine Drive, Vancouver, Canada BC V6T IZI. E-mail: ngross@ Names are listed in alphabeticalorder only; this is an equal collaboration. For their comments on earlier drafts we thank Mark Chaves, Elaine Ecklund, DouglasJacobsen, Mark Regnerus, John Schmalzbauer, and Christian Smith. © The Author 2009. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Association for the Sociology of Religion. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: 101
  2. 2. 102 SOCIOLOGY OF RELIGION continuing high levels of religiosity in the United States (Greeley 1989; Emerson and Hartman 2006) and in a number of other, structurally similar societies, and of the degree to which battle lines in many geopolitical and domestic struggles remain drawn around religion, has led to an outpouring of theoretical and empirical work questioning and rethinking secularization theory (e.g., Warner 1993; Casanova 1994; Chaves 1994; Yamane 1997; Berger 1999; Stark and Finke 2000; Chaves and Gorski 2001; Gorski 2003a; Smith 2003) and exploring the role of religion in arenas of modem social life long thought destined for rationalization and an evacuation of the sacred. One such arena is higher education. Although secularization theorists, clas- sical and postclassical, disagreed as to the full set of mechanisms by which modernization would bring about religious decline, most shared the view that the growth of science and higher education represented one such mechanism. For them, the breaking free of the European and American university from church control in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was not simply an effect of already ongoing processes of secularization, or of more general ten- dencies toward institutional differentiation, but was also an important contri- butor to secularization inasmuch as the scientific worldview associated with the university became the preeminent form of cultural authority to compete with religion (Smith 2003). This interpretation was consistent with that offered by many sociologists and historians of higher education in the 1950s and 1960s, who depicted the turn of the twentieth-century American "academic revolu- tion" (Jencks and Riesman 1968), involving the professionalization of the pro- fessoriate and the institutionalization of academic freedom, as a triumph of science and Enlightenment ideals over religious dogmatism (e.g., Hofstadter and Metzger 1955; Veysey 1965; for discussion see Hart 1999; Smith 2003). In light of the reformulations of secularization theory now taking place, scholars have begun to reexamine the decoupling of higher education and reli- gion. On the one hand, sociologists and historians have written revisionist his- tories that show the dependence of the scientific revolution of the sixteenth century on religious authority (Shapin 1996; also see Merton 1973), the degree to which Protestant ideals continued to inform scientific investigation and the curriculum in American universities in the early years of the twentieth century (Marsden 1994), and that the decline of religious authority in American higher education was not a matter of historical inevitability, but the result of collective action by committed secularizers taking advantage of opportunities to effect institutional change (Smith 2003). On the other hand, sociologists studying the current American scene have ýnoted that while in general exposure to higher education is associated with somewhat less-and less traditional forms of-religiosity (Johnson 1997; but see Uecker, Regnerus, and Vaaler 2007), by no means is religion absent from college and university life. Some authors bemoan the fact that only in religiously affiliated colleges and universities can one find "God on the Quad" (Benne 2001; Riley 2005), but others see evidence of the religious engagement of many American
  3. 3. RELIGION AND THE AMERICAN PROFESSORIATE 103 undergraduates (Cherry, DeBerg, and Porterfield 2001), and even a growth of "scholarship grounded in religion" in the humanities, social sciences, and other fields (Hart 1999; Wolterstorff 2002:3; Schmalzbauer 2003.) This paper extends the latter line of research by formulating a systematic empirical answer to a related question: How religious are American college and university professors in terms of their personal beliefs? Under the influence of secularization theory, sociologists and others have long assumed that professors in the modem era, as carriers of Enlightenment values and agents of secularization, would themselves tend 'to be religious skeptics. Analyzing data from a new, nationally representative survey of the American faculty, we show that more extreme forms of the assumption of widespread religious skepticism are incorrect. While atheism and agnosticism are much more common among professors than within the U.S. population as a whole, religious skepticism represents a minority position, even among professors teaching at elite research universities. We go on to examine how belief in God, views of the Bible, spiritual identity, religious orientation, and attendance at religious services are distributed across the profes- sorial population, focusing especially on field- and institution-level differences. Our aim in undertaking this largely descriptive endeavor is precisely to cast doubt on assumptions of faculty atheism, not because we ourselves have any interest in advancing a religious agenda, but because such assumptions have kept a range of important sociological questions-about the processes and mechanisms responsible for the distribution of religious views in academe, as well as about the potential consequences of religiosity for teaching, research, and other faculty attitudes--from being given the attention they deserve. We begin our discussion by reviewing the literature on religion and the American professoriate; move on to discuss our methods and findings; and conclude by considering the impli- cations of our study for future research. RELIGION AND THE AMERICAN PROFESSORIATE Research on the religiosity of American professors has been limited. What work has been done revolves around four themes: the growth of the research university, changes in the ethno-religious composition of the professoriate, secularism and intellectualism, and religion and contemporary campus life. The CTrowth of the Research University As many historians have noted, the growth of the American research uni- versity around the turn of the twentieth century involved, inter alia, a severing of ties between institutions of higher education and the religious denomina- tions that had founded and supported them. "For the better part of a millen- nium" before that, a close connection had existed between "Christianity and higher education" (Marsden and Longfield 1992:4). Although the boom in European university foundings in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries
  4. 4. 104 SOCIOLOGY OF RELIGION coincided with the rise of the early modem state (Gorski 2003b) and saw state authorities attempting to harness the institution for their own ends, "the state never acquired exclusive jurisdiction in relation to the universities" (Hammerstein 1995:122), where Church control remained entrenched, theol- ogy was preferred to science, and students and faculty were expected to demon- strate piety. The intellectual latitude offered to faculty members differed between Catholic and Protestant institutions, but the theological character of university life was such that the scientific revolution could only occur outside the university. Protestantism placed particular stress on higher education as a site for the elaboration of Reformation theology and the training of clergy members, and this conception of the religious aims of the university was carried by Puritan settlers to North America. The first of the colleges they founded, Harvard, "served the interests of confessionalism" (Marsden 1994:40). Most faculty members were ministers, religious ideas pervaded the curriculum, and many graduates went into the clergy. When population growth in the eighteenth century necessitated the founding of additional schools, religious factionalism set the blueprint, helping to account for the distinctive character of Yale, Princeton, Brown, and other institutions. This pattern continued in the first half of the nineteenth century, when a wave of private college found- ings occurred (Brown 1995). The geographical spread of the population and the needs of local elites for credentialing contributed here, but so too did the emergence of new religious sects eager to train students in their doctrines and ideals, though pressures for diminished sectarianism were also being felt with calls for the establishment of state universities. Denominational differences notwithstanding, "in nineteenth-century America, educational and theological orthodoxy almost always went together" (Veysey 1965:25). Collegiate instruc- tion prepared students to be good Christians and hence good citizens, and the dominant ideas taught-centered around the moral philosophy of the Scottish Enlighteners-partook of a "widely shared article of faith that science, common sense, morality, and true religion were firmly allied" (Marsden 1994:91). While analysts disagree as to the processes involved, the historical evidence indicates that between about 1870 and 1910 this "article of faith" began to crumble. On some accounts, Darwinism and the growth of the physical and biological sciences after the Civil War-with the latter tied to the revving up of American industrial capitalism and the needs of an increasingly complex, urban society-precipitated a crisis of faith among some faculty members and administrators. This was met by calls to reinstate academic piety, and some of the demand for academic freedom that ensued may have stemmed from frustra- tion over the efforts of religious authorities to stop the rising tide of science (Hofstadter and Metzger 1955; Veysey 1965). For example, such frustration underlay Andrew Dickson White's vision for Cornell University, founded in 1865 as an institution where scientific inquiry would never be forced to take a backseat to religious verities. It is significant in this regard that when
  5. 5. RELIGION AND THE AMERICAN PROFESSORIATE 105 American academic reformers brought back from Germany the organizational plans and "epistemic culture" (Knorr-Cetina 1999) for founding research uni- versities on American soil-not least the idea of academic freedom-they were acting as agents of diffusion for a set of social practices forged during a period that saw the secularization of German university life (Collins 1998). Their program for reform was also tied to notions of professionalization. The only way for science to advance, they believed, was for academic disciplines to become "self-governing and largely closed communit[ies] of practitioners ... which determine ... [their own] .. standards for entry, promotion, and dismis- sal" (Menand 1997:205). This form of social organization, increasingly popular in the upper tiers of the occupational structure in the second half of the nine- teenth century (Larson 1977; Abbott 1988), did not demand that academicians relinquish their religious beliefs, but did help solidify a distinction between reli- gious and scientific/academic criteria for evaluating intellectual "merit" (Tsay et al. 2003) that allowed religious considerations to be edged out of academic discourse. Other scholars, however, have questioned this account, which depicts academic secularization as an inevitable result of the growth of science. Numbers (1998), for example, has argued that the American intellectual elite of the nineteenth century did not find it so difficult to reconcile Darwinism and faith. And Marsden has noted that many of the major research universities started at the end of the century, such as the University of Chicago, were founded on religious ideals. John D. Rockefeller, the uni- versity's chief benefactor, was "a pious Baptist layman of a traditional sort" who "saw a university as a way to serve both the church and the society on a broad basis" (Marsden 1994:240). That "American Protestantism" at the time "seemed to be taking on an activist methodistic hue, emphasizing prac- tice over doctrinal traditionalism" (1994:244) meant that the university could serve religious aims by emphasizing its role in community service, a conception that freed up space for the hiring of faculty members with a greater variety of religious views. Where Marsden views the institutionaliza- tion of this "low church" conception of the university as responsible for the even greater secularization of American higher education in the decades to come insofar as it rendered "academic expressions of Christianity" "at best superfluous and at worst scientific and unprofessional" (265), a different tack is taken by Smith (2003), who uses ideas drawn from social movement theory to highlight the processes of conflict and contestation by which those who wished to secularize not just the university, but' all of the institutions of public life, went about doing so in the Progressive era. Scholarship on the academic revolution tells us little about the religious beliefs of individual faculty members, but it does trace a long-term process of institutional change by which religious and specifically Christian ideals, beliefs, and practices became less important features of the official life of American'colleges and universities (also see Burtchaell 1998).
  6. 6. 106 SOCIOLOGY OF RELIGION The Changing Ethno-Religious Composition of the American Professoriate A second area of research that speaks to the religiosity of American professors concerns their changing ethno-religious background over the course of the twentieth century. Hand in hand with what Hollinger (1996) calls the "de-Christianization" of American higher education were increasing opportu- nities for non-Protestants to enter the ranks of the faculty. Nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century European immigration altered the religious compo- sition of the population, bringing growing numbers of Catholics and Jews. A network of Catholic colleges and universities had been founded in the 1800s, and although intergenerational mobility, particularly among Irish-Americans, meant that some Catholics would aspire to enter elite colleges and universities, spurning the perceived backwardness of Catholic institutions (Gleason 1995), overall the proportion of Catholics who went to college remained low, as did, partly in consequence, the number of Catholic faculty members teaching in schools not controlled by the Church (McGreevy 2006). Jewish-Americans, by contrast, set their sights on elite institutions, and applied in such numbers as to constitute what was perceived to be a threat to the Protestant academic establishment. In the first 30 years of the twentieth century, elite schools imposed limits on the number of Jews they would admit at both the undergraduate and graduate level (Karabel 2005), and few Jews were permitted to enter faculty ranks. The effect of anti-Semitism in academe was not simply to push many Jewish intellectuals into alternative venues for knowl- edge production, such as journalism and literary criticism, but also to further convince them that American society and its institutions needed to be radically changed. This sentiment, fused with socialist traditions carried from the old country (Cooney 1986), Depression-era radical politics, and the culture of bohe- mian New York (Stansell 2000), led many Jewish intellectuals to embrace the "cosmopolitan values" associated with "the broad Western tradition in the humanities" (Cooney 1986:7, 14) that would lend them the intellectual means to mount a critique of American culture. With immersion in Marx, Freud, Nietzsche, and Darwin often came a championing of atheism and secularism. After World War II, barriers to the entry of Catholics and Jews into academe came down. This was a function not simply of the ideological difficul- ties encountered by particularistic practices of social exclusion in the wake of Nazism, but also of the expansion of the higher education system at the time, a product of the influx of veterans into the student population, government and private philanthropic investment in research in the context of the Cold War, and a new emphasis on the importance of a college degree with the expansion of white-collar work. As the need for faculty members outstripped supply, groups previously excluded could make inroads, though opportunities for women and people of color remained limited. "By the 1960s," McGreevy (2006:199) reports, "Catholics entered graduate school at or modestly below the percentage of Catholics in the population." Jews, for their part, could be found enrolled in American colleges and universities at twice the rate of their
  7. 7. RELIGION AND THE AMERICAN PROFESSORIATE '107 non-Jewish counterparts, and by the time of the Carnegie Commission Survey of Faculty Student Opinion in 1969 comprised 9.8 percent of the professorial population and were "heavily represented on the faculties of Ivy League schools and other elite private universities" (Ladd and Lipset 1975:150). The prominence of Jewish academicians in the post-World War II era was enhanced by the fact that so many eminent European scientists and scholars of Jewish descent had been forced to flee to the United States. As a result of these changes, by 1969 "one third .... of the faculty could be counted as having non-Protestant origins" (Schuster and Finkelstein 2006:66). Catholic professors tended to be concentrated in four-year colleges and in the humanities (Schuster and Finkelstein 2006); under pressure to assimilate, they often kept their academic work and their faith separate (McGreevy 2006; also see Alba 2006). Jewish academics were more likely to embrace not just secularism but also atheism and leftist politics, to consider themselves intellectuals (Ladd and Lipset 1975), and to throw themselves behind the universalistic ideals of science (Hollinger 1996). Among Protestants, professors tended to be "drawn disproportionately from those denominations that [were] ... more theologically liberal and of higher socioeconomic status, including Presbyterianism, Congregationalism, and Episcopalianism" (Finkelstein 1984:158), reflecting the fact that young people from conservative Protestant denominations typically did not aspire to high levels of educational attainment in secular institutions or to pursue academic careers (Darnell and Sherkat 1997; but see Beyerlein 2004), and faced significant barriers to entry owing to their ideological predis- positions and lower social class backgrounds. Diversification of the American faculty continued in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. The most significant change involved the growing number of women and people of color. From 1969 to 1998, the "proportion of women among the full-time faculty .... doubled" (Schuster and Finkelstein 2006:51), though the feminization of the academic labor force has been greater in lower tier than in elite institutions, and greater in the,humanities and social sciences than in the physical and engineering sciences. As for people of color, they now comprise about 14.5 percent of the professoriate overall, and'about 19.8 percent of the most recent entering cohorts (Schuster and Finkelstein 2006:53-4), with Asian Americans faring better than African Americans, Latinos, and others. It is impossible to tell what effect these changes have had, if any, on the religious orientation of the professoriate, given the heterogeneity of the groups involved, but the trend in recent decades has been one of continuing erosion of Protestant numerical dominance.' Between 1969 and 1984, the proportion of professors who described themselves as having no religious identity increased from 19 to 30.5 percent, the proportion who described themselves as having a 'Another notable trend is the increased rate at which evangelicals appear to be enter- ing the academy (Lindsay 2006).
  8. 8. 108 SOCIOLOGY OF RELIGION Protestant background decreased from 67.7 to 62.5 percent, the proportion stating their current religious identity as Protestant decreased from 49.6 to 41.2 percent, the proportion of those currently identifying themselves as Jews or Catholics held steady, and the proportion who gave their religious identity as "other" increased slightly (Schuster and Finkelstein 2006:460). Religion and the Intellectuals A third literature that speaks to the religiosity-or lack of religiosity-of the professoriate is the sociology of intellectuals (see Kurzman and Owens 2002). In the 1960s and 1970s, as the sociology of knowledge underwent a growth spurt (Camic 2001), much attention was devoted to understanding intellectuals and their role in contemporary society. In this scholarship, the intellectual was often defined in part by his alleged opposition to religious authority. Shils (1972:16), for example, followed Durkheim and Weber in arguing that "intellectual work arose from religious preoccupations." Yet in Shils's view, because intellectual life outside the church tends to follow an autonomous logic, intellectuals eventually come to "reject... the prevailing system of cultural values" (7). While increasingly incorporated into the insti- tutional structures of modem society with the growth of the state and industry, intellectuals thus inevitably come into "conflict with other traditions of defer- ence toward ecclesiastical and temporal authorities" (18), making them flash- points for religious and political struggle. The assumption that the modem intellectual tends to be irreligious also characterized research on the growth of a "new class" of knowledge workers in the post-World War II era (for discus- sion, see King and Szel6nyi 2004). Originating in the Soviet orbit, where the technical intelligentsia played key roles in planning the socialist economy (Konr6d and Szel6nyi 1979), the notion of the New Class soon became a point around which much discussion of the class structure in the capitalist West was also centered. Analysts typically assumed that members of the New Class, including professors, would have little use for religion. Bell (1973), for example, who doubted that the New Class was really a class at all, argued that the emergence of a service sector economy empowered knowledge workers, whose ranks were rapidly expanding, over against both business elites and members of the working class. Although knowledge workers-professors, scientists, engineers, computer programmers, and the like-might differ in their political views depending on their institutional locations, Bell speculated that they would come to hold certain cultural attitudes in common as the com- munalistic ethos of science to which they were exposed aligned them against those espousing more individualistic, market-based conceptions of society. They were also, in his view, destined to be atheists or agnostics, for "a techno- cratic mind-view," with "its emphasis on the logical, practical, problem-solving, instrumental, orderly, and disciplined approach to objectives ... is a world-view quite opposed to the traditional and customary religious, esthetic, and intuitive modes" (349). The same assumption was made by Gouldner (1979), for whom
  9. 9. RELIGION AND THE AMERICAN PROFESSORIATE 109 the cultural orientation common among the intelligentsia-a "culture of critical discourse" defined as universalistic, rational, and secular-was a means to New Class dominance, a form of knowledge that could serve as a basis for legitimate domination. Research on the Religiosity of the American College and University A fourth and final area of research relevant to this study concerns the role of religion in contemporary American college and university life. On one side, many of those who have studied long-term processes of secularization are criti- cal of what they see as the absence of religious perspectives in American higher education today-in the curriculum, in student culture, and in faculty research. Marsden and Longfield (1992), for example, claim that religion in the university "has moved from near the center ... to the incidental periphery," and that there is now "a definite bias against any perceptible religiously informed perspectives getting a hearing in the university classroom" (33). Benne (2001) concurs, arguing that while a few schools are still genuinely committed to Christian values, most faculty members are "trained in.ý.. graduate schools that... imbibed heavily the Enlightenment faith" and socialized into academic disciplines characterized by "methodological atheism" where "religion as an independent variable in any human action" is "ignored" (28). As a result, today "secularized faculty factions... guard the public educational space from incursion by those who attempt to bring religious, perspectives to bear" (29; also see Sommerville 2006). On the other side, a number of scholars have described the contemporary period as having witnessed a renewed interest in religion in American higher education. Wolterstorff (2002) notes that while one can speak of the seculari- zation of American higher education in the sense of disestablishment from reli- gious institutions, one can equally see a "failure of secularization" (249) insofar as religion has now been offloaded onto thriving "para-university organizations" like Hillel that offer students ample opportunity to lead religious lives. Wolfe (1997:B4) observes that "a vigorous round of criticism of the modem university has been touched off by critics who, arguing in the name of religion, insist that secularization has gone too far." Schmalzbauer (2003), :drawing on interviews with professors and journalists who are part of this critical contingent, suggests we may be witnessing a "deprivatization of religion" in various arenas of public life, with increasing numbers of professionals "more open to individual acts of religious self-expression than has been recognized" (10), a function not simply of the efflorescence of American religion and spirituality in the closing decades of the twentieth century, but also of "broad changes in higher education"- specifically the growth of multiculturalism and postmodemism-that "have helped to create a climate that is more conducive to the expression of religious viewpoints in 'professional life" (75). Cherry, DeBerg, and Porterfield, (2001) share the'view that critics of godless American academe have overstated their case. They find from case study research on four schools that charges of
  10. 10. 110 SOCIOLOGY OF RELIGION secularization and the marginalization of religion fail to attend to "the protean flexibility that has characterized American religion as a whole throughout the nation's history" (5). Opportunities exist for students to engage in mainstream forms of religious worship, they find, while also observing-employing the language of Wuthnow (1998)-that many college students are now "spiritual seekers" rather than "religious dwellers," and that "if the definition of religion" is extended to "include ... spirituality" then "opportunities for undergraduates to practice religion" must be seen as "widely available" (275). Taking a differ- ent tack, Sherkat (2007), reviewing evidence from surveys of college students, argues that students are more religious today than in previous decades-more likely to believe in God, more likely to attend religious services, and more likely to belong to conservative Protestant denominations--developments he sees as related to the increasing tendency of religious youth to opt into the college experience. (For a review of the evidence suggesting that religion may be increasingly important in American higher education in general, see Schmalzbauer and Mahoney 2007.) This research aside, much scholarship on the state of religion in American higher education today is essayistic, anecdotal, and explicitly normative. A few empirical studies directly on the topic of professorial religiosity have been carried out. These studies build on the pioneering contributions of Leuba (1916), who surveyed natural scientists early in the twentieth century and found that 58 percent were religious skeptics. Reviewing several such studies carried out in the 1960s and 1970s, Finkelstein reported in 1984 that "sociol- ogists have persistently confirmed that professors, other scientists, and artists are, as a group, significantly less religious than other professionals and the general public" (159); that this is a function of selection effects more than pro- fessional socialization; that "as one ascends the institutional prestige hierarchy, religiosity decreases significantly" (162); and that "faculty teaching in pro- fessional and applied fields" tend to be much more religious than "those housed in colleges of arts and sciences" (162). Larson and Witham (1998), replicating Leuba's study, likewise found high levels of religious skepticism among natural scientists who were members of the National Academy of Sciences-only 7 percent expressed belief in a personal God. By contrast, Stark and Finke (2000), critics of secularization theory, resuscitate data from the Carnegie faculty survey of 1969 to argue that there is no "fundamental incompatibility between scientific and religious worldviews" (53). Their analysis of the data shows that in the physical and life sciences, 55 percent of professors were "religious persons," 42 percent attended religious services regularly, and about a third were religious conservatives. It was in the social sciences that religious skeptics were more common. Stark and Finke account for these disciplinary differences by invoking Wuthnow (1985), who speculates that those scientific fields that are most anxious about their scientific status have the most need to engage in "boundary work" (Gieryn 1999) that separates them off from the rest of society, with professions of unbelief representing one form such boundary work can take.
  11. 11. RELIGION AND THE AMERICAN PROFESSORIATE 111 More recently, Ecklund and Scheitle (2007) surveyed 1646 natural and social scientists from 21 elite research universities to assess their levels of religi- osity. Thirty-four percent of their respondents said they did not believe in God, and 30 percent said they did not know if God exists and that there is no way to find out. Unlike Stark and Finke, Ecklund and Scheitle find few differ- ences in religiosity between natural and social scientists. They also find that being raised in a religious household is one of the strongest predictors of being religious as a professor, suggesting-in line with Finkelstein's earlier review of the evidence-that selection processes, not professional socialization, may account for the lower religiosity of 'professors overall. Approaching the topic from a different angle, Lindholm and Astin (2006), analyzing survey data from a sample of 37,827 faculty respondents in 2004-5, report that 82 percent of faculty members score at either a high or medium level on a composite measure of spirituality. However, their study included few measures of traditional reli- gious belief. So how religious are today's professors when more traditional measures are examined and looking not just at elite scientists-a relatively small slice of the professorial population-but at the professoriate as a whole? DATA To answer this question, we analyze data from the Politics of the American Professoriate study, a survey we carried out in the spring of 2006 of full-time college and university professors teaching in U.S. institutions. The study was designed to assess the social and political attitudes of professors on a wide range of topics, and included several questions about religion. The study focused on professors teaching in fields where undergraduate degrees are awarded. Given the large number of such fields and our desire to have enough cases in each to make meaningful comparisons, we drew two-thirds of our sample from the 20 largest disciplinary fields, as measured by the number of bachelors degrees awarded in 2004, with the remaining third drawn randomly from all fields. To construct our sample, we first randomly sampled from the National Center for Education Statistics' (NCES) dataset on degree com- pletions, locating a college or university where either bachelors or associates degrees in the relevant field were awarded. We then selected one faculty member at random from the closest matching department or program, and sent letters and emails to secure participation in the study, which entailed filling out an online questionnaire. We stratified our sample to ensure adequate rep- resentation of faculty members teaching at community colleges, four-year col- leges and universities, nonelite PhD granting institutions, and elite doctoral universities (defined conventionally as those in the top 50 in the latest U.S. News and World Report ranking), and achieved a 51 percent response rate, with 1471 valid cases. (In the analyses that follow, we restrict our sample to pro- fessors with full-time appointments, which reduces 1the sample size to 1417;
  12. 12. 112 SOCIOLOGY OF RELIGION missing data result in further limitations in the regression analyses specifically.) In a regression model predicting response to the survey, institution type was not a significant variable. To better assess response bias, we conducted short phone interviews with a random sample of 100 nonresponders. The mean response to our key political attitudes question among nonresponders was about the same as the mean response among survey participants, suggesting no signifi- cant response bias along political lines (nonresponders were slightly more conservative than responders, but the differences were small). We also asked nonresponders about the frequency of their attendance at religious services. Nonresponders were less likely than responders to report attending services once or twice a year or less (30.6 percent ýas compared to 46.1 percent), and more likely to report attending services about every week or more (38.6 percent as compared to 30.4 percent). The figures we report below on the reli- giosity of American professors may thus underestimate actual levels of religious commitment. Once collected, the data were weighted to even out the effects of over- sampling certain fields and institutions. We believe our sample to be an approximate representation of the more than 630,000 professors teaching full- time in U.S. colleges and universities, with the important caveat that, as noted above, professors were only eligible to be sampled if they taught in departments or programs offering undergraduate degrees. Professors of law and medicine- including the many physical and biological scientists working in medical schools-and those teaching in other professional fields were not purposively sampled (though professors of business were, as many business schools offer undergraduate instruction)." Dependent Variables To measure professorial religiosity, we examine respondents' belief in God; whether on religious matters they think of themselves as progressives, moder- ates, or traditionalists; their self-identification as born-again Christians or "(spiritual persons"; their views of the Bible; the religious faith, if any, with which they identify; and their reported frequency of attendance at religious ser- vices. To maximize construct validity, we drew questions on belief in God, views of the Bible, and attendance directly from the General Social Survey (GSS). The question on religious faith was taken from the annual faculty survey carried out by the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles. Independent Variables To assess how religiosity is distributed within the professorial population, we first present a number of cross-tabulations, and then fit multivariate models 2Tables showing sample demographics are available from the authors.
  13. 13. RELIGION AND THE AMERICAN PROFESSORIATE 113 to determine whether initially evident variation holds up when other factors are introduced (the multivariate models examine five of the dependent vari- ables listed above.) Our goal in the regression models is not to maximally explain variation on the dependent variables--something that would require both a full-fledged theory of professorial religiosity and access to more detailed data than we possess on our respondents' experiences with religion over the life course-but is simply to map the distribution of religiosity within the professor- ial population more definitively. We consider in this regard a number of institution-level variables drawn from the same NCES dataset that we used as the basis for our sample: whether the respondent teaches at an elite doctoral granting university or at some other kind of institution; whether the respon- dent's school is religiously affiliated; whether it is public or private; the region of the country in which it is located; and the population density of the sur- rounding community. We also examine differences by field, looking first at variation in religiosity between social and physical or biological scientists,3 and then at more fine-grained field differences. At the individual level, we consider the respondent's age, race, sex, Latino origin, marital .status, family income, whether the respondent has a doctorate, 'whether the respondent is 'a "senior"--associate or full-professor, whether the respondent says that he or she is more oriented toward research than toward teaching or service, and, as a measure of social class background, whether the respondent's father received a bachelors degree or higher. RESULTS Descriptive Statistics Table 1 reports the figures for professors' belief in God. When asked whether they believe, 9.8 percent of our respondents chose 'the statement, "I don't believe in God," while 13.1 percent chose the statement, "I don't know whether there is a God, and I don't believe there is any way to find out."4 In surveys of the general U.S. population, only 3 percent of Americans identify themselves as atheists and 4.1 percent as agnostics (Edgell, Gerteis, and Hartmann 2006), so our findings indicate that religious skepticism is more than three times more common among professors than among Americans overall. Yet skepticism is by no means the most common 3Here we rely on the NCES classification of disciplinary fields. Social science includes anthropology, criminology, economics, geography, history, political science, sociology, and a number of interdisciplinary fields. We also include psychology in this category. For the biological and physical sciences, we include all those fields designated as such by the NCES. 4These and other descriptive statistics are slightly different than we have reported else- where because in this paper we do not exclude item nonresponse.
  14. 14. 114 SOCIOLOGY OF RELIGION TABLE 1 College and University Professors' Belief in God Belief in God Frequency Percent I don't believe in God 138 9.8 I don't know whether there is a God 186 13.1 I do believe in a higher power 271 19.2 I find myself believing in God some of the time 61 4.3 While I have doubts, I feel that I do believe in God 235 16.6 I know God really exists and I have no doubts about it 495 34.9 No answer 32 2.2 Total 1,417 Politics of the American Professoriate Survey, 2006. Column does not add to 100 because of rounding. stance toward religion among professors. Just over a fifth are skeptics, whereas religious believers-those who chose the statement, "While I have doubts, I feel that I do believe in God," along with those who selected "I know God really exists and I have no doubts about itC-together comprise 51.5 percent of all professors. These figures vary across types of institutions (though we do not represent these differences in tabular form). Not surprisingly, professors in religiously affiliated colleges and universities-who comprise 14 percent of our sample, and whose jobs often require affirmations of faith are more likely to be believ- ers. Whereas about half of professors in nonreligiously affiliated schools say either that they believe in God despite their doubts or that they have no doubts about God's existence, this is true of 68.9 percent of professors in reli- giously affiliated schools. Consistent with previous research, we also find-at least looking at the bivariate distributions-that professors at elite doctoral uni- versities are less likely to be believers than are professors teaching in other kinds of institutions. 36.5 percent of respondents with appointments in elite doctoral schools are either atheists or agnostics, 5 as compared to 15.3 percent of respondents teaching in community colleges, 22.0 percent of those teaching at BA granting institutions, and 22.7 percent of those teaching in nonelite doctoral granting universities. And whereas about 44.5 percent of community college professors and 38.5 percent of professors at four-year schools say they have no doubt God exists, the same is true for only about 20.4 percent of pro- fessors teaching at elite doctoral universities. 5 The figure here for atheists and agnostics at elite schools is much lower than that reported by Ecklund and Scheitle, which we assume is a function of the fact that our sample includes a wider array of professors.
  15. 15. RELIGION AND THE AMERICAN PROFESSORIATE 115 Atheists and agnostics also appear to be more common in some disciplines than others. Table 2 displays the distribution of belief in God for professors in the 20 largest disciplinary fields in order of their aggregate levels of religious belief. In line with Finkelstein's (1984) earlier review of the evidence, we find that the most religious fields are applied ones outside the traditional liberal arts core, whose instructors may come closer to resembling the general population in terms of attitudes and values. Sixty-three percent of accounting professors, 56.8 percent of elementary education professors, 48.6 percent of professors of finance, 46.5 percent of marketing professors, 45.0 percent of art professors, and 44.4 percent of professors of criminal justice and of nursing say they have no doubt that God exists. At the other extreme, psychology and mechanical engineering have the highest proportion of atheists, while 60.8 percent of biol- ogists are either atheists or agnostics. In Table 3, we report belief in God sorted by type of discipline, aggregating up from specific disciplinary affiliations to examine broad disciplinary areas. Atheists are somewhat more common in the social sciences than in the phys- ical or biological sciences or humanities, while more than twice as many agnostics can be found in the physical or biological sciences than in any other area. When atheists and agnostics are combined into one category, it is among physical and biological scientists that religious skepticism is the most common. Professors in the health sciences-which in our sample means mostly professors of nursing-are the most likely to be confirmed believers, with professors in otherwise classified fields the second highest group in terms of levels of reli- gious belief. There are relatively few professors of the agricultural sciences in our sample, but we list them separately because of the interesting finding that three quarters claim not to believe in God per se, but in a higher power of some kind. In Table 4, we move on to consider the overall religious orientation of our respondents. Among professors who are religious, what proportion think of themselves as religious progressives, moderates, or traditionalists, and how are these orientations distributed across institutional location and disciplinary area? Here we find that self-identified religious progressives-presumably those who are affiliated with a faith tradition but have relatively loose doctrinal commit- ments and believe that religion must change and adapt to meet new social and historical circumstances--comprise about 38.6 percent of religious American academics. Self-identified traditionalists comprise about 19 percent, while reli- gious moderates represent the modal category, at 42.4 percent. Religious pro- gressives-along with religious traditionalists-can most commonly be found at community colleges, while most religiously inclined professors at elite and nonelite PhD granting institutions consider themselves religious moderates. Looking at disciplinary differences, we see that religious progressives are more than twice as common in the social sciences and humanities than in any other field, that physical and biological scientists are the most likely to consider themselves religious moderates, and that, relative to other kinds of professors,
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  18. 18. 118 SOCIOLOGY OF RELIGION TABLE 4 Religious Orientation by Institution Type and by Discipline Not No Progressive Moderate Traditionalist religious answer Two-year 37.8 13.4 23.9 19.3 5.5 Four-year 19.5 31.2 6.7 36.7 5.9 Nonelite doctoral 18.6 26.3 4.8 43.7 6.6 Elite doctoral 23.9 26.3 11.8 31.8 6.2 Total, religious only 38.6 42.4 19.0 Physical and biological 13.0 32.2 5.2 37.4 12.2 sciences Social sciences 32.5 23.0 4.8 34.9 4.8 Humanities 35.0 20.7 6.6 31.7 6.1 Computer science and 11.3 39.6 17.0 28.9 3.1 engineering Health 12.0 36.1 36.1 12.0 3.6 Business 13.5 32.3 18.8 26.0 9.4 Other 23.2 22.4 13.5 34.5 6.5 Politics of the American Professoriate Survey, 2006. Sample sizes differ in the subtables based on item nonresponse on the dependent variables. Rows may not add to 100 because of rounding. physical and biological scientists, social scientists, and humanists are the least likely to consider themselves traditionalists. Table 5 reports the religious affiliations of professors in our survey. More or less consistent with the figures on nonbelief, 31.2 percent of our respondents describe themselves as not religious. The percent that can be classified as Protestant is 37.9, 15.9 percent are Roman Catholic, and 5.4 percent identify as Jewish. The remainder are scattered among other faiths. At elite, PhD grant- ing schools, 13.1 percent of professors are Jewish. Compared with other studies, our survey probably underestimates the number of Jews in academe. This is so because our religious identification question asked respondents about their current religious preference. Because Judaism is both a religious tradition and an ethnic identity-and given the historical connections between Jewish intel- lectualism and atheism-an unknown number of respondents of Jewish descent may have described themselves as "not religious." Overall, 18.6 percent of respondents to our survey said the term "born-again Christian" describes them at least slightly well. Cross-tabulations show that professors who consider themselves born-again are extremely rare at elite doctoral institutions, composing only about 1 percent of professors at such schools, but they are not uncommon among community college professors and professors teaching at four-year schools; there they represent 18.6 and
  19. 19. RELIGION AND THE AMERICAN, PROFESSORIATE 119 TABLE 5 Religious Affiliation of U.S. College and University Professors Frequency Percent None 437 31.2 Roman Catholic 222 15.9 Other Christian 125 9.0 Methodist 82 5.9 Jewish 75 5.4 Lutheran 68 4.9 Baptist 59 4.2 Episcopalian 52 3.7 United Church of Christ/Congregationalist 44 3.1 Presbyterian 41 2.9 Unitarian/Universalist 41 2.9 Muslim 37 2.6 Buddhist 31 2.2 Other religion 29 2.1 Church of Christ 18 1.3 Mormon 12 0.8 Eastern Orthodox 9 0.7 Hindu 9 0.6 Quaker 8 0.6 Seventh Day Adventist 1 0.1 Politics of the American Professoriate Survey, 2006. Column does not add to 100 because of rounding. 24.6 percent of professors, respectively. Nor are born-again Christians only to be found at religiously affiliated institutions, though they are present in greater numbers there. The percent of professors at secular schools that describe themselves as born-again Christians is 16.8, as compared to 29.5 percent at religiously affiliated schools. About 45.9 percent of the self-identified religious traditionalists in academe are born-again Christians. Although we do not report the figures in tables, three other descriptive findings are worth mentioning. The first concerns views of the Bible. Not sur- prisingly, given the textual and historical focus of many American academi- cians, only 5.7 percent of respondents say the Bible is the "actual word of God," with 48.3 percent describing it as "an ancient book of fables, legends, history, and moral precepts." About 39.5 percent of respondents are of the view that the Bible is "the inspired word of God." Roughly 7 percent refused to answer this question. Here again differences are evident by type of institution, with community college professors three times more likely than others to sub- scribe to the "actual word of God" position, and 72 percent of professors at elite doctoral universities taking the "ancient book of fables" view. Second, we find that half of American professors-49.9 percent-say that the term
  20. 20. 120 SOCIOLOGY OF RELIGION "spiritual person" describes them at least moderately well. This finding points to somewhat less faculty spirituality than that reported by Lindholm and Astin (2006), whose composite measure included one self-identification item. A third finding is that although the professoriate is, on the whole, much less religious than the general population, a significant proportion of professors report regular attendance at religious services. Figures from the 2004 GSS suggest that about just under half of Americans attend religious services once a month or more. The comparable figure among respondents to our survey is 39.5 percent. Professors at four-year institutions attend such services the most frequently, with 44.9 percent saying they do so once a month or more, com- pared with 26.9 percent of professors at elite doctoral schools. Multivariate Models These cross-tabulations are suggestive of interesting patterns in the distri- bution of religious belief and practice in academe, but how much of the vari- ation observable in the bivariate distributions holds up when other, potentially confounding factors are examined? We answer this question by fitting five multivariate models using ordinal logistic regression, each focusing on a differ- ent dependent variable and examining a variety of possible individual- and institutional-level correlates of religiosity. The models examine belief in God, views of the Bible, overall religious orientation, frequency of attendance at reli- gious services, and spiritual self-identification; for all these variables, response categories are treated as ordinal. The results are shown in Table 6. Of particu- lar interest given the cross-tabulations is the apparent status gradient in professorial religiosity, according to which professors at more prestigious, research-oriented institutions are both less religious overall and less traditiona- listic in their religious orientations, and the finding that while atheism is slightly more common among social scientists, religious skepticism- encompassing both atheism and agnosticism-is most prevalent among physical and biological scientists. With respect to the status gradient, which we operationalize in these models with a dummy variable for elite, PhD-granting schools, 6 we find that it disappears entirely when measures are introduced of whether respondents con- sider themselves oriented primarily toward the research enterprise, or of whether they hold doctoral degrees. These characteristics of respondents, especially research orientation, are much more common among professors teaching at elite schools, and our models suggest it is these characteristics- and not institutional prestige per se-that account for the diminished religios- ity, and less traditional religiosity, of professors teaching at elite institutions. Those who are oriented primarily toward research are less likely to believe in 6 We obtained the same results using different measures of status, including those that measured the exclusivity of schools at the undergraduate level.
  21. 21. RELIGION AND THE AMERICAN PROFESSORIATE 121 TABLE 6 Coefficients from Ordinal Logistic Regression Models for Five Religious Belief Variables (robust,standard errors in parentheses) Meaning of Religious Belief in Church Spiritual the Bible Orientation God Attendance Identity Elite PhD 0.125 0.411 0.041 S0.222 -0.053 school -(0.532) -(0.414) -(0.373) -(0.307) "-(0.321) Senior 0.433 -0.02 -0.093 -0.196 0.543 professor - (0.255) - (0.293) -(0.4) 7 (0.274) -(0.299) Doctorate - 0.482 -0.843 -0.481 -0.084 ,-0.546 -(0.281) (0.313)** -(0.374) - (0.281) -(0.31) Male -0.457 0.016 -0.177 ,-0.07 -0.403 - (0.248) -(0.253) "-(0.286) -(0.211) -(0.23) White -0.496 -0.654 - 0.685 - 0.983 -0.385 -(0.462) -(0.342) -(0.374) (0.364)**-(0.362) Latino -0.138 0.61 0.562 0.494 0.026 -(0.927) -(0.527) -(0.591) - (0.284) -(0.411) Age -0.028 - 0.003 0.006 0.018 -0.017 (0.013)* - (0.014) -(0.017) -(0.014) -(0.014) Married 0.697 0.554 0.513 0.801 0.443 (0.281)* (0.260)* -(0.301) (0.259)** -(0.229) Population 0.116 0.081 0.039 0.047 0.129 density*** - (0.065) - (0.065) - (0.071) - (0.074) (0.059)* Northeast -0.959 -0.49 -0.833 -0.417 0-.364 (0.341)** -(0.316) (0.342)* -(0.264) -(0.26) Midwest - 0.049 -0.491 -0.514 -0.227 -0.056 - (0.333) -(0.305) -(0.333) -(0.288) ,-(0.332) West -0.805 -0.46 -0.413 -0.27 -0.187 (0.358)* - (0.322) -(0.414) -(0.3) -(0.338) Religiously 0.282 0.449 0.564 0.755 0.568 affiliation -(0.344) -(0.297) -(0.319) (0.300)*- (0.254)* Private 0.348 0.155 0.169 0.153 -0.03 institution - (0.323) -(0.279) -(0.306) - (0.291) - (0.245) Social scientist -0.107 -0.186 -0.209 -0.073 -0.242, - (0.408) - (0.284) -(0.32) -(0.26) - (0.333) Phys/bio. 0.264 0.104 -0.453 - 0.494 -0.328 scientist - (0.399) - (0.363) - (0.293) - (0.389) "-(0.329) Research -1.131 -1.371 -0.813 -1.107 -0.964 orientation (0.357)** (0.288)** (0.269)** (0.233)** (0.305)** Family income -0.001 0.001 -0.002 - 0.004 -0.005 -(0.002) - (0.002)'! -(0.002) (0.002)* (0.002)** Father college - 0.662 -0.146 -0.016 0.05 0.079 (0.261)* -(0.226) -7 (0.25) -(0.216) - (0.224) Sample size 1318 1322 1377 1397 1390 Politics of the American Professoriate Survey, 2006. *p < .05, **p < .01, ***Coded from Urban to Rural.
  22. 22. 122 SOCIOLOGY OF RELIGION God, less likely to have a traditionalistic view of the Bible, less likely to attend religious services, more likely to describe their overall religious orientation as "not religious," and less likely to consider themselves spiritual persons. Professors who hold doctorates, for their part, are less likely to have traditiona- listic religious orientations. These findings tell us nothing about whether biases against religiosity-against religious colleagues, students, and groups-may be more in evidence at elite research schools, as conservative critics of the academy have alleged, but they do suggest that the diminished religiosity of professors there is a function primarily of selection on nonreligious character- istics. Professors who, regardless of their institutional location, are oriented mainly toward research and hold doctoral degrees in their fields could be less religious because they are more committed to the scientific enterprise or to rational humanistic inquiry and consciously reject religion as incompatible, or they could be more thoroughly socialized into the culture of academe-which is secular in orientation despite the personal religiosity of the majority of the faculty overall-and be enacting normative social identities that make less space for religious commitment. Alternatively, given that modem academic and scientific knowledge has been defined as a secular domain, deeply religious intellectuals may be less inclined to devote themselves to its advance, and more inclined to see teaching or service as their academic calling. Whichever explanation is correct, it is important to place the finding in its proper context: on the one hand, only about a quarter of professors in our sample say that they are oriented primarily toward research; on the other hand, 31.3 percent of such professors are nonetheless religious believers. As far as differences by field go, our multivariate findings are consistent with those of Ecklund and Scheitle: we find no systematic differences in religi- osity, on any of our five measures, between social scientists, physical and bio- logical scientists, and other kinds of professors. 7 Examination of an alternative model (not shown) that excludes variables for social science and the biological and physical sciences and includes dummy variables for the 20 largest disciplin- ary fields in which bachelors degrees are awarded reveals that what differences do exist by field are exclusively at the disciplinary level. With other factors controlled, biologists and psychologists-relative to professors outside the top 20 fields-are less likely to believe in God and less likely to hold traditional views of the Bible; professors of communications, English, and history are less likely to hold traditional views of the Bible; sociologists are less likely to have a traditionalistic religious orientation overall; and professors of accounting, 7In earlier versions of this paper, we reported that social scientists tend to be less religious than their counterparts in the natural sciences. This finding turns out to have been an artifact of using unweighted data in the regression analysis. For discussion of the merits of using weighted or unweighted data for regression, see Winship and Radbill (1994). Given the complex sampling design, we have concluded that consistently weighting the data yields the most unbiased estimators.
  23. 23. RELIGION AND THE AMERICAN PROFESSORIATE 123 finance, and nursing tend to be more religious. Boundary work and defense of intellectual jurisdiction of the kind flagged by Stark and Finke could be at play here, as scientists in fields like biology who have been embroiled in intense conflicts with creationists experience social pressures to tamp down their own religiosity, and as scholars in fields like English and history whose intellectual capital requires them to insist on the historicity of all texts come to think of traditional religiosity as, among other things, in tension with their professional expertise. But such boundary work is not obviously related to defense of the scientific nature of the social sciences. Other findings are worth noting as well. In terms of other institutional variables, teaching in a religiously affiliated college or university is positively associated with all five measures of religiosity, but the only of these associations to attain statistical significance are those pertaining to attendance at religious services and spiritual self-conception. The pubic/private distinction does not matter. Region and type of community in which the institution is located do: teaching in the Northeast is negatively associated with belief in God and with holding traditional views of the Bible. Type of community is also significant: professors teaching in schools in less populated areas are more inclined to con- sider themselves spiritual persons. Our data do not allow us to determine whether selection processes or accommodation to local norms do the most to explain these patterns. I A number of sociodemogmphic factors are also linked to variation in pro- fessorial religiosity. Younger professors tend to have less traditionalistic views of the Bible; white professors tend to attend religious services less frequently than their nonwhite counterparts; and professors who are married are more likely to be religious on three of our five measures. Modest social class associations are also evident. Professors with higher family incomes attend religious services somewhat less frequently than those who earn less money and are less likely to consider themselves spiritual persons, while professors whose fathers completed a bachelors degree or more tend to hold less traditional Biblical views. On the whole, though, what is notable about the multivariate models is how little of the variation these standard field, institution, and sociodemo- graphic variables account for: the R s for a linear regression specification of the five models are 0.20, 0.17, 0.15, 0.15, and 0.21, respectively. These numbers, while within the range of acceptability for social science regressions, leave the lion's share of professorial religiosity unexplained. This suggests that researchers seeking to explain why some professors are more religious than others may want to concentrate their attention not primarily on those sociodemographic factors that correlate with religiosity in the general population, or on the most obvious dimensions of institutional variation in academe. Rather, researchers should focus on processes by which, at different historical junctures, those from religious backgrounds-who may be more inclined to retain their religious upbringing throughout their lives, regardless of their career choices-come to
  24. 24. 124 SOCIOLOGY OF RELIGION be selectively incorporated into or steered out of different kinds of academic careers. CONCLUSION Our goal in this paper was to provide a systematic empirical answer to the question of how religious are America's college and university professors. We found that they are more religious than is commonly assumed: less than a quarter could be classified as complete nonbelievers. What are the implications of this finding? First, a modification is in order to common ways of conceptualizing academic secularization. To be sure, religion is no longer central to the official life of most nonreligiously affiliated colleges and universities, and on many campuses there is overt hostility among some professors toward attempts at integrating the study of religion into the college curriculum, or toward going too far to accommodate students' religious views if these conflict with the demands of science or higher learning. But even at elite schools, there are more professors who are religious than who are nonbelievers, which suggests that in academe-as in American society more generally--secularization has entailed more the privatization of religious belief (Casanova 1994) and its retreat from the public square (notwithstanding the political mobilization of conservative Christians over the past quarter century) than its elimination. To the extent this is so, models of academic secularization should be revised. Consistent with the position taken by Smith (2003), we believe that more explanatory emphasis should be placed on understanding the processes of contestation-as shaped by larger structural and institutional forces-by which research and teaching in the college and university setting came to be defined (and continue to be defined) as secular affairs than on understanding how the putative influx of nonreligious faculty members into the university, in the middle years of the twentieth century and beyond, altered its climate with respect to religion, as emphasized in discussions by Benne (2001), Hollinger (1996), and Marsden and Longfield (1992). Some such influx no doubt played some role in giving the American university its present secular hue-and indeed, as indicated above, we think that explaining variation in faculty religi- osity requires attending to processes of selective incorporation of religious and nonreligious groups and personnel. But the hypothesis that the university is a secular institution because of the irreligious tendencies of the faculty does not withstand empirical scrutiny: it is a secular institution despite the fact that most of its key personnel are themselves religious believers. This also means, consistent with the claims of Ecklund and Scheitle (2007) and Schmalzbauer (2003), that an important and neglected topic for the sociology of academic life is to under- stand how the many professors who are religious straddle their religious and scientific or intellectual value commitments: the nature of the epistemic
  25. 25. RELIGION AND THE AMERICAN PROFESSORIATE 125 cultures they inhabit that allow them to do so, the practices they have learned to keep the two strands of their identity separate, and the ways in which they may attempt to bring them together and thereby be influenced in their work lives by their personal religiosity. These are important matters in their own right, but they also have broader sociological significance, for answering them may yield insight into the social mechanisms by which higher education has a secularizing effect on students, one of its key effects vis-a"-vis the social system. In light of our findings, one such mechanism that might be hypothesized to exist-that students become more secular as their atheist professors call into question the value of religion-seems implausible asý a broad generalization. If anything, our finding that the most secular professors are those focused primar- ily on research-a minority of all professors-would suggest that the bulk of the teaching function in American colleges and universities is being carried out by academicians who are personally sympathetic to religion, albeit not in its most traditional forms. Second, our findings call into question the long-standing idea among the- orists and sociologists of knowledge that intellectuals, broadly construed, com- prise an ideologically cohesive group in society and tend naturally to be antagonistic toward religion. True, nonbelief is much more common within academe than in American'society as a whole. But the idea, proposed by Bell and others, that the worldview of the intelligentsia is necessarily in tension with a religious worldview, is plainly wrong. What our' findings help to high- light is how heterogeneous the American professoriate is, encompassing every- one from physicists teaching at elite research universities in the Northeast to humanists teaching at regional liberal arts colleges in the Midwest to professors of business offering instruction at community colleges in the South. This het- erogeneity reflects the sprawling and decentralized nature of American higher education today, and in light of it, it would be shocking if professors all came down on the same side on a matter as fundamental as religion. With respect to religion, at least, our findings suggest the time may be at hand to replace loose discussion of "the intellectuals" and their inherent tendencies with a more nuanced and empirically informed awareness of how many different types of knowledge-producers and knowledge-disseminators currently occupy the insti- tutional space of the American college and university, and of what the distinc- tive dispositions of each may be. Third and finally, our findings raise a number of intriguing puzzles about the distribution of religious belief in academe. We have noted that professors who are more oriented toward research, who hold doctorates, or who are located in specific disciplinary fields like biology or psychology, tend to be less religious, while those in applied fields like nursing and accounting tend to be more so-and we have suggested some possible reasons for these patterns-but the topic warrants much more sustained theoretical and empirical investi- gation. This will especially seem to be the case for those who are of the view (as we are) that a professor's personal religious commitments, or lack thereof,
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  30. 30. COPYRIGHT INFORMATION TITLE: The Religiosity of American College and University Professors SOURCE: Sociol Relig 70 no2 Summ 2009 The magazine publisher is the copyright holder of this article and it is reproduced with permission. Further reproduction of this article in violation of the copyright is prohibited. To contact the publisher: