One common idea is that people (or societies) that are more educated will move away from religious beliefs. However, several recent sociology studies suggest that more educated people are more likely to attend church:
While overall church attendance has declined slightly in the United States in recent decades, a new study says attendance at religious services among white Americans who did not go to college has fallen more than twice as quickly as it has among more highly educated whites.
The study, released Sunday by the American Sociological Association, draws on decades of data from the General Social Survey and the National Survey of Family Growth to conclude that “moderately educated whites,” defined as people with high school degrees, attended religious services in the 1970s at about the same rate as whites with degrees from four-year colleges. In the last decade, however, they attended much less frequently…
The research shares some conclusions with a recent study by a University of Nebraska-Lincoln professor whose findings contradicted the common myth that less-educated people are more religious. That study, released in early August, concluded that a college degree does not make a person less religious, but that more education does make people more accepting of the validity of religions other than their own. Both studies used data from the General Social Survey, which is an ongoing survey of American’ attitudes and behaviors that began in 1972.
This is a reminder that social class, made up of influential factors like education, impacts religious life, an area that some believe should be more of a private matter.
This fits with some thoughts I heard at the ASA meetings in Las Vegas that there seems to be two trajectories in American life: a middle/upper class life built upon education and a working/lower class life built upon traditional values.
I wonder how this would look from the religious congregation side: have more congregations been deliberately seeking more educated members who have more resources and are more open-minded? This makes pragmatic sense but not religious sense.
A final thought: how much of this is driven by increasing education levels of conservative religious group that in the past were less educated (evangelicals, fundamentalists, etc.)?