Sunday, February 26, 2012

Open the doors....

Not that TPM has a smaller readership than this place (any smaller and I wouldn't even read it!), but this is interesting. To paraphrase: at least 3 studies cited by TPM indicate that having a four year degree increases, rather than decreases, the likelihood one will attend a church. As the 2011 study puts it:

“education positively affects religious participation, devotional activities, and emphasizing the importance of religion in daily life.”
Which, of course, is not supposed to be true. One can pile up all kinds of statistics about declining membership in mainline denominations, and establish all kinds of stereotypes about "know nothing" believers, especially in fundamentalists and evangelical Christian churches. These numbers don't refute those, nor indicate where the college educated are most likely to worship. "Religion" and "religiosity," of course, includes Hindus and Muslims as well as Christians and Jews. The popular image of Christians as bible-thumpers who think Jesus spoke the English of King James is as misplaced as the idea that "Inherit the Wind" is about fundamentalism; but it's also about as ineradicable. At the turn of the 20th century there was a burgeoning mail-order business in the "teach yourself Greek" business, as Christians sought to read the New Testament in the original texts. It may be that, again, we are seeing people turn to religion not because they are ignorant, but because they are wise. It may be there was a reason why Kathleen Norris' books were best-sellers, and why even Dom Crossan could become an almost household word.

We've spent a great deal of effort in America since the GI Bill fostering college degrees and the acquisition of knowledge. It could well be that acquiring knowledge leads one to desire to acquire wisdom, too. Not everyone, certainly; and these statistics may not indicate a "wave" at all. They may indicate something deeper, more profound, and more permanent.

As well as much more hopeful.

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