Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Faculty (or is it faulty?) religious attitudes

SDP’s Jason Heppler calls our attention to this WaPo story, which reports the findings of and reactions to this survey of faculty religious attitudes.

The survey results aren’t terribly surprising, unless you were predisposed to think that all college and university faculty ere atheistic liberals. It turns out that faculty aren’t as religious as mainstream America, but they’re still pretty gosh-darn religious. There’s also a relatively close connection between religiosity and conservatism among faculty; the more conservative you are, the more likely you are to be serious about religion, but since conservatives are a minority among faculty, there remain plenty of self-identified religious faculty who aren’t politically conservative. In all of this, it’s worth noting that the most religious faculty tend to be at the most religious colleges and universities, so that they’re quite "underrepresented" at public and high-prestige private institutions. It’s also the case that the mouthiest faculty (in the humanities and social sciences) tend to be the least religious (except for scientists and mathematicians).

As the WaPo article notes, faculty attitudes are coolest toward evangelicals. Consider these conclusions:

First, while
faculty are religiously diverse, Evangelical Christians are found in
far fewer numbers than in the general public—even less in nondenominational
public and private schools throughout the United States. What accounts for this disparity? Are Evangelical Christians
not attracted to teaching and research in most colleges and universities? Is the academic environment somehow in conflict with the religious beliefs of Evangelical Christians? Are Evangelical Christians
discriminated against when it comes to hiring and promotions? Because political ideology is so highly associated with religious beliefs and behavior on campus, are Evangelical Christians misfits because
they tend to be conservative and Republican, while the campus is
overwhelmingly liberal and Democratic?

***

Faculty do not feel positively about Evangelicals at all. In fact, they feel less positively about Evangelicals than about any other religious group. The
combination of responses—showing so few faculty Evangelicals on campus, showing imbalance in the support of Muslims versus
Christians advocating their religious beliefs in American politics, showing strong negative views of Evangelicals compared to tolerance for other religious groups—raises serious concerns about how
Evangelical Christian faculty and students are treated or feel they are treated on campus. The levels of faculty disapproval are high enough to raise questions about the overall climate on campus. How does this disapproval affect the intellectual, emotional, and social experiences of those who identify as Evangelicals? As it was
for Jews on campus two generations ago, maybe Evangelical Christians do not want to talk openly about their identities and beliefs. The prejudice against them stands out prominently in institutions
dedicated to liberalism, tolerance, and academic freedom.

Faculty may deny that their feelings about Evangelical Christians
affect research and teaching, or that they interact differently with colleagues and students who are Evangelical Christians. But
faculty cannot deny, at least according to these data, that they feel very negatively about Evangelicals, especially compared to the tolerance expressed for other religious groups.

There’s lots of interesting stuff in the survey, which makes the whole thing worth chewing over.

Discussions - 3 Comments

I couldn't tell you if there is any statistical evidence to support my own anecdotal experience, but I've taught polsci at both liberal arts colleges and a technical institute and have found the tech institute much more congenial to religious faculty. I think this has to do with the fact lib arts professors see theology as inherently hostile to their postmodern view of the university, and understand their more "progessive" view as replacing a relic of a benighted age we've thankfully relegated to the dustbin of history. Tech faculty, however, don't seem to view religion as a competing intellectual alternative to what they're professing.

Nothing new here. It can be put into one sentence: The secularist left owns the "mainstream" academy. It ain't gonna change for a long time, if ever.

Yea, nothing new...in fact, didn't we discuss the supposed "anti-intellectualism" of evangelical Christianity on a past thread? I suspect that evangelic academics are viewed as strange and retrograde, and they are almost certainly discriminated against for that reason. This shouldn't surprise anyone.

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