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Some atheist scientists with children embrace religious traditions, according to new Rice research
Date:12/1/2011

Some atheist scientists with children embrace religious traditions for social and personal reasons, according to research from Rice University and the University at Buffalo -- The State University of New York (SUNY).

The study also found that some atheist scientists want their children to know about different religions so their children can make informed decisions about their own religious preferences.

"Our research shows just how tightly linked religion and family are in U.S. society -- so much so that even some of society's least religious people find religion to be important in their private lives," said Rice sociologist Elaine Howard Ecklund, the study's principal investigator and co-author of a paper in the December issue of the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion.

The researchers found that 17 percent of atheists with children attended a religious service more than once in the past year.

The research was conducted through interviews with a scientifically selected sample of 275 participants pulled from a survey of 2,198 tenured and tenure-track faculty in the natural and social sciences at 21 elite U.S. research universities. Approximately half of the original survey population expressed some form of religious identity, whereas the other half did not.

The individuals surveyed cited personal and social reasons for integrating religion into their lives, including:

  • Scientific identity Study participants wish to expose their children to all sources of knowledge (including religion) and allow them to make their own choices about a religious identity.
  • Spousal influence Study participants are involved in a religious institution because of influence from their spouse or partner.
  • Desire for community Study participants want a sense of moral community and behavior, even if they don't agree with the religious reasoning.

Ecklund said one of the most interesting
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Contact: David Ruth
druth@rice.edu
713-348-6327
Rice University
Source:Eurekalert

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