Doing Life Together

Doing Life Together

Why Some Atheists Are Going to Church

I ran across an interesting article on abc news about why some atheists are going to church.

The article referenced a study conducted by two sociologists, one at Rice University and the other at the University of Buffalo in the December issue of the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion.

The researchers discovered that one in five scientists who describe himself or herself as atheist or agnostic go to church. The reason is what caught my eye. It is all about the children.

The 17% of atheist and agnostics who took their children to church wanted them exposed to religion. Most of the participants in the 17% proclaimed atheist/agnostics group were not raised in the church or had families who were deeply involved in religion.The parents felt that church exposure would help their children better understand ethics and morality and also reinforce their scientific identity. In other words, exploring religious experience and thought is at the heart of science, thus consistent with what these parents want to teach. The idea is to allow the children to decide for themselves if there is any merit to believing in God.


I found this an interesting perspective. First, one notes that the study included 275 scientists from “elite” research universities. Sixty one percent of those described themselves as atheist or agnostics. The other 39% did not. So it is possible to be a scientist and still believe in God. Thus, the scientific identity does not exclude a conclusion that religion is viable if you believe in science. In fact, some of us (I’m not at an “elite” university, only a medical school) actually believe science supports the existence of religion. We do not see science and religion as incompatible.

Second, I love that these scientists are exposing their children to church. If we believe that the Holy Spirit draws all men unto God, then the Holy Spirit will draw these kids. Whether they choose to serve God or not in the long run may have to do with family influence, other experiences, etc.

So I applaud these scientists for being true to their beliefs–expose the kids and see what happens. It’s gutsy and I know God can work with that!


  • Harvey

    For me it’s not about the children but, as an atheist who, fairly recently, started going to a Roman Catholic Church regularly, it’s about a relationship with my Catholic fiance and some other things I’ve discovered since going to Mass. Even though I’m an atheist, and have been for many decades, I’ve always had some sort of illogical attraction to the idea of God. So, now that I’m engaged to a devout Catholic, I see an opportunity to practice my attraction in a more active way with the added bonus of being encouraged by and giving joy to my future wife since, doing things of all sorts together has always had a symbiotic affect for us.

    At the urging of my fiance, after going to Mass and actually enjoying the experience, I’ve started to pray with her and find it leaves us feeling closer afterwards, a feeling that remains. I actually pray to believe in God as, despite my strong scientific bent and lifelong atheism, I sense that if I could believe it would be another path to my ultimate growth and happiness, not only with my future wife but with my inner self, even if the belief has no other foundation.

    So, I am working on becoming a theist for personal reasons and long to join my fiance, not only in marriage, but in faith because I want this and don’t feel that trying to undermine her strong convictions would be either successful or positive. I’ve even hired a certified hypnotist to help me open up to spiritual belief and it seems to have really helped me in that regard. Obviously this opening will be focused on Catholic spirituality which will involve joining the RCIA and being baptized.

    So, this is one example (perhaps a rare one?) that may explain one reason that an atheist goes to Church.

  • Pingback: Why Some Atheists Are Going to Church | Dr. Linda Mintle

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Dr. Linda Mintle
  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Alex

    I’m curious as to which article you’re referencing. If you could send it, that’d be excellent.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Whitney Wright

    Love it! Great research and explanation!

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