America’s increasingly pluralistic society and the ever-growing value placed on scientific and technological advancement have led many to assume a secularization of American higher education. Some studies indicate that the American professoriate is dominated by liberals, and it is charged that they discriminate against conservatives and create a hostile environment for religious faculty, staff and students. Recently Dr. Neil Gross (assistant professor of sociology, Harvard University) and Dr. Solon Simmons (assistant professor in the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University) conducted a survey to measure the political, social and religious attitudes of America’s college and university professors. They collected data from a random sampling of professors in various disciplines and institutions. The types of institutions broke down into four categories: community colleges, four-year colleges or universities, non-elite Ph.D.-granting institutions and elite Ph.D.-granting institutions (identified as the top 50 in the latest U.S. News and World Report ranking).

The study found that 23.4 percent of the professors surveyed classify themselves as agnostic or atheist—far from the majority. However, this compares with the 6.9 percent of all Americans and 11.2 percent of Americans with four or more years of college education who consider themselves agnostic or atheist.

Professors at elite doctoral institutions tended to be less religious than other professors, with 36.6 percent falling into the agnostic/atheist category. Noticeable variations were reported across disciplines as well: 61 percent of biology and psychology professors are agnostic or atheist, whereas the opposite is true for accounting professors: 63 percent of them say they have no doubt that God exists.

Few professors (12.6 percent) consider themselves to be traditionalists—as opposed to progressive or moderate. Only 6.1 percent of the respondents agreed with the statement, “The Bible is the actual word of God and is to be taken literally, word for word.”—D.D.R.