- - Monday, February 13, 2017

“I walk in prayer,” replied my colleague when I asked how she coped with the stress of journalism in the nation’s capital these days.

It’s not the answer you might have expected from an “elite” at the heart of politics and news. Washington is not usually thought of as a spiritual place. The iconic images of Washington, D.C., are images of secular power: the White House, the Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court. Many of the city’s detractors have called it godless. But America is indeed a nation under God.

A stroll around D.C. reveals it to be a city rich with houses of worship.
Just a few blocks from the White House you will find:

St. John’s Church, Lafayette Square

Universalist National Memorial Church

Christian Scientist Church

Metropolitan AME Church

Cathedral of Saint Matthew the Apostle

Foundry United Methodist Church

Washington DC Jewish Community Center

House of the Temple, HQ of AASR, SJ, USA,
The national headquarters of the Supreme Council, 33°, Southern Jurisdiction, Scottish Rite

And many more.

Washington is a highly educated town, so it’s natural to think that it would be less religious than some other places. It would be natural to think that, but it would be incorrect.

A divisive national narrative tells us that Americans with a high school education or less are religious, but the elite college-educated are not. A recent study challenges the notion that as people become more educated they are more likely to abandon their faith.

The study by the University of Nebraska analyzed a nationwide sample of thousands of respondents to the General Social Survey. They found that religiosity had a complex relationship to education. For example, more educated people are less likely to believe that theirs is the one true faith, but education was positively associated with belief in the afterlife. Contrary to conventional assumptions, education had a strong positive effect on religious participation. With each additional year of education, the odds of attending religious services increased by 15 per cent.

The more educated respondents were, the more likely they were to question the role of religion in secular society. Nevertheless, they were against curbing the voices of religious leaders on societal issues and supported those leaders’ rights to influence people’s votes.

“The results suggest that highly educated Americans are not opposed to religion — even religious leaders stating political opinions,” said the study’s author, Phillip Schwadel. “But they are opposed to what may be perceived as religion being forced on secular society.

“The research illustrates the unique, voluntary American brand of religiosity”, he said. Religion flourishes where separation of church and state is the law.

“It’s clear that though the religious worldviews of the highly educated differ from the religious worldviews of those with little education, religion plays an important role in the lives of highly educated Americans,” Mr. Schwadel said. “And religion remains relevant to Americans of all education levels.”

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