The more educated you are, the more likely you are to fall into one or another superstitious belief! (Unless, that is, you’re a conservative Christian.) This reality is seen in the following articles:

• More highly educated college students are more apt to believe in the paranormal: Bryan Farha and Gary Steward, “Paranormal Beliefs: An Analysis of College Students.” Skeptical Inquirer 30(1):37-40, Jan/Feb 2006 <http://www.webcitation.org/5aB9ifeL6>

• “What Americans Really Believe,” a comprehensive study by Baylor University, “shows that traditional Christian religion greatly decreases belief in everything from the efficacy of palm readers to the usefulness of astrology. It also shows that the irreligious and the members of more liberal Protestant denominations, far from being resistant to superstition, tend to be much more likely to believe in the paranormal and in pseudoscience than evangelical Christians.” Molly Ziegler Hemingway, “Look Who’s Irrational Now.” The Wall Street Journal, Sept. 19, 2008 <http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB122178219865054585>

• The above articles confirm the results of an older study (William Sims Bainbridge and Rodney Stark, “Superstitions: Old and New.” The Skeptical Inquirer 4(4):18-31, Summer 1980). This article is not freely available online, so I quote key sections below:

[page 22] “. . . it would be an equally great mistake to conclude that religious liberals and the irreligious possess superior minds of great rationality, to see them as modern personalities who have no need of the supernatural or any propensity to believe unscientific superstitions. On the contrary, we shall see that they are much more likely to accept the new superstitions [emphasis is the authors’]. It is the fundamentalists who appear most virtuous according to scientific standards when we examine the cults and pseudosciences proliferating in our society today. . . .

[page 24] “Before we leap to the false conclusion that the students with no religion are rational, scientific secularists, we should look at Table 3, which reports the distribution of responses toward some recently popular superstitions. . . .

[page 26] “As a whole, Table 3 shows two very interesting things. First, it reveals that ‘born agains’ are much less likely than other students to accept radical cults and pseudoscientific beliefs. Second, it reveals that the group with no religious affiliation is receptive to these unscientific notions. On three of the seven items, in fact, those with no religion are the most favorable toward occultism. Those who want to blame fundamentalists for their opposition to Darwin ought to praise them for their responses reported in Table 3. Those who hope that a decline in traditional religion would inaugurate a new Age of Reason ought to think again. . . .

[page 30] “Conclusion
“Traditional religion is not simply the enemy of rationality and science, but it plays an ambivalent role. True, fundamentalists show high levels of rejection of the theory of evolution. But they also reject a wide range of occult of pseudoscientific ideas that may threaten the progress of human culture. Persons with no religious affiliation are often among the first to toy with novel or exotic supernatural notions and are not the secular rationalists we might want to think them. Cults flourish precisely where the conventional churches are weakest, in the western parts of the country. Here, too, numbers of unchurched people seek private contact with the supernatural, as shown in the distribution of Fate magazine ‘mystic experiences’ and ‘proofs of survival.’ Therefore, a further decline in the influence of conventional religion may not inaugurate a scientific Age of Reason but might instead open the floodgates for a bizarre new Age of Superstition.”

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