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Explaining the Secularity of Academics: Historical Questions and Psychological Findings

Explaining the Secularity of Academics: Historical Questions and Psychological Findings

Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi

Department of Psychology, University of Haifa, Haifa 31905, Israel.



Religious beliefs are the products of natural, intuitive human thinking, and are shared by most humans. Academic research, or science, is the product of counter-intuitive, unnatural psychological processes, and the resulting concepts are beyond the reach of most. It is not surprising that religion has been around for possibly more than 100,000 years, while academic research is a recent historical development. Over the past century, individuals who make academic research their life’s work have been themselves the subject of academic studies which looked at their social origins, conscious ideals, beliefs, and psychological traits. The findings regarding religiosity have been striking. Academics, especially eminent ones, turn out to be quite irreligious. This is especially striking for academics in the United States, where a culture which is manifestly the most devout among First World nations has produced a sub-culture, which is a mirror image of itself. How can we explain the secularity of academics? Research indicates that it has to do with a process of selection and self-selection, which starts in childhood and channels individuals who are highly intelligent, critical, independent, and confident towards the academic world. Contrary to what some might think, it is not getting a Ph.D., which contributes to individual secularity; it is young secular individuals who are highly likely to commit themselves to an academic life.


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Science, Religion and Culture


Vol. 5, Sp. Iss. 1 Pages 1-82


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