Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Church Attendance = Higher GPA :: But :: Importance Attached to Religion has No Effect?

There was an that I read today which says that church attendance had more of an impact on a kid's GPA than whether their parent's went to college. Here's the kicker, though. Apparently, the importance a kid attaches to religion is not a factor.

"The study also showed whether the teens said religion was important to them.

"Surprisingly, the importance of religion to teens had very little impact on their educational outcomes," Glanville said. "That suggests that the act of attending church -- the structure and the social aspects associated with it -- could be more important to educational outcomes than the actual religion."

That's one explanation. I haven't read the survey for myself, but I would posit another possibility. Within evangelical Christian circles, religion often has a peculiar definition. Instead of being defined as 1) "The service and worship of God or the supernatural," 2) "Commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance" or 3) "a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices" it is defined as "earning one's way to God" and classified as bad. Sometimes elements of 3) come into play in this definition (e.g., an institutionalized system of religious practices), but never the entire definition. Thus, I've met some extremely religious people who will adamantly claim that they are not religious. To be honest, I think this kind of linguistic gymnastics is a bit bizarre, but it is not uncommon in certain evangelical circles, and I think it potentially screwed up the above survey. In order to measure the importance people attach to religion and capture this particular subculture, I think one would need two questions: one which asks, "How important is religion to you?" and the other which asks, "How important is a relationship with God to you?" Taking the higher of the two scores would would then offer a way to accurately measure the importance people place on religion.

1 comment:

Kevin said...

Good point. I didn't know that evangelicals, specifically, tend to classify religion as bad, but I have noticed a general trend toward "religion" having predominantly negative connotations, including being irrational, hypocritical, and even downright evil, as comments attached to the article indicate.

It seems that the more religious you are, the more extreme or burdensome your beliefs and practices must be. I think that this probably contributes to the disconnect you note, where people can simultaneously believe in or practice a religion and also disavow "religion".

Another possible part of the problem is that the definition of "religion" is so broad. Is religion, in general, good? How can we possibly determine that without specifying what practices or morals it implies and whether hypocrisy is actually a manifestation of religion or a corruption of it?

So, it seems that we are often given instances of religion (which, in the article, are what? Christian denominations?) to reflect upon religion in general to reflect back upon all religions.

In the article, Glanville even separates "actual religion" from the practices of religion, which seems to suggest that we must exclude from religion any aspect which can be replicated without belief in God or the supernatural or perhaps even some other system, since "religion" seems to be vague that way.

All this to say, I think you're right. :)

I wonder if this is related: More Americans Question Religion's Role In Politics: Some Social Conservative Disillusionment.