Are Scientists More Likely To Be Atheists Than Non-Scientists?

Today I was watching a couple of episodes of one of my favourite TV series, Bones.  One of the episodes dealt with the topic of religion which caused quite a bit of conflict between the two main characters, as the character of Dr Temperance Brennan, a scientist and extremely rational person is a proud Atheist whilst the character of  Special Agent Seeley Booth, who is more likely to trust his gut feelings than a rational explanation, is a proud Catholic.

This got me thinking, are scientists more likely to be atheists than non-scientists and also what is the affect on growing up in a religious household on someone’s religious views.

I would like, therefore, to conduct a survey to see if any correlation can be found between scientific interest and atheism and if growing up in a religious household is more likely to make you a religious person than someone who did not.

If you could answer the following three questions in the comments field, I will collate all the responses and try to produce some pretty graphs of the results.

1. Are you a scientist and/or do you have a strong interest in science or do you have no particularly strong interest in science?

2. Do you class yourself as atheist or do you class yourself as religious (Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Pagan etc) or do you class yourself as spiritual (no organised religious belief but you believe that there is a universal spirit or energy)?

3. Did you grew up in a religious household? For the purpose of this survey a religious household is classed as one in which family members regularly attended religious services or you regularly attended Sunday school or some other kind of religious instruction.

Please let as many people as you can know about this survey as I would like to get a wide range of people responding to get as true as possible representation of society that I able to.

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19 responses to “Are Scientists More Likely To Be Atheists Than Non-Scientists?

  1. Well I didn’t grow up in a religious household but MPS did.
    Very VERY Catholic. Sunday school AND Hungarian School which was religion based (as well as normal school)
    All three brothers are now Atheists. All their children were born out of wedlock.
    MPS is like our girls – highly intelligent with almost savant skills in art and mathematics.

  2. Before I can really answer your question I need to clarify something. Buddhism is not a religion, it’s a philosophy, a way if life, and you will find that it is mostly atheist when it comes to religion. There are no gods, only a teacher, and the Buddha is a spiritual being a Buddhist becomes when they reach Nirvana.

    With that said, I was studying to be a neuroscientist, and do lean more towards scientific reasoning.

    I consider myself a Buddhist, but not religious, and I am spiritual.

    I was raised in a very Catholic family and went to Catholic school.

    • Whilst Buddhism is treated more as a philosophical way to live your life in the Western world, it is very much a religion throughout Asia. People worship and pray at Buddhist temples and boys must spend a period of time in the monkhood. Because it is a much more structured belief then a loose belief in some kind of universal spirit, I have placed it in the religion category.

  3. Here you go!

    1. Not a scientist.
    2. Spiritual
    3. No religion in our house although I went to a Church of England School so did attend church services there and had religious classes etc.

  4. 1. I consider myself a scientist and practice my profession using evidence-based strategies.

    2. In terms of religion, I was brought up Hindu. However, I have always questioned religious rituals. I haven’t reached the stage of being an atheist though. I think of myself as agnostic…I have faith in god/gods/goddesses but refuse to follow any particular religion or religious rituals. I think though, part of that faith has to do with me being an anxious person — when some of my anxieties are not controllable, I tend to pray.

    3. Yes, kinda. My mum is very religious in that she follows all the rituals and stuff and will go to the temple whenever she can but my dad just prays once a day and doesn’t deem it necessary to visit a temple or anything like that. We don’t have Sunday school but I did attend prayer classes until I was about 13 or 14 every week.

  5. I’m not a scientist, but have a strong interest in biology, medicine, veterinary science, psychiatry and forensic science.

    I am a strong Christian but whether or not I consider myself religious depends on what definition is being used!

    I didn’t grow up in a particularly religious household – my parents considered themselves Anglican/Church of England but we went to church less than once a year and rarely spoke of spiritual matters at home.

  6. 1. Strong interest in science. I watch Big Bang Theory.
    2. Not atheist, as that’s seems to have become a belief system with its own culture and dogma.
    Not religious as the possibility of each one religion cancels out the possibility of the others.
    Not spiritual as that’s a silly word and makes me think of whiskey.
    I have beliefs, practices and faiths (I believe that I exist, and so do other things. God is the sum total of all existence. I try to practise good living and minimal suffering, and I have faith that the sun will come up tomorrow. But I can’t prove it.)
    3. Parents Christian, but not hugely practising. 1 attends services a few times a year. I cried at Sunday school until I was sent home.

  7. 1. Not a scientist, but find science interesting most of the time.

    2. Do not believe that god exists.

    3. Grew up in a religious household.

    Of all factors, the ‘growing up in a religious household’ is the one that has been most influential in me believing that god doesn’t exist.

  8. 1. yes a scientist
    2. spiritual
    3. yes strong religious upbringing

    Get a big enough sample size, and it will be interesting to see what you find

  9. I am not a scientist nor to have have much inclination toward science.

    I am an atheist.

    I grew up in a mildly disinterested religious household.

    • Now that I have read the comments, I’d like to comment. Western Buddhism is most commonly though certainly not exclusively stocked with atheists. It is quite different from Eastern Buddhism in that regard.

      When I read your categories I did not say I was Buddhist because I am not a member of a church or organized group or religion though I do practice a Buddhist way of life.

      I would venture to guess that Buddhists reading this blog are more of the Western persuasion than the Eastern, so perhaps it is not best, for the sake of clarifying your ideas about science and religion, to put it in the religious category. Or offer it as an option in both.

  10. Not what is normally considered a scientist these days, but generally use the principles in day-to-day work.

    Don’t believe in any gods, etc, so therefore atheist (small a; I agree with Glenn in that there does seem to be a strident, evangelical Atheism about). But, I read religious/spiritual texts and one that chimes most with me is the Tao Te Ching. The centuries-old religion that’s attached to it only interests me in so far as any religion, and humanity’s apparent need for such things, interests me. But, I don’t believe in that. (Blogged about similar themes at

    Mum’s a believer; Dad’s rationalist but probably believes out of habit. Both Protestant Christians. My grandfather and an uncle were both Protestant Ministers. Due to very odd local politics, we weren’t regular church goers when I was growing up but I did go to Sunday School on occasion, and “Scripture” was effectively compulsory at school. Lucky in that our teacher, the local Presbyterian minister, was interested in teaching us about other religious and spiritual views and did so in a non-judgemental way.

  11. 1. Not a scientist. (But I love “Bones” and, like Glenn, “Big Bang Theory.” Of course, I also love “How I Met Your Mother,” and there’s nothing science-y about that.)

    2. Atheist

    3. Not overly religious. We went to church (Methodist) every Sunday, and that was about it. I wasn’t baptized as a child because my mother (wisely) believed we should be able to choose our religion when we were old enough to do so.

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  13. 1) not a scientist, but work in IT, which is close enough? =)

    2) im an atheist. But whilst i say i am atheist, i am open to the belief that there is a lot we dont understand yet, just as an ant cant comprehend a computer, we might not yet be able comprehend the universe as a whole. I do believe there is more going on in person-to-person interactions “ie. when you click with someone and feel the connection instantly “, but refuse to believe it is magic, a soul, or supernatural, we just doing fully understand the brain and its workings.

    3) Brought up in a large catholic family, but mum ended up letting us choose our own path after she became disillusioned with it all. Being gay added an interesting part it it. My extended prayed that i would see the light, and god would forgive me, which being told at 14, is pretty screwed in the head

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  15. 1. Scientists working in biomedical field but highly literate in a large number of other fields.

    I watch The Big Bang Theory, it’s farcical enough to laugh at. Especially the atom video clip showing all the particles as particles instead of a combination of probability waves acting as a particle, the particles so close together, etc.
    TEDtalks streamed on the LinuxMCE are my favorite when there’s nothing new on khanacademy’s or AndromedasWake Youtube channels.

    2. Atheist

    3. Brought up southern Baptist.

  16. 1. Extremely interested in science. I haven’t yet finished school, but I will definitely major in some science.

    2. Atheist

    3. I was raised as a devout Catholic.