Every knee shall bow? Many atheist scientists take their kids to church

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 7 2011 3:00 p.m. MST

A boy lights a candle to mark the Orthodox Christmas mass. A new study shows some atheists may be celebrating the birth of Christ in traditionally religious ways this Christmas.

Associated Press

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Happy Holidays, Merry Xmas, the holiday tree.

The chill of the season is being heated up by the bickering talk of the War on Christmas.

However, before those who believe aim the cannons at those who don't, a new study shows some atheists may be celebrating the birth of Christ in traditionally religious ways this Christmas.

As reported by CNN, about one in five atheist scientists with children involve their families with religious institutions even if they do not agree with the teachings, according to a study done by Rice University and the University at Buffalo.

The study included in-depth interviews with 275 atheist scientists at 21 elite research universities in the United States. Researchers found that many scientists affiliate with churches to allow their children to make educated decisions about what they want to believe, according to the December issue of Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. In fact, 17 percent of atheists in the study attended a religious service more than once a year.

"We thought that these individuals might be less inclined to introduce their children to religious traditions, but we found the exact opposite to be true," said Elaine Howard Ecklund, a sociologist at Rice University and the study's principal researcher. "They want their children to have choices, and it is more consistent with their science identity to expose their children to all sources of knowledge."

According to Live Science, the study also found some attend services because their spouse or partner is religious, while others enjoy the sense of community.

"Our research shows just how tightly linked religion and family are in U.S. society — so much so that even some of society's least religious people find religion to be important in their private lives," Ecklund added.

Despite the strong link of religion to American society, some still feel threatened by secular ideologies surrounding Christmas, as shown by a group of residents who were angry about Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee's decision to refer to the tree in the statehouse as a "holiday tree" instead of a Christmas tree, crashing a tree lighting ceremony on Tuesday night, Politico reported.

The findings surrounding atheists shouldn't be too surprising, since the Pew Forum Religious Survey taken back in 2008 that showed 21 percent of self-described atheists responded that they believe in God.

EMAIL: jbolding@desnews.com

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