A curious finding in sociologist Elaine Howard Ecklund’s national study on the religious beliefs and practices of American scientists is that nearly one in five atheist parents participate in religious institutions. Rather than cultivating an aversion for religion, a number of these scientists desire to expose their children to religious traditions. At The Huffington Post, Ecklund writes:

Research I conducted with sociologist Kristen Schultz Lee (University at Buffalo, SUNY) showed just how tightly linked religion and family are in the United States–so much so that even some of society’s least religious people find it important to expose their children to different religious choices. Our research challenges the assumption that parents who engage in religious socialization always hold religious beliefs themselves….

To me, one of the most interesting findings was the discovery that some atheist scientists not only want to expose their children to religious institutions, but they also cite their scientific identity as a reason for doing so.

We expected these individuals to be less inclined to introduce their children to religious traditions than they are. But it turns out they want their children to know about different religious traditions because it is more consistent with their identity as a scientist to expose their children to all sources of knowledge.

Read the complete post here, and a related article in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion here.